20th May 2012
First Birthday Folk Day
Somebody had the bright idea that we could put on three concerts in one day, and throw in a couple of sing and play sessions for good measure. Well, it would be a great way to celebrate the club’s first Birthday, but would we be able to drag enough people away from their Sunday lunches, lawn mowing and sleeping in the hammock? The answer, as it turned out was a resounding ‘yes’, and we had a terrific twelve hours of music and fun!
Some of us had been in the Poppy & Pint since 9am, but the day started for our guests at 11am, when we had a gentle 90 minutes sing and play session. It was gratifying that a dozen or more singers and musicians, and several listeners, turned up to start the day with us.
After a short break, the first of our afternoon concerts got off to a flying start with three new songs written and performed by Dave Collins. Dave is Nottingham born and bred and writes some terrific songs, often with a local flavour, such as his first song of the day ‘Molly Leigh’ about a witchcraft accusation in Burslem on Trent. Notts Alliance then rattled through a very efficient 30 minute set in order to squeeze in as many songs as possible. Between-songs banter was kept to a minimum as they sang some of my favourites of their songs, including Jez Lowe’s ‘Durham Gaol’ and Michael Marra’s clever but so well-observed ‘Beefheart & Bones’ . Very well put together harmonies make Notts Alliance something pretty special.
Jenny Bell is another local musician, and has been singing at folk clubs again in the last few years following a self-imposed absence. Jenny often accompanies her songs with beautiful 12-string guitar playing, but it is her playing of the Lute that really makes her stand out from the crowd, and Jenny’s three songs for this session all featured this rarely seen and rather beautiful instrument.
To close the first concert we had asked our friends GU4, from the Grand Union Folk Club, to give us a 40 minute sample of their rich and varied harmony singing. GU4 always give their all, and make a fabulous sound as they move through an excellent range of material. From the sparkling ‘William Harker’ (written by Leicestershire’s George Thomas), through the traditional ‘White Cockade’ and ‘Marching through the Green Grass’, to the rousing anthem-like ‘Sussex’ (written by GU4’s own Miggy Campbell) they gave us full value. For an encore we were treated to the full force of ‘The Good Old Way’ – I defy anyone to not belt out the chorus with them on this terrific finisher.
After a short break to stretch legs and replenish supplies, we were ready to get the second concert underway – and what better way to start the show than with Nottingham singer and songwriter Marc Block. Marc has been a great supporter of the club during the year, and is very busy on the local scene, either solo or with his band The Breezes. His self-penned songs are top-notch, and he treated us to ‘Windswept Islands’, ‘Davey Cornish’ and ‘One year from now’; before finishing with an unusually up-beat version of the classic ‘Live not where I love’. Several of Marc’s songs can be listened to and downloaded free of charge from his web site by the way.
Mother and daughter duo Catherine Soubre and Claire Halliday then gave us a demonstration of their highly accomplished melodeon playing. Claire is one of the club organisers, and regularly astounds us with her playing, but it was lovely to hear her play this set in partnership with her mum - , who is an excellent musician in her own right. Quercus Minor are a Barber Shop Quartet who turned up at a sing and play session earlier in the year and entertained us so well we just had to ask them back to do a more formal show set. Is it folk? Who cares! They gave us a very polished set of songs including George Harrison’s ‘Something’, the classic ‘Java Jive’, and a Barber Shop special ‘Fit as a Fiddle’, their entry in a forthcoming National competition.
When the club first opened in May 2011, our very first guests were the Derbyshire trio Cupola, who got the club off to a flying start with a sell-out concert; so it seemed only fitting to ask them to come back to help us celebrate at our first Birthday party. Playing mostly European and English dance music, interspersed with some excellent harmony singing, they showed off their versatility by incorporating clarinet, soprano saxophone, melodeons, hurdy-gurdy, fiddle and viola into their sets. I really like their interpretations of songs, and was delighted to hear ‘Sing Ivy’, ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Spencer the Rover’ in their set. Have a look at part of their performance (and admire our sparkly makeshift stage!) in this YouTube clip: http://tinyurl.com/csdrmjl During the interval, while our guests and visitors were taking a well-earned break and catching up with mundane things like eating, there was a lively and varied music session in the bar downstairs, led by Nick Murphy and Wil Walker but including just about everybody we’ve ever seen at the club. A great way to pass the time before our evening concert! Concert Three: The Grand Finale!
For our special night we wanted a special concert, and we got just that in the form of the amazing duo Belshazzar’s Feast. Paul Sartin (Bellowhead and Faustus, among others) and Paul Hutchinson (Hoover the Dog and Fluxus) are skilful musicians in their own right, but together their sense of humour and musical trickery add to the mix to create a thoroughly entertaining show.
Throughout two 45 minute sets the duo gave us beautifully crafted songs (‘Home Lad, Home’,’ The Thresher man’, ‘Begging Song’); funny songs (‘Paid, and Never Asked the Reason Why’); sparkling sets of dance tunes; and very clever and witty pieces, such as the ‘Duelling Banjos’and, ‘Rondo a la Turkey’ (a sort of Mozart/Benny Hill/Turkey in the Straw amalgam). For ‘The Mermaid’ (..while the raging seas did roar, and the stormy winds did blow…) the audience was called upon to join in with arm waving and hand movements, and then with the words to a medley of half-remembered sing-a-long songs.
Tonight, the club organisers put themselves to the fore for a change, with Phil, Julie and Dave reprising ‘John Ball’ – the first song ever sung at the club (they’ll get it right eventually) to start the night, and Claire playing us into the second half. It had been a fabulous concert to finish a fabulous day; but we weren’t quite out of energy …
And, to finish…
… a good number of us didn’t know when to say enough is enough, and we rearranged the furniture for another hour of singing and playing for those with enough stamina. Then, at 11.15pm, more than twelve hours after we started, we drew proceedings to a close. Very many thanks to everyone who has supported the club during its first year. It has been a far greater success than we could have ever imagined, and it is largely thanks to the support of all our sing and play guests, all our concert performers, and a fair bit of hard work from the organisers. For the Birthday Concerts, a big thank you to all of our performers for the day, to the organising team, to Nick for excellent work on the sound, and to the hordes of people who bought tickets. And a huge thank- you to the management of the Poppy and Pint (a great pub, also celebrating its first birthday that week) who had faith in us and have supported us throughout.
Here’s to the next one!
Also on the same weekend was the Lady Bay Arts Festival On the Saturday the folk club in conjunction with local artist Rod Bailey presented our own arts installation in the form of 'A Human Jukebox'.