BILLY BENNINGTON - The Barfold Angel: Norfolk dulcimer and dialect

The Barfold Angel: Norfolk dulcimer and dialect
Veteran VT152CD

Yet another of Veteran's excellent investigations into English folk culture, this time featuring Norfolk dulcimer player Billy Bennington, who was known as 'The Barford Angel' because he was often seen pedalling around on a pushbike with his dulcimer, with its distinctive winged shape, strapped to his back.

I suppose the dulcimer was effectively the forerunner of the electric piano, in that you had a piano-like effect without the near-impossibility of carting a joanna around with you. Certainly Bennington would have trouble getting a piano on the back of his bike. There's a slightly more ethereal sound to the uncased strings of the hammered dulcimer, of course, and that makes the 'Angel' sobriquet even more apposite..

The CD includes excerpts from an interview with Bennington explaining his music and society, but at 68 minutes long there is no stinting on the music itself. There's 'The Bells of St.Mary's' and 'The Gunners March', Souza's 'On Parade', and tunes written by other noted traditional musicians from the area like 'Herbert Sadd's Scottische' and Billy Cooper's 'Dulcie Bell.' It is interesting to see the influence of music hall and even classical composers like Souza on the traditional players. Gramophone records certainly played a big part in providing material between the wars, and it is interesting to speculate on how music circulated before that. Certainly our traditional musicians were considerably more sophisticated than the Edwardian collectors gave them credit for.

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 68 of The Living Tradition magazine.