‘Dives and Lazarus’ may seem like an odd song to look at in early April, given that it’s commonly thought of as a carol. But that’s the nature of The Old Songs Podcast. If the guest wants to discuss Christmas carols in April, then who am I to question their motives?

It’s another unusual episode, recorded in the confines of coronavirus lockdown. My guest today is one of my favourite natterers – a man who could talk the folkie legs off Martin Carthy’s donkey, and also one of the chaps who helped me come up with the concept for this podcast. You heard him on the very first episode, in fact. It’s Nick Hart, broadcasting to you from what sounds like the rather rapid descent into utter madness. We’ll get on to that shortly. 

What’s lovely about ‘Dives and Lazarus’, or Roud 477 to give it its official number, is that it also gives us the chance to explore how these old traditional songs influenced a generation of classical composers, not least Ralph Vaughan Williams. And that’s not somewhere I think we’ve been before. 

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in by opening a window onto the technical difficulties involved in recording a podcast in two different regions while under lockdown, not to mention the subtle art of synchronised clapping. You’ll see what I mean.    

The tracks included in this chat about ‘Dives and Lazarus’ were…

Opening the show was Martin Simpson singing ‘Dives and Lazarus’ from his 2001 album, The Bramble Briar.

Following that, you heard Royston Wood of The Young Tradition, singing on their debut album from 1966, called The Young Tradition.

Then there was Van Morrison and The Chieftains singing ‘Star of the County Down’ from their 1988 album, Irish Heartbeat.

Shirley Collins and the Albion County Band sang ‘Murder of Maria Marten’ on No Roses in 1971.

Five Variants of Dives and Lazurus’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams was recorded by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Mariner in 1985.

The version of ‘Dives and Lazarus’ sung by Bert Lloyd was released posthumously on a collection called Bramble Briars and Beams of the Sun in 2011.

And Nick Hart sang ‘Dives and Lazarus’ for The Old Songs Podcast exclusively here in April 2020. What lucky folk we are. See you next time.