Mid February 2006
This one looks like being another bumper edition, so here goes...
- FINAL CALL FOR RAINBOW CHASERS. First, a quick reminder to early readers that we have Ashley Hutchings’ Rainbow Chasers in concert tomorrow night at the National Centre for Early Music. There will be some tickets available on the door at £10 (concessions £8), with doors opening at 7.00 for a 7.30 start. In last week’s BBC Folk Awards Ashley received the "Good Tradition" award for his outstanding contributions to folk music, and he took the opportunity to say how excited he was about this latest project in his long career.
- VIKING NIGHT WITH SWÅP. Runners up in the Best Band category at those same BBC Folk Awards were Swåp, who are our concert guests at the National Centre for Early Music on Friday 24 February. This thrilling Anglo-Swedish band brings together two of this country’s finest musicians, Karen Tweed and Ian Carr with top Scandinavian players Carina Normansson (fiddle and vocals) and Ola Bäckström (fiddle and viola). Karen is an internationally acclaimed accordionist, a long-time member of The Poozies who has also worked with Kathryn Tickell, Chris Wood & Andy Cutting and many others, while Ian is the regular guitar player with Eddi Reader, the Kate Rusby Band and John McCusker’s band.
These four virtuoso musicians present a wonderful fusion of Scandinavian and British music, with Swedish polskas and songs, Irish jigs and Scottish waltzes, combining rave energy with the subtlety of a string quartet. "The whole zany, playful, energetic, instrumentally brilliant adventure should be sampled at full length and full strength& said one recent reviewer.
Swåp have just released a new CD, Du Da, which has picked up many rave notices and has received generous airplay on both Radio 2 and Radio 3. It was ranked in Top Of The World albums in Songlines and was highly placed in the 2005 fRoots magazine annual critics’ poll. & Great musicians, great entertainers and full of passion, inspiration, inventiveness and intimacy too" wrote Fiona Talkington.
Swåp have chosen to launch the second leg of their Du Da tour in York, where their concert forms part of the Jorvik Viking Festival. Also appearing are the highly regarded women’s vocal group Soundsphere, with a selection of songs from around the world. The evening starts at 7.30 and tickets are available from the NCEM Box Office priced at £13 (concessions £11). Ring 01904 658338, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or buy online at www.ncem.co.uk.
- MADDIE SOUTHORN AT THE BLACK SWAN. In parallel with NCEM events, club business continues to our musically high standard at the Black Swan Inn. This Thursday’s guest (16 February) is a Bristol-based singer-songwriter called Maddie Southorn, whose recent CD The Pilgrim Soul has been played on Mike Harding’s show and elsewhere. I was struck by both the beauty of her voice and the quality of her writing when I heard a pre-release copy and I decided to give her a booking. She also does some sympathetic covers of traditional songs and plays a neat piano. She is joined by Janet Martin on ’cello and backing vocals to give us a sound palette quite different from the guitar-lead norm.
- STUDENT SINGERS TAKE THE STAGE. The Black Swan’s Singers Night on 23 February will be hosted by the University of York Folk Club, with club chair Tom acting as MC. Plenty of singers and players from the lively campus folk scene will be showing us what they can do, but there should also be ample opportunity for non-students to perform. Come along and give this event your support, whether singing or just listening. The normal, modest admission charge will apply (£2, concessions £1.50), with all proceeds going towards the costs of the May Folk Day.
- CLUB ANNUAL ACCOUNTS. The folk club’s financial year ended on 31 January, so as promised in the last E-News, here is a brief financial report. It was a see-saw kind of year! A good Spring was followed by a very poor Summer, by the end of which we were several hundred pounds down. Autumn brought a slow recovery, enhanced during the last couple of Winter months by some very successful club and concert events. At year end we had a trading surplus of almost £500, taking our total assets up to around £3,300. As I always point out, this sounds a lot but is considerably less than our forward commitments in terms of signed contracts.
For the first time in many years, our Guest Night programme at the Black Swan failed to break even, with payments to artists outstripping door receipts by over £200. On the other hand Concert events at NCEM generated a surplus of almost £1500. Together with the income from Singers Nights (£400), this was more than enough to cover our administrative and publicity overheads. The latter totalled around £800, with the biggest components being leaflet printing (£275) and postage (£250). The general situation is satisfactory, though it is a bit worrying to think that we now rely on concerts to subsidise the club programme. I have a fuller summary of income and expenditure available should anyone care to see it.
At year end I also look at trends in our attendance figures, these being defined as paid admissions, excluding floor performers, complimentaries and such like. The average Black Swan attendance was 27.1 overall (15.5 on Singers Nights, 31.6 on Guest Nights), which is slightly down on the preceding year and continues a long-term decline from a high point of 43.1 in 1990/91. By contrast, average NCEM concert attendance last year was 146!
In total, I have club attendance figures going back 21 years and looking over that entire span, July and August have usually been the busiest months of our year, which makes last year’s summer crash all the more inexplicable. August 2005 in fact recorded the lowest monthly figure since my records began in 1985!
- NTL WORLD SUBSCRIBERS TAKE NOTE. Recently I have been having more and more difficulty with e-mail bouncing back from ntlworld addresses. It seems that NTL no longer likes bulk mailings issuing from a Hotmail address. On the other hand it seems quite happy to accept the same from Yahoo, so I intend to move all of you who are ntlworld subscribers to a Yahoo mailing group. Meanwhile you have my apologies should you receive this edition twice over.
- BASS ’N’ DRUMS. No, we are not changing musical policy, but we do need to supply a bass amplifier and a drum stool for the concert by Old Blind Dogs on 26 April. Can anyone out there give us the loan of such things?
- RADIO BALLADS 2006. The original Charles Parker / Ewan MacColl Radio Ballads in the 1950s have long had iconic status in the history of the British folk revival, and justifiably so. The BBC have now commissioned six brand new Radio Ballads, once again combining interviews with ordinary people, narrative commentary and specially written topical songs. Under the general direction of John Tams (multi-award winner in last week’s BBC Folk Awards), the series looks at subjects as diverse as shipbuilding, AIDS, Northern Ireland and hunting. Jez Lowe has written around 20 new songs for the series, with other compositions by such as Karine Polwart, Tommy Sands and Julie Matthews and musical contributions from many other established folk artists. Mike Harding previews the new Radio Ballads on his Wednesday programme on 22 February, then they are broadcast weekly on Radio 2 at 9pm from Monday 27 February. I understand they will also be available on the Internet. Following on from the BBC4 Folk Britannia series, this is a very welcome level of commitment by the Beeb to our evolving folk music heritage.
- FOLK MUSIC LIVE IN DRIFFIELD. I was happy to hear that folk music is alive and well in Driffield, despite last year’s closure of Driffield Live. The Driffield Folk Club is meeting on the third Monday of each month for a Singers Night at the Blue Bell Hotel on Riverhead, so the next gatherings are 20 February and 20 March. They are also planning some guest concerts on the first Saturday on the month, with the John Wright Band on 1 April and Vin Garbutt on 3 June. What is more, there will be a Folk Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend with open stages, sessions and workshops. For more information pick up a flyer from our club leaflet stand, or ring Margie Hill on 07887 914974.
- LEARN SONGWRITING & SINGING IN YORK. Talking of workshops, our own Stan Graham and the aforementioned Soundsphere have joined forces to run a workshop weekend over 25 and 26 March in York. Stan is well known as an inspiring songwriting tutor who has run successful residential classes in both Britain and France, while the members of Soundsphere are all experienced teachers who encourage pupils to explore and develop their vocal potential. Venue is the York Steiner School and the cost is £40 (concessions £30) for the weekend. A limited number of day tickets are also available. For more about the Vocal workshop, contact email@example.com, while for more about the Songwriting event or to book for either course, contact Stan on firstname.lastname@example.org, 01904 758228.
- AUDEN & FOLK UPDATE. Here is a reminder about the big Auden & Folk event taking place on Saturday 18 March at the Tempest Anderson Hall in York. Martin Carthy sings his selection from the folk songs collected by York-born poet W H Auden. Four local folk acts will support with their choices, and the good news is that all three members of Two Black Sheep & A Stallion are now able to take part. Master of Ceremonies will be folk scholar Vic Gammon, who will comment on the significance of Auden’s folk collection and the wider importance of folk song.
Organisers The City of York Auden Society are also proposing to have a stall devoted to work − CDs and books − by local singers and poets. If you’d like to have your material included, in return for a small commission on any sales, then contact Hugh Bernays well in advance of the event. He is on 01904 644318 or email@example.com. Concert tickets at £14.50 (concessions £12) are available through the NCEM Box Office, contact details above under Swåp.
3 pages full and I am only half way down my list of news items. I hope that I have at least covered the most pressing stories. Expect another newsletter in 2 or 3 weeks, and meanwhile, keep supporting live acoustic music!