May Day Weekend 2015
1. COME AND ENJOY THE MUSIC OF LADY MAISERY. First, a reminder that exciting young trio Lady Maisery are in concert on Tuesday night (5th) at the National Centre for Early Music. Somewhat surprisingly (and even after Hannah James’s superb singing, playing and dancing alongside Maddy Prior last month at NCEM), ticket sales have been sluggish for this one and we still need around 30 more paying customers just to cover the group’s modest fee and our own costs.
“Three of the most vibrant young talents of the new British folk wave" was how Mojo magazine described Lady Maisery, who are Hannah James (Kerfuffle, Sam Sweeney, Maddy Prior), Hazel Askew (Askew Sisters) and Rowan Rheingans (Fidola, Rheingans Sisters, Nancy Kerr Band). They offer fresh interpretations of vintage songs and ballads to stunning effect, enchanting with rich harmonies, sumptuous melodies and warm personalities, whether singing unaccompanied or playing combinations of accordion, harp, banjo, concertina and fiddle. The almost lost tradition of diddling or tune-singing is a speciality, together with Hannah’s clog dancing.
Nominated for Best Emerging Artists in the 2012 BBC Folk Awards and earning dream reviews for their recordings (4 or 5 stars from The Financial Times, Songlines, R2, The Independent and Maverick), Lady Maisery are on track for great things, as was intimated when they did a great full house show at our club venue two years ago.
There seems to be a lot happening just at the moment, but if you do have a free evening on Tuesday, why not come along to NCEM and enjoy some great music? You can pay at the door any time from 7pm, with tickets costing £13 full price or £11 concessions (and full-time students out there, remember the standby offer of tickets for £5 each, available from 7.15pm). The concert begins at 7.30pm with Paula Ryan acting as compere and a half hour support spot by new-to-York singer Judith Haswell and her partner Trish McLean, after which Lady Maisery will do two full sets. The concert should end around 10pm.
2. SUBLIME SCOTTISH FOLK SONG WITH EMILY SMITH. Also disappointingly slow so far are ticket sales for our final NCEM concert of this season, Emily Smith on Friday 22nd May. With less than three weeks to go, we again need a substantial pick-up in sales if the club is not to make an unwelcome loss.
More than a decade into her career and making her fourth visit to NCEM, Emily is rightly celebrated as one of Scotland’s most distinctive and sublime folk voices. She was recently voted Singer of the Year in the 2014 Scots Trad Music Awards while her current CD Echoes has been universally praised. TV appearances on Transatlantic Sessions and Songs of Praise have won her additional admirers. She will be the Mark Radcliffe’s featured guest on the Radio 2 Folk Show this Wednesday (6th) at 7pm.
Joined in York by multi-instrumentalists Jamie McClennan and Matheu Watson, and switching between accordion and keyboard herself, Emily will be showcasing material from the new album, in which she returns to her first love of traditional song, alongside some choice covers and samples of her own highly accomplished songwriting. Both Emily and Jamie did backing work on the new CD by our own Stan Graham, so naturally he steps in as support act and MC for this one. Tickets are now booking at www.ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338, priced at £16 full or £14 concessions.
3. AMERICAN TROUBADOUR BEN BEDFORD. On General Election night, Thursday 7th, we welcome a debut North American visitor to the club. Ben Bedford is an Illinois-born songwriter who has been described as firmly in the Woody Guthrie-onwards folk tradition. “He delivers intriguing sketches of ordinary Americans past and present, their struggles and their victories. Poignant but never sentimental, his songs capture the vitality of their characters and draw the listener deep into the narrative.” Americana music magazine Maverick has called him “a truly inspired and talented storyteller”.
Ben is little known this side of the Atlantic, but we liked what we heard of him and decided to take a chance. Find out more for yourself at www.benbedford.com or look up some of his YouTube videos. Eddie Affleck hosts this one and tickets are £9 and £8 from WeGotTickets, or plentiful on the door from 8pm. Let’s give Ben a good big listening audience for his first visit to York, then we can all go home to watch the election results come in!
4. THE RETURN OF COLUM SANDS. Next week, Thursday 14th May, sees the return to York after an inexcusable 15 year break of veteran Ulster singer, songwriter and all-round good guy Colum Sands. One of a famous musical family (his siblings include Tommy and Ben Sands), Colum has performed in over thirty countries around the world, confirming the universal appeal of songs and stories in which he observes the intimate and often humorous details of life. “He draws on a long Irish tradition of poetic musicality to weave storytelling songs for the world” says one critic. On his travels Colum discovered that many of his songs had arrived before him, carried by singers such as Andy Irvine, Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy, Roy Bailey, Mick Hanley and our own future guest Enda Kenny (see item 15 below).
“Colum's gift is breaking down cultural barriers through choice words and eloquent music” said critic John O'Regan, while an Australian festival organiser writes “an unforgettable, wonderful performer. I've seen him play to 2500 people in the festival's biggest venue and make everyone feel as if they were sitting in his lounge room. He's warm, witty, moving and funny”. Stan Graham hosts this one and tickets are £10 or £9 concessions at WeGotTickets.
5. THIS MONTH’S SINGERS NIGHT. May’s open house Singers & Musicians Night falls on 21st May, with Tony Morris acting as MC. These regular nights continue to be great fun, with a wealth of fine music and song. Last week’s was one such, with a strong contingent of much valued locals and regulars, alongside some enjoyable visitors. These included singer-songwriter Nigel Waite from Dorset, veteran Devon singer (and father of Sean, Seth and Sam) Geoff Lakeman, and a young Australian duo now living in York and playing medieval music, Minerva’s Tower. Sixteen acts in all, very ably marshalled by MC Stan Graham.
6. EXPLORING CECIL SHARP’S APPALACHIAN HARVEST. Our final guest night this month is a little different, a multimedia show in which Brian Peters (UK) and Jeff Davis (USA) explore “Sharp’s Appalachian Harvest”. They write:
When emigrants left 18th century Britain and settled in the New World they took with them their songs, which survived in remote mountain communities and finally evolved into the beating heart of American Old-Time music. In 1916 English songhunters Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles ventured into the heart of the southern Appalachians to seek out these old songs. Their collection of over sixteen hundred ballads, ditties and fiddle tunes is one of the greatest ever made.
The story of the hardships and the triumphs of this heroic quest is told by Brian and Jeff in music, song and words, and illustrated with Sharp’s original photographs of the mountain characters who kept the old traditions alive. They perform some of the best songs from this wonderful harvest, accompanying their voices with guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin. This is a two hour show with one interval, so the only other performance that night will be a short opener by MC Phil Cerny. Tickets are £10 full or £9 concessions at WeGotTickets.
FOLK WEEKEND 5th – 7th JUNE
7. ALL GET SET FOR THE FIRST WEEKEND IN JUNE. Everything is on course for our annual free festival, the City of York Folk Weekend, which this year falls on 5th, 6th and 7th of June. Once again, we simply aim to have a great time, bringing together in one place as many elements of York’s vibrant and diverse folk & acoustic music scene as we possibly can. If you haven’t already done so, put those dates in your diary now! Whether you look in for just an hour or two or come to the entire weekend, you are sure to enjoy it.
8. PROGRAMME PUBLISHED, POSTERS AND LEAFLETS TO FOLLOW. After what seems like ages, we have a more or less finished programme, which has been published on the website at www.blackswanfolkclub.org.uk/folkweekend15/. In a slightly earlier form it is also printed on the back of our new club brochure, which will be distributed shortly (see item 14 below). Folk Weekend posters and flyers will soon be available and will also be posted on the website. We’ll be using social media to push things as well, and please do all you can to spread the word yourselves!
One or two more programme tweaks may be needed, but nothing major. We will flag up any changes online and in the next edition of this newsletter.
9. CONCERTS MIXED WITH SESSIONS & SINGAROUNDS. At the heart of Folk Weekend is a mix of concert events – in the Marquee on both days and in the Wolfe Room on Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening – with a generous ration of participatory events such as sessions, singarounds and the rolling folk club. There is also the customary spoken word “poems and pints” event, this year hosted by John Gilham on the Saturday lunchtime.
10. WORKSHOPS – SONG, UKULELE & MUSICAL SAW! One feature of Folk Weekend Sunday this year is a trio of workshops. From 11.00am in the Wolfe Room Soundsphere members Judith, Sarah and Paula will again run their popular voice and singing event, while at 1pm the Oak Room has a beginner’s ukulele session with Steve Morrison of Red Cow Music. This will be followed at 2.30pm by an introduction to the musical saw courtesy of Harrogate’s Charles Hindmarsh, The Yorkshire Musical Saw Man. It should be fun for all ages. Saws are provided!
11. FRIDAY NIGHT IS IRISH NIGHT – PARTICIPANTS WELCOME. Alongside a ceilidh in the Marquee with FiddlersWreck, Folk Weekend Friday features an Irish Night in the Wolfe Room hosted by the relatively new York Irish Association. Everyone with a love of things Irish is welcome to attend, and singers, players and other performers are encouraged. If you can (but not essential), could performers please let organiser Brendan Tannam know beforehand on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07456 327101.
12. HELPERS STILL NEEDED. Lastly, can I repeat what I said last month? We still need offers of help with things like stewarding, staffing the information desk and shaking collection tins. Several key helpers from previous years are not available this year (holidays, illness, family commitments, etc.) and we badly need a few new volunteers!
13. IMPROVED ATTENDENCES AT THE CLUB IN APRIL. Following my strictures in the lead article of the last newsletter, I am pleased to report much better numbers during April. Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston followed by Andy Irvine naturally gave us two Full House nights, but we also had a close to full night with Duncan McFarlane & Anne Brivonese, which was very pleasing. One attendee at the latter posted thus on Facebook “by jove, his set was simply blistering. Mix of great old and new songs, the usual impeccable guitar work and heartfelt vocals, all with the usual highly entertaining McF banter. And a word for the excellent Anne Brivonese, whose fiddle was a perfect melodic counterpoint throughout. A great evening altogether. Don't miss him if he's heading your way.” Let’s hope we do equally well for Ben Bedford, Colum Sands and Peters & Davis this month.
14. SUMMER CLUB BROCHURE READY, MORE EVENTS ONLINE. The Summer Season folk club brochure, covering the period late May to early October, is now printed and will be available at club functions over the next couple of weeks, then widely circulated from mid-May. Relevant blurbs and other details have been added to the listings on the club website and details have been sent off to WeGotTickets, where box office should open within 48 hours. The brochure was written in some haste before I left for a short holiday and I have already spotted one typo (incorrect concessionary price listed on 13th August), for which I can only apologise.
15. DAVID FRANCEY CANCELS, ENDA KENNY STEPS IN. We were sad to hear last month from David Francey’s Canadian manager: “it is with a heavy heart that David will have to postpone his UK tour this May/June 2015. David has been struggling with a health issue that affects his voice (and) under the direction of his specialists, he must take time off for appointments, tests, and treatment.” We all wish him a full and speedy recovery.
However, every cloud has a silver lining and the Australia-based Irish singer/songwriter Enda Kenny has been able to fill the June 18th date vacated by David. Enda has a lot of admirers in this country and did an impressive two song floor spot at our club when he called in one evening last summer, so we were delighted to hear that he is in the UK again in June and free on that night. Meanwhile, David Francey has been provisionally rescheduled for a date in autumn 2016.
16. CLUB NIGHT REVIEWED AND OTHER PRESS PIECES. Catching up with magazine reading recently, I found a review of one of The Churchfitters nights at our club last December. Writing enthusiastically in the March/April edition of R2 (and supplying a photo as well), Oz Hardwick concludes “you never quite know what you’ll get from The Churchfitters, but it’s always rather special”. I’ll second that.
Meanwhile the current (May) issue of fRoots has a feature on Manx singer (and former University of York student) Ruth Keggin, who did a sublime Jorvik Viking Festival show for us at Barley Hall in February. Going back to last autumn, I meant to tell you that issue 105 of The Living Tradition featured Black Swan regular visitor and prolific CD reviewer David Kidman in their “Meet the Writer” column. And, by the way, the same issue of LT has a feature article on the Irish duo of fiddle player Josie Nugent and Uilleann piper Brian Stafford. Brian lived in York for several years and was a mainstay of the informal pub session circuit in the city.
17. SHANTY SINGERS NEEDED. I have been approached by the organisers of a Game & Seafood Fair taking place in Malton on 12th September. They would like a group to sing some sea shanties at the event. There is no fee as such but reasonable expenses can be paid. If anyone is interested, please e-mail me and I’ll pass on contact details.
18. FOLK AWARDS 2015. Did you listen to the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, broadcast on 22nd April and still available to watch on the BBC iPlayer? Several of the awards particularly pleased me, and none more so than Best Group, given to those irrepressible Teesside lads The Young ‘Uns. Sean and David gave a typically lively acceptance speech! It was also very gratifying to see Nancy Kerr chosen as Folk Singer of the Year. The Young ‘Uns will be back in York for an NCEM concert on 15th April next year, while Nancy Kerr (who was at the NCEM with her Sweet Visitor Band last November) is tentatively booked back at the same venue with the group The Melrose Quartet (alongside James Fagan and Jess and Richard Arrowsmith) on 26th February. In other Folk Awards Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (our club guests last June, to a lamentably small audience) took the Best Duo trophy against strong competition, while Sam Sweeney was a well-deserved choice as Musician of the Year.
19. VIRTUOSO UKULELE PLAYER DOES WORKSHOP. As well as running a beginners’ event at our Folk Weekend, Red Cow Music are hosting a special one-off uke workshop this coming Wednesday (6th) at The Black Horse on Monkgate. American “ukulele teacher extraordinaire” Richard Gilewitz will be there from 7.45pm, and it is a Free event.
20. AND A UKULELE FESTIVAL TO FOLLOW. The Black Horse (formerly the Tap & Spile) is also the main venue for this year’s York Ukulele Festival, which will be held on Saturday 20th June from 2pm “until late”. Running order and further info at www.redcowmusic.co.uk.
21. LISA KNAPP CANCELLED. If you were thinking of going to see much-talked-about singer Lisa Knapp at City Screen Basement on Friday, don’t bother! The promoter has cancelled this date on her tour. Come and see Lady Maisery on Tuesday and/or Ben Bedford on Thursday instead!
22. VALE RADIO FOLK SHOW UPDATE. Tony Haynes has been in touch to tell us that his FAB Folk and Blues Show on internet community radio station Vale Radio is moving to Monday evenings from 8pm-10pm, as from 11th May, but will be repeated each week in the show’s original 8pm slot on Saturday. To listen live go to www.thevaleonline.com/radio, while to hear a podcast of the latest show at any time, use www.thevaleonline.com/fab. All previous shows continue to be available at www.mixcloud.com/tonyhaynes52. Tony continues to run the New Acoustic Singaround on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at the Victoria Hotel, Heslington Road, and will be hosting a couple of our informal sessions at Folk Weekend.
23. LAST FEW TICKETS FOR POPPLETON LIVE. Fake Thackray popped into our Singers Night last Thursday, sang a couple of songs, and advised us that there are now just a few all-day tickets left for the Saturday part of his Poppleton Live festival on 9th May. The afternoon concert is headlined by Jez Lowe (nominated in two categories at the above-mentioned Folk Awards) while Ralph McTell does the only Yorkshire performance of his current tour in the evening. Meanwhile Friday night’s concert by Fairport Convention has been sold out for some time. Saturday also has teatime “fringe” events with Union Jill (at the Methodist church) and David Swann (at the Lord Nelson). For full details, including non-folk events on other nights this week, have a look at www.poppletonlive.co.uk.
On the same website you will see that Poppleton Live have also announced concerts by Harvey Andrews (a rare public appearance these days) on 18th July and by Gilmore & Roberts on 17th October.
SOME OTHER EVENTS IN YORK & BEYOND
There is just space for a quick gallop through some other events of note
24. 8th MAY IN FARNDALE. Kate in the Kettle (aka sometime Eliza Carthy collaborator Kate Young) and cellist Francesca Ter-Berg launch the 20th Anniversary season at the Band Room in beautiful Farndale this Friday. Website is www.thebandroom.co.uk.
25. 12th MAY AT YORK BARBICAN. Eddie Reader is in concert at York’s biggest venue, with Don McLean to follow on Friday 15th May. Website is www.yorkbarbican.co.uk.
26. 13th MAY AT HARROGATE THEATRE. The Demon Barbers present their latest music & dance extravaganza Disco at the Tavern at 7.30pm. Details www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk.
27. 16th MAY IN WENSLEYDALE. Two events on the same night here. At the Wensleydale School in Leyburn you can catch Artisan on their Reunion Tour. Tickets are £12 from email@example.com, 01969 624510. Meanwhile upstream at Aysgarth Parish Church, Jez Lowe is in concert. Jez also performs on Sunday 17th at Northallerton Sacred Heart Church. Both shows are promoted by Alverton Singers on 01969 663368.
28. 22nd-25th MAY AT BOTTON VILLAGE ON THE NORTH YORK MOORS. This year’s Festival on the Moor takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend. Appearing are Woody Mann, Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fake Thackray and 30 other acts. Find out more at www.festivalonthemoor.co.uk.
29. 31st MAY AT NCEM, YORK. Tim Eriksen & Eliza Carthy are in concert, promoting new collaborative CD Bottle. Serious Kitchen present The Whispering Road at the same venue on Friday 12th June and Peggy Seeger is there with sons Neill and Calum MacColl on Saturday 20th June. NOTE – none of these are Black Swan promotions, but we are happy to support all three of them. Box office 01904 658338 or www.ncem.co.uk.
That’s all for now. I should have another mailing ready for you towards the end of May which will mainly focus on our City of York Folk Weekend in early June.