I’m writing this intro at 11:45pm on April 30th, desperate to get the podcast done in time for the very start of May. Why? You’ll see why over the next hour or so. In the traditional calendar, no month quite rivals this one. 

From the perspective of traditional song, it’s also the calendric home of one of my favourites. ‘Hal-An-Tow’, or Roud 1520 to give it its official numbers, is one of those songs that everyone involved in the traditional folk scene will know, but seems inexplicably unknown to the rest of the population. Why that is, it’s hard to explain, but this episode seemed like a great opportunity to help further its popularity. 

And who better to chat about it with than Lisa Knapp, one of my very favourite singers of any genre. Lisa’s 2017 album, Till April is Dead – A Garland Of May is something of a masterpiece – an extraordinary concept album that built on a huge amount of research that Lisa did into the subject of May and May traditions. 

There’s so much here to be getting stuck into – we’re discussing ‘Hal-An-Tow’, how Lisa made her album, and some of the incredible May traditions that exist in the UK. So we happily overran the usual hour or so that these podcasts last. Welcoming in the May, then, please get comfy and join me in welcoming Lisa Knapp to the Old Songs Podcast. 

Find out more about Lisa Knapp at here website, by clicking here.

‘Hal-An-Tow’ lyrics, as discussed in this podcast

As performed by The Watersons

Take no scorn to wear the horn
It was the crest when you was born
Your father’s father wore it
And your father wore it too

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in
And winter’s gone away-O

What happened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast-O?
Why they shall eat the feathered goose
And we shall eat the roast-O

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in
And winter’s gone away-O

Robin Hood and Little John
Have both gone to the fair-O
And we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare-O

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in
And winter’s gone away-O

God bless Aunt Mary Moyses
And all her power and might-O
And send us peace to England
Send peace by day and night-O

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in
And winter’s gone away-O