Mid February 2008
It has been a longer interval between newsletters than I had envisaged and hence this is a real bumper edition. We begin with one piece of good news and one tragic loss:
- MICHAEL, MARIE & MEGAN TOO. Congratulations to Michael and Marie Jary! Their daughter Megan Rose was born on Friday 1st February, a little later than expected and weighing in at a robust 8lb 15oz in those old imperial measures. Mother and child are both doing well and Michael is being kept busy as the doting father. I’ve tried distracting him briefly from the nappies with a few amendments to the club website which he maintains for us, and of course he’ll be back at the sound desk for the first of our NCEM concerts next month (of which more below).
- JOHN WRIGHT R.I.P. Suddenly and totally unexpectedly, John Wright passed away last week. He had been feeling unwell and was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, but the doctors were unable to save him from seems to have been a brain aneurism and he died peacefully on Thursday. What a monumental loss. As we witnessed less than two months ago at the Black Swan, John was a superlative singer at the peak of his powers and he had legions of friends and admirers across Europe and beyond. He was also a lovely, unassuming bloke. He stayed with me on several occasions after shows in York and it was always a pleasure to have him in the house. Our condolences go to his widow Barbara (whom he had married only a month or so ago), his family and his many musical collaborators.
Next, a look at up-coming club events and other club news:
- VALENTINE SINGERS. This week’s Singers & Musicians Night happens to fall on St Valentine’s Day, 14th February, and while there is no official “theme” to the evening, I would expect to hear a few love songs! Eddie Affleck acts as MC.
- BRYONY’S WELCOME RETURN TO YORK. I am greatly looking forward to the visit of the re-formed Bryony on 21st February. I settled in York in 1982, which was not long after three excellent local singers had joined forces as Bryony: Alison Younger, Cathy Barclay and Ailsa Mackenzie. Singly and in harmony they sang a great selection of songs both modern and traditional, with stylish accompaniment on both hammered and Appalachian dulcimers, recorders and (these days) harp as well. They were often to be heard at the Black Swan and indeed Alison was our resident MC for a while around 1983/85.
Bryony made quite a big impact on the national folk scene, appearing at numerous festivals and producing several LP records before changing personal circumstances took them away from York in differing directions and they split up the band in 1986. They all stayed involved with music in some way – Alison, for example, continues to work with Les Barker in The Mrs Ackroyd Band. Twenty years or so down the line they got back together and do a limited number of club and festival dates each year. Another “old hand” from the 1980s, Eddie Affleck, again acts as host for this one and entry is £6 on the door (£5 concessions).
- CONTRASTING DUOS: KIRSTY & MAT, EMMA & ROGER. “British hobopop” is the term Kirsty McGee & Mat Martin (28th February) have coined for their subtly performed self-penned acoustic music in that rich territory where influences from folk, country and rock music overlap. Kirsty is a writer of real class (“perfect understatement – not an extraneous word or note” says Karine Polwart) and Mat acts as a gifted foil on guitar, mandolin and banjo. Add their delightful stage presence and you have one of the best young contemporary acts around.
By contrast, Emma Reid & Roger Wilson (6th March) focus on more traditional music, particularly that of Sweden (upon which Emma is an expert) and Britain, though augmented by their distinctive take on some modern numbers and indeed Roger’s own songs, of which he has just released a whole CD. Emma plays fiddle while Roger (whose track record includes Wood Wilson Carthy, The House Band, Urban Folk and many other outfits, as well as a long solo career) sings and plays guitar or second fiddle. Note that Emma replaces Karen Tweed, originally listed for tonight, who has had to cut back her touring schedule for family reasons.
- JENNA REID TO LAUNCH OUR NCEM SEASON. The new programme brochure for the National Centre for Early Music is now circulating and very fine it looks, in a new A5 format with full colour and many more illustrations. Aside from our folk concerts, you will find full details of the Centre’s world music events, which begin with Chinese lute and harp player Liu Fang on 22nd February, plus the Jazz Weekend in May and classical and early music concerts. All dates are also on the website at www.ncem.co.uk and can be booked online or on 01904 658338.
One particularly stunning picture is of Shetland musician Jenna Reid, who kicks off our folk concert series on Tuesday 18th March with her band. Equally stunning as a musician, on fiddle and accordion, and a gifted singer to boot, Jenna is a past winner of the “Best Up & Coming” category in the Scots Trad Music Awards. She also performs with young Shetland band Filska, with Scottish supergroup Deaf Shepherd and with Julie Fowlis and others in Dòchas, which is where we first witnessed her dynamic musicianship in York in 2006. On this tour she is joined by her sister Bethany on piano and fiddle, guitarist Kevin Mackenzie and double bass player Duncan Lyall for what promises to be a first-rate evening of Scottish music and song. As indicated above, tickets are now booking at the NCEM Box Office (or you can buy from me on Thursdays) and they cost £12 or £10.
Future NCEM folk concert guests are young English singers The Young Coppers on Friday 4th April, “Best Group of the Year” Lau (see item 9 below) on Monday 21st April and Canadian favourites Tanglefoot on Tuesday 6th May. That makes something for just about everyone, I’d have said! All concerts are now booking.
- CLUB ACCOUNTS HEALTHILY IN THE BLACK. The club’s unusual financial year runs from 1st February, so I have just been doing the final sums for the twelve months to 31st January 2008. The figures look extremely good. We ended the year with a trading surplus of £867, which equates to 3.7% of our total income of £23,239, and our total funds now stand at a record £4,300. This strong performance was largely due to a very successful final quarter, with several full houses at the Black Swan and one (Vin Garbutt) at the Early Music Centre.
Looked at by event type, our overall NCEM concert programme of 7 events only just broke even (£155 surplus), whereas Black Swan Guest Nights (37 in total) generated a surplus of £828 and 15 Singers Nights raised a further £821. Taken together, these surpluses were more than enough to cover our general running costs, of which the biggest components were publicity material (posters, leaflets and advertisements, £522), postage (£236) and stationery (£150).
Healthy finances are matched by our audience figures, which were the best for five years. Average attendance at club Guest Nights was 36.5 (which excludes floor performers and complimentary admissions), compared with 33.7 in 2006/7, and at NCEM concerts the average was 150.3, up from 126.9 in 2006/7
While the Folk Club does not exist to make a profit, it is always gratifying to be in modest surplus rather than loosing funds. We have already spent a small sum on some new microphone stands and may make one or two further improvements to our PA kit and other equipment. For the rest, having a healthy bank balance ensures we can keep on doing what we do for a long time to come. If anyone wants to see the financial summary, I usually have copies with me on Thursdays.
- CLUB MAILING LIST REVISION. Since the last E-News mailshot I have been busy tidying up e-mail contact lists. I have added full names to most e-addresses, and many of you will find yourself in a different mailing group, as signified by the number in brackets in the e-mail Subject line. If I’ve got anything wrong, or indeed if you wish to un-subscribe, do please let me know. For the record, there are now 699 addresses on the list. Why not suggest a friend to be number 700!
Followed by a miscellany of other news items:
- FOLK AWARDS 2008. Last week saw the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ceremony and as usual there was a healthy number of winning artists with whom the Black Swan has been associated. For example Lau were voted Best Group and are coming up at NCEM on 21st April, while last autumn’s NCEM guest Martin Simpson carried off gongs for Album of the Year and Best Original Song. Also, The Young Coppers (at NCEM on 4th April) are involved in the Imagined Village project which took the Best Traditional Song award, and Julie Fowlis (who played NCEM with Dòchas in 2006, alongside Jenna Reid) was named Best Artist.
I was pleased to see Rachel Unthank & The Winterset getting an award, although this was in the Horizon category for Best New Act, which was a bit odd considering how long they have been around – we presented them at NCEM back in November 2006! Incidentally, while browsing through an abandoned copy of The Sun on the train the other day (not my usual read, I hasten to add) I was amazed to find a full page feature on the Unthanks. Well done their publicist!
- MUSICIANS NO LONGER IN RESIDENCE. The Musicians in Residence support scheme, which I profiled as recently as E-News 75, has fallen victim to the latest round of Arts Council cuts and will be wound up. To quote the management-speak “the reasons given indicate that (it) is not viewed as a key priority with significant strategic value or potential for the (Yorkshire) region”. We had two applications in the pipeline for 2008/9, for which we have been told we will still receive some support, but they will be our last. They are David Moss & Masha Kaestner in April and Tom Bliss in September.
- HAXBY LONGSWORD DANCE. There is a rich tradition of Longsword dancing in Yorkshire, with notable examples recorded in places from Grenoside, near Sheffield, to Loftus, Sleights and Goathland in the north east of the county. Around York, traditional dances are known from Askham Richard, Escrick and Haxby. Local enthusiast Peter Turner now tells me he intends to start a website devoted to the Haxby Longsword Dance, “to collect information on the history and performance of the dance and to stimulate new performances by experienced teams in the village over the next few years”. As a first step (pun not intentional!), there should be at least two performances in Haxby during the International Sword Dance Spectacular which takes place in York 23rd-26th May. More news on the website (and on the Sword Spectacular) in due course.
- EDWINA WANTS A DRINK. Edwina Hayes, who launched the year for us so well last month, tells me that her long-awaited second album, entitled Pour Me A Drink, will be released on 22nd February and can now be pre-ordered through her website www.edwinahayes.com or through her MySpace page. “I’m very proud of this record”, she says “and couldn’t be happier with it”. She is back in York at The Junction, Leeman Road, on Sunday 24th February, plays the Folk Club in her home town of Driffield on 1st March and appears at the monthly Processed Pea club at Etton, near Beverley, on 1st April.
- YORK MUSIC SHOPS HEALTHY. While record shops are struggling (witness last year’s demise of Track Records) and the Cert 18 rock music venue has closed, the music instrument business in York seems in good health, reflecting a keen local interest in live music making. Rockola Music (www.rockolamusic.co.uk) has just moved to larger premises on Colliergate (opposite Barnitt’s), while MOR Music (www.mormusic.co.uk) continues to flourish in Fossgate and Banks Music on Lendal has not only a wide range of instruments but also a comprehensive stock of sheet music and accessories. Not forgetting Acomb Music out there on Front Street in (you guessed it) Acomb (www.acombmusic.co.uk). All of which must be a bigger concentration of music businesses than in most cities of this size.
For specialist folk and world music instruments, tune books, tutors and accessories we are fortunate to have several excellent firms within easy reach, notably The Music Room (www.themusicroom-online.co.uk) in Cleckheaton and Hobgoblin Music (www.hobgoblin.com) in Leeds, plus others in Wakefield and Huddersfield.
Finally, a summary of some other musical events in and near York over coming weeks
- HANK COMES TO THORGANBY. The enterprising folks at Thorganby Village Hall present Hank Wangford & Reg Meuross next Saturday, 16th February. Doors open at 7pm for an 8pm start and tickets are £10 (£8 concessions). To check for availability, contact Rob Worthington on 01904 448220 or call in at The Ferryboat Inn.
- STEINER SCHOOL BENEFIT NIGHT. The following Saturday, 23rd February, there is a fundraising concert for the York Steiner School, specifically to help pay for improvements to their heating system. It is at St Helen’s Church in the city centre (opposite Betty’s Café) and sounds like a largely a-cappella vocal delight with world music choir Chechelele, top quartet Soundsphere and local duo Purple Delta. It is a 7.30 start and tickets are a modest £7, available via the school office on 01904 654983, email@example.com. Advance booking is advised.
- UNION CENTRAL BACK IN ACTION. Popular Alison Krauss-tribute band Union Central tell me they are back at the Black Swan Inn on Saturday 1st March. Doors open 8pm for an 8.30 start and entry is £5. Maggie Allred, who plays in both Purple Delta and Union Central, likes to keep busy!
- STRONG WORDS & SWANSONGS. As part of the York Literature Festival, Oz Hardwick and David Ward Maclean have organised an event at the Black Swan Inn on Monday 10th March, promising “some of York’s finest contemporary writers and acoustic musicians in this most historic of hostelries”. It is just £3 on the door from 8pm. Find out more from Oz on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- THE FAKE THACKRAYS RETURN. Following last year’s successful events, here is advance notice that there will be two further Jake Thackray nights at All Saints Hall in Upper Poppleton near York, on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th March at 7.30pm. Performers will include David Shaw-Parker, Hugh Bradley and John Watterson, the latter two of whom also featured in our own Jake Night last summer. Tickets are £12.50, to include pie & peas supper (or veggie alternative) and proceeds will again go to the Candlelighters children’s cancer charity. Both nights sold out last year, so early booking is advised, via 01904 794184 or email@example.com.
- COME SING AT THE MINSTER. Also repeated from last year is the Come Sing event at York Minster on Saturday 5th April. “From bathroom warbler to opera star” they say “come and sing or listen to songs from around the world. If you love to sing, come and join us. No experience? No problem!” It is all in support of YUMI, the York Unifying and Multicultural Initiative (www.yumiyork.org), and as last year “to learn the songs which will be sung, you are welcome to one (or all) of the advance workshops”. These take place on Saturday afternoons at the Priory Street Centre on 16th and 23rd February, 8th, 15th and 29th March. Workshops cost £3 each and admission at the Minster itself will be £5. Find out more from Helen on 01423 358801, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- FURTHER AFIELD. Just time to squeeze in some events in the wider region:
- Kirkby Fleetham Folk Club’s Winter Warmer Weekend takes place 15th-17th February at the Black Horse Inn (off the A1 near Leeming Bar). Artists appearing include the Duncan McFarlane Band, Jez Lowe, our own Stan Graham, Diad and Two Black Sheep, Anna Shannon, The Hall Brothers, Wendy Arrowsmith and loads more. More info from Paul on 01609 748259.
- Tom McConville & Dave Wood are at Howden Shire Hall on Saturday 16th February. Tickets £10 via www.digyorkshire.com or 01430 431535.
- Guitar virtuoso Pete Smith, “equally at home with jazz, folk and blues” is at Goole Arts Theatre on Saturday 23rd February. Pete, who is Taylor Guitar’s UK Clinician, will of course be at the Black Swan on 27th March when he accompanies US singer Debra Cowan. Goole tickets £7 through DigYorkshire or on 01405 763652.
- Folk Awards 2008 best duo John Tams & Barry Coope are at The Priestley in Little Germany, Bradford, on Saturday 1st March. Tickets £10, once again through DigYorkshire or on 01274 820666.
- Marvellous Scottish folk singer Emily Smith is at Otley Courthouse with her band on Friday 7th March. Tickets £9 in advance also via DigYorkshire or 01943 467466.
- The first of three professional Storytelling events takes place at Wass, near Helmsley, on Saturday 8th March. Irish storytellers Clare Muireann Murphy and Diarmuid O Drisceoil are at the Village Hall at 7.30pm as part of an Arts Council-supported tour. Tickets £5 from Linda on 01347 868703, email@example.com.
Five pages in the print version - that really must be your lot! Hopefully I’ll be back early in March.