It has been longer than intended since the last of these bulletins, partly for personal health reasons – see the final item below for more on this. Meanwhile, we have had an excellent start to the year. The Winter Folk Day was a great success, we’ve had four contrasting but all outstanding club guest events – three of them full houses – and the January Singers Night was one of the liveliest and most enjoyable for quite a long while. So what comes next…..?
THURSDAY CLUB NIGHTS
1. CLUB ROOM REFURBISHMENT. The sprucing up of our club room at the Black Swan Inn took a little bit longer than expected but is now largely complete. A new carpet was laid last week, the window latches have been repaired (with a bit of re-glazing still to come), and the curtains have been cleaned and re-hung. In another week or two the main staircase will also get a new carpet, and we are actively pursuing leads on having our iconic tapestry repaired and cleaned.
2. THIS THURSDAY, 8th FEBRUARY – PAUL DOWNES. Devonian singer Paul Downes has been a working musician since the 1970s, first coming to prominence in a duo with Phil Beer (of subsequent Show of Hands fame), then going on to play with Arizona Smoke Review and the Joyce Gang, and more recently working solo or with Mick Ryan. A skilled guitarist, Paul also plays mandocello, mandolin and banjo, and uses his clear tuneful voice on a rich selection of original songs and choice covers. He only occasionally strays from his native West Country to perform these days, so we are delighted to have finally secured his Black Swan Folk Club debut, only 40 years or so into his career and our own existence!
Eddie Affleck takes on MC duties on Thursday, the anticipated floor acts are Sarah Dean, Martin Heaton and Stan Graham, and tickets are £9 in advance or £10 at the door from 7.45.
3. NEXT WEEK, 15th FEBRUARY – SINGERS NIGHT. Our friendly Open House gathering for this month is due to be hosted by Chris Euesden on 15th February. Last month we had a packed night with 19 different performers, including visitors from Australia and Argentina, and a further 20 or so listeners. Who knows what to expect this month? Admission is just £3 on the door, or £2 for students. Performers are asked to put £1 in the kitty.
4. 22nd FEBRUARY – WELCOME BACK THE CARRIVICK SISTERS. Twin sisters Laura & Charlotte Carrivick are one of the UK's top young folk acts. They first appeared at the Black Swan in 2010, when barely out of their teens, and we loved their music and their whole approach so much that 22nd February will be their third return booking. They perform a mix of original songs and instrumentals alongside a few carefully chosen covers, on instruments including guitar, mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and clawhammer banjo, and they have built a reputation for engaging and entertaining live performances, with tight sibling vocal harmonies and multi-instrumental virtuosity. While their sound is rooted in bluegrass and country, it has a distinctive English folk twist. Having grown up in South Devon, an area rich in folklore and legend, much of their original material is inspired by their local surroundings and history.
Phil Cerny takes his turn to act as MC, the anticipated floor acts are Toni Bunnell, Judith Haswell and Tom McKenzie, and tickets are £9 in advance or £10 at the door from 7.45.
5. 1st MARCH – STAND AND DELIVER WITH PILGRIMS’ WAY. We can look forward to something a little bit different (or as they put it themselves “off the wall, colourful and energetic”) when Pilgrims’ Way revisit the Black Swan on 1st March. Originally a trio comprising Ed Beasant on melodeon and Tom Kitching on fiddle with ex York University student Lucy Wright on vocals, they have grown into a mighty five-piece band. Lucy has been replaced by oboist and singer Jude Rees, whom we know from her work with Isambarde, Blast from the Past and Jim Moray’s Upcetera ensemble. Jon Loomes contributes his vast multi-instrumental skills and newest recruit is bassist Heather Sirrel, who appeared at the Black Swan a year ago with the group Bric-a-Brac.
With influences starting in early music, passing through Playford and the Morris traditions, picking up prog rock, soul, and pop, it's impossible to categorise the sound that Pilgrims’ Way make, or as their website puts it “folk music is fed through their unique steam driven sound-mincing engine”, continuing “no cow is too sacred, no juxtaposition too ambitious … pigeonhole at your peril.” It should be fun!
For this event we’ll depart slightly from the usual format of two 45-minute sets by the guest artists. Instead the band will do a shorter first half, but then a 60-minute second half, playing their acclaimed new album Stand & Deliver in its entirety. Chris Euesden has the job of keeping things in order, anticipated floor singers are Simon Alexander, Steve Marshall and John Cherry and the price is £10 in advance or £11 on the door.
6. 8th MARCH – BROOM BEZZUMS – WITH KATIE DOHERTY. Quite possibly the most successful British folk act based in Germany, Mark Bloomer and Andrew Cadie have been tearing up and down the autobahn since 2007, spreading their infectious music and wooing new fans wherever they go. Broom Bezzums have twice won the Folk category at the German equivalent of the Mercury Prize and they are regulars on continental TV and radio. Mark and Andrew return to the UK for tours and festivals whenever they can and have proved that their unusual yet approachable take on folk music can be a real hit back home too. After an appearance at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, they were invited to join Show of Hands on two support tours, with Steve Knightley (who surely knows a thing or two about duo work) calling them “just about the best young duo on the circuit”.
Based on Anglo-Celtic traditions, Broom Bezzums’ music is flavoured by Andrew’s North East homeland and Mark’s Black Country roots. Andrew’s Northumbrian pipes are the most obvious local reference, while his fiddle playing is heavily influenced by Scottish styles. Originally a rock drummer. Mark learned to play guitar and mandola in his years as a stalwart of the Cork session scene. Live, the rhythmical element is expanded on more dynamic numbers with guitar-slapping, tambourine-stamping and a pulsating foot drum, while as singers their full but very different voices harmonise to a surprising rich degree.
Occasionally Mark and Andrew are joined on stage by singer Katie Doherty, and we are lucky that 8th March is one such date – the only one on the current British tour when she is free to come along. Katie, who appeared at one of our New Roots nights about ten year ago while doing the Newcastle folk degree, has a spellbinding voice which somehow finds its place in the Broom Bezzums harmonies and opens out the sound of the band even more.
Eddie Affleck takes on MC duties again this week, the anticipated floor singers are John Storey, Ian Pybus and Sarah Dean and the price is again £10 in advance or £11 on the door.
7. AND COMING NEXT… There’s lots more good music to come as we move into spring and early summer. The current club brochure gives full details through to May and you can find the same information on the programme pages of the club website, while all Thursday night events up to mid-June are now on sale at WeGotTickets. So what is next?
. Later March – Our annual New Roots Double Bill with Finn Collinson and Clarke Camilleri, and a club 40th Anniversary Bash with co-founder Paul Buckley and others
. April – Róisín Bán, Rachel Dawick and Andy Irvine (the latter close to selling out)
. May – Kitty Macfarlane, Rosie Hood & Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, Hannah James & Claudia Schwab
. June – Nancy Kerr, Clive Gregson
CONCERTS AT NCEM & CRESCENT
8. CARTHY & CARTHY AT THE NCEM SOLD OUT. First, a reminder that our first concert of the year at the Early Music Centre is Sold Out – that is Martin & Eliza Carthy next Tuesday, 13th February. No surprise there!
9. THE ENNIS SISTERS plus DAVE GUNNING, NCEM 27th FEBRUARY. An evening of the best of East Coast Canadian folk music is promised by this double-header concert at the Early Music Centre on Tuesday 27th February. It offers us the chance to discover two top acts from the culturally rich Maritime Provinces of Canada, a country which punches well above its weight in terms of folk artistry. Newfoundland singing sisters Maureen, Teresa and Karen Ennis have won numerous awards and accolades for their contemporary songs with an Irish-infused twist, while in a career spanning twenty years, Nova Scotian singer-songwriter Dave Gunning has also picked up a shelf full of Canadian music industry prizes.
Neither act has so far achieved a high profile in Britain but this joint tour looks set to redress that. Certainly The Ennis Sisters went down very well when they appeared at Celtic Connections a couple of years ago and a couple of local people have already told me that having seen them in Glasgow they plan to come to this York concert. Each act will do a full set, then they will join forces for a concert finale. All tickets are £14 through www.ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338.
10. A NORTHUMBRIAN NIGHT WITH NORTHLANDS, NCEM 14th MARCH. We focus on northern Britain at the Early Music Centre during March. Alistair Anderson & Northlands promise us a splendid evening of Northumbrian music and song on Wednesday 14th March. Alistair is an internationally acclaimed master of the English concertina and Northumbrian pipes who in a career spanning five decades has always championed the music and song of North East England. In Northlands he continues this tradition alongside three younger musicians who have been influenced by him as a teacher and mentor through Folkworks or the Newcastle Folk Degree, both of which he co-founded. Sophy Ball is a wonderfully dynamic fiddle player and Sarah Hayes a gifted singer and flautist, while Ian Stephenson plays guitar and creates many of the subtle arrangements that this great group loves to play. Our own Northumberland-born singer-songwriter Stan Graham makes a most appropriate support act. Tickets are £16 full or £14 concessions (65 and above, unemployed, disabled) from www.ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338. Note that this concert will be largely unamplified, with only a vocal PA, taking advantage of the NCEM’s expertly designed acoustic qualities.
11. SCOTTISH SOUNDS AND MORE WITH BARLUATH, NCEM 27th MARCH. The innovative young Celtic folk band Barluath is based in Glasgow, where some of its members studied at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire. Barluath were a great hit on their NCEM debut two years ago and so we are delighted to bring them back to York on Tuesday 27th March. Now a five-piece, the group embraces both traditional and contemporary folk music from Scotland, Ireland and North America. They are fronted by the wonderful singing, in both English and Gaelic, (not to mention occasional step-dancing) of Ainsley Hamill, who is superbly supported by a rich instrumental mix of highland and border bagpipes, whistle, fiddle, piano and guitar. Our own tame Scotsman Eddie Affleck will be acting as MC and support act, and tickets are again £16 full and £14 concessions.
12. THREE DIVERSE CONCERTS DURING MAY. We have no concert events during April this year (although NCEM themselves are presenting the Maddy Prior Trio on 17th April) but we bounce back into action in May with two shows at The Crescent and a third at the Early Music Centre. At The Crescent Community Venue, and working in collaboration with Joe Coates of PleasePleaseYou, we have a feast of acoustic blues on Sunday 6th May when two of our favourite players Hans Theessink & Brooks Williams pass through York on their Steady Rollin’ Blues joint tour. Then on Tuesday 22nd May it is an Irish night to savour when the Dublin quartet Lankum, formerly known as Lynched, finally makes it to York. Both shows are now on sale at www.seetickets.com, the first at £12, the second at £16. Tickets are also available “over the counter” at the venue (evenings) and at Earworm Records off Goodramgate.
Finally we return to Canadian music for a show by former members of the much loved and hugely missed outfit Tanglefoot. Ritchie Parrish Ritchie appear at the NCEM on Wednesday 30th May – also now on sale at £16 full price, £14 concessions through NCEM website or box office.
13. WE ARE FEATURED IN LIVING TRADITION. Long-running folk magazine The Living Tradition offers “news, reviews and information from the world of traditional music” – check it out at www.livingtradition.co.uk and consider taking out a subscription. The latest edition, no 122, just published, has a double page feature on our club, timed to coincide our 40th anniversary. The article was written by local folk music fan and former York Press journalist Richard Foster, who interviewed me for it one snowy day last December.
14. ANNUAL ACCOUNTS SHOW CLUB IN A HEALTHY POSITION. Our unusual financial year runs from 1st February to 31st January, so a few days ago I examined our books for the 2017/18 year just ended. The headline figures are very favourable, showing a trading surplus of almost £2,000, taking our total assets over the £10,000 mark for the first time ever - £10,400 to be precise. Dig a little deeper, and it is a mixed picture. Rather worryingly, our core activity of club guest nights actually lost money – admittedly not much of a loss at around £60, but that contrasts with a surplus of £750 in 2016/17. On the other hand, our larger venue concert activities were very successful last year and generated a record surplus of almost £2,900, which compares with only around £600 in 2016/17. Particular thanks go to Steve Knightley, Faustus, Martin Simpson, Peggy Seeger, Lady Maisery and John Kirkpatrick, who all drew full house or close to full house attendances!
Monthly Singers Nights generated around £600, which is almost exactly what we spent on general club publicity such as printed leaflets and paid advertisements in regional folk magazines. Other administrative stuff cost us around £400 – that is things like stationery, postage and website hosting. And at just over £500, PA and other equipment costs were fairly low this last year. I’ll have a copy of the financial summary with me on coming Thursdays if anyone wants to have a closer look.
15. BLACK SWAN SINGERS VISIT SHEFFIELD AND BEVERLEY. Four of our regular club singers have been invited to perform in Sheffield next month. The Crookes Folk Club meets on Thursdays, like we do, but also holds occasional Friday Night Specials and on Friday 2nd March they are presenting Eddie Affleck, Paula Ryan, Sarah Dean and John Storey in a Black Swan showcase night. The venue is The Princess Royal on Slinn Street, S10 1NW, doors open at 7.45 and admission will be £6. We plan to reciprocate with a Crookes FC Showcase at the Black Swan on 16th August.
Meanwhile we have again been invited to host one of the club sessions at Beverley Folk Festival in June. This year these sessions will be accommodated in a dedicated marquee on the main festival site. Paula Ryan is leading on this for us – more details nearer the time.
16. FOLK WEEKEND PLANNING BEGINS. With the Winter Folk Day behind us, I have now started work on planning our annual early summer jamboree, the City of York Folk Weekend, which this year takes place on 1st, 2nd & 3rd June. A few days ago I emailed possible participating singers and bands and I am now collating responses. If you’d like to take part but were not contacted in that initial mail-out, do get in touch. Also this year we will be looking for even more volunteers to help set up and run the weekend, particularly as my own participation is likely to be limited (see final item) so again, do get in touch.
17. NATIONAL YOUTH FOLK ENSEMBLE – SAMPLER DAY, 27th MAY. Exciting news for any teenage folk musicians out there. The English Folk Dance & Song Society is running a series of free Sampler Days across the country in late May and early June. These are an opportunity for young musicians to explore English folk music, learn from inspiring tutors and play with other musicians from their region. They are being led by Sam Sweeney as Artistic Director, with Rob Harbron and Miranda Rutter, and the aim is to offer a positive and welcoming atmosphere for young musicians to take part in a day of creative folk music workshops and, if they so wish, audition for the 2018–19 line-up of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. One of these sampler days will be held at the National Centre for Early Music here in York on Sunday 27th May. To register for this free day, young musicians need to be aged between 14 and 18 (as of 1st September 2018), live in England and play confidently on their chosen instrument.The National Youth Folk Ensemble brings together talented young musicians from across England to create and perform inspiring new versions of traditional music. EFDSS are looking for excellent players to join the Ensemble in 2018-19. To be considered, they need to be “dedicated to their development as a folk musician, and excited about collaborating with others who share their passion.” Ensemble members will participate in four weeks of intensive residential courses in different parts of England and receive high quality tuition and guidance from leading folk musicians. Anyone who is interested in joining the National Youth Folk Ensemble should attend a Sampler Day to start the audition process.
You can find out more and book for a Sampler Day at www.efdss.org/efdss-education/national-youth-folk-ensemble
18. REMEMBERING DON WALLS. As many of you will already have heard, much loved local poet and artist Don Walls passed away last month at the age of 88. He had been in declining health for some time, but we are told the end when it came was gentle, quiet and peaceful. Don (no relation to myself, that we ever established) returned to his home town of York in the early 1980s and soon became a regular and hugely popular visitor to the Black Swan Folk Club, particularly after retiring from his post at York College. For many years he read a few poems for us almost every Thursday evening, delighting both audiences and visiting performers, and he was often to be seen at other informal music and spoken word gatherings in the city and beyond. Very many kind words have been said about Don, and I would simply repeat what his latter day publisher and friend Rose Drew wrote: “Don touched many lives and made many of us laugh, weep, and think. I feel honoured to have known him. I'm sure we all do.”
York Crematorium was packed full for Don’s memorial celebration last week, and several other commemorative events are planned, including an “open house” opportunity to meet, chat and view Don’s artwork at his home, 4 Southolme Drive, on Saturday 17th February, 12 noon until 4pm. A selection of Don’s art will also be on display at The Golden Ball pub in Bishophill from 3rd to 9th March, launched with an opening event from 2pm on Saturday 3rd with readings and music. An obituary written by Charles Hutchinson can be found on the York Press website.
OTHER EVENTS IN & AROUND YORK
19. CANADIAN DUO IN GRANTLEY, THIS FRIDAY 9th FEBRUARY. Nova Scotian singing sisters Cassie & Maggie perform at a Rural Arts event on Friday 9th February in Grantley Village Hall, near Ripon. “Appearing on stages across North America and Europe the sisters have enchanted audiences with lively fiddle, piano and guitar arrangements, stunning vocal harmonies in both English and Gaelic, all complemented by intricate and percussive step-dancing” it says here. The show is at 7.30pm and tickets are £10 through www.ruralarts.org/cassie-and-maggie?item_id=655&ipv=1976, or alternatively ring Mike Lumb on 01765 620235. The next night (10th) the sisters are in Great Broughton near Stokesley.
20. RAY COOPER PLUS WHITE SAIL AT THE BLACK SWAN, 14th FEBRUARY. On Wednesday next week, the ex-Oysterband singer Ray Cooper appears at the Black Swan Inn, with support from local “alt-folk” trio White Sail, comprising Sarah Dean, Jane Stockdale and Chris Bartram. Songs From The Heart is described as “a very special evening of music with beautiful original songs from Ray and White Sail.” Ray's material is influenced by both his Scottish heritage and his adopted homeland of Sweden. Tickets are £10 advance at www.wegottickets.com/event/418769, or £12 on the door at 8pm.
21. THORGANBY FOLK PRESENT MEGSON, 17th FEBRUARY. The good people of Thorganby Folk have several events scheduled for Thorganby Village Hall, south of York, during 2018, beginning with that fine husband and wife duo Megson on Saturday 17th February. Four times nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Stu and Debbie Hanna draw heavily on their Teesside heritage to create their distinctive brand of folk music, with heavenly vocals, lush harmonies and driving rhythmic guitars. Ninebarrow are next up at Thorganby on 28th April, Chris While & Julie Matthews are there on 26th May and Louise Jordan presents her "No Petticoats Here" show on 23rd June. Booking is through www.ticketsource.co.uk/thorganby-folk or for more information and alternative booking options contact email@example.com
22. KATIE SPENCER AT FORTYFIVE VINYL CAFE, 24th FEBRUARY. Young East Riding singer Katie Spencer has been making her mark on the local acoustic scene over the last year or two. You can hear her in York at the Fortyfive Vinyl Café at 29 Micklegate on Saturday 24th February. Also appearing are young Bradford singer/guitarist Henry Parker (who impressed us with a Singers Night spot a few months ago) and local here David Ward Maclean. Doors open 7pm and it is Free entry.
23. JIM BOYES & BELINDA O’HOOLEY AT COXWOLD, 24th FEBRUARY. Jim (of Coope Boyes & Simpson fame) and Belinda (of O’Hooley & Tidow) will be performing Jim’s show Sensations of a Wound at St Michael's Church in Coxwold on Saturday 24th February 2018. Some of you may remember them doing this at the folk club in autumn 2015. Combined with contemporary images powerfully evoking a world at war, Jim’s songs follow the long Great War trail of his grandfather Robert “Croppie” Boyes, from his home in Scarborough, to Flanders, Italy and beyond. The concert begins at 7.30pm and tickets are £10 through www.laurencesternetrust.org.uk/exhibition.php?id=211.
24. ANTHONY JOHN CLARKE IN POPPLETON, 3rd MARCH. If you missed Anthony John Clarke at the Black Swan last month, or indeed if enjoyed him so much you want to see him again, he is coming to Poppleton Live on Saturday 3rd March. “We are pleased to announce the nicest guy on the circuit, our favourite, funniest and finest singer-songwriter-storyteller” says organiser John Watterson. That is at All Saints Hall in Upper Poppleton with doors opening at 6:45pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets are £12.50, available from John on 01904 785366 or through the website www.poppletonlive.co.uk/anthonyjohnclarke.
25. CHARITY CONCERT IN STOCKTON ON FOREST, 10th MARCH. Indefatigable fundraiser Steve Marshall is at it again, promoting a money-raising concert in the Village Hall at Stockton on Forest on Saturday 10th March in support of the current Lord Mayor of York’s three chosen charities: Keep Your Pet, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Refugee Action York. The music involved is not folk, but for Steve we’ll happily mention regardless. Performing a show called A Dash Through The Decades will be the Generation Groove Concert Band, a community-based ensemble from the Haxby area whose ranks include Steve’s partner Dee, and Stockton on Forest School Choir will also be singing. Tickets are £10 from Steve on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 07929 719286 or 01904 490440.
26. JOAN BAEZ AT THE BARBICAN, 13th MARCH. Just in case you didn’t already know, Joan Baez appears at York Barbican on Tuesday 13th March, during her extensive Fare The Well tour. Tickets start from £45 at www.yorkbarbican.co.uk. Christy Moore is at the same venue on Wednesday 9th May, with tickets starting at £38.
27. St PATRICK'S DAY CELEBRATION AT SLINGSBY, 17th MARCH. Glenn Stott (of The Fine Companions) writes that his current band Malarkey and friends are playing an Irish night at Slingsby Village Hall on Saturday 17th March at 7pm. Entry will be £7.50, which includes a light Irish supper of boiled ham, soda bread and pickles. Guinness and wine will be on sale or you can bring your own drinks.
28. DUBLINERS STORY AT THE GRAND OPERA HOUSE, 23rd MARCH. Coming to York on Friday 23rd March is an interesting-sounding stage show, Seven Drunken Nights - The Story of the Dubliners. The show “brings to life the music of Ireland's favourite sons The Dubliners, telling the story of a career spanning 50 years and evoking the spirit of Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, Jim McCann, Ciaran Bourke and John Sheahan. This is a celebration of Irish music itself and a guaranteed evening of music, humour and ‘craic’. Find more details online.
29. EASTER MINI-FESTIVAL AT THE BLACK SWAN, 31st MARCH. Ellen Cole of York’s Little Festival of Live Music is staging an acoustic music mini-fest at the Black Swan Inn on Easter Saturday, 31st March. “We are currently working on the line-up and will share it with you in early February” says Ellen. “The Mini-Fest will start at 3pm (doors open at 2.45pm) and will end at 9pm. Entry into the event is free, however there is a suggested donation of £5 which will be given to The Island Mentoring Scheme - a local charity which supports vulnerable children and young people living in York. Come and join us for six hours of great family-friendly acoustic music.” Watch www.facebook.com/YorksLittleFestivalOfLiveMusic for further details as they are announced.
30. AND ANOTHER CHARITY EVENT AT THE BLACK SWAN, 15th APRIL. Our own Stan Graham is organising a charity folk night on Sunday 15th April at the Black Swan, in aid of SeeAbility. This is one of the oldest disability charities in the UK and has pioneered specialist support for blind people for over 200 years. The folk club “house band” Ramshackle (Stan, Eddie, Chris, Phil and Judith) will be appearing, Stan will also do a solo spot, and Dorset based singer-songwriter Nigel Waite is a special guest. The show will start at 7.30pm and tickets at just £5 can be booked online at www.wegottickets.com/event/429434
I am afraid I must end this newsletter with some very sad personal news. As some of you will be aware, I have been having problems with my right hand for quite a while, and I am now also losing dexterity with my left hand and mobility in my right leg. Last month I received the tragic diagnosis of motor neurone disease, a terminal and irreversible condition. Therefore I must contemplate withdrawing from my role in running our folk club over the coming months, after more than 30 years at the helm. My fellow club principals (Stan, Chris, Eddie and Phil) intend to keep the club going in some form, and I’m sure they’d be interested in hearing from anyone willing to help them with that. I will organise this year’s Folk Weekend and complete our club and concert bookings for this calendar year, but then I shall probably hand over the reins. More on this in future newsletters – of which I hope to manage a few more.