20th November 2016
It’s another bumper bulletin this month, with lots of news items and third party events to report, but as always I’ll begin with an update on our own club activities.
NCEM CONCERTS – CHRIS WOOD & BEYOND
1. SO MUCH TO DEFEND: CHRIS WOOD ON WEDNESDAY 30th NOVEMBER. Our next concert at the National Centre for Early Music brings back to York one of the English folk scene’s foremost songwriters. Chris Wood appears there on Wednesday 30th November, as he reaches the final leg of a month-long tour promoting his latest album So Much To Defend.
A self-taught musician, composer and songwriter, Chris is a restless free-thinker with an independent streak which shines through everything he does. Always direct and unafraid to speak his mind, his uncompromising songs have been praised for their surgical clarity and gentle intelligence. Lauded as spokesman for an unofficial history of England and citing “anon” as his major influence, Chris weaves the folk tradition into contemporary parables such as the award-winning Hollow Point. Tom Robinson supplies a quotable endorsement: “a man of utter integrity … he puts a knife between the ribs of contemporary society and gives it a good old twist”. We look forward to a diverse selection of old favourites and fresh compositions from this master craftsman on 30th November.
One of our best local songwriters John Storey is the opening act at 7.30 pm and tickets are still available at £16 full or £14 concessions from www.ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338. There is also our £5 student standby offer on any seats left unsold, from 7.15pm on the night.
2. CELTIC CHRISTMAS STRINGS ON WEDNESDAY 21st DECEMBER. Our seasonal musical treat this year comes from two much-loved musicians famed for their originality, innovation and virtuosity on their respective instruments, Chris Newman (guitar) and Máire Ní Chathasaigh (harp, vocals). Together they create one of the most distinctive sounds in modern acoustic music, as enjoyed in venues large and small in twenty-plus countries on five continents for the last three decades - including at different times both the Black Swan and the Early Music Centre.
In their seasonal show Celtic Christmas Strings on Wednesday 21st December, Máire and Chris present a breath-taking blend of traditional Irish music, swing jazz and bluegrass, plus festive favourites given a fresh voice with arrangements that are intricate, inventive, moving and beautiful, and all performed in their characteristically warm-hearted style. This will be a delightful winter treat suitable for all the family. Tickets are £14 full and £12 concessions, with a special child rate of £5. Note also that there will be no support act – Maire and Chris will be on stage at 7.30pm, with a child-friendly early finish around 9.30pm.
3. STEVE KNIGHTLEY KICKS OFF OUR 2017 CONCERT PROGRAMME. The celebrated Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightleyreturns to the NCEM on Friday 3rd February on his solo Landlocked tour. All tickets are £18 and they are already more than half sold. Again there will be no support act.
Our other concerts scheduled for the NCEM next spring include a singer-songwriter double bill of Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe (28th March), English folk trios Leveret (6th March) and Faustus(10th April) and hot young Welsh outfit Calan (3rd May). Booking for Calan will open on December 9th, to tie in with national publicity, while for the others tickets will probably go on sale in January.
THURSDAY NIGHT CLUB EVENTS
4. THIS WEEK DAOIRI FARRELL COMPLETES A HAT-TRICK OF GREAT DEBUTS. November has been a month of first-time guests at the Black Swan. We have already had contrasting but very enjoyable nights with The Rachel Hamer Band from Tyneside and The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band from West Yorkshire and this week, 24th November, we move the focus to Ireland with Daoiri Farrell. A rising star in Irish folk, Daoiri (pronounced Derry) is a singer and bouzouki player from Dublin who is generating lots of interest following his UK solo debut last January at Celtic Connections.
Daoiri’s brand new second album True Born Irishman has been picking up glowing reviews. In fRoots Colin Irwin writes “the creamy forthrightness of Paul Brady, the occasional guile and nuance of Andy Irvine and the attitude and approach to material, perhaps, of Christy Moore. Not a bad trio of names to throw into a barrel of comparisons but the signs are all there that this is a guy with the conviction and wherewithal to justify them and take the re-birth of authentic Irish song-making several leagues forward…an exceptionally good singer and a great bunch of songs.”
Over in Songlines, where Daoiri is the subject of a feature article this month, Tim Cumming says “that sense of direct, one-on-one connection to the story and inner character of a song is Farrell's calling card, and you'd have to travel far to hear a more visceral, affecting account of a ballad....truly gripping performances.” Even the Daily Mirror critic gets in on the act: “this former electrician surely steps into Irish folk legend….put his ferocious and dramatic version of Van Diemen’s Land against the pitiful U2 rendition and the depth and intensity of Farrell’s art is clear.”
Judge for yourself on Thursday night. Tickets are still available at £9 full or £8 concessions, from www.wegottickets.com and (probably also) on the door from 7.45pm. Stan Graham will be acting as MC.
5. OPEN SINGERS & MUSICIANS NIGHT, 1st DECEMBER. Eddie Affleck takes his turn as compere at our next “open” evening on 1st December. Music kicks off around 8.15 and entry is just £3 full or £2 concessions, while performers are asked to put £1 in the kitty.
6. BROOKS WILLIAMS RETURNS, 8th DECEMBER. The mighty Brooks Williams makes his third visit to the Black Swan on 8th December. Born in Statesboro, Georgia, the town made famous by country-blues legend Blind Willie McTell, but now resident in Britain, Brooks is a charismatic performer who is both a fantastically talented instrumentalist, ranked in one table within the Top 100 acoustic guitarists in the world, and also a great singer, for example nominated as Best Male Vocalist by Spiral Earth website in 2013. “He’s a lovely player, a lovely singer, and a great writer … the real thing” says no less than Martin Simpson.
Brooks’ music walks the line between blues and Americana and as we know from past performances he wows audiences with his silky voice, hook-laden songs, and rollicking acoustic and resonator slide guitars, delivering deep and intense interpretations of classic blues numbers and his own compositions. “Americana at its finest” fRoots has rightly said. He’s a busy man, with over 20 albums to his name, and amongst his latest projects Brooks has announced a revival of his State of the Union duo with Boo Hewerdine and a musical partnership with TV’s The Voice finalist and Poozies singer Sally Barker.
Ticket sales so far through WeGotTickets have only been modest, which is a little surprising after Brooks pulled full houses here in 2011 and 2013. I’m sure that will change as the night gets closer. They cost £12 full or £11 concessions. Stan Graham again acts as compere.
7. WELCOME BACK JACKIE OATES, 15th DECEMBER. Singer and fiddle player Jackie Oates has won multiple awards and accolades over the last fifteen years, with her unique treatments of English ballads and her pure, haunting singing style establishing her at the forefront of the new folk revival. We first heard her perform at the Black Swan with the Unthank Sisters way back in 2004 and she has been here twice since, as well as playing with a larger band at the NCEM. She evidently enjoyed visiting us since she was one of the artists who recommended us to SAGA magazine for their 2015 feature on the English folk club scene.
With a young family currently limiting her ability to tour, we were delighted that Jackie could fit in this return to our club. In a late change she will now be accompanied by the Devonian musician Mike Cosgrave, one of her regular collaborators, on guitar, accordion and whistle, rather than originally advertised Tristan Seume.
As I write there are fewer than 20 tickets left for this one with WeGotTickets, so if you were thinking of coming, book soon. They are priced at £12 full or £11 concessions. Phil Cerny will be acting as MC.
8. CHRISTMAS & BEYOND. Our last gathering this year will be the traditional Christmas Party night on 22nd December. This is rather like a Singers & Musicians Night but with many performers opting to do something seasonal or otherwise out of their usual character. Entry is free and there is a bring-and-share buffet supper in the extended half time break, so come along with a small contribution if you can. It is also the only week in the whole year when we have a fundraising raffle, and offers of prizes are most welcome.
We take a break between Christmas and New Year (but there will still be great live music at the Black Swan on 29th December – see item 31 below), then ease ourselves into 2017 with another Singers & Musicians Nighton 5th January, this time with John Storey as master of ceremonies.
We are delighted to continue the new year with a two-night stand by the legendary Martin Carthy (Wednesday and Thursday, 11th & 12th January), followed on 19th by our annual New Roots Young Performer Showcase, this time featuring singer songwriter Jack Patchett from Holmfirth and Sheffield duo Two’s Company. These early 2017 shows are booking now atwww.wegottickets.com and we fully expect Martin’s visits to attract full houses, so book early if you can.
OTHER CLUB NEWS
9. NEW SEASON BROCHURE & TICKETS IMMINENT. I have begun to write the next club brochure, which will cover all our activities over the period from 26th January until 19th May. It should be ready to go to the printers by the beginning of December and at that point I will add “blurbs” and pictures to the outline listings already present on our website. At the same time I will load up club events on WeGotTickets and open them for booking.
Favourite artists you can look forward to seeing again this next season include Flossie Malavialle (26th January), Allan Taylor (9th February), The Churchfitters (2nd March), Kieran Halpin (23rd March), Gilmore & Roberts (20th April) and Vin Garbutt(doing two nights at our club venue, 18th & 19th May). Returning from North America are Debra Cowan (6th April) and Tania Opland & Mike Freeman (27th April), while first-time guests include Geoff Lakeman (16th February), Worry Dolls (23rd February), Jim Causley (16th March) and Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith (11th May). There will be a Sunday Night Special on 12th February with song-based Shooglenifty-offshoot The Kaela Rowan Band and a pre-Easter Double Bill with Yan Tan Tetherand Bella Gaffney’s group Bric-A-Brac(13th April). Put those dates in your diary now.
10. WINTER FOLK DAY ALSO TAKING SHAPE. For the ninth year running, we are holding a folk event during the annual York Residents Festival. Our Winter Folk Day for 2017 will be on Sunday 29th January, at the Black Swan Inn and will feature a selection of York-based folk singers and bands, most of them regular supporters of the folk club. The provisional line-up for the afternoon concert (2pm-5.30pm) is The Foresters, Chris Euesden, Judith Haswell, Phil Cerny, White Sail (the new group comprising Sarah Dean, Jane Stockdale and Chris Bartram), Paula Ryan and Ian Pybus, while the evening event (from 7.30pm) has Leather’o, Eddie Affleck, Bella Gaffney, Tom McKenzie and Stan Graham.
Like all Residents Festival events, these concerts are entirely free to holders of York Cards or (this year) local Students Union cards, while other listeners will be admitted for a small charge, space permitting.
11. A NEW SYSTEM OF CLUB PRICES. Thanks to everybody who responded (by email or in person) to my consultation piece in the last E-News, about the future of concessionary rate admission prices at our Thursday club events. Without exception, everyone was in favour of scrapping the one pound differential between full and concessionary prices and just having a flat rate for all adults. Most of you also strongly favoured the alternative idea of offering a slightly lower price on advance bookings, compared with payment on the door, in order to offset the 10% booking fee levied by WeGotTickets and so encourage more pre-booking.
We will therefore move to a new pricing system from 26th January, when the new brochure comes into effect. For example, where an event is currently £10 full price or £9 concessions it will instead be £9 for all adults in advance or £10 on the door. The differential may have to be a bit higher for the top priced events, in order to fully offset that 10% booking fee – I still need to think that one out.
For some time we have had a half price offer for under-18s and full-time students but it has been difficult to promote alongside the two main price bands. That will become much easier with this new price structure and we will, for example, be able to offer these child/student tickets through WeGotTickets for the first time.
So far as Singers Nights are concerned (where we haven’t increased our entry charges since March 2011) I’m thinking along the lines of a flat rate of £3 for all adult non-performers in future – still well below the price of any alcoholic drink at the bar – or £2 for under-18s and students.