Advent is a time of tradition. Nobody doubts it and we all participate in it, even if it's the more modern Christmas traditions like spending a full quarter's worth of electricity lighting the outside of your house with a plastic reindeer and the left overs from Blackpool illuminations. Me, I prefer the traditions anchored in the real meaning of Christmas - at least I thought I did.
My heritage, as I've pointed out before, is in the Methodist chapel tradition whose musical repertoire got rather stuck in the Victorian times and the early twentieth century evangelical traditions of Moody and Sankey. I've been missing out.
Last night we went to watch Kerfuffle - a folk/traditional music group/band/ensemble (delete whichever doesn't afford the necessary degree of credibility in your musical world). The total age of the whole band probably added up to less than two of our ages, yet their musical expertise and knowledge of the older traditions of British music is staggering.
Their latest album Lighten the Dark is a collection of traditional songs and carols.
It doesn't sound very exciting does it? But this is where people often fail to understand folk music. Traditional songs are the foundation for whatever the musician builds, and Kerfuffle build a performance of energy and life that doesn't merely lighten the dark but blasts a refreshing shaft of sunlight right through it.
So, I had my cultural horizons expanded beyond the austere walls of the Methodist chapel of my youth to cultural traditions steeped in nature and myth. Still, I was reassured to hear one older member of the crowd say to her friend
"They're alright these modern songs that'th young 'uns do, but I much prefer the traditional ones like 'ark th'erald angels..."
Kerfuffle are on tour. If you fancy a warming, fun Christmas warm-up, that includes a genuine clog dancing knees up don't miss them If you are up our way try the gig at Leeds in Holy Trinity Church.
Find out more here: http://www.kerfuffleonline.co.uk/
Or there's loads of music on their MySpace page here: http://www.myspace.com/kerfufflemusic
And, best of all here's a clip of Hannah James clog dancing in the front room of a hotel during the Sidmouth Folk festival: