Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 169

7th December 2013

1.        BROOKS’ BLUES.  As I write there are just 10 tickets left at WeGotTickets for next Thursday’s (12th) club guest, the master guitarist and bluesy singer-songwriter Brooks Williams.  We’ve enjoyed a wonderfully diverse set of top-class performers this autumn – ranging from Lucy Ward to Iain Matthews, from Tom Lewis to 4Square, from Clive Carroll to Dick Gaughan, and Brooks’ “Americana at its finest” adds another musical flavour to that eclectic mix.  Go and grab one of those last few tickets!  They cost £10 full / £8 concessions.  Chris Euesden will be MC, while the floor singers will include David Swann and Sarah Dean, who both spent time with Brooks in Africa in 2010 doing musical voluntary work.
2.        CHRISTMAS PARTY TIME.  The club’s customary Christmas Party is held on 19th December.  This takes the form of an acoustic singers’ night, often with the performers doing something seasonal or outside their usual repertoire.  We also have a bring-and-share buffet supper in the extended half time break, making it a very sociable evening.  Admission is free – just bring along a small contribution to the buffet – and (if I can get it together to rustle up some prizes!) there will be our “only-once-a-year” fundraising raffle.  Phil Cerny hosts this year.
3.        SUPPORT OUR NEW YEAR SINGERS NIGHTS.  January is a five Thursday month and so we are having two Singers & Musicians Nights – one on 2nd January (MC John Storey) to ease us gently back into action after the holiday break, and a second on 23rd January (MC Paula Ryan).  Singers Nights are an important part of what we do, making it clear that we aim to be more than just a “passive” concert venue. Historically, these nights have been very well supported by both performers and listeners, typically with between a dozen and twenty participating acts.  Recently, however, things have slackened and the number of singers these last three months has been in single figures each time.  So come on all you singers, players and poets – make it a New Year resolution to drop in a bit more often – you’ll have a good time and find a receptive audience.
4.        JACKIE, JEZ, KATE, DAN AND THE PILGRIMS.  Our 2014 guest programme begins with the delightful Jackie Oates (9th January, accompanied by Tristan Seume) and continues with the fine duo of Jez Lowe & Kate Bramley (16th January).  Both acts should need little introduction here and tickets are now selling steadily at WeGotTickets.  Our Canadian friend Dan McKinnon follows on 30th January and then we have Pilgrims’ Way, now expanded to a four-piece band, on 6th February.
5.        WINTER FOLK DAY TAKES SHAPE.  Once again we have organised a showcase event at the Black Swan Inn for the annual York Residents’ Festival.  The date this year is Sunday 26th January, when there will be both afternoon (2pm-5.30pm) and evening (7.30pm-10.30pm) concerts in the club room.  These will be entirely free to York Card holders, with others admitted (space permitting) for a nominal charge. Provisionally lined up for the afternoon show are The Foresters, Eddie Affleck, Rakish, Paula Ryan, Fake Thackray and Chris Euesden, with Sarah Dean, The A-Rhythmics, Stan Graham, Ian Pybus & Anne Curran, Phil Cerny and Union Jill to follow in the evening.  I’ll have full details in the next newsletter.
6.        FUTURE CLUB GUESTS OPEN FOR BOOKING.  This weekend I have uploaded a further batch of events with WeGotTickets and they should be open for booking by Monday night or Tuesday.  The visit byJim Moray (27th February) has already attracted a number of enquiries and I would expect an early sell-out on that one.  Also uploaded are The James Brothers (aka Jamie McClennan and James Fagan, taking time out from their work with Emily Smith and Nancy Kerr respectively) on 13th February, a New Roots Double Bill on 6th March, with Sam Kelly and Matt Quinn, Gilmore & Roberts on 20th March (another one that is likely to sell out) and Wendy Arrowsmith on 27th March.  These events are all on the new pricing structure outlined below – see item 8.
7.        SPECIAL CONCERTS OPEN FOR BOOKING.  Also now open for booking on the NCEM website or on 01904 658338 are our three spring folk concerts at the National Centre for Early Music.  These areO’Hooley & Tidow (Wednesday 12th March), Vin Garbutt (Tuesday 1st April) and Heidi Talbot (Monday 14th April).
Remember also that we are co-promoting an event at Barley Hall during the Jorvik Viking Festival.  Serious Kitchen, aka Nick Hennessey, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, present their Nordic story and song show The Whispering Road on Sunday 16th February.  This is now booking through the Festival website and since the very atmospheric medieval venue only has a capacity of around 45, an early Sell Out is likely.
8.        CLUB FINANCES & NEW CLUB PRICES.  Regular readers will be aware that we have recently been thinking about our pricing structure, specifically the question of concessionary rates for over 60s/retired people.  Discussion was prompted by our relatively poor financial figures for the six months to July.  However, the last four months have brought a significant improvement and at the moment I am happy to say that we have a healthy cash surplus.
Most of you who responded to the debate were in favour of scrapping the over 60s concession.  However, I am very conscious that around half of all our admissions are now at the concessionary rate and I do have a niggling worry that there may be other older people out there who will “vote with their feet” if we scrap concessions entirely.  With our general financial situation looking better, I have decided to retain concessionary prices for a while longer, but at a lower differential of just one pound off.  So for example a top rate night (e.g. Jim Moray) will be £12 full or £11 (rather than £10) concessions.  Also, the lowest current guest night price band (£7 and £6) will be phased out over the next few months.
Many of you felt that children and students merited a concession much more than did older adults, and I agree.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to have more than one concessionary price on WeGotTickets. What I propose instead is that full-time students and under-18s will be admitted at half the full price rate, space permitting, but on-the-door only.  If they want to pre-book it will have to be at the normal concessionary rate, I’m afraid.
There was a strong feeling that floor singer rates on guest nights should also increase from the current token amount of £2, and again I agree.  I propose that floor singers pay half the full price rate, but with the exception of the MC and the PA crew.
These changes will take effect from our next brochure, i.e. from 13th February onwards.  Note that I do not propose any change in the current Singers Night pricing of £3 full price, £2 concessions and £1 performers.  Also, concessions will remain as before at the NCEM and other external venues which have their own rules.  If you have any queries or comments, please get in touch.
9.        CLUB NIGHTS REVIEWED.  Freelance critic Martin Longley attended a couple of club nights last month, Tom Lewis and 4Square, along with the Brass Monkey concert at York University.  You can read his reviews online at AllAboutJazz.  Most of his comments are fine by me, although I would take issue about his perception of 4Square’s vocal “blandness”.  No two people hear music the same way, I suppose. Interestingly, Mike Harding chose to play one of the band’s vocal tracks on his most recent podcast, rather than an instrumental.
10.     CDs AND MAGAZINES ON SALE.  I am delighted to say that we now have copies of Don Walls’ new CD of poetry readings.  Poems from “In The Shed” contains no fewer than 64 of Don’s poetic gems and is on sale for just £5 at club meetings.
Also available again, after a fresh pressing, is the double CD Bob Dylan tribute album Younger Than That Now.  First released by Circuit Music in 2011 to mark Bob’s 70th birthday, this features 30 new interpretations of Dylan classics from artists as diverse as Steve Tilston, Clive Gregson, Martin Simpson and Edwina Hayes as well as local stars Blonde On Bob, Sarah Dean and Phil Cerny.  It is just £10 with all proceeds to Oxfam.  It would make a great Xmas gift for any music lover!
The winter issues of regional folk magazines Tykes’ News (Yorkshire, £2) and Folk Roundabout (North East England, £1) are also now on sale at club meetings.
11.     AUDIENCES FROM FAR AND WIDE.  We have just had two excellent sell out nights with Dick Gaughan at the club.  The sales reports I get from WeGotTickets gives purchasers’ postcodes and looking down the list I was struck by how many were from beyond York.  There were 47 of you buying online tickets for those two nights (anything from 1 to 4 tickets each) and only 31 of you had YO postcodes.  Leeds (LS) and Sheffield (S) provided three customers each, and the singles included places as distant as Brighton, Bristol, Derby and Stockport!
12.     FOLK AWARDS NOMINEES AT THE BLACK SWAN.  The latest BBC Folk Award shortlists were announced just after my last newsletter.  Amongst the nominees are recent club and concert guests such as Lucy Ward (Folk Singer of the Year), Breabach (Best Group) and Sam Sweeney (Musician of the Year), while out future guests include Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (Best Duo and Horizon Award) and Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar (Horizon Award).  You can find the full list on the BBC folk website.
13.     ANGELA MICHEL 1955-2013.  We were all deeply saddened to hear that Angela Michel lost her battle with an aggressive form of cancer two weeks ago.  Her Soundsphere singing partner Sarah Dean writes “she passed away, peacefully at home, with her family around her on Sunday evening.  We can only conclude in lighter moments of our distress and sadness that the heavens and the angels must have needed a choir master.  We were singing together on our regular Monday night visit right up until last week.”  Paula Ryan adds “she was always so strong and so vibrant – it’s hard to believe she could be gone and I fear the hole she leaves in our lives will only get bigger.  We shall miss her so terribly as a wonderful singing sister and as a dear dear friend.”
Angela sang for us with Soundsphere as recently as our Folk Day last June, before her illness had even been diagnosed, and only last year (E News 151) I was reporting how, with two artificial hips, she and her partner Nick Warlow had walked over 3,000km for charity, from York to Rome.  It is indeed hard to believe that such an active and vibrant person can be gone.  Our heartfelt condolences go to Nick and to all her family and friends.
14.     A NEW SINGERS CLUB FOR YORK.  Tony Haynes has been in touch to tell me about his New Acoustic Singaround in the front bar at the Tap & Spile on Monkgate.  This is being held every 2nd and 4th Sunday at 8pm, so alternating with the well-established First Sunday singers club at the Crown in Hemingbrough and the third Sunday event at the Ferry Boat Inn, Thorganby.  Tony writes “the idea is to offer an alternative to the many open mike sessions and musicians’ sessions that are already held in the York area, where acoustic folk singers are not always welcome.  We do not intend to book guest performers - that is what you (the Black Swan) do - but we do intend to give local performers another informal outlet for their talents in York”.  The new event launched on 10th November and included a half-hour feature spot by FOSS from Hemingbrough.  David Swann was featured singer on 24th November, Donald Nelson does a spot this weekend (8th) and David Kidman on 22nd December.  They have opened a Facebook page or you can contact Tony on 01904 762864.
I wish Tony and co well with their venture, although I would venture to point out (item 3 above) that providing an open, welcoming venue for local singers is an important part of what we also do – we are not solely a guest-booking club.
15.     A FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL FOR POPPLETON.  The ever active John Watterson, aka Fake Thackray, announces a one day music festival for Sunday 11th May 2014 at the Poppleton Centre, “as a trial run for a bigger festival in 2015” and he has secured a major folk rock band for the evening concert.  Their identity cannot be officially released yet for contractual reasons, but let us say John is well acquainted with them after supporting them on a lengthy UK tour earlier this year.  There will also be an afternoon concert with Roger Davies, Jez Lowe and Union Jill, and we at the Black Swan are in discussions with John about holding a tea time “bridging” folk club session at the village’s Lord Collingwood pub.  The Poppleton Centre (formerly the Community Centre) holds 250 and so strong is local support for John’s Poppleton Live activities, he has already taken reservations for half those seats.  The final price is still to be settled but it will be in the region of £25-£30.  If you want to find out more, contact John by e-mail.
As Fake Thackray, John also announces the launch of a new tribute song he has written for Jake.  It is called The Wordsmith and you can listen to it on SoundCloud.  “Absolutely excellent! John does my old mate proud. Love it!” Vin Garbutt is reported as saying.  Next year John/Fake will be touring his new show An Evening Without Jake Thackray, as previewed in Edinburgh this summer.  “Is a heartfelt celebration of the genius that was Jake Thackray” he says, “funny, witty, satirical, fiercely intelligent songs combined with Jake’s story in his own words.”
16.     AND A FOLK EVENT ON THE CYCLEPATH?  Peter Huxford writes: “I am organising a festival on the York to Selby cycle path next June/July as part of the Arts Council Grand Depart Cultural Festival.  The main events will be held between Bishopthorpe and Naburn, with a stage at the old Naburn Station.  There will be music on the weekend of 28th/29th June but I had the idea of using the stage/PA set up for other events, one of which might be a mini folk festival the Sunday afternoon before, 22nd June”.
He continues “the theme of the event is the history of the path as railway, coal mine, cycle path and also the river traffic, so it would be nice to do a ‘themed’ event with songs reflecting this.  We are looking at local artists willing to play for expenses.  There will be lots of excitement about the Tour de France and I imagine the exposure would be useful”.  If any performers out there are interested in taking part, please contact Peter on 01904 632504 or by email.
Talking of the Tour De France, Roger Davies is ahead of the pack with a new song The Grand Depart to celebrate the race coming to Yorkshire next summer.  “It is a typical Roger song” says the press release “with a feel-good, celebratory lyric delivered in a straightforward style that anyone can understand”.  It will be release as a single available from iTunes from January 15th 2014, and can be previewed now on YouTube
17.     UNESCO CONVENTION ON INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE.  There is an online petition doing the rounds at the moment urging the UK government to ratify this UNESCO convention.  What has that got to do with folk music, you might ask.  Well, the promoters of the petition write “our traditional customs are an important part of our national heritage and in danger of being lost because organisers cannot afford the costs associated with Health and Safety legislation, insurance costs, security costs and similar.  Local authorities should be providing the means for traditional customs to continue, not placing obstacles in the way.”  As an example, they quote the Bacup Coconut Dance, “which has been happening in Lancashire for over 150 years (but) is under threat because they cannot afford to pay for road closures.”  They continue “other European nations have protected their customs by listing them with UNESCO, placing an obligation on authorities to assist rather than hinder their continuation for future generations.  There is no question of compromising public safety, but the means to make our customs possible without stretching the resources of the people who carry them out must be found.  Nobody questions the resources used for the protection of World Heritage Sites and this is no different.  It is good for tourism and for local economies to keep our customs alive.”  If you wish to support this petition, it can be found here.
18.     JEZ LOWE’S GEORDIE CHRISTMAS BEACH PARTY.  If you are reading this promptly, you still have time to catch the only Yorkshire date on Jez Lowe’s short seasonal tour, at Green Hammerton Village Hall near York on Sunday night (8th).  “A night of festive folk-fun” is promised, “with Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies and special guest Benny Graham, as they face the unpredictable British weather by inviting you to their Christmas Beach Party.  Known for his witty, comic songs as well as lyrical ballads, with creative musicianship from his five piece band, expect a journey through the best of Jez’s original songs, as well as some seasonal classics from across the North-east.”  It is a 7.30 start and tickets are £9.50 adults or £5 under 16s, online or on 01423 339168.
19.     BRIGHT MORNING STARS IN THE BASEMENT.  One of the nominees as BBC Folk Awards Singer of the Year, Bella Hardy is at City Screen Basement on Tuesday (10th) on her Bright Morning Star seasonal tour.  She is accompanied by Chris Sherburn and Anna Massie and also on the bill are Edwina Hayes and Gilded Thieves.  Find out more online.
20.     CROWS’ BONES AT THE NCEM.  This special show at the Early Music Centre on Saturday 14th December is described as a “mesmerising collection of ghost songs old and new, pinpointing the essence of what is most beautiful and unsettling in the folk genre”.  It has been composed by Martin Green of Lau and is performed by Martin on accordion, singer Becky Unthank, nykelharpist Niklas Roswall and singer Inge Thomson, of Karine Polwart’s band.  Tickets are £15 full / £13 concessions on 01904 658338 or online.
21.     WINTER SOLSTICE IN FRIARGATE.  Edwina Hayes (again!) is the special guest at a Winter Solstice concert being organised by David Ward Maclean, alongside Steve Kendra and other musical friends.  The date is (of course) Saturday 21st December and the venue is Friargate Theatre in York.  Find out more and book tickets (£8) at the venue’s website.
22.     BLUEGRASS AT THE BLACK SWAN.  The revitalised Union Central are also in action on Saturday 21st December, at the Black Swan Inn.  Admission is £3 on the door, with reservations to 01904 783029.
23.     AND LEATHER’O AT THE BLACK SWAN.  The folk club may be taking a break between Christmas and New Year, but there are still two live music events of note happening there.  On Saturday 28th December, “Celtic and gypsy folk” band Leather’o are hosting an extended evening concert.  I’ve yet to catch this five piece band in action myself but I’ve heard excellent reports and of course the fiddle player Elaine Wallace is known to us in other guises.  Elaine and Angela from the band accompanied our own Stan Graham recently at the Festival of Remembrance at the York Barbican.  As well as Leather’o, the evening line-up includes instrumental trio Over The Yardarm, Aimie Ryan, Sarah Dean and Bryony Drake.  To fit in so many acts, doors open early at 6pm.  Tickets are just £5 from the band’s website.
24.     AND DYLAN AT THE BLACK SWAN.  The following night, Sunday 29th December, it is the turn of Blonde On Bob to entertain at the Black Swan Inn, when they host their annual night of Bob Dylan covers. The show kicks off at 8pm and promises “a special guest or two” and also the celebrated Dylan prize quiz.  Tickets are £8 in advance from WeGotTickets or £10 on the door.
That’s another huge bulletin, so I’ll miss out the “events further afield” section.
I’ll be back very early in January, all being well.  Meanwhile, best wishes for a peaceful, happy and musical festive season.