RICHARD THE THIRD – A study in music
With the possible exception of Henry the Eighth more has been written about Richard the Third than any other monarch. Works of scholarship and novels of dubious provenance abound. As with other aspects of culture in the fifteenth century little is known about what music may or may not have been played at court.
Ian Churchward and a friend were used to getting together in the small recording studio located in the basement of his house. They would try various songs and experiment with lyrics and melodies. One evening Ian was called up from the basement by his wife to watch a documentary about Richard the Third. This was the famous documentary about that amazing moment when the fallen hero of Bosworth became ‘The King in the Car Park.’ (A media invention of course but if nothing else it brought Richard III to the front pages!) Ian had always been interested in history but this programme awoke an interest that continues to this day. He decided the next song he wrote would be about Richard III. With his friend Mike (aka Lord Zarquon) a tune was developed, the lyrics honed into shape and the song recorded under the group name, ‘The Legendary Ten Seconds.’
The group presently consists of: Ian Churchward – Vocals and rhythm guitar
Rob Bright – Lead guitar
Lord Zaraquon – Keyboards
David Clifford – Bass guitar
Adrian Maxwell – Drums Thus was born the ‘House of York.’
Ian and Rob of ‘The Legendary Ten Seconds’
Writing the lyrics is all very well but if you are going to write music representing the fifteenth century then it needs to have a certain mediaeval influence in its sound. The sound has that distinction and is hard to place. There are echoes of the Byrds intros and Ian’s own ideas that the Moody Blues have influenced him. It is a sixties style with a certain echo on the tracks. At times it seems as if some of the tracks were recorded in a large baronial hall with atmosphere oozing out of the stone walls! Ian has a distinctive voice and it is well suited to the material. I used to live in Newquay when I was stationed at RAF St Mawgan back in the late sixties and every so often we would join our friends at a folk club in Wadebridge (We knew how to live!) There the singers were rarely accompanied. Tending to have the head back, stare at the ceiling and sing with the occasional clapping of hands. Sounds odd but it was very effective. At times Ian’s voice takes me back to that folk club. With his band Ian has created a kind of medieval folk-rock sound that is perfectly bound to the lyrics. Apple Music describes it as ‘Alternative Folk.’ I am not a musician and certainly not a music expert but I know what I like! (Is anyone counting the clichés?) I think the one instrument that provides the background of the unique sound is the keyboard. I suspect the man on the keyboards has it set to its highest pitch so that it sounds like an ancient harpsichord or clavichord. I like it!
For the passing public Richard the Third means the Princes in the Tower, Bosworth Field and a car-park in Leicester; not necessarily in that order! And it was not helped by having the outstanding actor of his generation play the King in that brilliantly executed film, but total work of fiction by Mr Shakespeare’s son. The ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ speech is a brilliant piece of propaganda concentrating on the supposed deformity of Richard. It should be remembered that the Tudors had been in power for over one hundred years when Bill wrote his play. Ian’s song‘Shakespeare’s Richard’ by ‘The Legendary Ten Seconds’has some great lyrics about the play.
There was more to this monarch than all of the above. Through various tracks on a number of albums Ian paints a large canvas of the life and times of Richard Third. Subjects as diverse as ‘Lady Ann Neville’, ‘Middleham Castle on Christmas Eve,’ ’Lord Anthony Woodville,’ and ‘Ambion Hill’ fill in the background to the whole period of the life of Richard the Third.
I have only had time to sample a few of the songs but I do like ‘York City Fayre,’ and its companion piece, ‘Tewkesbury Medieval Fair.’ My favourite of those I have heard and the lyrics of others I have read is ‘White Surrey.’ The song features the final, fatal charge of Richard upon his White Surrey. The song builds nicely and I found it very evocative. There are four albums to choose from; ‘Loyaulty Me Lie’ (a motto used by Richard which translates as ‘Loyalty Binds Me.’) ‘Richard III,’ Tant le Desiree (Which translates as ‘I have longed for it so much.’ A line found written in one of the books owned by Richard.) Tant le Desiree also has narrative introductions to the tracks which provides the listener with the setting for that particular song. The most recent and fourth album is called ‘Sunnes and Roses.’ The latter about the period rather than the main character. All are available on Amazon and iTunes.
Here are three links to whet your appetite:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bdp5-XAmSrc – Shakespeare’s Richard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D-h3CFeq4I – White Surrey https://www.amazon.co.uk/Loyaulté-Lie-Legendary-Ten-Seconds/dp/B00H7SF3UU Loyalty me lie
Ian Churchward donates a percentage of his sales to a scoliosis charity called S.A.U.K. Scoliosis being the curvature of the spine from which Richard suffered. Well done to Ian!
To undertake a project in music with such a specialist subject was a brave decision. While the Richard III Society continues to challenge and discuss the many ‘fake news’ stories about Richard there are other historians who take a different view. The story has been running for over five hundred years and it is no doubt good for another five hundred! The Legendary Ten Seconds have set these stories to music and have presented a brilliant evocation of the last years of Plantagenet England in a unique and delightful way. Have a listen?
P.S Perhaps I should reveal I was born in Yorkshire where the White Rose blooms!
P.P.S I would like to have given readers the chance to listen to some of the music but this edition of WordPress does not allow me to embed music links. Now if I get another one hundred thousand readers and carry adverts I can upgrade then who knows. We could show videos!