Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 73

Early October 2007

This edition is rather later than anticipated, due to technical problems with Hotmail, where most of the club address book is stored. As usual I will begin with the folk club’s own events and then give you other snippets of news and upcoming events.

  1. MALINKY – SCOTLAND’S LEADING YOUNG FOLKSONG GROUP. It may be their own publicity pitch, but in Malinky’s case I think it is a fully justified claim. The band combines an array of vocal talent with a distinctive instrumental palette, giving fresh yet timeless arrangements to both traditional and modern Scottish songs. Malinky are our special guests on Tuesday 23 October at the National Centre for Early Music and I for one can hardly wait.
    Malinky first emerged at the Celtic Connections Festival in 1999 as winners of the Danny Kyle Open Stage award. At a time when most new Scottish bands were focusing on instrumental sounds, their song-centred repertoire marked them out as special. Their burgeoning reputation was consolidated by the magnificent 2002 CD Three Ravens, while their equal prowess on the live stage was confirmed for us when they gave an excellent night at NCEM in 2004.
    At that time Karine Polwart and Leo McCann were members of Malinky. When Karine’s solo career took off, some thought it spelled the end for the band, but they bounced back majestically with another fine album in late 2005, The Unseen Hours, featuring new members Fiona Hunter and Ewan MacPherson. “A new, exciting chapter has definitely begun” wrote The Scotsman. Malinky continue to perform across Britain and Europe whenever opportunity arises and a new CD is currently in the pipeline. Find out much more about them at
    The full line-up is Fiona Hunter (vocals, cello), Steve Byrne (vocals, bouzouki, cittern and guitar), Ewan MacPherson (mandolin, guitar, backing vocals), Mark Dunlop (vocals, bodhran, whistle, flute) and Jon Bews (fiddle, backing vocals). All of them are also involved in other musical projects and Steve, for example, has been seen in York previously with The Emily Smith Band, while Ewan was at NCEM as recently as last February with Scots/Norwegian trio Fribo.
    Opening act on 23 October will be the Scarborough-based singer Anna Shannon who won last year’s BBC Radio York songwriting competition. It’s a 7.30pm start, with tickets priced at £12 (concessions £10). So far, I must confess, sales have been a tad disappointing. It would be a great pity if local music lovers missed out on this one (as well as being a financial headache for the club!) Book your tickets soon on or via the Box Office on 01904 658338.
    While there are still ample tickets available for Malinky’s concert, I should point out that the Martin Simpson show at NCEM tomorrow, 9 October, is within a whisker of being Sold Out. The Vin Garbutt concert on 4 December is also selling very well, as is the Black Swan Inn evening with John Wright on 13 December.


  2. EMBER – ECLECTIC, ASSESSIBLE AND CAPTIVATING. This Thursday, 11 October, our club guests are an engaging young duo called Ember, comprising Emily Williams, from Wales, and American Rebecca Sullivan. They write all their own material, play guitar and fiddle, and draw on influences from far and wide. Above all, the singing is superb and the presentation relaxed and enthusiastic.
    Here is a quote from folk magazine Taplas: “Highly individual songs ... meltingly fine harmony lines that turn your knees to jelly ... breathtaking and exhilarating”, while The Western Telegraph said “Perfect harmony vocals are integral to the Ember sound, as is their mastery of acapella, and their often humorous take on men and the mundane ensures that they are always entertaining”. Other writers have even compared them with the likes of the Be Good Tanyas and Indigo Girls!
    Entry for this one is £6 (concessions £5) and floor performers will include another young female singer/songwriter Val Marshall, visiting us from Hull.


  3. WIZZ JONES RETURNS. No lengthy introductions should be needed for our guest on 18 October. Wizz Jones has been one of our favourite “regular” guests for many years, most recently during his 65th Birthday tour in 2004. He was one of the great pioneers of British folk/blues guitar playing in the early 1960s, a contemporary of Davey Graham, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn and an influence on countless later guitarists. Though he has never enjoyed major celebrity, Wizz has never lost his enthusiasm for the music and he is laying as wonderfully as ever. He is also a fine singer and has a wide repertoire of contemporary songs, country blues and self-penned numbers. He is a delightfully modest bloke and it is always a pleasure to spend an evening in his company.
    This one is a pay-on-the-door night, but as always I am happy to take reservations if you want to contact me beforehand. Entry is £8 or £6.50 for concessions.


  4. USE OF AMPLIFICATION AT THE CLUB. I have had some correspondence lately over the use of PA at our club venue, and it occurred to me that it might be worth putting something in the Newsletter as well. To put it briefly, the Black Swan room is far from ideal acoustically. A lot of sound gets soaked up by carpets, curtains, tapestry, human bodies, etc., and there can also be intrusive noise both from the street and from elsewhere in the pub. The folk club therefore invested in a small club PA kit a few years ago, to boost the sound where required. Not all artists opt to use it. Some bring their own equipment, others ask for PA on their contracts but then decide not to use it once they have seen the room, others are confident of their projection and do not even ask for PA to be provided.
    When PA is used, it has two functions – overall volume, and balance between different instruments and voices. The club PA is controlled on-stage, so levels have to be set before we begin, and this is not an exact science. The acoustic character of the room can change subtly once it has 40 or 50 people in it! If you are ever attending the club and have concerns about poor sound balance or excessive (or inadequate) volume, please bring them discreetly to the attention of the MC for the night (or myself) and we will do what we can to make adjustments.
    Next, a miscellany of local news, beginning with news of a very important meeting:


  5. FOLK DAY 2008 OPEN MEETING. There will be an Open Meeting at the Black Swan Inn on Wednesday 17 October to discuss our options for the City of York Folk Day 2008. This is open to anyone who has positive ideas and assistance to contribute. The more participants the merrier, I always say!
    The major topic to discuss is an invitation from our landlord Mike Dobson to run the event over Saturday AND Sunday next year. After five year’s build up, we are now doing the most we possibly can with a one day / one venue folk event. At the same time, none of the pub’s recent efforts to utilise the marquee on Sundays (jazz, indie bands) have been all that successful and in any event they leave the indoor rooms under-used on that day. There are strong arguments both for and against going to a two day Folk Weekend, so we need to thrash it out.
    Another decision to be made is over date. Do we stick with the usual weekend, i.e. 17 (and possibly 18) May in 2008, or could we move a bit later in the year, say 31 May and possibly 1 June? Come along and have your say. The meeting will begin at 8.00 and will probably be held in the Oak Room. And if you can’t make it to the meeting but want to register an opinion or suggestion, please send me an e-mail.


  6. CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS AT THE SWAN. Chris Euesden is now selling tickets for the very special gig he is running by Chris and Julie at the Black Swan Inn on Tuesday 30 October. This will be much the smallest venue on the lasses’ autumn tour and promises to be a delightfully intimate and inspiring event. Tickets are priced at £10 and can be obtained from Chris on 01904 610899 – ring him to earmark your tickets and get his address, then (Royal Mail permitting) send him payment by cheque (payable to Circuit Music Ltd) together with an SAE. Tickets can also be bought online at, where a booking fee will be added, or from myself at the next couple of club Thursdays. Doors will open at 7.45 on the night, with live music from 8.15 from support act Tom Euesden. Chris and Julie themselves will be on stage at 9.00.


  7. FOLK ROCK MUSICIANS WANTED! Peter Hall writes “I’ve recently moved to York and am putting a folk/rock band together. The idea is to play foot-tapping music (Waterboys, Pogues, Oysterband, etc.) as well as writing original material, having fun and gigging whenever we can. So far I’ve recruited a drummer and lead guitarist/vocalist. I myself play rhythm guitar and mandolin, and I need fiddle, flute, accordion and bass to complete the line-up.” If that sounds like it could be your thing, contact Peter on 07810 718374 or on


  8. YORKSHIRE GARLAND WEBSITE LIVE. By all accounts the recent Yorkshire Garland launch event at the NCEM was a very enjoyable and positive day. The organisation’s website is now live at, though it remains very much a work-in-progress at this stage.


  9. YOUNG FIDDLERS PLAY ON. York Young Fiddlers continue to be a very active group for players between the ages of 8 and 18. Open to both beginners and more skilled players, the group offers a series of Saturday workshops with resident tutor Robin Shepherd. The next ones are on 13 October (afternoon) and then on 24 November (all day, with guest tutor Geoff Bowen). New Year dates include 26 January (afternoon) and 5 April (all day, with guest tutor Tom McConville). All sessions take place “in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere” at York Steiner School. Find out more via


  10. HOUSE CONCERTS IN YORK. House concerts are a long-established aspect of the music scene in America and many British folk artists now do some such performances during their US tours. Basically, artists perform in private houses to invited audiences in return for donations. House concerts are spreading to Britain and a family near York has taken the plunge. See for information. The artists invited so far are “modern” songwriters, rather than mainstream folk, but all live music is worth supporting, so far as I am concerned.


  11. ANYONE FOR A DANCE? Next, a reminder about the York Ceilidh Club, which meets on the second Sunday of each month at St Aelred’s Church Hall in Tang Hall. New members are always welcome “to learn lively dances from a wide repertoire of folk and barn dance traditions”. All dances are taught and called, so you don’t need to be an expert dancer. Dances run 7.30 to 10.00 with a charge of £2.50, including light refreshments. Dates for the rest of 2007 are 14 October, 11 November and 9 December. Find out more at


  12. VIRTUOSO FIDDLE AT THE BLACK SWAN. Violinist Zoe Conway is a virtuoso musician from Ireland, currently making a short trip to England, who is equally at home on the classical stage and playing Irish traditional folk.
    Indeed, she is a former All Ireland Senior Fiddle Champion! With the help of a local friend she has arranged a concert for Monday 15 October at the Black Swan Inn, when she will be accompanied by guitarist John McIntyre. There are only around 15 tickets left, priced at £7. To book yours or for more information, contact Judy Weyman on xxxxxxxx, or via email xxxxxxxxx. Zoe’s website is at


  13. CAPERCAILLIE VS. BOO HEWERDINE. On Sunday 28 October in York you can choose between Capercaille at the Grand Opera House and Boo Hewerdine at The Junction on Leeman Road. Capercaillie, fronted by Karen Matheson and with Mike McGoldrick in the line-up, are credited as one of Scotland’s finest Celtic bands, “an intoxicating blend of traditional Gaelic songs and instrumentals with a contemporary attitude”. They have been at the forefront of the renaissance of Gaelic music throughout the last 20 years. Tickets are £16 and £18 from the Box Office on 0870 6063595 or online at
    Over at the Junction, the next “Acoustic Sunday” event on 28 October headlines singer/songwriter Boo Hewerdine, also a famed record producer and collaborator with the likes of Eddi Reader and Clive Gregson. Completing the bill are Alastair Artingstall and organiser Miles Cain. Tickets are £7, reservable on 07766 346586.


  14. 14. SCANDINAVIAN SOUNDS AT YORK UNIVERSITY. Lastly, I’ve been asked to direct your attention to a concert at Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York University, on Wednesday 31 October. Acclaimed early music vocal group Trio Mediaeval join forces with Norwegian folk drummer Birger Mistereggen in a programme of traditional songs from Norway arranged for voices and percussion and including some of the distinctive “tulling” songs without words (rather like Gaelic mouth music, I suspect). The concert is part of a tour to launch the Trio’s new CD and is a return to their Scandinavian roots following three releases of early and contemporary sacred music. Tickets are £12 or £14 on 01904 432439, online at, and it is a 7.30 start.


Must stop! Once again I’ve filled 4 pages (in the print version) and I will have to skip many other interesting events taking place outside York. My apologies to my various fellow promoters, but Newsletter priority has to go first to the club’s own activities, then to specifically York-based news and events. I’ll try to be back with another bulletin in two weeks or so and hopefully I can make amends then!