15th May 2019
It is now 4 months since the last of these newsletters and for a long while I thought I would never manage another one. My MND is getting remorselessly worse and my hands are now so weak and distorted that I find using a keyboard and mouse very difficult. At the same time my speech is getting increasingly slurred, meaning that dictation software is much less effective than used to be the case and makes a great many mistakes. Nevertheless, here I finally go again, though quite possibly for the last time.
In particular this time I would like to encourage you to support our two events next week, both of which are sadly undersubscribed at the moment (see items 2 and 3), and I need to tell you all about our Folk Weekend taking place in just over 2 weeks’ time (items 5 to 11).
FORTHCOMING CONCERTS & CLUB NIGHTS
1. THIS THURSDAY, 16th MAY – SINGERS NIGHT. Tomorrow night, 16th May, is another of our friendly Singers & Musicians Nights. We seldom know who or what to expect on these nights but there are usually some interesting visitors, alongside an ever changing selection of local performers. This week, however, we have had advance warning of two different North American visitors. One is a singer and concertina player from New York called Jody Kruskal (www.jodykruskal.com), while the other is a spoken word artist from Seattle by the name of Lisa Fusch Krause.
This month it is Phil Cerny’s turn to take on MC duties, and as usual anyone is welcome to perform. People start to arrive around 7.45pm and the music gets under way at 8.15. Admission prices have been unchanged for years and for listeners are £3 full price or £2 students, while performers are asked to put £1 into the club kitty. Subsequent Singers Nights this year fall on 6th June, 4th July, 1st August, 29th August, 26th September, 24th October and 21st November.
2. NEXT MONDAY, 20th MAY AT NCEM – THE MELROSE QUARTET. On Monday next week we have our final concert of the current season at The National Centre for Early Music, when we welcome back to York the internationally renowned group The Melrose Quartet. Comprising the award-winning Nancy Kerr on fiddle with James Fagan on bouzouki or guitar, Jess Arrowsmith on fiddle and Richard Arrowsmith on melodeon, and with all four of them being strong singers, this Sheffield-based band has a well-justified reputation for state-of-the-art modern British folk music that truly connects with audiences. They have a rich repertoire of both acapella and accompanied traditional songs, alongside self-penned numbers that merge seamlessly into the folk canon, and they also excel at instrumental sets that re-invigorate social dance rhythms from Britain and beyond.
Following their well-received debut album Fifty Verses, the Quartet were nominated for Best Group in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for 2014. Last autumn came the eagerly awaited follow up record Dominion, while also last year they were proud to be named the new patrons of Whitby Folk Week. “Brilliantly showcases their joyous confidence and versatility….with particularly impressive four-part harmony singing, this is a rich, dynamic and inspired team” said fRoots of their first release, while fellow Sheffield musician Martin Simpson describes them as “an inspired ensemble so obviously playing for joy”.
Nancy and James have of course entertained us many times at the Black Swan (most recently Nancy solo in June last year) and the full Melrose Quartet turned in a great performance at the NCEM three years ago, so this should be a very welcome return visit. All the more puzzling therefore are the disappointingly slow ticket sales so far. Indeed, we still need another 35 of you to come along just to break even on the band’s modest minimum fee. Tickets are £16 full price or £14 concessions, through the NCEM box office on 01904 658338 or online at www.ncem.co.uk, or on the door next Monday from 6:30 PM. Hopefully acting as an added incentive, the support act will be The Old Humpy Band (alias Steve and Dee Marshall and Jo Wheldon) while the MC will be Stan Graham.
3. THURSDAY 23rd MAY – PILGRIMS’ WAY. Our guests at the Black Swan next week are the flamboyant 5-piece band Pilgrims’ Way, in an appearance rescheduled from March 2018 which was scuppered by heavy snow. The band comprises Tom Kitching, Jude Rees, Heather Sirrel, Edwin Beasant and Jon Loomes, who play an awesome range of instruments between them in a hugely diverse repertoire of music. While their influences are varied, starting in early music, passing through Playford and the Morris traditions, picking up prog, soul, and pop, they share a deep respect for the tradition with a self-stated aim to "present English folk of the finest kind".
At the Black Swan, they will do a shorter than usual first set, drawn from their general repertoire, then after the interval they will perform a 60 minute themed piece called Stand & Deliver. “Meet the highwaymen, robbers, and brigands of England in this energetic and entertaining new show” they say. A semi-theatrical piece done in costume and incorporating numerous instruments across a dozen songs, this promises to be a very unusual and enjoyable club night, unlike anything we have done before. Here are a couple of reviews:
“This outing of thievery, robbery, imprisonment & execution works its magic from start to finish. Stand & Deliver may not be everyone’s cup of Darjeeling but for those that like their folk music from the heterogeneous side it’s bloody marvellous” - FolkWords (Tim Carroll)
It is bold, feisty and full of verve…a jolly romp through some of the best highwaymen folk songs” - Around Kent Folk Magazine
It all sounds like a very jolly evening, so I must say that I am surprised there have been so few advance ticket bookings. Do please consider giving this one your support – at the moment we are still about 25 sales short of what we need to cover what is, for a 5 piece group, a very fair fee.
Pilgrims’ Way have played our club twice before, in an earlier line-up that included the three men plus former York student Lucy Wright, while we know Jude Rees from her work with Isambarde and with Blast From The Past, and Heather Sirrel from the group Bric-a-brac, who performed here two years ago.
Stan Graham will be the MC and the floor singers are scheduled to be Bella Gaffney (who played in Bric-a-Brac with Heather), Tom McKenzie and Eddie Affleck. Tickets are £10 in an advance from WeGotTickets, or £11 on the door, with the usual half price offer for students and children.
4. THURSDAY 30th MAY – YE VAGABONDS. We end the month with an eagerly-awaited debut by the highly-rated young Irish brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn, alias Ye Vagabonds, who create beautiful harmony rich folk music, influenced by Irish traditional music, Appalachian singing, and the 1960’s folk revival. Raised in Carlow and now resident in Dublin, they have become a staple of the vibrant live music and session scene in Ireland, playing their own original songs as well as folk songs from Ireland, Britain and America, with guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments.
Just a few weeks ago the brothers released their second album on prestigious River Lea Records, a new label run by indie giants Rough Trade, and it has been picking up uniformly glowing reviews (most recently 5 stars in the latest issue of Rock ‘n’ Reel, which landed on my doormat only yesterday). The Hare’s Lament is an album of traditional songs learned from some of the greats of Irish music; from precious archive recordings of a grandfather they never met; from the unique collection of singer Róise na nAmhrán from Arranmore island in Donegal (their mother’s birthplace) and from contemporaries in the singing communities around Dublin, of which Ye Vagabonds are a valued part.
This event has already attracted a lot of interest and is half sold as I write, so don’t bank on there being tickets left for sale on the door. Tickets are £9 in advance through WeGotTickets, Chris Euesden (newly returned from holiday) will be the MC and the anticipated floor singers are Paula Ryan (naturally!), Stan Graham and Phil Cerny.
YORK FOLK WEEKEND, 31st MAY-2nd JUNE
5. THREE NIGHTS AND TWO DAYS OF LIVE MUSIC – ALL FREE. Our annual City of York Folk Weekend goes ahead again this year, over the customary weekend following the Late May Bank Holiday, i.e. 31st May and 1st / 2nd June. In the end I have again done a lot of the organisation, with advice and assistance from Stan Graham and Chris Euesden. Stan will be in overall charge on the weekend itself but I hope to put in an appearance each day myself, health permitting.
Once again we have had magnificent support from the many singers, players and bands who make up York’s vibrant and diverse folk, roots and acoustic music scene. Around 45 named acts are featured in the programme, all of them either from the York area, or with strong links to what goes on in the city. There will be shows in a marquee in the car park on Friday evening and then all day Saturday and Sunday. The upstairs Wolfe room hosts a series of concerts and other events, the small downstairs front bar, the Oak Room, will accommodate intimate acoustic singarounds and suchlike, and the dining room (Bowes Room) will be available for more spontaneous musician sessions or informal sings.
You can find the draft programme printed on the rear of the new club publicity leaflet and it is also posted on the Folk Weekend page of the club website, along with this year’s publicity artwork, the latter once again courtesy of Richard Nagy.
6. FRIDAY NIGHT, 31st MAY – JAKE THACKRAY MEETS THE IRISH. John Watterson from Poppleton is widely regarded as the foremost interpreter of the wonderful wordsmithery of the late Jake Thackray and he takes his show An Evening Without Jake Thackray to venues across the country. John is very kindly giving us a free performance on the Friday evening in the marquee. Meanwhile the York Irish Association will be holding their customary free-and-easy session until late in the upstairs club room and across town at The Three Legged Mare on High Petergate there is the usual lively Friday night songs and tunes session.
7. SATURDAY EVENTS, 1st JUNE. Live music kicks off at 1 PM on Saturday in the marquee, where the running order for the day is Union Jill, The Duncan McFarlane Band, Kaminari Taiko Drumming Duo, Ramshackle, Chechelele, David Ward Maclean, Two Black Sheep & A Stallion, The Bronze, Moonshine Creek, Edwina Hayes and Root 64.
Indoors on Saturday there are afternoon and evening events in the upstairs room. The former features Les Rustiques, Phil Pipe, Simon Alexander, Martin Heaton, Matthew Mason, Toni Bunnell and That Mitchell & Wife Sound, then after a short break the evening running order is Tommy Coyle, Colin Cutler, Mikkelsson, The Lennanshees, David Swann, Judith Haswell, John Storey and Paula Ryan.
8. SUNDAY EVENTS, 2nd JUNE. In the marquee things get under way again at 1 PM on Sunday, when the line-up is The Dan Webster Band, Leather’o, Blonde on Bob, Soundsphere, Tengu Taiko Drummers, The Ale Marys, White Sail, King Courgette, Fawn and finally Boss Caine.
Wolfe Room events begin at 11 AM on Sunday with the always popular singing workshop hosted by Soundsphere, then at 2 PM the York Songwriters Circle showcase their members work for a couple of hours. A late afternoon concert offers Alex O’Neil, Caramba and Pen & Stu, then the main evening event consists of Eddie Affleck, Tom McKenzie, Bella Gaffney, Phil Cerny, Sarah Dean and to wrap up the weekend Stan Graham.
Oak Room events on Sunday include a workshop on arranging traditional folk songs, presented by Joshua Burnell, and a Poems & Pints spoken word session hosted by John Gilham.
9. OTHER STUFF – ABSENT FRIENDS. Every year there are some local acts who would like to take part but cannot for one reason or another. This year that means, amongst others, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, The Joshua Burnell Band (although Josh is able to do that Sunday lunchtime workshop), The Old Humpy Band and Bella, Polly & The Magpies (although Bella is giving us a solo spot and Holly will be performing with her other band Mikkelsson).
10. OTHER STUFF – PUBLICITY. Please do all you can to help us publicise this festival. Tell your friends, share it on social media, print off the poster on the website and display it wherever you can. We have very limited funds for advertising and suchlike, so anything you can do to spread the word is much appreciated.
11. OTHER STUFF – MONEY. Ours is a free Festival and nobody is getting paid for taking part, but we do still have considerable expenses to meet. Pub management at the Black Swan Inn is fully behind the event and as usual they will take on responsibility for things like the hire of marquee, staging, seating and extra mobile toilets, but that still leaves the folk club to pick up other bills, of which the biggest by far is the hire of PA equipment and an engineer for the marquee. Volunteers will be rattling collection tins over the weekend, so if you have had a good time please give generously. And if at the end of the day your contributions exceed our costs, we will be donating the surplus to our chosen charity, the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
SUMMER CLUB NIGHTS: JUNE, JULY & AUGUST
The new club leaflet was published at the end of April and covers all our events through till the end of August. If you have not already got a copy, you can pick it up at the Black Swan Inn and at outlets such as the Tourist Information Centre, on the corner of Blake Street and Museum Street, and from the public racks at City Screen. Here is a summary of was is coming up in the three months after the Folk Weekend. All these events are open for booking at WeGotTickets.
12. JUNE GUESTS: BOB FOX, WILL KAUFMAN, GILMORE & ROBERTS. Our June club guests are all firm favourites paying us return visits. Bob Fox makes a welcome appearance on 13th June, no doubt singing some of the songs from WarHorse, in which he has played the role of Songman for much of the last 8 years, as well as favourite pieces from his native North East. On 20th June the UK-based American singer Will Kaufman presents his latest Woody Guthrie show, “Woody and Old Man Trump”, a mixture of songs, narration and projected images. Will is regarded as the foremost authority on Woody Guthrie and was heavily involved with the splendid recent BBC 4 documentary about Woody (still available for a few more days on the BBC iPlayer). Kat Gilmore & Jamie Roberts return on 27th June after a full house show in 2017: we have been booking these two regularly since they first appeared on the scene as Leeds students a dozen or so years ago, and they just get better and better!
13. JULY GUESTS: BILL JONES, DOM PRAG, GRAHAM HODGE. Bill Jones (aka Belinda) was a widely admired young singer in the early 2000’s, winning the Best Newcomer BBC Folk Award in 2001, releasing three albums, doing many festival appearances, and touring across the UK and beyond, including three visits to York. She took a break in 2004 to raise her family and was much missed, but now she is finally returning. A new CD of traditional, modern and self-penned songs is imminent, all in her appealing and accessible style, and she has summer tour dates which include a welcome return to our club room on 11th July.
Dom Prag, our guest on 18th July, is a young singer/guitarist from the south coast who greatly impressed us with a short floor spot last summer and so we have invited him back for a full booking. His music knits together folk traditions with a range of other influences. “Great playing, singing and writing and a lovely stage presence” says Julie Matthews, “watch out, his star is definitely on the rise”. And finally for July we are pleased to present a full evening with the much admired local legend that is Graham Hodge – that’s on 25th July.
14. AUGUST GUESTS: RAMSHACKLE, CROOKES FC, MARTYN & IRIS. The club house band Ramshackle, compromising Eddie Affleck, Phil Cerny, Chris Euesden, Stan Graham and Judith Haswell, feature at anotherFundraising Night on 8th August. Other local artists will also be taking part and all proceeds are going to our chosen charity, the Motor Neurone Disease Association. The next night Ramshackle are going to perform at the lively Crookes Folk Club in Sheffield and then the following Thursday, 15th August, resident performers from Crookes FC will entertain us at the Black Swan: classical guitarist Emma Bolton, Pete Gilbert, doing original songs and covers, singer/songwriter Charlie Osguthorpe and the group Soapstone Dragon.
Martyn Wyndham-Read is a very long-standing friend of our club and on 22nd August he visits us again, this time joined by ace concertina accompanist Iris Bishop. A golden voiced singer and a deceptively modest guitar accompanist, Martyn mixes traditional ballads with songs learned in his youth in Australia and choice contemporary numbers, including some by our own Stan Graham.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE AUTUMN
15. CLUB GUESTS SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER. The club diary is full until the end of the year and you can see an outline listing of what is coming up on the Programme page of the club website. I hope to have extended these to full blurbs before the end of June, at which point tickets will also go on sale at WeGotTickets.
Old favourites paying us a return visit include Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby (19th September), Christine Collister (17th October, in a duo with Michael Fix), Dan McKinnon (31st October), Winter Wilson (7th November), Sarah McQuaid (14th November), Allan Taylor (28th November) and Flossie Malavialle (12th December). There are also second appearances for several artists who greatly impressed on their club debuts two or three years ago: Reg Meuross (12th September), Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith (3rd October) and the trio The Trials of Cato (5th December). All of which leaves space for only one set of first-time visitors this autumn,The Hunch, on 5th September. The name might be new, but this 4 piece acoustic band singing and playing a variety of Irish folk, Americana, Blues and Flamenco music with a generous dash of humour includes veteran performers Mick Doonan (Hedgehog Pie, The Mighty Doonans) and Bob Thomas (Kitsyke Will, The Solicitors).
Lastly, there is one particularly special night coming up on 10th October, when the legendary singer Iain Matthews (Fairport Convention, Matthews Southern Comfort, Plainsong) makes an intimate small venue appearance to celebrate his criticality acclaimed recent memoir, Thro’ My Eyes. Music writer Ian Clayton will read stories from the book interspersed with live songs from Iain Matthews.
16. SEPTEMBER CONCERTS AT THE CRESCENT. During September we are joining forces once again with local promoter Joe Coates to present two shows at The Crescent Community Venue (off Blossom Street, behind the cinema). On Sunday 8th September you can enjoy the adventurous Anglo-Scottish band The Furrow Collective, compromising Lucy Farrell, Rachel Newton, Emily Portman and Alasdair Roberts, then on Tuesday 24th September we are proud to present another Fundraising Concert in support of the Motor Neurone Disease Association. This time we feature two legendary veterans of the UK folk revival, both of whom have careers stretching back nigh on 60 years: Martin Carthy and Wizz Jones. They are both artists that I have booked many times over my long career, so I was delighted when they offered to come to York and support our chosen cause.
Tickets are on sale already for The Furrow Collective and will be soon (certainly by the end of the month) for the MNDA charity night, through WeGotTickets and a range of other outlets.
17. NCEM EVENTS THIS AUTUMN. So far, we have four concerts lined up for the national Centre for Early Music this autumn. Legendary Irish singer Andy Irvine will be there on Monday 7th October, The Unthankspresent their new show The Emily Brontë Song Cycle on Wednesday 23rd October. Kitty Macfarlane returns to York with a small band, including Sam Kelly, on Monday 25th November and we have a seasonal show A Winter Union on Monday 16th December. I am particularly grateful to The Unthanks for agreeing to return to what is for them these days a rather small venue. Tickets for their appearance went on sale 3 weeks ago as part of a national tour launch and they are already getting on for half sold! Booking will open for the other NCEM events later this summer.
I had intended to include quite a few other snippets of local news in this bulletin, and to mention some other events coming up in the next few weeks in and around York, but it has already taken me two days to get to this point, so I think I have better stop now. Whether I will ever manage another newsletter I cannot really say, although I will try my best. Meanwhile can I just say thank you so very much for all your best wishes. Keep on supporting live music.