Early October 2006
Hello again. Here I am with a later-than-anticipated and hence extra-long bulletin.
- DISCOVER THE DELIGHTS OF DÒCHAS. Our next concert presentation at the Early Music Centre is a chance to enjoy the sounds of some of Scotland’s very best young musicians. Dòchas are largely based in the Highlands and Islands and visit England only rarely. Their previous journey into these parts, last winter, included a show at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Otley, about which I received such glowing reports that I simply had to book them for York.
Best known member of the band is Julie Fowlis, who took the Horizon Award for best newcomer at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, following her success in the 2005 Scots Trad Music awards when she was named Best Gaelic Singer. She has an exquisite voice and a vivacious personality, as well as dazzling talent on a variety of wind instruments (pipes, whistles and oboe). Raised on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, she has a deep love of traditional Gaelic music and culture. Also an outstanding singer and a superb fiddle player to boot is Jenna Reid, who was rated Best Newcomer in those same Scots Trad awards. Jenna brings to the band the distinctive fiddle style of her native Shetland Isles.
Dòchas began life as a student ceilidh band in 1997. The one remaining founder member is Carol-Anne MacKay, a virtuoso piper who also plays whistles and accordion and hails from Strathy in Sutherland. In 1998 the evolving band was joined by Eilidh MacLeod from Skye, playing piano and clarsach (Gaelic harp), and by accordionist Kathleen Boyle from Glasgow. Newest recruit, and the only man in Dòchas, is the phenomenal bodhran player Martin O’Neill, a former All-Britain and All-Ireland champion who has worked as a band member or session player with many of the leading names in Scottish music.
Dòchas issued their last CD The Second Glance in 2005. Living Tradition reviewer Debbie Koritsas wrote that the band: "breathe amazing new life into tradition with an album brimming with energy and musicality. The combination of (instruments) is explosively full-on and sets your feet tapping instantly. Endlessly enjoyable." Also last year there were highly praised solo albums by both Julie and Jenna.
Dòchas are in concert at The National Centre for Early Music next Monday, 9th October, and tickets are still available through the Box Office on 01904 658338, or online at www.ncem.co.uk, priced at £12 (concessions £10). Susie Fox will be acting as MC and she and Jack Firminger will do the half-hour support spot at 7.30. For more news about Jenna Reid and Julie Fowlis, see the Saltaire item (9) below.
- DÒCHAS - AN APPEAL FOR HELP. For logistical reasons, Dòchas are unable to bring their digital piano with them on this trip and so far our attempts to find one for hire have failed. Can anyone out there offer us the loan of something at or above the following specification: "Roland RD150 88-note hammer action with modulation and fine tuning features, sustain pedal and stand"? If you can help us out please contact me as soon as possible, preferably by telephone. A suitable cash fee and/or selection of concert tickets are yours in return.
- AMERICAN MUSIC AT THE BLACK SWAN. This week’s club guests at the Black Swan Inn (Thursday 5th October) are one of USA’s premier folk music duos, making a long overdue debut tour in Britain. Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen have worked together since 1989, creating a special fusion of Steve’s country/folk songwriting style and Cindy’s traditional folk background.
In a distinguished career Steve Gillette has had songs recorded by dozens of other artists ranging from Waylon Jennings to Garth Brooks, from Linda Ronstadt to Don Williams. His early classic Darcy Farrow has been covered by over one hundred artists during the last 40 years, most recently by Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Nanci Griffith. I first heard it done by Matthews Southern Comfort (remember them?) in 1970. Steve sings in a rich baritone and is a virtuoso on guitar, using a unique finger-picking style with a flat-pick and two fingers.
Cindy Mangsen began performing professionally in 1976, singing old folk ballads along with covers and a few originals. She has collaborated with various other American folk singers and can even be heard doing vocal harmonies on several Tom Paxton recordings. She is a masterful interpreter of traditional songs, plays guitar, concertina or banjo and sings in a compelling voice, described by one critic as "a voice that can warm a New England winter".
We were encouraged to book Steve & Cindy by our good friends Dana & Susan Robinson. Dana writes that they are "the perfect blend of original and traditional, of consummate professionalism and modesty, of polish and folksiness. Together they put on a superb show that I know would be a hit with the audience at the Black Swan". It’s a £6 door charge on Thursday (£5 concessions) and Chris Euesden is acting as Master of Ceremonies. See you there!
- LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD. After Dòchas, our next NCEM concerts are a guitar special with Stefan Grossman (Tuesday 24th October) and BBC Folk Awards Best Group of the Year Flook (Wednesday 8th November). Tickets are selling especially quickly for Flook’s performance, so don’t delay! At the Black Swan we have a lively Singers & Musicians Night (12th October) followed by firm favourites Nancy Kerr & James Fagan (19th October) and songwriter par excellence Mike Silver (26th October). Both the latter are Pay On The Door events but I will happily take reservations for seats by 'phone or e-mail.
- FOLK DAY 2007 REPORT. A dozen people attended last month’s Open Meeting to discuss Folk Day 2007. Michael Jary has kindly posted some detailed notes on the Folk Day page of the website. The date is Saturday 19 May and it will follow the successful formula established in previous years, with improvements to things such as the smooth running of the marquee stage. Also, our landlady Shelly Jenkin has come up with some very positive ideas for enhancing the bar and food service side of operations. So go ahead and put that date in your diaries NOW!
So much for "parish pump" news from the Black Swan. The rest of this newsletter is devoted to other peoples’ activities.
- YORK YOUNG FIDDLERS. The relatively new group York Young Fiddlers have announced the dates for a series of Saturday afternoon and weekend workshops over the coming year. "Run by local parents and experienced tutors and teachers, York Young Fiddlers brings high-quality tuition in traditional music to children and young people (aged 8-18) in and around York. We teach true traditional fiddle technique with a big emphasis on group playing, socialising and FUN!!" they say.
Saturday workshops with resident tutors Robin Shepherd and Maggie Allred are held this coming Saturday afternoon, 7th October, from 1.30 until 4.30, and again on 2nd December, 20th January, 10th March and 12th May. There are more intensive fiddle weekends planned for 3rd/4th February and 23rd/24th June, with guest tutors. All events take place at York Steiner School. For more information go to www.yorkyoungfiddlers.org.uk, or ring Tatjana Neupert on 07906 331613
- SONGWRITING & VOCAL WORKSHOP WEEKEND. York Steiner School is also the venue for another of the popular workshop weekends run jointly by Stan Graham and Soundsphere. The weekend in question is 11th & 12th November, at a cost of £40 (concessions £30). Stan, who is a gifted teacher, will encourage you to explore your potential as a songwriter, while if singing is more your thing, vocal harmony specialists Soundsphere promise to get you singing to the best of your ability. You can get more details and enrol via firstname.lastname@example.org (Stan) or email@example.com. Alternatively, phone Stan on 01904 758228.
- MORE WORKSHOPS. The lively Ryburn 3 Step organisation over in the Ryburn valley of West Yorkshire is also running a series of workshop days this autumn. Chris Manners explores Songwriting on 7th October, Pete Coe teaches Playing for Dancing on 14th October and Chris Coe offers her Singing Toolkit on 11th November. Find more information at www.ryburn3step.org.uk or ring Chris Coe on 01422 822413. All events cost £25 (concessions £18) and are limited to 15 places.
- SCOTTISH MUSIC IN SALTAIRE. Our fellow promoters Saltaire Live have two big concerts coming up at their Victoria Hall venue. Powerhouse young outfit Deaf Shepherd are there this Friday, 6th October, with a line-up of twin fiddles, pipes, bodhran, bouzouki, guitar and vocals, including the aforementioned Jenna Reid of Dòchas, appearing with her "other" band. This will be Deaf Shepherd’s only English show this year. Then on Sunday 26th November Saltaire has Julie Fowlis, leading her own band in concert. Tickets are £12.50 for each event and you can find out more by ringing 01274 588614 or by going to www.saltairelive.co.uk.
- FOLK CONCERT FOR PALESTINE. Prominent folk musicians Roy Bailey and Martin Simpson appear at Sheffield Memorial Hall on Tuesday 17th October, in a fund raising concert for charitable work with Palestinian children in Gaza. "The situation in Gaza could not be more desperate" say the organisers, "whilst the world’s attention has been focussed on Lebanon, more than 200 people have been killed (in Gaza) in the last two months, 48 of them children." Tickets are available from firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Sheffield City Hall Box Office.
- FOLK CLUBS - THE NOVEL. I recently read a novel set in a folk club, of all things! Northern Sky is written by Radio 2 presenter Mark Radcliffe and follows the fortunes of a group of musical friends when "folk" comes back into fashion and music biz success beckons. Copious references to Bert Jansch, Nick Drake and other icons convince us that the author knows that side of the acoustic music scene, but I’m totally unconvinced by the basic plot line. Still it is a pleasant light read which will generate a few wry smiles. Northern Sky is published by Hodder at £7.99 in paperback (ISBN 0340715693).
That’s all for now, but I’ll be back soon with lots more folk-related news.