Having enjoyed the three CD albums of songs about Richard III by The Legendary Ten Seconds (which can be bought here), I was very keen to attend when I heard there was to be a live concert by the group, who comprise Ian Churchward on lead vocals and acoustic guitar (and writer of almost all of the songs), Lord Zarquon on keyboards and Rob Bright on lead guitar. The lyrics of the songs all deal with various aspects of Richard’s life and reputation and the music is a combination of folk-rock and medieval – a perfectly unique sound. The concert was organised by the Bucks and Beds branch of the Richard III Society, so all who attended were pro-Richard. I have given links to the tracks that I could find on You Tube.
There was a modest but very appreciative audience at York House (appropriate name) in Stony Stratford (appropriate location). The performance began with the lovely song, ‘Ambion Hill’ which was inspired by a ghostly encounter experienced by Susan Lamb, one of the audience. It described someone searching for the site of the Battle of Bosworth and being ‘guided’ by a ghostly knight. This was followed by ‘Loyalty Binds Me’ which refers to the motto of Richard III and how he was true to it during his life. It has a nice rhythm and inspiring lyrics.
The third song, ‘A Herald’s Lament’, is a newer song and its lyrics were written by Sandra Heath Wilson, a Ricardian author who was also present at the gig. The words of this one are poignant and very sad and the tune is dramatic and moving. This was followed by a song I hadn’t heard before, Francis Cranley, which was inspired by the main character of The Woodville Connection, a medieval mystery novel written by another Ricardian author, Kathy Martin, also attending the evening.
‘Written At Rising’ was the next offering, based on a surviving letter from Richard to Sir John Say, requesting a loan of £100 – it is another of my favourites, maybe because it includes the line ‘right trusty and well-beloved’. ‘Tis a pity we don’t begin our letters like that any more!
The next two songs were about two other important characters from Richard’s life – ‘Lord Anthony Woodville’ and the ‘Lady Anne Neville’. The former is interesting as it uses the theory that Anthony might have had a hand in poisoning King Edward IV and the tune is fast moving and dramatic and the latter, in contrast, is very sad, dealing with the tragedies in the life of Richard’s wife and referencing the eclipse which occurred when she died.
‘The House of York’, following these, was originally titled ‘Richard of York’, and was the first ‘Richard III’ song that Ian Churchward wrote with the help of Lord Zarquon, who plays a hauntingly beautiful part on the electronic keyboard. I find the lyrics (‘Long gone to his death, long gone his dying breath, long gone the House of York…) extremely moving and the melody is lovely. Another favourite.
Then followed three songs with a more modern twist, dealing with events after Richard’s death. ‘Fellowship of the White Boar’ was the original name of the Richard III Society and tells of the principles of the Society and the struggle to counter Tudor propaganda. ‘King in the Car Park’ is about the King’s remains lying under the feet of the monks who buried him and then the modern workers who were all unaware that he was beneath them in the car park. The lyrics were written by Ian’s wife and they are brilliant (‘Car doors slamming, wet feet splashing, running across to the office door, Silent beneath them, unheeded underneath them, King Richard of England, he of the white boar.’) They bring such a vivid picture into the mind’s eye – everything normal and yet a King is right there just feet away as if waiting for the right time to return, and the music is perfect to complement the words. The third song in this modern trilogy is called ‘How Do You Rebury a King?’ and is about Richard’s re-interment and the different emotions and attitudes of the people attending.
Then there was an instrumental, ‘The Ragged Staff’ (it refers to the cognizance of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick). It is an uplifting and upbeat melody and the three musicians’ contributions complement each other well, Lord Zarquon like a wizard of the electronic keyboards, Rob contributing skillful guitar solos and Ian himself providing the rhythm guitar part that gives the song its framework and holds it all together.
Next came a song which relates how Edward IV’s French campaign ended without a fight, as he allowed himself to be bought off by French gold. Richard was not happy about this and hence the song title ‘The Gold It Feels So Cold.’ The tune is quite fast and the lyrics move the story on at a cracking pace. I am sure Richard was, indeed, ‘thinking of Agincourt’ when they set off for France.
‘The Year of Three Kings’ recalled 1483 and each of the kings has a verse, with the chorus being suitable for audience participation, and we obliged with gusto.
The next idea was inspired by the report of a foreign courtier who visited Richard’s Court and gave a favourable report on it: ‘The Court of King Richard III’ is another great tune and the CD version has great harmonies with a female singer, Camilla Joyce.
‘Shakespeare’s Richard’ questions the portrayal of Richard that we know from the Bard, a ‘Plantagenet tragedy’.
The next one has a solemn and portentous feel, taking place on the deathbed of Edward IV, where he names Richard as ‘The Lord Protector’ and refers to Elizabeth Woodville thinking she was unable to trust him.
The lyrics of the penultimate song were not written by Ian, but Shakespeare! There are not many composers who can say they co-wrote a song with Shakespeare, so good for you, Ian! ‘Act III, Scene IV’ is the scene where there is a council meeting to arrange the King’s coronation and it has a very catchy chorus.
Last, but definitely not least, was the wonderful ‘White Surrey’ which is my absolute favourite track, and I was honoured that Ian dedicated it to me, as he knows I love it. It tells of Richard’s final heroic charge at Bosworth and the tune gradually builds the tension through the verses, ‘The medieval cannons blast at Henry Tudor’s men, Richard upon White Surrey, facing death again’, releasing it during the chorus ‘My horse, my horse, my White Surrey, for York and England my White Surrey’. The best thing is that it ends before Richard is betrayed and murdered and we are left seeing him magnificent, courageous and heroic on his noble white steed.
After the concert we had refreshments in the form of hot drinks and a wonderful cake made to the design of the white rose of York.
Kathy Martin and I had copies of our novels to sign and there was some keen interest. There was also time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones and lots of photographs were taken, some of which are reproduced here.
All in all it was a fantastic day and if anyone has the chance to catch The Legendary Ten Seconds in concert, I urge you to do so – you won’t be disappointed.
Review by Joanne Larner