Sunday 21st July 2013
The Poppy and Pint, Pierrepont Road,
Lady Bay, West Bridgford, Nottingham.
A whole night of melodeon playing - and no singing?
At least, that was my first thought when we talked about booking Andy Cutting for the club. Well, it turned out my fears were unfounded - most of the population of the East Midlands wanted to listen to a whole night of diatonic button accordion playing (as Andy prefers to call it), and the concert was another fabulous sell-out. Since the 2013 concert flyers were printed we'd had a steady stream of friends asking when they could buy tickets!
Of course, Andy is not just any old box player. He's a total master of the instrument and is sought out by most of the top names in folk music as the first choice accompanist. From his work with Blowzabella, Kate Rusby, Martin Simpson, June Tabor and Chris Wood, to name just a few, he has become the undisputed number one. But what we don't get to hear very often is a solo Andy Cutting performance, so this was a very special night for the club.
The first job of the night was to pick someone to do 'one from the floor' to start the night - difficult because the concert had attracted a host of excellent musicians, so we were spoiled for choice. That was until we spotted that all the members of Cupola (who were the first ever act to play at the Poppy!) were there so we persuaded them to do what was probably their shortest ever gig - one song. They did us proud with their version of John Barleycorn.
Then it was time to welcome Andy to the stage. His two sets were packed with incredible musicianship, wonderfully arranged familiar tunes and, of course, many of his own compositions. He started with a pair of tunes which I think are his best - Flat World and In Continental Mood. "You might hear that one again a bit later" he said, having been tipped off to something we had planned for the interval. The whole show was superb, but my favourite moments were the very clever 'fade-out' at the end of a lively medley of morris tunes (Cuckoo's Nest/Old Molly Oxford); a Swiss-styled tune played on a one-row Castagnari; and his lovely version of another morris tune - Haste to the Wedding. Almost as good as the music were the introductions and anecdotes (and the odd recipe suggestion) between the tunes. Andy is a modest man and has a manner that draws the audience in, fascinates them, then leaves them laughing. Frankly, it was all just excellent!
Now, back to 'In Continental Mood' - a very hard tune to play but Phil Preen, Poppy Folk Club organiser and part-time thinker up of crazy ideas, had been telling all the musicians who were coming that night to learn it, as best they could, to play it in a massed performance. And so it was that straight after the interval about 20 musicians - concertinas, guitars, a couple of harmonicas, drums, several melodeons (and Andy's own diatonic button accordion, of course!) and with Oli Matthews' soprano saxophone ringing out, somehow made a very passable job of the tune - led and kept (almost) in time by Claire Halliday. I think Andy may have enjoyed it almost as much as we did - or if not he hid it well. Keep coming up with the mad ideas, Phil!
Thanks to the folks who stayed back to have a very pleasant hour or so of singing and playing after the concert - a nice end to great evening.