2nd February 2015
We had a cracking start to the year during January, courtesy of Kieran, Flossie and Allan. Long may it continue! We’ve certainly got a very varied and interesting series of treats lined up for you this month – even the Singers Night will be a little bit more special than usual. Read on…
1. ENJOY SOME EXCITING YOUNG PERFORMERS. This coming Thursday (5th) is our annual Young Performers Double Bill, run in association with the national New Roots event and offering you the eclectic mix of a world music band and a highly-praised solo singer and composer.
Kelly Oliver is the singer/songwriter, also a guitarist and harmonica player (sponsored by Hohner, no less!), influenced mainly by acoustic music and traditional Irish folk. She only decided to pursue a musical career two years ago, making her first appearances at our fellow BBC award-winning club in Hitchin. Since then she has visited many other clubs around Britain, both as support and as headliner, and she has also sung at several festivals, including Cambridge. Along the way she has been joined on stage by the legendary Dave Swarbrick and has won the enthusiastic support of Radio 2’s Bob Harris.
Kelly’s first album This Land came out last autumn and received a 4 star review in The Telegraph, was named Album of the Year in the female artist category on website FolkWords and was runner up for Best Debut Album on FATEA. “So what makes Kelly special?” asked the critic in R2 Magazine (another 4 star review) “firstly it’s her voice, it’s sweet but strong and it sounds like she enjoys singing. Secondly, she plays harmonica. Thirdly, there is her material - it could be traditional but recounted in contemporary language.”
Sharing the night on Thursday are a five-piece band of students from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Project Jam Sandwich play a diverse blend of acoustic world music, ranging from Bulgaria to South Africa to Scotland, concocting a captivating show full of exhilarating improvisation, scorching rhythms and beautiful tunes. Blending funk grooves with east European melodies, adding a touch of Afrobeat and spicing with Celtic reels, they sandwich together genres from all over the world and make them their own.
With a core line-up of guitar, violin, cello, double bass and percussion, and with several singers in their ranks, Project Jam Sandwich have already performed on BBC Radio 3 and reached the finals of the Danny Kyle Open Stage Competition at Celtic Connections this time last year. A debut recording is in the works.
Both acts have impressive websites if you need further persuasion – see www.kellyoliver.co.uk and www.projectjamsandwich.com. We don’t have floor spots on these Double Bill nights (other than an ice-breaker opener by the MC), so that both guests can do two half-hour sets in the course of the evening. Past New Roots nights have given us a first taste of such talents as Gilmore & Roberts, The Young ‘Uns and Lucy Ward, and this one holds similar promise, so do come along and hear for yourself. Entry is just £8 full or £7 concessions, on the door or beforehand at WeGotTickets, and Chris Euesden acts as MC.
2. AND THRILL TO THE MUSIC OF PATSY REID. On Thursday week, 12th February, we are very lucky to have a rare small venue English performance by virtuoso Scottish musician Patsy Reid and her new band. We first met this exceptional young woman as the fiddle player and singer in the group Breabach, appearing at the NCEM in 2010, and we enjoyed her playing again at the same venue when she accompanied Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman in 2012. One of Britain’s most in-demand fiddle players, Patsy also took part in the Cecil Sharp Project and Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbrian Voices, makes up one third of female folk group Vamm, and right now is playing in India with tabla player Zakir Hussein.
Alongside such fruitful collaborations, Patsy is developing a solo career, saying “I’ve never wanted to be The Patsy Reid Band, but I reached a stage where I could see myself only working on other people’s projects and never having enough time to do something of my own. So I’m taking the risk that I might have to say no to something exciting, and I’m investing in my own music.” Last year’s solo CD The Brightest Path was very well received and was chosen by Songlines magazine as one of its 10 “essential Scottish albums”, while the performance by Patsy and her band last month at Celtic Connections was described in The Scotsman as “drumtight and sweetly subtle in all the right places”.
Upon her return from India, Patsy visits York as the first stop in a short English tour, for which she will be joined by Ewan MacPherson on guitar and mandolin, Alistair Iain Paterson on piano and harmonium, and percussionist Signy Jakobsdóttir. By rights an ensemble as strong as this one should be appearing at our NCEM venue, but Patsy was keen at this stage in her solo career to visit our much smaller but highly regarded club room. Let’s reward her with a full and enthusiastic audience! Tickets are £12 (£11 concessions) from the WeGotTickets website, or on the door if not all pre-sold. Naturally, Eddie Affleck is MC for this one.
3. RUTH KEGGIN AT BARLEY HALL – MANX MUSIC & SONG. Our third event this month takes place in the unique setting of Barley Hall, just off Stonegate (an even older venue than the Black Swan Inn!) and is a collaboration with the Jorvik Viking Festival. On Monday 16th February we present something we’ve never done before, an evening of traditional music and song from the Isle of Man, performed by singer (in Manx Gaelic and English) and flautist Ruth Keggin and her accompanists David Pearce on guitar and Vanessa McWilliam on double bass.
With groups such as Barrule, there is a revival in Manx folk culture underway at present, and Ruth Keggin is part of that movement. Her 2014 debut album Sheear received widespread critical acclaim, such as from BBC Radio 3’s Mary Ann Kennedy, who said “Ruth Keggin is the pure and passionate Gaelic voice of the Manx musical renaissance. Sheear is a thing of beauty which makes the circle of British folk music tradition whole.” Ruth, Vanessa and David all studied music at the University of York and were part of student folk band Nish As Rish, who filled our club room to bursting point one memorable night in August 2013.
Barley Hall is a truly atmospheric venue, but not a large one, and there are now little more than a dozen tickets left for this rather special one-off acoustic event. Don’t delay – book yours now (£14 or £12 concessions) on 01904 615505 or at www.jorvikbookings.com. Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30 start.
4. SINGERS NIGHT WITH FOLKESTRA. This month’s Singers & Musicians Night takes place on Thursday 19th and should be a lively one as we will be getting a visit by members of Folkestra, the youth folk ensemble based at Sage Gateshead. We expect about a dozen teenage musicians to join us for the first half of the evening, all of them fine instrumentalists and some of them also singers. Have no fear, all other budding performers (of any age) - you will be also be made welcome, and indeed I have already been approached by another teenage duo who plan to drop in that night, it being half term week.
Incidentally, Folkestra are in town for a collaborative project with The Carnival Band called Scandal, Sensation and Sweet Musick. This culminates in a public concert at the Early Music Centre the next night, Friday 20th February. The NCEM brochure describes it thus:
“Welcome to the tabloid world of the 17th century ballad. Tales of roguish soldiers, glamorous royals, feisty women, brutal husbands, ghosts and dragons are set to the most hummable tunes from a golden age of English music. This exuberant and full-blooded performance of early music is fused with traditional folk and world influences and features shawm, curtal and cittern mixed with drums, guitar and bass. This concert marks the national launch of a three-year project to make recordings of 100 of the most popular ballads of the 17th century”.
“The project is a genuine crossover between folk and early music both in terms of repertoire and performers” adds one of the Carnival Band “and I'm sure your crowd would appreciate the links”. Find out more and book at www.ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338.
5. WELCOME BACK FIL & TOM. Lastly for this month we bring back to York one of our favourite Northern Irish acts, Fil Campbell & Tom McFarland, on Thursday 26th February. Fil is a superlative singer, who in the words of The Living Tradition “really gets to the heart of a song”, while her husband Tom is a highly accomplished and subtle percussion player, now also venturing into vocals. Together they offer a mix of original and traditional songs, including material from Fil’s Songbirds TV series which celebrated the lives and music of some classic Irish female singers of the past, such as Delia Murphy and Margaret Barry.
When Fil & Tom last visited York in 2008 we had to move their show at the very last minute to another venue, since the Black Swan Inn had suddenly closed down with its then landlord threatened by bankruptcy. Happily for us, new licensee Andy Cross took over the business, reopened the pub and soon turned things around, developing the Black Swan into the thriving business it is today. So no worries this time, Fil and Tom! Tickets are £8 or £7, on the door or in advance at WeGotTickets, and Stan Graham will be master of ceremonies.
OTHER CLUB NEWS
6. PLANNING STARTS FOR FOLK WEEKEND. With yesterday’s Winter Folk Day now safely and very successfully behind us, our thoughts turn to planning our big summer festival, the City of York Folk Weekend. Our pub landlord, the above mentioned Andy, is beginning to see to the licencing side of things with the local council, while I will shortly be contacting prospective participants to find who would like to perform this year. At some point we may call an open planning meeting to sort out programming and staffing issues. Meanwhile, you can expect to hear more news in this email bulletin in coming weeks. The dates are again set for the first full weekend in June, 5th-7th, and I anticipate following much the same successful formula as in recent years, with concerts under canvas in the car park and a mix of sessions, singarounds, rolling folk clubs, concerts and specials inside the pub building – and everything entirely FREE.
7. FLOSSIE REVIEWED – ALLAN TO FOLLOW. A journalist for online magazine York Calling attended the recent club night with Flossie Malavialle and has posted her thoughts atwww.yorkcalling.co.uk/reviews/
8. OUR YEAR-END FIGURES ARE GOOD. The folk club’s financial year runs from 1st February to 31st January, so I spent a bit of time on Saturday pulling together our final figures for the year just ended. While we had our ups and downs through the last 12 months (no change there!) there were more “ladders” than “snakes” and we end the year with a good surplus. Compared to the previous year, attendances were slightly down, so far as club nights were concerned, but by less than one person per event on average, while NCEM audience numbers (always more volatile) were well down on 2013/14 but up on the year before that, 2012/13. No doubt helped by the reduction in the concessions discount, club guest nights managed to contribute a £700 surplus (or about 50p per attendee) compared to only £300 in 2013/14, while Singers Nights also generated nearly £700 in revenue. In contrast, NCEM concerts were only in surplus to the tune of only £400, or about 40p per attendee, compared to a whopping £1600 in 2013/14. Total club assets stand at about £7,500, which is enough for a comfortable safety net but still equates to only about 25% of our annual turnover.
9. LOOKING AHEAD – POOZIES PLUS. Do remember the first of our own NCEM concerts this year, coming up on Tuesday 24th March. Things augur well for a triumphant return by The Poozies, the all women folk band who have delighted York audiences twice before. The latest version of the band still includes founder members Mary Macmaster and Sally Barker (the latter basking in her success in reaching the finals of The Voice on BBC TV last year), alongside Eilidh Shaw and Mairearad Green. Tickets are now on sale through the NCEM Box Office, as also for the later concerts by Lady Maisery (5th May) and Emily Smith (22nd May).
Looking ahead to future events at the Black Swan, March brings us The Gren Bartley Band (12th) and Roger Davies (19th), then in April a particularly strong line-up includes The Jacquelyn Hynes Trio(2nd), Duncan McFarlane & Anne Brivonese (9th), Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston (16th) and Andy Irvine (23rd), with tickets already selling steadily for the latter two at www.wegottickets.com.
10. MELODEONS IN EASINGWOLD. Old friends of the folk club Jill & Pete Ward ask me to tell you that their musical instrument business Acorn Instruments in Easingwold has been appointed an official UK retailer for Castagnari Melodeons. “We have an extensive stock of new and pre-owned models” says Pete, “probably one of the largest in UK”. A website is under development atwww.acorninstruments.co.uk and there is already a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/
11. VALE RADIO REMINDERS. I’ve also been asked to remind you about the Saturday evening folk and roots programmes broadcast each week on online community station Vale Radio,www.thevaleonline.com. Rudie Humphrey presents the best in country, roots and Americana in The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session, Saturdays 6pm-8pm, and then Tony Haynes hosts FAB Folk and Blues, 8pm-10pm. I was scheduled to be a studio guest on Tony’s show the other week, but somehow events conspired to prevent it!
12. LATEST NEWS FROM THE YORK IRISH ASSOCIATION. York Irish have received a grant from the Big Lottery “Awards for All” Fund to support their programme of Irish-related cultural activities during 2015. “Using the grant we hope to make a bigger and better difference to the Irish community and those interested in Irish culture in York” says organiser Brendan Tannam. Upcoming events include an Archives Day at York Explore on Saturday 28th February and a St. Patrick's Weekend Festival over 14th and 15th March. The latter will be held in a marquee in St Sampson’s Square and will include music, Irish dancing, talks, poetry, food and drink, running from 11am until 9.30pm on Saturday and 12pm until 4pm on Sunday, with performances from the likes of 2 Bob, The New Fox Band, Gaelstrom, Paula Ryan and Fiddler's Wreck. A full timetable will be announced in early February through the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/yorkirish.
13. TICKETS NOW ON SALE FOR POPPLETON LIVE. Tickets are now available for all events over the extended Poppleton Live festival week in early May, including the Friday night concert with Fairport Convention (8th May) and Saturday’s all day events headlined by Ralph McTell (9th May). Find full details at www.poppletonlive.co.uk. “Some events are already over 60% sold to our Friends list” warn the organisers, so “please book soon to avoid disappointment.”
OTHER EVENTS IN YORK
14. MORE ON THE VICFEST SONG MARATHON. As trailed in previous editions of E-News, Tony Haynes’s weekend singers’ festival takes place at The Victoria Hotel on Heslington Road (YO10 5AR) over the weekend of 20th-22nd February. No less than forty folk performers from all over Yorkshire will be playing at this free event, with collections being made in aid of Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Music begins at 7.30 on Friday in the bar, with seven great performers in support of headliner Fake Thackray. On Saturday and Sunday the music begins at midday and continues until midnight. The afternoons include spots by singers such as David Swann, Sarah Dean, Martin Heaton, Paula Ryan, John Storey and Phil Pipe. On the Saturday evening is a special concert with Ryan Spendlove and then the popular Hull singer songwriter Carrie Martin and her friends, while the Sunday evening will revert to the Victoria Hotel's usual fortnightly New Acoustic Singaround format, with John Teesdale as the main guest singer. For further information contact Tony Haynes on 07708 970083 or 01904 762864, email@example.com.
15. WOODY GUTHRIE RETURNS TO YORK. A few years ago at the folk club we greatly enjoyed Will Kaufman’s one-man show Woody Guthrie – Hard Times & Hard Travellin’, in which Will mixed narrative, images and finely-performed songs to tell some of the inspiring Woody Guthrie story. You can now catch this show again on Saturday 28th February at Clements Hall on Nunthorpe Road, in a York Labour Party fundraiser and campaign launch. Our own Phil Cerny is also on the bill. Tickets are a snip at just £7, available online at www.brownpapertickets.com/
16. MUSICAL EVENTS AT YORK LITERATURE FESTIVAL. The annual Literature Festival organised by Miles Salter and others takes place from March 19th to 26th this year and their packed programme includes two events with a musical element. On Sunday 22nd March there is an afternoon event at the Grand Opera House in which poet John Hegley shares the bill with Blackbeard’s Tea Party, and on Thursday 26th (clashing with our Singers Night, but so what?) Union Jill and Kate Fox present “Letting Off Steam” at the NCEM. Find out more at www.yorkliteraturefestival.co.
That’s all for now. There are no “events further afield” this month, but many of the things mentioned in E-News 184 are yet to take place, so refer back to that if you wish. I’ll return in around a month’s time, all being well.