Harry, Holt & Harmony

by Alan Helsdon, 1st August 2021

Photo supplied by Tess on behalf of Pam Horrocks/Keith Britten, of The New Holt Bookshop

The New Holt Bookshop celebrated its first Covid-beating anniversary on July 31st 2021 by  arranging for Bruce Lindsay to be interviewed about his recent book Two Bold Singermen by Arts Channel director, Tony Britten.  The event was under threat from the weather forecasters, but fortune smiled and the secluded alleyway outside the bookshop saw a small but keen audience, under a gazebo just in case, being entertained by Bruce’s candid comments about the differences between the two singers, the working of the song tradition and the singers’ responses to their sometimes over-enthusiastic visitors, amongst other topics.

After the interview everybody was further entertained by local music guru Chris Holderness on fiddle accompanied on electronic piano by Alan Helsdon, playing mostly tunes from Harry’s large instrumental repertoire – he played fiddle, melodeon and whistle.  This performance included ‘Harry Cox’s March’, played to Frank Purslow in 1962 and probably not in public since then.  It was renamed for the occasion Sarah’s Trip to Norwich after Harry’s young mother who used to walk the 13 miles to Norwich Market, sell produce, buy a broadsheet from the Ballad Seller and walk home, possibly learning the song as she tramped the 13 miles home and the light lasted.  Two other new titles for two of Harry’s previously un-named Hornpipes were Myrtle’s Tune and Lenny’s Tune after Harry’s daughter and son-in-law.

After it was all over, Tony Britten kindly offered to donate to the Trust a copy of the film Some Little Joy, partly about the composer Peter Warlock’s interest in the singing of Harry Cox, when he learned that the Trust had been unable to get hold of a copy.  In the film Peter Coleman briefly plays the part of Harry singing Up to the Rigs of London Town, a song he learnt from his friend Harry.

Harry, Holt and Harmony all round, and to cap it all – a brief display of spontaneous stepping from some audience members during the last joyful Hornpipe!