Plain Song and All That Jazz
Featuring Rory and Alex McEwen,
Carolyn Hester, Dick Fariņa and others.
Aired September 4, 1962, England
Plain Song and All That Jazz was a television special filmed at the Edinburgh Folk Festival. It featured Rory and Alex McEwen, Carolyn Hester, and Dick Fariņa playing folk music ("plain song"), and George Melly and Al Fairweather-Sandy Brown All Stars playing blues and jazz. Guitarist Julian Bream also stepped in for an instrumental performance. Radio Times described this show as "a light-hearted mixture of folk music, blues, and mainstream jazz." The folk songs by the McEwen/Hester/Fariņa quartet alternated with the the jazz and blues numbers by the other performers. This is probably the BBC-TV performance that Fariņa is referring to in the liner notes of Dick Fariņa and Eric Von Schmidt.
I have never seen this show, and I don't even know if it exists on video. I have heard an audio tape recorded off of a television set. According to the TV listings, the show was a half-hour long. The audio tape I've heard is about 25 minutes long. It begins in the middle of a song ("Virgin Mary"), and continues to the end of the program, so there was probably an introduction that wasn't caught on the audio tape, but probably not any other song before "Virgin Mary." Here is a list of all the Rory/Alex/Carolyn/Dick songs on the tape, omitting the jazz performances:
"Virgin Mary" (Carolyn on lead vocal)
"I'll Fly Away" (Carolyn on lead vocal)
"Banks O' Sicily"
"Wildwood Flower" (Carolyn on lead vocal, Dick on dulcimer)
"Bonnie Ship the Diamond"
"Once I Had A Sweetheart" (Carolyn on lead vocal)
As with the tracks on the Four For Fun EP, it's hard to figure out just what, if anything, Fariņa contributes musically. He probably plays harmonica on some of the songs and sings back up vocals, but I can't really be sure. He does plays dulcimer on one song.
"Virgin Mary," "I'll Fly Away," and "Once I Had a Sweetheart" were all part of Carolyn's repertoire; she recorded all three on her eponymous Columbia album.
"Banks O' Sicily" was later recorded on the quartet's EP, Four For Fun. When introducing this song at the festival, Rory said, "One thing I can guarantee, I think, about this song is that you won't hear it sung again by two Scotsmen, a Texan, and an Irish-Cuban."
"Wildwood Flower" is a Carter family song and seems to be popular with dulcimer players. It is included in Jean Ritchie's book, Dulcimer People (page 26, this time with the title, "The Pale Wildwood Flower"), and Fariņa recorded an instrumental version of it on his album with Eric Von Schmidt. At the end of the performance here, Rory says that Dick Fariņa played dulcimer, but to be honest, I can barely hear a dulcimer and wouldn't have noticed it at all if not for Rory's announcement.
"Bonnie Ship the Diamond" tells the story of a British whaling ship that was locked in the ice of Melville Bay in Greenland in 1930. The ballad was also recorded by Judy Collins around the same time, for her second album, The Golden Apples of the Sun. (1962).
That's all the information I have on Plain Song and All That Jazz. Let's hope that a good video recording of this show turns up some day.
Thanks to Ian Woodward for providing information and materials for this page.