As more of the North American continent was mapped however, it became clear that, even if the passage existed, it was of little use as a trade route. It nevertheless still beckoned explorers. Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800's, the British Royal Navy entered the race. It was determined to claim one of the prizes - it would either be the first to reach the North Pole or the first to discover the North West Passage.
A number of expeditions ventured into the North. Stories of the expeditions and the dangers faced by the explorers were detailed in books and newspaper accounts. Fueled by such accounts, the British public became enthralled with the North. Though all explorers encountered hardships, the successful completion of such voyages became routine. In 1845, still one more expedition sailed from England in search of the Passage. Sir John Franklin had been chosen to lead the party. Two ships, the Erebus and Terror, were expected to take the expedition through the still undiscovered North West Passage to Alaska. Sailing with Franklin was a crew of 128 officers and men. The expedition never returned.
It was the disappearance of such a large party, as well as the epic search that followed, which created one of the greatest mysteries and sagas of Arctic exploration. Unfortunately for Franklin and his crew, neither the British public nor the Royal Navy had seriously considered failure as a possibility. It was not until 1848 that a search would even be organized. It would take until 1859 to gather sufficient evidence to determine what had happened to the expedition. By that time there had been more than 50 expeditions launched in an attempt to find Franklin.
The Lord Franklin Group takes its name, not so much from the story of the Franklin expedition itself, but from the song "Lord Franklin." Inspired by the lost expedition, the song has become something of a classic for followers of English folk music. Labels such as Green Linnet Records, Shanachie Records, Traveler Records, Rooster Records, and Philo Records have all released versions of the song. The group Pentangle and singer Martin Carthy have performed the song.
While the Lord Franklin Group is oriented toward folk music generally, Celtic and English folk music remain a special part of its repertoire. Four groups serve as the inspiration for much of its music: Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull relied heavily on the songwriting, vocals, and flute playing of Ian Anderson. Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span combined the extraordinary playing of guitarists John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and Richard Thompson with the singing of female vocalists Sandy Denny, Jacqui McShee, and Maddy Prior. Some of the artists who were members of these bands later would go on to solo careers. John Renbourn, of Pentangle, would form the John Renbourn Group. Sandy Denny and Richard and Linda Thompson of Fairport Convention, went on to perform on their own as did Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span. While strongly influenced by the English folk rock groups, the Lord Franklin Group does not perform English folk or Celtic music exclusively. Other musical influences include U.S. and Canadian artists or groups, such as Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett, and Jefferson Airplane.
The Lord Franklin Group has released three recordings: "Franklin's Travail" (1995), "Signs of a Summer Wind" (1997), and "In the Realm of the Celtic Harp," (2005).
"Franklin's Travail," the debut recording of the Lord Franklin Group, features the song "Lord Franklin," as well as traditional English folk songs and songs performed by groups such as Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and Jethro Tull.
"Signs of a Summer Wind" is an acoustic country album with songs by Mary Chapin-Carpenter (Stones in the Road), Townes Van Zandt (Poncho and Lefty), Gordon Lightfoot (Boss Man) (Talking In Your Sleep), Nanci Griffith (Outbound Plane), Gail Davies (Grandma's Song) and Michael Merchant (I'll Be Gone). It includes an appearance by former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen on mandolin (Grandma's Song).
"In the Realm of the Celtic Harp" is a combination of traditional Celtic harp, New Age, and classical music styles. It began as an idea for a CD with a general Celtic theme and evolved into a harp recording. (Any recording of harp music will, by its nature, be classified as Celtic.) If there were a definite starting point, it probably would be found somewhere between harp lessons at Denver's Swallow Hill and Loreena McKennit's CD "The Visit."
Perhaps the hardest part about learning the harp is getting started. It is an intimidating instrument, not so much because it is difficult to play, but because it has such a majestic sound. Harp lessons, for me, began almost on a whim, when Swallow Hill included a harp class in its lesson schedule. The knowledge that Loreena McKennit had taken up the harp helped to sustain an interest through the frustratingly slow beginning stages of learning. One of the songs included on "The Visit," "The Lady of Chaillot," provided a perfect background for harp improvisation and hours of improvisational practice. Ironically, the song did not have a harp part.
One of the first compositions of the Irish harper Turlough O' Carolan (1670-1738) was "Sheebeg and Sheemore," believed to have been written during a visit to County Leitrim. The title means the big hill and the little hill, for two hillocks found in the vicinity. According to local legend the hills were really the ancient burial mounds of two fairy kings. A lesser king and his army challenged a rival king. In the battle which followed both armies were annihilated and the kings were each buried under one of the hills. The legend associated with "Sheebeg and Sheemore" and the idea of fairy armies marching into battle, provides the inspiration for two songs on this recording, "The March from the Mountain Cave," and "The March at Dawn."
This recording includes three songs played by Margot Krimmel, my harp teacher at Swallow Hill. It begins with her arrangement of the Celtic standard "The Star of the County Down." "Carolan's Welcome" is her second selection. The final selection is her original composition "Planxty Robin." It was customary for harp composers to add the word "Planxty" to the title of compositions as a way of honoring their patrons and "Planxty Robin" was named for someone Margot played for as part of harp therapy sessions.
"Jock O' Hazeldean," is the only non-harp song included on this recording. The arrangement is by Priscilla Herdman and is adapted from her recording, "The Water Lily." The vocals on that recording would be difficult to match, in terms of richness and sheer beauty. It will always be a personal favorite.
Check out the artist's website:
1. The Star of the County Down
2. Light O' Love
3. Jock O' Hazeldean
5. The March From the Mountain Cave (fairies' March)
6. Carolan's Welcome
7. Irish Wedding Song
8. The Butterfly
9. The March At Dawn (fairies' March)
10. Renaissance Air
11. Planxty Robin