Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 57

Mid October 2006

As usual I begin with some items of club news − including some important programme changes next month − then I continue with other items of potential interest.

  1. PROGRAMME CHANGES IN MID NOVEMBER. Regrettably, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman have had to cancel their proposed visit on 16 November, on medical grounds. Kathryn has been called into hospital that week for a minor but long-awaited operation. We send her our very best wishes. Moreover Sean looks like being so busy next year with his brother Seth’s band that he and Kathryn may not be able to fit in any folk club dates at all. Rest assured that we will get them back in York at the first opportunity, but that may not be for a very long time.
    After discussion with all of the participants, I have decided to move the Save The Children Charity Night from Saturday 11 November to the now vacant slot on Thursday 16 November. Ace singer/guitarist/flautist Gordon Tyrrall will still be able to take part, as will the celebrated Hull singer (and Andy Kershaw favourite) Jim Eldon. Also doing a spot and flogging the charity CDs will be JP Slidewell and David Kidman will be acting as MC. Sadly, Jon Harvison cannot make this re-scheduled date due to other commitments. This is a great pity, as Jon had taken the trouble to advertise the event on his website and press advertising, and our sincere apologies go to him.
    I have now written the next club flyer, which begins with the Save The Children event, and you will find the full text (minus logo) attached to this newsletter as both a Word Document and a plain text file. Please make a special effort to support the charity night, and spread the word far and wide.

  2. ACOUSTIC GUITAR LEGEND COMES TO YORK. Our latest concert promotion at the National Centre for Early Music, presents Stefan Grossman next Tuesday, 24 October. Almost anyone who has set about learning folk, blues or ragtime guitar in the last forty years will recognise Stefan’s name. Whether as a performer or a researcher, teacher or record-label owner, he has probably do more than any other single person to popularise the folk/blues style of acoustic guitar playing. I was sent a lengthy account of his illustrious career, of which I hope the following is a fairly accurate through very brief précis:
    Born in New York in 1945, Stefan was drawn into the burgeoning American folk revival as a teenager. He was particularly inspired by the guitar playing of such legends as Big Bill Broonzy and the Rev Gary Davis, tracking down the latter in the Bronx and taking lessons with him for several years. He witnessed the rediscovery of veteran bluesmen like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Skip James, and learned more about playing guitar from all of them.
    In 1967 Stefan Grossman arrived in England, where the work of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn had already created a huge interest in guitar playing. Stefan found a natural home on the British folk and blues circuits and was soon mixing with the likes of Eric Clapton, playing at events like Cambridge Festival and releasing LPs.
    Stefan settled in Rome in 1969 and rapidly established his status as a performer on the continental music scene. He toured extensively in Britain and Europe, both as a solo artist and in collaborations with John Renbourn and many others, before a period of ill-health led to his return to live in America in 1987.
    Teaching and promoting acoustic guitar has always been just as important to Stefan as performing himself. Way back in 1965 he had released How To Play Blues Guitar on Elektra records, a pioneering instructional album with tablature and background notes. By the early 1970s there was the Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop series of audio instruction tapes, then he co-founded the Kicking Mule record label which issued LPs by many of the best acoustic guitar players in the business, such as Jansch and Renbourn, Davey Graham & Duck Baker.
    Back in USA, Stefan worked on Shanachie Records’ Guitar Artistry series and also researched and published videos of vintage blues, jazz, folk and country guitar performers. Since 1992 he has devoted himself full time to the production of his Guitar Workshop learning materials in all media − print, audio, video and now DVD.
    All this activity leaves Stefan precious little time for his own performances, and UK tours have been few and far between in the last 20 years. Hence we are proud to present one of only two Yorkshire shows on this current itinerary. There are still tickets available, which can be booked through the NCEM Box Office on 01904 658338, or online at They are priced £12 full (£10 concessions).
    Opening the show on Tuesday is father and son duo Allan & Liam Wilkinson, from the Doncaster area (though Liam now works in York). Their playing was a big hit when they performed at our June Singers Night and they say they rate Stefan as "one of our heroes". Find out more at

  3. NOVEMBER CONCERTS REMINDER. Just a quick note to remind you that BBC Best Folk Group of the year Flook is at the NCEM on Wednesday 8 November − with tickets now more than half sold − and Rachel Unthank & The Winterset complete our autumn series on Monday 27 November. Box Office details as above.

  4. MIKE SILVER ARRIVES AT LAST. The Black Swan Folk Club has been around since sometime in the 1970s. So has Mike Silver. Only now are the two coming together and "long awaited début" sounds like a major understatement! Mike is one of the great names in English acoustic songwriting, a true craftsman who comes up with many emotive, inspiring and uplifting songs. Long a "hidden gem" as Radio 2’s Bob Harris has put it, Mike has lately won a much higher media profile and it will be a pleasure to welcome him to our club on Thursday 26 October. Stan Graham (who else?) is MC and entry is £7 (£6) payable on the door.

  5. HALLOWEEN BRINGS OUT THE WITCHES. Yes, it’s that time of year − the witches are in flight. More specifically, The Witches of Elswick, who revisit the Black Swan on 2 November. I saw them in action earlier this year and can confirm that Fay, Bryony, Becky and Gillian are singing better than ever, with maturity, marriage and motherhood doing nothing to diminish the ebullient good humour which is such a part of their performance. Tony Morris MCs that one, and as I shall be absent on holiday, Phil Myers is looking after the door − be kind to him!

  6. DICK GAUGHAN TICKETS NOW ON SALE. Lastly for "club" news, a reminder that we have Dick Gaughan on 7 December, for whom there is usually so much demand that I am doing advance tickets at £8 (£6.50). They will be on sale at all future club functions, or you can buy over the bar at the Black Swan Inn (personal callers only, cash or cheque). Alternatively, give me a ring or drop me an e-mail.

And now for some "other" news:

  1. DUCK’S IN RYEDALE. Duck Baker is one of the musicians I mentioned as having collaborated with Stefan Grossman, who describes Duck as "a true genius of the guitar". Duck now lives in London and we enjoyed his playing at the folk club last June. He is coming back north for two shows in Ryedale. On Friday 27 October he is at the Village Hall in Amotherby, on the B1257 near Malton and then on Saturday 28 he performs at the Reading Room in Appleton le Moors, off the A170 near Pickering. Tickets are £7 (£5) and can be booked on 01653 690462.

  2. JUNE TABOR ON CAMPUS. A reminder that also on Friday 27 October June Tabor is in concert at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York. June will be accompanied by her regular band of pianist Huw Warren, Mark Emerson on violin and double bassist Tim Harries. There are still some tickets available at £15 or £12 − contact the Box Office on 01904 432439,

  3. FOLK FESTIVAL IN SHEFFIELD. Once upon a time the folk festival season closed down in the autumn, but now it seems to go on all year round. Sheffield Folk Festival 2006 is one such late year event, taking place from 27 to 29 October, with headline acts such as Spiers & Boden, Jez Lowe, Steve Tilston and Last Night’s Fun. Go to for full details

  4. AND FOLK MUSIC IN SWALEDALE. Reeth Memorial Hall in Swaledale has been running some very exciting folk music concerts over the last year or two. For example, Spiers & Boden are there on Friday 3 November, followed on Friday 1 December by Alistair Anderson and students from the Folk Music degree course in Newcastle. I went to one of these student shows a couple of years ago in Alnwick and found it highly enjoyable. For more about Reeth events ring John Little on 01748 884759 or go to

  5. OVER THE WATER TO HELMSLEY. America Over The Water is a unique and powerful show that relates an epic song-hunting journey in 1959, when Shirley Collins, then a young folk singer from Sussex, accompanied America’s renowned folklorist Alan Lomax through the heartlands of America’s Deep South. Shirley re-told this story in a book last year and now she has turned it into a stage show. The fascinating, passionate, humorous story is told by Shirley and actor Pip Barnes and is illustrated with rare and remarkable music and pictures. The show has been on tour this autumn and comes to Helmsley Arts Centre on Saturday 4 November. Find out more at and

  6. WORLD SOUNDS IN YORK. Finally, a reminder that the National Centre for Early Music runs a World Music strand in its programme, alongside jazz, chamber music and our own folk gigs. Events this season include Iranian group the Payvar Ensemble (Sunday 22 October), Les Dangereuses, a cross cultural collaboration between jazz singer Juliet Roberts, Malian singer Babani Kone and Indian vocalist Swati Natekar (Friday 27 October) and Convivencia: Exploring the Music of Medieval Spain (Friday 3 November). Find out more at

That’s all for now folks. I’ll be back with more folk-related news in early November.