7th August 2018
THURSDAY CLUB NIGHTS
Our new season publicity brochure has now been published, detailing all our activities through to the end of the year. Pick one up next time you are at the Black Swan Inn, or (in a few days’ time) from outlets such as Visit York, City Screen and the NCEM. The same information can also be found on the Programme page of the club website, and all events are now open for booking at www.wegottickets.com (club guests) or at www.ncem.co.uk / 01904 658338 (NCEM concerts).
1. THIS WEEK’S GUEST – EDWINA HAYES. This week’s club guest on Thursday 9th surely no long introductions from me. Driffield’s Edwina Hayes has an international reputation for beautifully written songs, choice covers, charming stage presence and angelic vocals. She has toured with artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Gretchen Peters and Nanci Griffith (who said “the sweetest voice in England”) but her gentle folk-Americana is at its best in an intimate venue like ours, as we have heard on many previous occasions over the last dozen years, most recently on the Marquee stage at this year’s Folk Weekend.
Newly returned from his holidays, Chris Euesden is your MC this week and we expect floor spots from John Storey, Toni Bunnell and Steve Marshall. Tickets are more than half sold already, priced at £9 in advance through WeGotTickets or £10 on the door, from 7.45pm.
2. 16th AUGUST - SINGERS FROM THE CROOKES FOLK CLUB IN SHEFFIELD. In early June I had an enjoyable evening accompanying four of our Black Swan resident singers (John Storey, Sarah Dean, Paula Ryan and Eddie Affleck) on a trip to Sheffield where they had been invited to perform at a special event hosted by that city’s well-established and very hospitable Crookes Folk Club. We reciprocate next week, Thursday 16th August when we hand the night over to four acts from South Yorkshire:
Paul Pearson is a quietly spoken singer-guitarist who places his own understated stamp on a variety of old, new and traditional material. He is a popular figure around the northern folk circuit and is frequently called upon to provide support at folk venues in the region. Over the years he has visited both the Black Swan Folk Club and our Folk Weekend several times
Julia Waldron first sang at a folk club aged 11, stunning the audience with her unique version of You’ve Got a Friend. Now it’s her self-penned songs that leave her audience wanting more. She tells of real life with ease, confidence and heart. Love, loss, friendship, betrayal, laughter, she’s had them all and tells the tale.
Welsh Geoff is originally from South Wales but now lives in Derbyshire. He writes unusual songs and performs sporadically around Sheffield and sometimes farther afield. “He finds the strange in the ordinary” wrote Paul Davenport in Stirrings and is “by turns wistful, eccentric and very funny” according to the Sheffield Star.
Dogwood Rose just love to play – simple as that. A trio comprising Michael Richards, Judy Clifford and Kiri Smith, their music plots a continuous line from early American songs with roots in English folk, through dust bowl ballads and early blues up to a wide range of modern artists whose songs capture the same essential sincerity and beauty of the tradition. Think Gillian Welch, Neil Young, Slaid Cleaves...you’ll get the idea.
Do come along and give all four acts a warm York welcome. John Storey will be acting as MC but there will be no local floor singers in order to hand the whole evening over to our Sheffield visitors. Tickets are just £5 in advance or £6 on the door.
3. 23rd AUGUST – THE HEATHEN KINGS. With considerable flair and skill, the Leeds-based acoustic trio The Heathen Kings perform traditional, self-penned and borrowed folk music from the British Isles and further afield, as you will hear when they are our club guests in a fortnight’s time, Thursday 23rd August. They comprise Rachael Sutcliffe on lead vocals, harp and percussion, Mark Daniel Rogers on guitar, mandolin and vocals and Steve Foster on bass and vocals. The band first got together in 2009 as a five-piece and achieved considerable success around West Yorkshire. They later trimmed down to the current trio line-up and for a while performed under alternative name The Fireside Nights, in which guise they took part in a tripleheader showcase night at our club a couple of years ago. More recently the three of them have reverted to using the better-known original name.
“The Heathen Kings are a treat to hear and see live: warm, friendly (and) entertaining” says notable fellow performer Duncan McFarlane. “All three sing beautifully and are no slouches instrumentally either”. They certainly know their way around traditional folk music, I would add, notably Rachael, who is by day the administrator of the new folk music degree course at Leeds College of Music.
Eddie Affleck is due to MC this one and we anticipate floor spots from Stan Graham and Chris Euesden, plus a visiting Canadian singer called Bill Nesbitt. He writes: “I’ll be in south-west England the previous week performing at a few festivals and clubs in the duo Hunter’s Corners, then I’m heading solo to York to meet up with my wife. (In the duo) we mostly perform traditional Canadian tunes and songs which are variations of, or inspired by, the traditional music of the British Isles. On my own I would probably do a set of dance tunes and a song from Newfoundland”. Tickets are £8 in advance at WeGotTickets or £9 on the door.
4. 30th AUGUST – SINGERS & MUSICIANS NIGHT. Our next “open house” singers’ night will be on Thursday 30th August, with Chris Euesden taking his turn as MC. As I always say, we never quite know who or what to expect at these events, but in this case we are certainly anticipating some Australian visitors. Maggie Murphy writes: “I am travelling in Yorkshire in August with two friends, Jane and Molly (and) I am staying with a mate of mine, Gerry Hallom. I visited your club a few times in the 1980's and have fond memories of the place, including the lean on the staircase!” Maggie will probably do two or three unaccompanied solo songs, then the three of them will do a few numbers together. “We wouldn't disappoint you” she promises.
That still leaves plenty of time for other performers, so why not come along to sing, play or just to listen? As always, entry to non-performers is just £3 (students and children £2) while performers are asked to put a token £1 in the kitty.
Singers & Musicians Nights then continue at four-weekly intervals through the autumn, that’s on 27th September, 25th October, 22nd November and 20th December, with the latter being our customary Christmas Party social.
5. 6th SEPTEMBER – GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR. This outstanding duo won the BBC Young Folk Award 2013, took the Horizon Award the next year and were shortlisted for Best Duo in 2015. Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar have certainly impressed us on their two previous visits to the Black Swan Inn. Greg is one of the most assured and mature male vocalists of his generation, and with their great guitar, bouzouki and fiddle playing plus Ciaran’s madcap stage banter, they make a great live act. We welcome them back on Thursday 6th September.
This year’s new album Utopia and Wasteland has already picked up comments such as “an incredibly powerful musical statement” and “confirming their place at folk’s top table”. It is a collection that “explores a formidable range of human emotions and political ideas, and one that flits easily between the minuscule detail and the grand statement” according to Folk Radio UK, which rates them “currently one of the most exciting duos not just in folk but in any genre”.
On top of their busy schedule as a duo, both Greg and Ciaran are involved in various other projects and bands. Greg took part in the recent revival of Peter Bellamy’s ballad opera The Transports (described in The Guardian by York journalist Alfred Hickling as “stunning … truly a transport of delight”) and in the Shake the Chains project alongside such luminaries as Peggy Seeger and Martin Simpson. He has also been a long-term member of Nancy Kerr's Sweet Visitor Band, while Ciaran plays with Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys and the Dan Walsh Trio, amongst others.
Stan Graham acts as MC and the floor singers will be Ian Pybus, Eddie Affleck and Toni Bunnell. Tickets are £11 in advance or £12.50 on the door, with the usual half-price offer for students and children.
6. 13th SEPTEMBER – BILLY MITCHELL. Jack The Lad, Maxie & Mitch, Lindisfarne, a duo partnership with Bob Fox and latterly The Pitman Poets, to name only a few of his many achievements. The CV of our guest Billy Mitchell, on Thursday 13th September, reads like a roll call of North East England’s folk and acoustic music scene over the last 50 years. I’ll tell you quite a bit more about his back story in the next newsletter but meanwhile you can read his full biography on his website www.billymitchell.co.uk/bio.
Remarkably, this versatile singer, guitarist and entertainer has never before visited our club. Let’s make him very welcome! The MC will be Chris Euesden and the anticipated floor singers are Toni Bunnell, Simon Alexander and Steve Marshall. Tickets are £10 in advance or £11 on the door.
7. 20th SEPTEMBER – THE ASKEW SISTERS. On Thursday 20th September we have a fourth visit to our club by The Askew Sisters. Emily and Hazel are two of the foremost younger champions of English folk, their performances brimming with the deep understanding of siblings immersed in traditional music all their lives. Using fiddle, melodeon and concertina, they play and sing with infectious enjoyment and deep love for the music. Whether bringing old dance tunes to fresh life or offering powerful interpretations of old songs and ballads, they engage and enthuse all who hear them.
Newly returned from a summer of international travelling, Phil Cerny will be your MC this week and the floor singers will be Sarah Dean, Ian Pybus and a visiting performer John Hinshelwood. He is a singer-songwriter from Scotland who performs in country-tinged Americana style, and he is town to do his own gig the night before, Wednesday 19th at Bistro Guy on Gillygate. Tickets are again £10 in advance or £11 on the door, with students and children half price.
8. MORE AUTUMN CLUB GUESTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO. October kicks off in cracking style with Chris Sherburn, Denny Bartley & Emily Sanders (4th, early booking advised) then continues with the York solo debut of acclaimed Scottish singer and harpist Rachel Newton, of The Shee and The Furrow Collective (11th). Also making his local solo debut will be young Yorkshire singer Jack Rutter (18th). Iconoclastic English performer Jim Moray starts the November line-up (1st), followed by Kim Lowings & The Greenwood (8th), Ange Hardy (15th) and Steve Tilston (29th), while December brings us Tim Edey (6th) followed by Dave Burland & The Awkward Squad (13th).
TOP ARTISTS IN CONCERT AT NCEM
9. AN EXCITING AUTUMN LINE-UP AT THE NCEM. Over the summer months we have taken a break from larger concert events but we are back at the splendid National Centre for Early Music for five shows in October, November and December, with a further two to follow in February 2019. Tickets are now on sale for all of these, while the full NCEM glossy brochure will be published later this month.
10. JON BODEN, MONDAY 8th OCTOBER. Best known as the lead singer and main arranger of progressive folk juggernaut Bellowhead and as one half of much-loved duo Spiers & Boden, Jon launched his solo career in 2016. Showcasing his playing talents on fiddle, guitar and concertina and performing a mix of self-penned songs and re-worked traditional numbers, his dynamic solo shows have been enthusiastically received and critically acclaimed. In one context or another, Jon has shared in eleven BBC Radio 2 Folk Award wins, more than any other artist, and he is surely the stand-out performer of his generation in English folk music. There is no support act for this one and tickets are £20 or £18 concessions.
11. TALISK, TUESDAY 23rd OCTOBER. Band Of The Year in the latest MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, 2015 winners of the BBC Young Folk Award and Horizon finalists in 2017, Talisk are one of the fastest rising instrumental acts on the folk scene. Mohsen Amini on concertina (Musician of the Year in this year’s BBC Folk Awards), Hayley Keenan on fiddle and Graeme Armstrong on guitar create a captivating and energetic sound that has earned them media praise and standing ovations from audiences far and wide, including at such leading festivals as Cambridge, Tønder, Celtic Colours and Celtic Connections. What is more, there will be some top class support from local stars Bella Gaffney & Polly Bolton. Tickets are £16 and £14.
12. DAOIRI FARRELL, TUESDAY 6th NOVEMBER. This Dublin-born singer and bouzouki player is widely acclaimed as one of most important performers to come out of Ireland in recent years, breathing vigorous new life into the Irish folksong repertoire. Daoirí’s breakthrough album True Born Irishman lead to three BBC Folk Award nominations in 2017, more than any other artist, with wins in the Horizon (for best newcomer) and Best Traditional Track categories. Since then he has toured widely around Britain and far beyond, including with the Transatlantic Sessions, and at leading festivals such as Cambridge, Shrewsbury and Costa del Folk. Support comes from York Irish singer Damian Fynes and tickets are £15 and £13.
13. SIOBHAN MILLER, MONDAY 19th NOVEMBER. Here is one of the foremost young performers in Scotland, a truly exceptional talent whose soulful and stirring take on folk song has won her Singer Of The Year an unprecedented three times at the Scots Trad Music Awards, as well as this year’s Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Traditional Track. Siobhan’s superb vocal style has been honed through collaborations with many of Scotland’s top musicians and tradition bearers, while her extensive range spans choice contemporary songs and lyrically rich self-penned material as well as traditional favourites. She is accompanied by a small backing band. Support comes from adventurous local trio White Sail (Jane Stockdale, Chris Bartram & Sarah Dean) and tickets are £16 and £14.
14. SONGS FOR CHRISTMAS WITH EMILY SMITH, TUESDAY 18th DECEMBER. For her fifth visit to NCEM, the much admired Scottish singer Emily Smith presents her unique Christmas show. Accompanied with guitar, fiddle and backing vocals, she promises a beautiful blend of original and traditional festive songs. Sing along with old carols, tap your toes to upbeat instrumentals or simply close your eyes and let Emily’s evocative voice help you dwell on the joy and peace that Christmas can bring. From humble beginnings in 2012, she has honed this show into a widely-acclaimed and moving, family friendly seasonal night out. Support comes from popular Ryedale singer-songwriter David Swann and tickets £17 full, £15 concessions.
15. COMING IN FEBRUARY 2019. Also now open for booking are a return visit by Phil Beer on Tuesday 12th February (almost exactly 10 years after he presented us with our Folk Club of the Year trophy at the 2009 BBC Folk Awards) and a Celtic special with Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker & John Doyle on Tuesday 26th February.
16. VOTE FOR US IN THE YORKSHIRE GIG GUIDE AWARDS. Voting is now open in the annual Grass Roots Awards organised by the Yorkshire Gig Guide website. You may recall that two years ago our folk club carried off the Outstanding Music Club trophy at these awards. Well I’m happy to say that we have received various nominations again this year and I would urge you to go to the website http://yorkshiregigguide.co.uk/grass-roots-awards-2015.html (yes that does still say 2015!) and consider casting some votes.
In the Outstanding Music Club category you will find not only ourselves nominated, but also another 7 or 8 local folk and acoustic music clubs, while the Black Swan Inn gets a nomination in the Outstanding Small Live Venue section. I was particularly pleased to see our York Folk Weekend nominated in the Outstanding Small Festival category, while under the Outstanding Promoter heading there are nominations for both myself personally and for the Black Swan Folk Club as a whole. I was also very flattered to see myself nominated in the Outstanding Individual Contribution category. In the Outstanding Large Venue section both of our occasional concert sites, the NCEM and The Crescent, have been put forward, while in the Outstanding Songwriting category Stan Graham is nominated and is surely a must for your vote.
There are many other noteworthy nominations across the different categories, such as for Joe Coates of PleasePleaseYou (Promoter) and this week’s guest Edwina Hayes and York’s own Dan Webster (both in Artist/Band). Two of our autumn concert support acts, Bella Gaffney & Polly Bolton and White Sail, are listed in the Outstanding Emerging Artist section, while veteran York journalist Charles Hutchinson is on the list in the Yorkshire Media category, alongside community radio station Tempo FM, for its blues and folk shows (think Tony Haynes), regional folk magazine Tykes News, The Durbervilles Folk & Roots Show on BBC Radio Leeds, and enterprising local website York Calling.
Online public voting decides the top five in each category, with voting closing on 31st August. A judging panel then determines the final order in each ballot, with the winners and runners up announced at the awards ceremony. This year that will be held on Sunday 7th October at the Mexborough Social Club in South Yorkshire. Please do go online and vote!
17. CLUB HALF YEAR FIGURES. Our club’s financial year runs from 1st February to 31st January so we recently reached the halfway stage in the 2018/19 year and I was having a look at the figures the other day. Overall we are in a modest surplus on the first 6 months, to the tune of almost £500, which is good news. All our various types of activity managed to more than break-even: guest nights, singers’ nights, NCEM concerts, co-promotions with PleasePleaseYou, and the Folk Weekend. At the same time general expenditure on things like publicity (posters, leaflets and adverts) general admin stuff (e.g. postage, stationery, website costs) and equipment such as PA and lights was fairly modest. At the end of July we had total funds (at the bank and cash in hand) of £10,948.
Attendance figures wise, the average paying audience on guest nights (31) was almost exactly the same as in the full year 2017/18, and singers’ nights were also just as well attended as in the previous full-year. Concert audience numbers were noticeably down, but bear in mind that we had a string of exceptionally successful full house shows last year, such as Steve Knightley, the Carthys, Martin Simpson and John Kirkpatrick.
18. THE FORESTERS SEEK A NEW MEMBER. The Foresters are York’s longest surviving folk group by far, originally formed in 1971, and whilst there are now no original members left, Fred Ring and Dee & Steve Marshall have all been in the band since 1976, with the current line-up completed by Mike Brown, who has also been there for many years, and by Jo Wheldon who joined a few years ago.
“At the end of 2018 there will be another change and the future is somewhat uncertain” writes Steve Marshall. “Fred Ring has decided he wishes to leave the band and actually gave us a year’s notice so that we could play out our 2018 gig commitments. This is nothing about musical differences here: Fred leads a busy life and has other musical and family commitments which he wishes to follow. If we are to continue as The Foresters” Steve says, “we need to find a new member, who could add something different such as melodeon or concertina, whistle, fiddle or bass.” It is not a big commitment as the band usually play only 7 or 8 gigs a year, mostly for charity. Steve provides all the necessary PA equipment and rehearsals are usually held in Strensall. If anyone is interested in joining this venerable York institution, they should contact Steve on 01904 490440 or 07929 719286.
Incidentally, The Foresters’ next scheduled concert is at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall on Friday 26th October. Tickets will be available through John Hall on 01904 400182 or Steve Marshall on the numbers above.
19. A NEW CD FROM LEATHER’O. Leather’o are one of York’s liveliest and most consistent folk bands, amongst other things a regular highlight of our Winter Folk Day and the Folk Weekend. Band member Bob Ward now writes to say that they have a new CD out. It is called Six, simply because it contains “six tracks of Leather’o playing Celtic and Gypsy with that high-energy live sound”. Find out more through the band’s website at www.yorkcelticband.co.uk.
20. JEZ LOWE RADIO UPDATE. In the last newsletter I mentioned that our good friend Jez Lowe had recorded an episode of the Open Country programme for BBC Radio Four. Tynemouth Sea and Song was broadcast on 7th July and featured Jez talking to people who live and work at the mouth of the mighty River Tyne, and also singing a couple of songs and backing up his close friend Benny Graham on another local ditty. The programme is available indefinitely on the BBC iPlayer at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b8b7rg.
A friend was telling me she had seen Jez in concert recently at the Warwick Folk Festival and that he had been on cracking good form. As I mentioned last time, Jez will be our first guest artist of 2019 at the Black Swan Inn, on 10th January, and before that you have a local opportunity to catch him with his band The Bad Pennies when they perform at the Frazer Theatre in Knaresborough this coming Friday, 10th August as part of the FEVA Festival.
OTHER EVENTS IN AND AROUND YORK
21. YORK IRISH TRAD SESSION, 18th AUGUST. The York Irish Association, who ran a very lively Friday night session at our Folk Weekend, have regular open traditional music sessions at The Gillygate with the next one scheduled for Saturday 18th August from 8pm. “Bring your instruments and join in” they say
22. DAN WEBSTER CD LAUNCH, FRIDAY 31st AUGUST. Dan Webster gave an excellent performance at the Folk Weekend, joined by his full band and previewing material from forthcoming album Devil Sky. This is due to be formally launched at The Crescent Community Venue in York on Friday 31st August. Dan will again have the full band with him, and there will be a support spot by Phil Simpson & Jessica Lawson. Doors will open at 7.30pm and tickets are just £5 in advance from SeeTickets, from the venue (evenings) or from Earworm Records on Goodramgate.
23. PLUMHALL AT GREEN CHILLI ROOTS, TUESDAY 4th SEPTEMBER. Next up for local Americana and contemporary folk promoters Green Chilli Roots, in their first Tuesday of the month slot at The Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Road, will be Yorkshire stars Plumhall, on Tuesday 4th September. You can find out more and book tickets at www.yorkshireticketshop.co/m.green.chilli.roots.html
24. ESTONIAN FOLK AT THE BLACK SWAN, WEDNESDAY 12th SEPTEMBER. Occasional local promoter Steve Collington from Thirsk tells me he is putting on a “low key evening” with the noted Estonian accordion player Tuulikki Bartosik at the Black Swan Inn on Wednesday 12th September. “I hope I won’t be treading on your toes” he says. Certainly you are not, Steve. The more live music the merrier, so far as we are concerned. I have no further details at this stage of times or ticket prices.
25. POPPLETON LIVE, SATURDAY 29th SEPTEMBER. After an extended summer break, John Watterson is cranking his Poppleton Live events back into action this autumn, beginning with The Ric Sanders Trio on Saturday 29th September. The Fairport Convention fiddle player is joined by guitarist and vocalist Vo Fletcher and drummer Michael Gregory for an evening of music “firmly rooted in Americana and Blues”. The excellent Yan Tan Tether are also on the bill. Find out more at www.poppletonlive.co.uk/ric-sanders-trio.
Incidentally, John Watterson also tells me that he has been asked to take over the programming of the very successful Costa del Folk festivals, held twice a year in Spain or Portugal, beginning with the autumn 2019 event. Well done that man!
26. THORGANBY FOLK AUTUMN SHOWS. The good people at Thorganby Folk (also nominated for one of those Yorkshire gig guide awards) have announced a couple of autumn events. Lady Maisery will be at Thorganby Village Hall on Saturday 13th October and O'Hooley & Tidow make a return visit on Friday 21st December. Booking is now open at www.ticketsource.co.uk/thorganby-folk. Alternatively, if you would prefer to book direct and pay by BACS, cheque or cash, email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
SELECTED EVENTS FURTHER AFIELD
27. CHARITY NIGHT IN SALTBURN, WEDNESDAY 15th AUGUST. Our own Paula Ryan asks me to tell you about a charity event she has organised for Wednesday 15th August up in Saltburn. It is in aid of the Black and Blue organisation (www.black-and-blue.co.uk) which is a registered charity set up to find weird, wonderful or just plain workable ways to promote non-violence to anyone who will listen. Aside from Paula herself, those taking part include mandolin and percussion duo Joolz Cavell & Iain Glover, melodic singers Judith Haswell & Trish Maclean and fiddle player Reen Onion. This eclectic selection of musically skilled and wonderfully entertaining participants came together through Paula’s monthly Havin' The Craic Sessions, held on the first Wednesday of each month at the Fox Inn on Holgate Road here in York. The charity concert is at the Saltburn Community Hall on Windsor Road, TS12 1JW, and starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are just £5 through www.eventbrite.co.uk.
28. SELBY TOWN HALL NEW SEASON. The arts centre at Selby Town Hall has announced its new season running until January 2019. In the past this venue has put on quite a lot of interesting folk concerts but this season there is very little, at least so far as straight folk music is concerned. Three shows which may be of possible interest are the following:
- · Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, from North Carolina, whose blend of country, rock and folk has been described as “Appalachian honky-tonk”. They appear on Friday 31st August.
- · Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro with a blend of blues, folk and American roots music on Thursday 20th September
- · The Slocan Ramblers, a Canadian roots music band, on Friday 26th October
29. ALLAN TAYLOR IN TADCASTER, WEDNESDAY 5th SEPTEMBER. Master singer-songwriter Allan Taylor is semi-retired these days, only taking the occasional live booking. Hence there is a very welcome local opportunity to see him when he appears in Tadcaster on Wednesday 5th September. The intimate venue is Everything Good Goes, the coffee shop, restaurant and wine bar at 2-4 Westgate, LS24 9AB. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are £12.50 on 07988 496567 or via the venue’s website, everythinggoodgoes.com.
30. MND CHARITY FUNDRAISER. Much further away in distance, but dear to my own heart as an MND sufferer myself, is a charity concert scheduled for Friday 5th October at the Pie Hall in Denby Dale near Huddersfield, HD8 8RX. The all-star Yorkshire folk line-up includes Dave Burland & The Awkward Squad, Roisin Ban, Duncan McFarlane and Gordon Tyrrall. Tickets are great value at £12 on the door or £10 in advance, available from Mel White on 07870 298985. All proceeds are going to the South Yorkshire branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
I anticipate being back with another newsletter around the end of August or early September, health permitting. On the latter front, heartfelt thanks to all of you who have sent in your best wishes as I battle with the curse of MND. My condition is deteriorating steadily but as you can see I can still sit at a computer and generate this newsletter!