Mid July 2007
Welcome to another folk music bulletin from York, beginning with more information about the next four club nights. For early recipients / readers, let me also remind you that it is the wonderful Pete Morton at the Black Swan this week, Thursday 19 July.
- SINGERS NIGHTS, 26 JULY & 16 AUGUST. Our regular Singers & Musicians Nights are an integral part of what we exist to do as a venue. After all, folk music (more so than other musical genres) is very much about participation, not just a passive performer / audience dichotomy. Attracting anything from 8 or 9 artists through to 18 or 20, mostly of a very high standard, our Singers Nights are always great fun and full of variety and surprise. For those of you who do come just to listen they offer an evening’s entertainment at great value, just £ 2.50 admission (£ 1.50 for concessions), while performers are asked to put a token £ 1 in the kitty to help club funds. Our club "regulars" take turns to act as MC, with the baton held by John Cherry on 26 July and passing on to David Swann on 16 August.
- JONATHAN MARTIN RETURNS TO YORK. Jonathan Martin was a nineteenth century eccentric who famously tried to burn down York Minster on 2 February 1829. Brought up at Norton near Stockton-on-Tees, trained as a tanner and living in Darlington for a while, Martin had an eventful if erratic life before arriving in York and committing the crime that condemned him to end his days in a lunatic asylum. His unusual story has been set to music by John Lawson, using period songs and tunes alongside especially composed pieces and interspersed with narration which draws on Martin’s own writings. The Ballad of Jonathan Martin is performed by The Otterby Band, who are resident musicians at the lively Stockton Folk Club: John Lawson himself, Cris Yelland, Helen Pitt & Steve Dawes, Joy & John Rennie, Mike Shorttle and (health permitting) the club’s founder and mainstay Ron Angel.
Some members of The Otterby Band came to a Black Swan Singers Night about 18 months ago and performed a few pieces from the Ballad. I then saw the whole work performed at last year’s Saltburn Folk Festival and thought how appropriate it would be to bring the show to York, where Martin entered the history books. I am delighted that this has proved possible and I hope that we get a Full House for this rather special event, which takes place on Thursday 2 August. It is a pay-on-the-door night, although (as always) I am happy to take reservations beforehand. Entry is just £ 5 (concessions £ 4), with proceeds being donated to the mental health charity MIND. Do come along if you possibly can!
- THE RESURGENCE OF MICK SHEEHAN. Staying with the area of Cleveland and northern North Yorkshire, a regular fixture on the 70s and early 80s folk scene was singer/guitarist Mick Sheehan, performing traditional Irish and North East English folk songs alongside striking self-penned numbers both serious and humorous. Then came Thatcherism and Mick stopped writing in 1985. As he puts it "(I’d) worked in heavy industry and was then in a factory, and so had become an endangered species once the ’economic miracle’ hit the town. The next eighteen years were all about survival − no time for fanciful pursuits such as songwriting".
I’d subconsciously filed Mick Sheehan in the "long gone folk artists − where are they now?" category when out of the blue last winter a CD landed on my doormat. Apparently Mick suddenly regained his muse in 2003 and the outstanding results are showcased on Whiskey Refugees. The songs are passionate, sometimes angry, sometimes reflective, openly biographical yet rooted in the folk tradition − I rate it amongst the best albums of the year so far, and certainly the most unexpected. My judgement is mirrored by enthusiastic reviews in (amongst others) Rock & Reel: "credence, honesty and emotion ... some of the most memorable songs to have emerged from the folk revival" and Living Tradition: "raw with plenty of rough edges but full of passion ... a powerful musical biography". I immediately approached Mick about a booking and so you can judge for yourselves if you come along on Thursday 9 August. Entry is again just £ 5 (concessions £ 4).
As an added incentive on 9 August there will be a Feature Spot by another, though very different, songwriter, Simon Hopper. Based down south and endorsed by (amongst others) Clive Gregson, Simon is at the contemporary end of modern folk and says "file, if you must, under jazz-influenced, acoustic, soul-based folk rock". His CD earlier this year, A Land For The Many, picked up some favourable notices, and as he and his band are in Yorkshire for other gigs, he offered to drop in at the Black Swan, probably accompanied by Andee Price on bass. Feature Spots are not a normal element in Black Swan programming, but on this occasion I thought it worth a try. Simon will do around 20/25 minutes at the start of the second half, with floor singers as usual during the beginning of the first half.
Next, an appeal for musicians:
- HEALTH, HAPPINESS ... & MUSIC. I have been approached by an organisation called Holistic Touch who are running a Health & Happiness Fair at the Friends Meeting House in York on Saturday 28 July. Using the various function rooms at the Meeting House, there will be information about topics like food and nutrition, fitness and exercise, complementary therapies and (this is where music comes into it) creativity and self-expression. They are keen to have a few musicians / singers there, to entertain and also to inspire people who might be interested in taking up music, hence they think it would be particularly relevant to any of you involved in teaching music, songwriting, etc. To quote from the e-mail I received:
"If anyone wants to turn up with musical instruments and/or voice they will be most welcome. We will be having a café area where the music will be informal, and we are expecting that this could inspire some of the public to add (an) active music ingredient into their social life".
The event runs 10am to 4pm and is a not-for-profit activity, with any proceeds from the modest door charge donated to charity. If you are interested and want to know more or offer your services, the contact is Mary Ratcliffe on 01904 655326, firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now for news of three other events involving Black Swan "residents":
- NEW SINGERS, NEW SONGS AT SADDLEWORTH. As part of this coming weekend’s Saddleworth Folk Festival there is an event called New Singers, New Songs taking place 6pm-8pm on Saturday (21st) at the Commercial Inn. Described as "a celebration of modern folk songs" those taking part include Stan Graham, David Swann, John Storey and Maggie Allred & Natacha Dauphin. If you are in the area, I am sure you will not need a Festival Ticket to get in.
- DAVID’S BELLE UNION. Talking of David Swann, he and fellow Black Swan supporter John Pritchard are holding a joint concert on Saturday 4 August at the Black Swan Inn, to celebrate the release of their respective new albums. John, who performs with his musical partner Linda Leeming as Belle Union, was of course a finalist in last year’s BBC Song For Yorkshire competition, while David was the overall winner. As well as supporting the folk club, both are heavily involved in the North Yorkshire Songwriters’ Circle. It should be a great evening, so do go along and support them if you can. It is an 8pm start, entry £ 3. Find out more from John on email@example.com.
- JEZ LOWE SAVES THE CHILDREN. Unfortunately clashing with the above event on 4 August is a charity fundraiser for Save The Children at The Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Road in York (YO23 1NZ for those of you on SatNav!). Organised by another Black Swan resident, Geoff Watson (who also has a new CD out), this is headlined by none other than Jez Lowe, with support sets from Dan Webster, Paula Ryan and Geoff himself. The show runs from 8.30 to midnight with a late bar. Entry will be £ 5.50 (concessions £ 4). More info. from Geoff firstname.lastname@example.org. Myself, I’ll probably try to put in appearances at both events!
Lastly, a trio of other interesting events:
- MARTELL & BOYLE. York-based country singer turned spectacular blues vocalist Suzy Martell has been doing some duo dates recently with virtuoso jazz musician Gary Boyle (who also collaborates occasionally with (no relation) Maggie Boyle). You can enjoy some superior jazz/blues from Suzy and Gary at the Black Swan Inn on Saturday 28 July, door charge £ 3.
- DAVE BURLAND IN A FEVA. The annual summer Festival of Entertainment & Visual Arts (FEVA) in Knaresborough always includes some good folk/roots gigs and this year is no exception. The one-and-only Dave Burland headlines at the Frazer Theatre on Tuesday 14 August, ably supported by a relatively new paring of Laura Hockenhull (well known to York audiences) & Damien O’Kane (at the Black Swan on 6 September with his more usual partner Shona Kipling). It’s a 7.30 start and also on the bill are Nick & Mary Barber, Zeke Deighton, The Knaresborough Mummers and morris dancers The Flag & Bone Gang. It sounds great fun, all for £ 7 (concessions £ 5) with tickets available at Knaresborough TIC, 0845 3890 177.
FEVA has something rootsy virtually every day between 10 and 19 August, for example guitar wunderkind Gareth Pearson (10 August), Jon Strong (11 August) and Bob Fox (15 August) plus morris and clog dancers and street entertainers, not to mention theatre, films etc. For the full programme visit www.feva.info.
- AN HONORARY YORKSHIREMAN. Finally, last week’s club guest Kate Bramley would like it to be known that she has been wearing her other, theatrical, hat lately and has written a one-man play about James Herriot’s early days as a Yorkshire vet. Produced by Kate’s Badapple Theatre company, An Honorary Yorkshireman tours North Yorkshire village halls over 16 performances between 9 and 26 August, including (nearest to York) Thorganby (9th), Sheriff Hutton (12th), Whixley (19th) and Dunnington (23rd). For the full itinerary and other information go to www.badapple.freeserve.co.uk or ring Kate on 01423 339168.
If we survive the rains I should be back in another month or so with another bulletin!