Although we already knew the Melrose Quartet to be highly talented and entertaining musicians (we had them at the Poppy Folk Club in November 2017, and we’ve seen them several times at other venues), nothing could have prepared us for the brilliant night of music and fun that was our Christmas concert!
The Quartet (James Fagan, Nancy Kerr, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith) have put together a show for Christmas and the New Year (called ‘A Bright New Year’) featuring some excellent contemporary songs alongside some of the terrific rousing carols from the South Yorkshire ‘Village Carols’ tradition, all performed with passion and enthusiasm. Mixed with all this were a very seasonal quiz and a Christmas Jumper competition!
After starting the show with ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ and a lovely rendition of the ancient ‘Lullay My Liking’, it was soon time for the first quiz. Based on the ‘Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ game of One Song to the Tune of Another, the idea was for the audience to identify the tunes for twelve versions of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” scattered throughout the evening. Some were easy, some so hard to pick out with the ‘wrong’ words, but all sung with enormous fun as well as considerable skill.
The tie-breaker (two teams got all twelve tunes!), in a nice touch typical of the of the way the show was put together, involved attempting to throw knitted brussel sprouts through a halo worn by Nancy!
Of the carols from the Yorkshire pub singing tradition we had rousing singing of ‘While Shepherds’ to the Liverpool tune, Diadem, Mount Moriah (one of my favourites), and Hail Smiling Morn (written locally – by Rev. Spofforth of Southwell, in 1810)! The audience joined in with everything and the atmosphere in the packed room was terrific!
There have been some excellent songs written more recently to reflect Christmas and Mid-Winter, and the Quartet performed several, including Nancy’s lovely ‘A strange Time to Bloom’; Jess’s uplifting ‘Bright New Year’; Paul Davenport’s ‘Come, See the Boys Go Round’; Peter Smith’s ‘Sheffield Wassail’; and John Kirkpatrick’s full-on, almost orchestral ‘Chariots’. With a more serious message, Robb Johnson’s ‘Boxing Day’ speaks of inequality; while Si Kahn’s ‘New Year’s Eve’ was dedicated to that great Sheffield singer and activist Roy Bailey who we lost just over a year ago.
Another dedication, close to James Fagan’s heart, was to the fire fighters on Queensland and New South Wales who – mostly as volunteers – are currently fighting fires across Eastern Australia. James has family in the Blue Mountains area who have their car permanently packed with emergency survival kit ready to go! The song, written by fellow Australian John Wheeler, was ‘The Three Drovers’.
Rapturous applause brought the Quartet back for an encore of the Yorkshire version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas – ‘We Singers Make Bold’ – a lovely way to finish a wonderful evening!
We’ve had some excellent performances at the Poppy Folk Club over the years, but several people came up to us after the show to tell us they couldn’t remember ever having such a good time at a concert – and I think I agree with them!
A big “thank you” should also go to the Loud Harold Carollers who sang to start each half of the show.
Let’s hope 2020 brings more great nights of music to all who visit the Poppy!