Event review: Coope, Boyes and Simpson at Croydon Folk Club, Monday 16th October

By - Thursday 5th November, 2015

Anne Giles is touched by a moving and sometimes humorous tribute to the desperate courage shown in wartime

Coope, Boyes and Simpson.
Photo author’s own.

Croydon Folk Club meets every Monday evening at Ruskin House on Coombe Road. Tickets cost £12 for non-members, but other Croydon Folk Club events often cost less.My husband Steve and I went along recently to see Coope, Boyes and Simpson perform.

This acapella trio comprises Barry Coope (who is also a member of the group Blue Murder), Jim Boyes (formerly of Swan Arcade) and Lester Simpson, who is also an actor, broadcaster and bagpiper. Their theme for the evening was ‘In Flanders Fields’ and they have also produced a double CD with the same title, paying tribute to the music and songs of World War I.

Peace has been a recurring theme of the trio’s singing and song-writing, and the evening’s programme reflected this, the performance consisting of songs about the First World War, interspersed with stories, poems and some gently appropriate humour.

The evening opened with ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’, sung to the tune of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. The next song, ‘Only Remembered’, was originally written as a hymn by Dr Horatius Bonar and was set to music by Sankey in 1891. It was later re-written by John Tams and is sung in the National Theatre production of War Horse, an enormous hit which tranferred into the West End and is still running at the New London Theatre until March 2016.

Grim humour abounded at the time

Another poignant song was ‘Standing In Line’, about being in the trenches, waiting for the order to go ‘over the top’, leaving the relative safety of the trenches to cross no-man’s land in order to attack the enemy. Inevitably, this was an action from which many never returned. These grim events were also remembered in ‘Down Upon The Dugout Floor’, referring to the dugout where lay the corpses of many soldiers.

But some songs, such as ‘Lloyd George’s Beer’, which complained about the reduction in strength of British beer, showed the grim humour which abounded at the time. On a happier note were the songs and stories of the amazing Christmas truce of 1914. ‘The Rhyme Of No Man’s Land’ is a short song that captures some of the wonder of the truce and the fraternisation that took place in no man’s land, whilst ‘Living It Up’ is a music hall song about the truce, written in the style of the period. ‘Peace On Earth’ depicted the unofficial truces which occurred at various places on the Western Front, even after the truce was officially over.

I left with tears in my eyes

Throughout the whole performance the performers read amusing snippets from The Wipers Times, an unofficial satirical ‘trench magazine’ that was produced by a group of British soldiers fighting at Ypres, which was commonly referred to as ‘Wipers’. To this day, there is a pub in Rye, Kent, called The Ypres Castle Inn, which the locals refer to as ‘the Wipers’.

Poems read during the evening included ‘In Flanders Fields’, by Major John McRae, A.A. Milne’s ‘O.B.E’., G .K. Chesterton’s ‘Elegy In A Country Churchyard’ and Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘Declaration Of War Against The War’.

In the second half of the performance, the trio gave us an assortment of songs, ranging from the self-penned ‘Can You Spare A Poppy’?, through a music hall song of the period titled ‘Do you want us to lose the War’?, to the poignant ‘Hill 60′, about the battle to regain ground from the Germans.

The whole evening was incredibly moving and I left with tears in my eyes. With Remembrance Day upon us, it is a time to reflect on those terrible times. Well done to this fabulous trio for producing such an incredible performance!

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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  • Anne Giles

    They also read Siegfried Sassoon’s poems: “Memorial Tablet”, “The General” and “Aftermath”. My sister gave me a book of his poetry one Christmas. Very moving.