2nd August 2015
AUGUST IS OUR YORKSHIRE FOLK MONTH
1. THIS THURSDAY, 6th – EAST YORKSHIRE WITH BEGGAR’S BRIDGE. During this month we showcase three contrasting acts from different corners of our own great county, beginning this week with Beggar’s Bridge. Making their first guest appearance at the Black Swan (although they have previously dropped in on Singers Nights) Beggar’s Bridge are developing a great reputation on the folk circuit and continue the tradition of fine acts to come out of Hull. With a sound that straddles the traditional and contemporary, they write their own songs, many of them based on folklore around people, places and events in their home area of East Yorkshire, encapsulating its rural, urban and maritime heritages.
It’s not just the music which makes a Beggar’s Bridge gig memorable though; the spaces between are just as compelling, as the backgrounds to the song-stories are explained, usually with a good helping of earthy humour, and it all makes for an experience which is not only musically satisfying, but amusing and informative too.
Performing for us in their acoustic four-piece line-up (there is also a sextet folk-rock version with bass and drums) Beggar’s Bridge will be wielding combinations of guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, whistle and percussion. Sarah Dean does MC duties and tickets are £8 full or £7 concessions, available on the door. Remember our new music start time of 8.15 – see item 8 below.
2. THURSDAY 13th – SOUTH YORKSHIRE WITH JESS & RICHARD ARROWSMITH. We move over to South Yorkshire next week, 13th August. Sheffield is a real hotbed of top notch music making, and two of that city’s finest folk exponents are Jess & Richard Arrowsmith. Playing respectively fiddle and melodeon and both singing, they are well established and highly respected across the traditional English music scene. They bring you powerful vocals, subtle accompaniments, lively tunes and a broad range of material that will have you laughing, weeping, tapping your feet and joining in the choruses. Jess's self-penned songs have been performed and recorded by a range of other artists and are entering the tradition in their own right.
Jess and Richard have previously visited our club twice with the group Crucible (alongside Gavin Davenport) and they also play in the ceilidh bands Hekety and Glorystrokes and for Pecsaetan Morris. Their latest and most successful project is a partnership with Sheffield neighbours Nancy Kerr and James Fagan as The Melrose Quartet. In that guise they were nominated for Best Group at the 2014 BBC Folk Awards and the band CD Fifty Verses (which contains several of Jess’s songs) has been widely praised.
Phil Cerny will be compere for this one and tickets are £9 full or £8 concessions (NOTE – not the figure of £10 in the current club brochure, which is a misprint!), again available on the door from 8.00, with an 8.15 start to the music.
3. THURSDAY 20th – NORTH YORKSHIRE WITH ANNA SHANNON. Making her third headline appearance at our club on 20th August is Anna Shannon. Hailing from the North York Moors near Scarborough, Anna deeply embraces all things rustic. On hearing her homespun and organic compositions it is clear that the wonders of the natural world are the things that strongly colour her narratives. She is an immensely skilled multi-tasker, a creative and strikingly accomplished singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and designer, with her own definite, intense vision and a strong musical identity to match.
Born into a musical family, Anna was, by the age of ten, already accomplished on classical flute, and at twelve was playing oboe, clarinet and trumpet. Guitar, fiddle, sax and bowed psaltery followed but it wasn’t until in her early twenties that she discovered the folk scene. In 2006 she won the BBC Radio York’s “Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year” which she had entered on spec. (and for which Stan Graham and I were two of the judges). A debut album followed that same year and there have been several more releases since then. When she appeared at a finalists’ concert here at the Black Swan, Anna proved an adept and versatile performer as well as a great writer. Since then she has forged a strong path into the heart of today’s English folk club and festival circuit.
For her latest CD A Celebration of Old England Anna has been signed to prestigious specialist folk label Wild Goose Records. “She really comes into her own on this recording” said The Living Tradition reviewer, “Anna has a vocal delivery that shouts its ethnic credentials, and all of her songs sound like they have been handed down over generations”. The R2 critic took a similar line: “Anna has such an understanding of the tradition that her own compositions appear to be part of it, and she has a great ear for tunes too”.
The aforementioned Stan Graham will be acting as Master of Ceremonies and entry will cost you just £7, or £6 for concessions.
4. SEPTEMBER EVENTS. After a Singers Night on 27th August we launch September with two long-standing and dear musical friends of ours, American folk & old time singer Debby McClatchy, on her farewell UK tour (3rd) and English folk scene legend Dave Burland (10th). Dave’s gig will be our 2,000th recorded event, so it is doubly special. After that we switch generations to welcome a relatively new act The Dovetail Trio (17th), which comprises Jamie Roberts (taking time off from his duo work with Kat Gilmore), Matt Quinn (as seen at our New Roots Young Performer night in 2014) and Wiltshire singer Rosie Hood. Another Singers Night is held on 24th September, then the following night (25th) we move down to the National Centre for Early Music for a solo concert by multi-instrumentalist and singerPhil Beer, who is of course best known as one half of Show of Hands. Tickets for that one are on sale already through the NCEM website or Box Office (www.ncem.co.uk or 01904 658338), while Thursday club guests can be pre-booked at www.wegottickets.com.
5. OCTOBER EVENTS. October is a five Thursday month and we are proud to bring you a very strong line-up, comprising Chris Sherburn and his new musical partner Findlay Napier (1st), American female “genre-bender” trio Harpeth Rising (8th), Canadian singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing (15th) and folk and bluegrass stars The Carrivick Sisters (29th), with a Singers Night on 22nd. Also in October we welcome back Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick to the NCEM venue on Monday 19th. Tickets for Sherburn & Napier are available now, and booking should be open for all those other shows by the end of August.
6. SIMONE FELICE SUNDAY SPECIAL. Staying with October, and as reported in E-News 190, we are joining forces with local promoter Please Please You to present cult American singer songwriter, author and poet Simone Felice at the Black Swan Inn on Sunday 25th. This guy has a devoted following and well over half the tickets have been sold already, so don’t delay. Tickets are £15 at www.seetickets.com (note, NOT our usual online retailer WeGotTickets) or over the counter at The Inkwell Vinyl Records Shop at 10 Gillygate.
7. NOVEMBER & BEYOND. As the year draws towards its close we plan to keep up the musical quality with guests such as Mairearad Green & Anna Massie(5th November), highly rated Canadian Maria Dunn (19th November), Jim Boyes & Belinda O’Hooley with their First World War show Sensations of a Wound(26th November), two nights with the mighty Dick Gaughan (2nd & 3rd December) and Lancashire folk innovators Harp & A Monkey (10th December). There are also two more NCEM concerts in the pipeline, with Clive Gregson & Liz Simcock (Friday 13th November) and Blazin’ Fiddles (Monday 23rd November) and a seasonal Sunday Special at the Black Swan with The Magical Christmas Tree (20th December). There is even another Sunday Special collaboration with Please Please You under discussion, for a lively Scottish band at a larger York venue in December. Hopefully I’ll have more news of that in the next Newsletter, by which time tickets will be on sale for all the events listed above.
OTHER CLUB NEWS
8. EARLIER START TIME WELL RECEIVED. There has been a large and universally favourable response to our plans for slightly earlier start and finish times at club meetings. Respondents said things like “I'm in favour”, “I entirely agree” and “you have my vote”. So henceforth guest nights will kick off at 8.15 and will aim to finish (including encores) no later than 11.00, with the guest usually taking the stage around 8.45 and again at 10.00. Singers Nights can be a bit more flexible but should follow the same general pattern.
Some of you said things like “if it was up to me would have gone for an even earlier start (at) 8.00” and that is certainly something we will look at in due course, although it would require myself and other principal organisers to be at the venue even earlier than we are already, to begin the quite lengthy process of setting up.
9. HALF TIME FINANCIAL REPORT. We are now half-way through our financial year (which runs February to January) and so I have been doing the sums. Sadly, I have to report that the club made a net loss of £400 over the last 6 months, which is disappointing if not surprising. The main losses were incurred on our programme of Thursday guest nights, which fell short by £625 overall - with nearly half of that, £295, lost in July alone. By contrast the NCEM concert programme pretty much broke even, as did this year’s Folk Weekend, where your kind donations and other income totalled a slim £13 more than our running costs. First half-year Singers Nights generated £320 of useful income and there were some other odds and ends on the plus side as well, enough to cover overheads such as printing, postage, advertising and website hosting and cancel out at least some of those guest night losses.
10. WHY THESE DWINDLING AUDIENCES? Those guest night losses are entirely down to low turnout for quite a few of our events this year. July guest shows were particularly poorly supported, with a total paying audience for all three nights combined which still fell short of what would have made for one decent full house! Over the total six month period, club audiences are down about 25-30% on the previous year. So please, what is keeping you away? We are trying to address timing (see item 8) and we try hard to pitch prices at the most affordable level we can, relative to the fees being agreed with artists. Is it other practical stuff, such as parking difficulties since Haymarket car park closed, or is it simply that the artists booked aren’t right for you? Feedback will be much appreciated.
11. A NEW VENUE FOR THE NEW ACOUSTIC. York’s twice-monthly New Acoustic Singaround has switched meeting place. An open acoustic song-based evening session, held on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, the New Acoustic can now be found at The Lighthorseman on Fulford Road, YO10 4BE, with its next gathering on 9th August. Explaining the move, organiser Tony Haynes cites factors such as better parking, better food and better beer, along with the availability of a separate room with less bar noise and, most significantly I suspect, a more sympathetic landlord. He adds “I'm also thinking of changing the name of the club to FAB Folk and Blues” in-line with his Vale Radio programme.
12. GEAR4MUSIC NEEDS PLAYERS. We recently received the following message to our Facebook page from Victoria Brown at Gear4Music on Clifton Moor: “Hi all. I'm writing from a large music retailer based in York. They have recently constructed a broadcast standard audio and video studio to produce video demos of their products. They are looking to hire talented musicians to either play or play and present in these videos. All instrument types are needed but in particular at the moment they are looking for bassists, banjo players and ukulele players but everyone interested do please get in touch. For more information please email@example.com.”
13. STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LISTEN TO MARTIN. One of our popular Singers Night regulars is Martin Heaton, a singer songwriter from Pickering who recently released a new full-length CD called Stop What You’re Doing. Martin, who won the songwriting contest at BAMFest in Bedale earlier this year, tells us that his next headlining gig will be in the Bar Studio at the Milton Rooms in Malton on Friday 23rd October. Meanwhile he is one of the floor singers at our club this coming Thursday.
14. MARY’S FRINGE. Another longstanding Singers Night regular is Mary Callan, storyteller, poet and (as we heard last Thursday) occasional singer. Once again this year Mary is taking a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Under the moniker of Blazing Grannies, she presents Mrs Tobit Tells All, a free show based on the Book of Tobit in the Biblical Apocrypha. Aided and abetted by musician Florence McCudden, Mary is at St Cuthbert’s Church, Lothian Road, Edinburgh at 3pm on August 20th, 21st, 23rd and 25th-31st.
15. DAN’S FIDDLING. Newcastle University folk graduate Dan Foster recently won first place at a Pickin’ & Fiddlin’ Contest in Roxbury, Connecticut (one of the biggest such events in the state), writes his proud father, York journalist Richard Foster. “I had a great time jamming with Old-Time / Bluegrass musicians” Dan says “and I was shocked in a good way when I came out on top in the Old Time fiddle competition and second as part of a band later on." Apparently Dan chose a Bruce Molsky tune to play in the contest. Perhaps he first heard Bruce and others of that ilk as a youngster at our club: I certainly like to think so!
16. FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT IN LATVIA. Back in May, Black Swan regular Peter Quinn paid a visited to Riga, the birthplace of his maternal grandfather. While there, he sought out the local folk club. He writes:
Folkklubs ala Pagrabs is situated at 19 Peldu Iela, one of the few un-gentrified streets in the Old Town of Riga. Down the stairs one enters an amazing labyrinth of arched medieval cellars with many dining areas and bars and a small performance area at the far end. Owned by a partnership of Latvian and Australian musicians and chefs it offers live music or traditional dance four or five nights a week.
When I went there was traditional dance, accompanied by a fiddle and accordion duo. In my daughter's words “they were polkas without quite being polkas and waltzes without quite being waltzes”. One dance seemed to have borrowed heavily from the Morris but probably developed independently since, when I spoke to a participant, he knew nothing of Morris dancing.
The Club was packed and people were being turned away at 8.30. We were wise to book the day before. The food was excellent and the clientele was virtually all Latvian, enjoying enormous portions at ridiculously reasonable prices with beer at about half the price of elsewhere in the Old Town.
Have a look at the web site for more details, www.folkklubs.lv/en. Should you have the chance to visit this beautiful and hugely historic city, I would highly recommend an evening at Folkklubs.
A SELECTION OF OTHER EVENTS
17. TREMBLING IN THE BASEMENT. Festivals aside, August is usually a fairly quiet month for interesting concerts. However, there is one exception this year, a concert organised by Joe Coates, aka Please Please You (as in item 6 above) which would be a stand-out show even in a very full and busy month. Eclectic Scottish folk rockers Trembling Bells are joined by Alasdair Roberts and The Horse Loom at City Screen Basement on Tuesday 11th August.
It should be a great night for anyone who likes an innovative left-field take on folk influences. Trembling Bells are in the tradition of 60s outfits like The Incredible String Band and feature the soaring vocals of Lavinia Blackwall. “Wild and romantic, witty and heartbreaking” says Stuart Maconie. Alasdair Roberts is a true Scottish original who also features in The Furrow Collective with Emily Portman, Rachel Newton and Lucy Farrell, while The Horse Loom is Northumbrian guitarist Steve Malley. It is an 8pm start and tickets are £10 in advance, from City Screen or Inkwell Vinyl on Gillygate, or through the Please Please You website atwww.pleasepleaseyou.com. Tickets will also be on sale on the door but priced there at £12.00.
18. SALTBURN FESTIVAL. For a more conventional weekend of folk entertainment, the annual Saltburn Folk Festival takes place over 14th-16th August at various venues in this lovely Victorian seaside resort, and still has tickets available at www.saltburnfolkfestival.com. The line-up naturally includes annual fixtures Vin Garbutt, Jez Lowe and The Wilsons, alongside many other local favourites such as Edwina Hayes, Kieran Halpin, While & Matthews and the Duncan McFarlane Band. Whitby-based Black Swan regular Tony Morris points out that he is also on the official guest list this year, with performances on all three days of the weekend.
19. AND A FESTIVAL IN HULL. That same weekend, 14th-16th August, also sees the 2015 Hull Folk Festival, “a largely free celebration of folk music, dance and arts, with strong links to the city’s maritime heritage, being staged in and around the historic Old Town, Fruit Market and Marina areas”. There will be two main ticketed concerts, The Tannahill Weavers and Rory McLeod on the Friday evening and Martin Carthy with support from Jim Eldon on Saturday. Free concerts will occupy four further stages and there will be a busking stage, spoken word performances, workshops and songs and tunes sessions in pubs and cafes; plus dance displays and more. The website is www.hull-folk.co.uk.
20. RYLEY WALKER IN FARNDALE. On Sunday 30th August, which they point out is “the eve of the 108th Farndale Agricultural Show” The Band Room say “we're thrilled to present the transcendental pastoral sounds of new American folk guitar star Ryley Walker, inspired and/or influenced by John Martyn, Tim Buckley, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Nick Drake.” They add that “this is now a seriously hot ticket following a 6-page spread on Ryley in the new edition of UNCUT”. See www.thebandroom.co.uk for more details.
21. LIVE MUSIC AT HOWSHAM MILL. There’s a Heritage Open Weekend coming up on 12th and 13th September at the lovingly restored Howsham Mill on the banks of the River Derwent between Malton and Stamford Bridge. As part of the weekend there is a programme of live music which is being organised by our own Sarah Dean. I understand there will be an outdoor stage with full PA while inside the mill there will be some acoustic performances in an upstairs gallery space. I hope to have full details in the next newsletter but meanwhile put those dates in your diary.
That’s all for now. Expect another mailing around about the end of this month or very early in September. Meanwhile, enjoy what’s left of the summer, and lace it with more good music – preferably at the Black Swan.