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Prue Sarn is blessed: kind and gentle, loving and giving, bright and brave and strong, witty and sensitive and with a figure like an apple-blossom fairy to boot. But she is also cursed; cursed with a hare lip. Would that her mother, being with child, had not chosen that hour to walk in the woods, but the hare did cross her path and the hare is the familiar of witches and the child was marked for life.
Precious Bane is Mary Webb‘s story of love and ambition, set in Shropshire‘s ‘lakelands’ at a time just after the Napoleonic wars. It is a story of faith and folklore, of pantheism and personal advancement. But above all it is a love story: the love of Prue Sarn for Kester Woodseaves.
Through song and the spoken word, the Village Quire’s Precious Bane is a fresh telling of that story.
“Maybe you never slept in a cot of rushes, but all of us did at Sarn. And a nice, clean cradle they made; soft and green, so that the babe could feel as big-sorted as a little caterpillar – painted butterflies-as-is-to-be, Kester calls them – sleeping in its cocoon. Kester’s very set about such things. Never will he say caterpillars. He’ll say, ‘There’s a lot of butterflies-as-is-to-be on our cabbages, Prue.’ He won’t say, ‘It’s winter.’ He’ll say, ‘Summer’s sleeping.’ And there’s no bud little enough nor sad-coloured enough for Kester not to callen it the beginnings of the blow.”
In style, the new songs written for Precious Bane by Dave Newell are inspired by folk-harmony singing, west gallery music, shape note music and early polyphony, plus a smattering of more 'scrunchy' harmonies where the occasion seems to demand it.