Two Young Brethren


We’re staying in a farming mood with another song from the considerable Copper family repertoire, of which Jon says, “This feels like one of the most genuine of agricultural songs. Many sound like they are consciously sentimentalising the halcyon days of manorial feudalism – which makes you doubt that such an idyll ever really existed. This is more workmanlike and matter of fact about the cycle of the agricultural year, which makes it all the more poignant.” You’ll find Bob and Ron Copper’s recording this on the Topic Records Come Write Me Down CD and can link to the lyrics here, while Mainly Norfolk again provides great reference for the various Copper recordings. Along with Bellamy’s Both Sides Then, Come Write… is another highly recommended acquisition for those that want to explore further and especially those that favour the unadorned vocal. This particular CD comes with two expansive booklets, one offers Reg Hall’s take on the family’s story, the other giving lyrics and notes on the 27 tracks included. Of The Two Young Brethren it notes that many of the early collectors note this song, mostly all in Sussex or Southern England and says, “In the absence of broadside versions, however, the earliest known printing is in [George Heywood] Sumner’s The Besom Maker.” Now here’s another fascinating character and well worth a few minutes Wiki-ing here if you don’t already know his story. Google images as well if you have a few minutes, it’s equally well worth while.

You can buy the August digital album now from all good download stores:



34 Responses to “Two Young Brethren”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Griffiths, Jon Boden. Jon Boden said: Latest Post: Two Young Brethren […]

  2. Phil says:

    and especially those that favour the unadorned vocal


    This track sounds great: Jon’s in good voice and the accompaniment is sparing & sensitive – the bones of the song are still carried by the voice. But why have the accompaniment there at all? You could say that it makes the songs go down easier to a general audience. You could also say that it brings the finished product closer to commercial/radio norms (which wasn’t supposed to be the point of this series) and makes singing folk songs seem like a highly-skilled accomplishment which is best left to the professionals (which definitely wasn’t supposed to be the point).

    Please give us more folk songs in their natural state – unaccompanied.

  3. OxfordClareB says:

    Thanks Jon for another great song – one of my favourites. I’m with Phil on this one when it comes to the accompaniment though. I’m a bit mystified why it’s there when part of the project bodly declared itself as committed to *unaccompanied* singing. A few people have raised this and it shouldn’t cloud the immense respect that Jon’s project deserves – however I am puzzled by the regular recurrence of accompaniment which, although always tasteful, is emphatically not necessary. I would have much preferred to hear Jon sing this ‘unadorned’. There are so little unaccompanied songs around, and so few places to hear them – I join my plea with Phil and say ‘please give us more unaccompanied songs!’

    To quote the landlord’s daughter from the ‘Wicker Man’: ‘some things in their natural state have the most vivid colours…’ 😉

  4. Brian says:

    Phil and OxfordClare B are nit picking. For goodness sake let us be thankful for what Jon is doing. It is possible to hear all the words clearly and if Jon feels that occasionally he wishes to add some accompaniment that is his privilege.
    I am sure that Ron and Bob Copper would approve of Jon’s rendition.
    If adding an accompaniment makes a song more appealing to a general audience,that is a good thing. Ask Martin Carthy what he thinks.

  5. Simon Dewsbury says:

    To put this accompaniment/no accompaniment dispute into perspective, I’ve just gone through the 40 songs so far to check how many are just Jon’s voice.
    the result:
    2 with violin
    3 guitar
    9 concertina

    which leaves 26 unaccompanied

    that looks a pretty good – but not slavish – commitment to unaccompanied voice.

    Besides, I’m not sure that simple violin or squeezebox accompaniment is going to make the songs more ‘general audience friendly’. I’d expect them to all be backed by guitar if that was the case. Though, perhaps by coincidence, I’d say that the couple which were with guitar are among the standouts. But I’m not much of a purist.

  6. Joanna says:

    I agree with Brian, also an added accompaniment can give a song a joyful or mourning touch. I would love to hear a guitar accompaniment once in a while, I love Jon’s guitarplaying. My opinion, as a member of a general audience 😉 a lot of unaccompanied songs in a row would make this project a bit boring. Thanks Jon, I like your project very much, thanks for sharing all these wonderful songs with us.

  7. muzza says:

    A good song is a good song with or without accompaniment.
    I enjoy both and agree with Joanna that variety is best…….
    We have already had the “Sad song” v “Jolly song” camps at each others throats.
    There will be something for every taste in 365 songs. (No can’t have Christmas day off!)
    I would like to compliment both singer and musician for their spot-on empathy….a rare feat.

  8. Stephen Harvey says:

    I agree with those who feel that the instrumental accompaniment does not undermine this project’s intent. The instruments are so sympathetically and tastefully played, and the vocal so clear and strong, that I think Jon supplies a great example of both the intrinsic beauty of each song and its ‘singability’. If the songs were given the full-blown Bellowhead treatment, then I think folks might have a point as far as discouraging others from attempting their own version. Mind you, one of my favourite Bellowhead pieces is “Jordan” because of its stirring instrumental arrangement as well as strong vocal, but I still find myself singing it from time to time.

  9. Phil says:

    Simon – thanks for the perspective; I confess I didn’t realise the proportion of unaccompanied songs was that high.

    Perhaps I’m in the minority! It just seems to me that social singing of folksongs is something of a lost art, and a big part of what’s been lost is the confidence to sing a song without being A Proper Performer – the kind who can accompany themselves as they sing. I hope this project can do a bit to help people have the confidence to sing, as well as spreading awareness of some great songs.

    I don’t think the fact that the accompaniment is sensitively done makes much difference in this respect. I would love to be able to play the concertina like Jon does here, and one day when time and finances allow I thoroughly intend to learn. But if I’d felt I needed to accompany myself before I got up to sing, my “career” as a floor-singer and singarounder would have taken even longer to get started than it did (and I was a pretty late bloomer as it was).

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Great debate above, but I think Simon’s analysis puts it all into perspective. I’m not that kind of purist either. I love musical instruments played well. I love exceptional unaccompanied voices. I love good accompaniment. And Muzza is spot-on!
    It seems to me, what has sparked debate over this particular song is that this *is* one that begs to be sung unaccompanied, and I haven’t felt that about any of the others which have been accompanied, because often I prefer it.

  11. Stephen Harvey says:

    Sorry, I don’t mean to belabour this point and I don’t wish to be seen to be trying to prove myself more ‘right’ than others. It just seems to me that if, ultimately, the point is to encourage others to sing these songs and, if being able to accompany oneself in doing so is seen as an impediment to ‘ordinary folk’, then we’d best ask Jon to sing less well than he does. I know that I am not as good a vocalist as Jon Boden.. or Dick Gaughan or Martin Carthy or Eliza Carthy or Norma Waterson, and I don’t have the genuine pedigree of a Walter Pardon or Fred Jordan, but I take any song delivered in a true-hearted fashion as inspiration. Let’s all sing ’em because we all can! My best to you all who love these songs so much.

  12. Phil says:

    Fair point, but I think people are far more likely to think they can sing like Jon than to think they can play like him!

  13. admin says:

    I’m sure this debate won’t go away and it’s certainly interesting in the light of reading or re-reading Jon’s introduction to the project, but… I’ve said before there will be variety here, if for no other reason than recording 365 songs in exactly the same way within a year doesn’t really bear thinking about, especially with Jon’s other commitments. Even Peter Bellamy didn’t stick to pure vocal alone and as I’ve also said previously these versions are not intended to be definitive, I can provide reference to alternatives but the rest is up to you. Find those different versions or just create your own, but if you do the latter let us know. Regardless of any commercial imperative (it’s hardly TOTP, although I’m imagining Pan’s People in gauzey white dancing to… No, no, no…) there is also clearly a diverse audience with different tastes who are all findiing stuff to enjoy here, which is a very good thing. Let’s trust Jon to keep most of us happy most of the time.

  14. OxfordClareB says:

    I don’t feel it’s nitpicking at all – I am simply querying why the project explicitly set itself up to be “raising the profile of unaccompanied social singing” and then not being entirely unaccompanied. (Would it not be a little mystifying to turn up to a show which called itself a monologue but was actually a Greek chorus?) Better just to have said ‘social singing’ perhaps, and avoided the (inevitable) debate? As made a point of emphasising in my initial post, it is never my intention to demean what Jon is doing – I absolutely love it- but I don’t feel it’s unreasonable to question the way the word ‘unaccompanied’ has been used. Maybe it isn’t such a big deal to others, but I, like Phil and a number of other posters on here, am extremely passionate about promoting acapella singing, so it is an important issue for me 🙂

  15. Jon Boden says:

    Hi all. On the unaccompanied / accompanied controversy (!) thing is there are lots of different reasons for doing this project (of necessity simplified for the purposes of publicity blurb). One reason is the hope that it might help boost interest in social singing, another is that it might introduce listeners who might only have heard, say, Bellowhead arrangements of folk songs to unaccompanied and ‘unarranged’ performances. But probably the main reason is that I just fancied doing it. I’ve really enjoyed singing the songs so far and if, when in front of the mic, I feel like picking up the concertina, I’m afraid that is what I will do. In my defence I do think non stop unaccompanied can be quite inaccesible (I have to confess that I struggled with the recent Ewan McColl double CD reisuue for example) so might put off the uninitiated who might otherwise become accustomed to it given a bit of variety. That’s certainly how I got into it. But I’m sure the great majority of stuff will end up being unaccompanied. Hope that clarifies my position. Thanks for all the comments, positive and critical. Jon

  16. OxfordClareB says:

    Thanks Jon for stepping in with your say – quite rightly and with eloquence. Am enjoying the various discussions, ideas, convictions and feelings that the project has inspired on here, and hope you are too – most of all though, am just enjoying the songs! 🙂

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    Phil, your remark about people thinking they might be able to sing like Jon rather than imagine they can play like him made me laugh and fair comment. One has more chance as an amateur, certainly!
    I think unaccompanied singing can be championed here without every single song being of that ilk. After all, drama (and interest) is contrast. You can’t always appreciate the vastness of a skyline as well as when there is a window frame to view it through.

  18. Jo Breeze says:

    More about Two Young Brethren from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    There are 12 records of Two Brethren in the Library, mostly from Sussex, in particular of course the singing of Bob and Ron Copper.

    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. 202, this rises to 57 records, with different titles including ‘Come All You Jolly Ploughboys’, ‘The Jolly Brothers’ or ‘Here’s April, Here’s May’.

    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    There are 2 records of the song in the Take 6 archive under the name Two Brethren, one collected by Francis Collinson from Bob & Ron Copper, and one by Anne Gilchrist. There are 24 records when searched by Roud number, under a number of different titles.

    To find these go to enter 202 into the first empty field, select ‘Roud number’ from the drop down menu ‘all fields’ and press ‘submit search.

    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.

    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  19. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Sorry to use the site as a notice board (again) but…for all you folkies…
    Katherine Tickell (Northumbrian pipe player)is on BBC3 radio tonight at 10:45pm…part of the Proms and Percy Grainger episode

  20. nev perry says:

    I’ve read all the comments and while I love to hear unaccompanied ballads sometimes a fuller perspective is needed with some songs and on occasion an instrument will fit the bill as is the case with this song. The overall effect with the concertina is very pleasing.
    On the ‘come write me down’ cd compilation, which I happen to have, the words and sentiment of some of these old agricultural songs are of their time and sometimes difficult to interpret in the modern folk idiom.

  21. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Just listened again and read the comments ref Unaccompanied/accompanied:-
    I feel that most songs would be sung by the company(Coppers) +harmonies to give body to the song that a solo singer could not achieve where an instrument was not involved.

    Ha Ha…..I note that Jon sang the “Temperance version” and left out this verse

    And after we’ve reaped it off every sheaf
    And have gathered up every ear,
    With a drop of good beer, boys, and our hearts full of cheer
    We will wish them another good year.

  22. John Biggs says:

    This is one of our own singing group’s favourites. We know it as ‘Come all Jolly Ploughmen’ and do not have the verse about Two Young Brethren in our version. We do include Muzza’s verse above, and it becomes a good pub song.

  23. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Cor Blimey Guvnor….reading the above comments we do get into a state!…
    Surely..we all probably agree that if we like the song….we sing it….if we have a good voice so much the better..if we haven’t….who cares..enjoy the song…..and if you can play an instrument..get stuck in as well…..
    bye the way…..when I peel a banana, I hold the stalk end and……………………………
    don’t even go there!

  24. Diana says:

    Another lovely one. Whether solo or accompanied by an instrumemt all the songs are well worth listeneing to.

    Muzza I get the banana skin off by pulling the stalk. Trust you be contrary!

  25. Simon says:

    With my admin anonimity I did try to draw a line under some of the minor set toos that developed, with little success. It’s a bit like joining the pudding club and complaining there are too many puddings with custard!! And no, not that pudding club!!

  26. Linda says:

    Good health to our master [or Captain ]
    Brilliant!!!!!!! yes I like this one

  27. Diana says:

    Hi Linda it is only three and a half months to go now. Theen it is Lillibulero and Bold Robber right?

  28. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    Thanks for the link Linda……..

  29. old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Just Re read Linda’s link to Jon’s article on learning folk songs……..there is one heck of a difference in being word perfect in your own front room and getting up in front of an audience…….and loss of memory leads to increasing panic…which makes matters worse!
    I have ‘dried’ on a couple of occasions but usually manage to bluster my way through…..
    Now that I am of a certain age….even a prompt for the first line of each verse, would be a wise precaution. (and Matron is always at hand to remind me of my name!(

  30. John Bryson says:

    Interesting re-reading some of these comments about unaccompanied singing, these comments made up to ten years ago.

    I am in the variety camp, specifically some accompanied, some otherwise.

    I believe Jon has a super voice and style of singing, and his live shows are always, of the ones my Wife Jane and I have seen, are a real pleaasure.

    A little tale here about pure unaccompanied singing – some years ago I went to see a duo at a folk club, not the most massive of venues but still held a few. They came with an allegedly good folk background, but I didn’t know specifics about them. After the third unaccompanied song on the trot at the start of the night my brain registered there were no instruments anyware.

    Now, if they had voices anywhere near Jon, or some of the other fine singers mentioned above then I could cope with it – they didn’t.

    I stuck with it to the interval, thought about leaving but decided against – All I will say further about that night is that I should have stuck with my initial thought about leaving at the interval.

    The above waffle is me saying that the variety Jon brings is ideal, and. I have got up at a folk club on more than one occasion to belt out a song I first hear here, so all credit to Jon and this project.

  31. OldMuzza (NW surrey-UK) says:

    Lovely, easy going, little, tuneful, agricultural, fantasy, oldy worldy song (don’t forget the boozy verse above!)….try it yourself (nobody’s listening!)

  32. John Bryson says:

    Interesting reading all the comments from 2010.

    The comments I made three years ago – I still agree with them!

  33. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Wey Hey young John…where have you been for the last three years!

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