Thursday, January 24, 2008


This song from Rehearsal for a Reunion is the first track on the Simply...Parchment CD collection. It's an interesting and significant choice.

I found myself in a car with a tapeplayer the other day and listened to Rehearsal straight through for the first time in ages. It's an under-recognised album, notable for its new songs and in particular for show-casing Sue McClellan's gift for melody and song-writing and her ability to render her own songs in a peerless fashion.

As if by coincidence I'd been in church the day before and we'd had a medley of the new worship songs. Now it's easy to sound fogeyish about new music and the truth is that in each generation, when there's an outpouring of new music, a lot of its dross and a small amount will last for ever. Nevertheless it struck me forcibly how badly constructed two of the songs were. In one case they had a verse and a melody that wasn't too bad but after a few lines it launched into the chorus. To sing the chorus - and I'm no musicologist - you had to launch immediately into a kind of ecstasy, singing in quite a high register. A lot of people aren't willing to do that, certainly not in a forced fashion. Then back to the next verse. And I thought, how much better it would have been if the song-writer had let the congregation build up gradually - singing the first verse, which wasn't too bad, and then just raising the pitch a little, allowing the singers to contemplate the words so they were ready for the grand finale of the final chorus...and then repeat it spontaneously if you like.

And then the next day I had Rehearsal on the tape and Vision came on. In the lyric sheet it seems to have just two verses and a refrain. The melody is driven by the metre of the words:
Slowly I stand, a vision I see

Taking my breath away it's open to me

Streets filled with life confusion and tears

Music so heavenly the heart only hears.

Then, lyrically, comes the five lines of the refrain (or perhaps not the refrain), No more you weep the angel commands.

Then the second/third verse comes in and the way that's treated, with harmony and playing with the melody, you think that's the refrain, building up to its last line.
When Jesus comes again be ready be wise

And it may be ..or maybe not.

For a second rendering of the refrain follows:
No more you weep the angel commands

Light like a mystery shines from his hands

Jesus is here, the waiting is done

Lay down your heavy hearts

A new world has come

Then the second verse is repeated twice, without the refrain, so that the line

When Jesus comes again be ready be wise

is the hook line.

So it's not a classic verse-chorus construction at all. In fact, treating it as if it has three verses, the construction is:

That's how you build a song!

Okay, this song would probably be murdered if used for congregational singing - but then I don't suppose anyone has ever tried to use the songs from Rehearsal for this purpose.

I would say that many of the phrases from Rehearsal have stayed with me all my life. They are those kind of songs. It was a good final album. Another example is Talking to You. Simple and to the point lyrics, beautifully rendered:

Talking to You is part of my day

I'm talking to you and all my fears wash away

Talking to You seems to make my dreams come true

And I know that I don't want anyone else but you

Once you've heard it on the album, it's unforgettable.

And the song-craft was later repeated when Sue McClellan wrote a series of songs for River. The same gift for melody and for rendering of songs is seen on the four River albums, probably most notably on the third short one, Shadow and Flame.

There's one other notable feature of Vision. It has a mandolin intro, making it an ideal candidate to kick off the compilation set.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


A year ago we set this site a number of tasks, little realising how well things were going to develop!

2007 was a terrific year and it's been a pleasure to hear from members of the band and from other musicians associated with the Grapevine label. Several people have submitted recollections, pictures and reviews. One or two promised them but haven't got round to please don't give up. We're still waiting.

By January we'd worked out that Grapevine was, in effect, Parchment and therefore set out to find out more about its output. Over the year there have been reviews of albums and we've heard from artists such as Kevin Gould and Dave Kelly, who recorded what seems to have been the last album released by Grapevine. The development of music blogs elsewhere has made it possible for some of this music to be shared widely, as well as raising some difficult copyright issues.

We promised to post some of the features about the band from Buzz magazine. So far have three have gone up.

And we'd heard from John Pac. And a few weeks ago John came on the site and posted a number of comments and recollections, including some details of the lost third album. We also heard from the band's last member Pete Yates-Round and from Jeff Crow, who took over from Keith Rycroft and whose output was lost with the third album.

We've also during the year done work on the archive site, posting track listings for the four vinyl albums along with a Grapevine discography (which remains incomplete).

So what would we like to see happen this year?

First of all lots more contributions and photos!

Secondly we've got more Buzz material to post, especially from the Light Up the Fire era. There's probably also scope to mine material on album inserts and sleeves that not everyone has access to.

It would be good to have more detailed reviews and appreciations of Parchment albums and songs. Our posting on Hollywood Sunset led to a terrific analysis being submitted by an anonymous poster.

The search for the Grapevine story continues. There are still albums and bands to find out about and stories to recount - alongside the work the band did with the Pilgrim label.

We'd also like to know more about the band's early years, especially the story of Trinity Folk.

Then of course there's Roundabout 2008 in Liverpool which is already throwing up memorabilia but also seeking to foster new talent and fresh breath in the city of culture. It's already backing one young artist Rachael Wright and I guess a few people are looking forward to hearing her work. Let's pray for more.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Roundabout 2008

Liverpool's year as European City of Culture was launched today and over at Roundabout 2008 there are some developments too.

Of special interest is a collection of archive photographs. They include several taken at the Greenbelt Arts Festival, two of Parchment, one of Reynard, and several of Keith Rycroft.

The photos of Parchment are taken during a marquee performance, not mainstage. It's difficult to make out which line-up it is but it's not the original

Roundabout was - and I think still is - an arts project and drama group, which also provided a focus for some of the talented musicians who came together to form Parchment and other bands, such as Reynard.

The Roundabout 08 project seems to have developed slowly but also seems to be alive. There's one big event advertised so far, a concert by gospel veterans The Blind Boys of Alabama.

While in Liverpool, we should signpost another interesting site related to the city. This is the Crossbeats site which is packed with archive information from the 1960s and is where we obtained one of the pictures of the Trinity Folk that was posted earlier.