Poppy Folk Day - Sunday 9th March 2014
After last year's snow-bound Poppy Folk Day (well, it was held in January) we thought we'd play safe and try March for the 2014 event. And it worked - the day dawned bright and sunny; and it turned out to be the most pleasant March day you could wish for. A lovely day to be out for a walk, a picnic, out on the river … or at a folk day indoors!
Thankfully there were quite a few people who liked the sound of the latter option, and they were treated to twelve hours of excellent music, song and stories.
A Way Through The Woods
First up - something new for this year's Folk Day. To encourage the families in the Lady Bay community to give us a try we invited the award-winning actress, teacher and story-teller Ursula Holden-Gill to perform one of her enchanting sets of stories interlaced with songs and dance. Ursula's shows are full of energy and drama, and keep audiences of all ages enthralled.
Meanwhile, in a two-pronged attack, the upstairs room had a very pleasant and informal singaround with songs and tunes from regulars Dave Collins, Malcolm Goodall, Patrick Shore, Jim Holland, Anna Pack, Ed Butler, Phil Preen and Dave Walters; boosted later in the session by songs from some of the artists who were to be performing on stage later: Ally Turner, Karen Harris and Kirsty Bromley.
Early afternoon concert
Ally Turner and Juliet Woodin started the first concert with a lovely set of songs showing off their multi-instrumental talents by including recorders, whistles, guitars, and concertina; while singing lovely well-crafted harmonies. There was a definite watery theme; with 'Water-bound', 'Cold Water', 'Just as the Tide was Flowing', 'Dance to your Daddy' (you shall have a fishy …) and the shanty 'Bold Riley' all included. The set had a good variety in style, tempo and accompaniment. It was great to see these two Poppy singaround regulars getting a chance to perform on the stage.
Jenny Bell is another Poppy regular. She has recently returned to performing after a long break, and her playing of the Lute and 12-string guitar, together with her pure and distinctive voice have won over a new generation of audience. Today's gems included Drink to Me Only', 'Fortune my Foe' and 'High Degree' on the lute; and, on the guitar: 'Nut tree', 'Oh Boy' and 'Seasons' - each one Jenny's own compositions.
Karen Harris is probably best known as one quarter of GU4, the Leicestershire-based acapella group; but with members of that group spread further afield Karen is now enjoying singing solo again. Today she lived up to her reputation as the 'Leicestershire Nightingale' with 'Hares on a Mountain', 'Dark Eyed Sailor', the lovely 'Far away Tom', 'Mr Fox', and - by popular demand - 'Captain Bloody Valliant!'
Anna Shannon played an excellent evening for us at the club back in November 2012 so we were delighted to invite her back to perform for us as the headline act of the first concert of the 2014 Folk Day. Anna, who these days lives on the Yorkshire Moors, has a strong and honest voice, mostly performing to her own guitar accompaniment, but also plays whistles and recorder beautifully. Her greatest strength, though, is her song writing - which is stunning. Today Anna played for nearly an hour, and included such gems as 'Scarborough Lighthouse', 'Lots of Fishermen Like You', 'Papa Riley's Waggon', 'Go Tell the Bees', 'Rags & Bones', and the totally gorgeous 'Yorkshire Song' For three of her songs she was joined by her partner Roy who played the U-Bass - a bass ukulele, which, for such a small instrument, makes an incredible job of sounding like a double bass by using strings more akin to washing line! I want one!
For a well-deserved encore, Anna played a blisteringly fast 'Sailors' Hornpipe on whistle.
Late afternoon concert
Jo Freya is a very well-known and respected singer and multi-instrumentalist who has played in many of the best-loved bands - including the Old Swan Band, Token Women, and Blowzabella. She has played in a wide variety of styles and a wide range of instruments - many of which she played today in her short but brilliant set. Covering just about all of the emotions - sometimes funny, sometimes heart-breaking - her songs included 'Killed for Love', Lal Waterson's 'Song for Thursa', 'Real Men Can Wear Pink', 'Jumpers, jumpers' and 'Chasing Water'. With great use of sampling she played keyboard and saxophone (simultaneously), as well as clarinet and whistle. It was all over far too soon …
Sylvia Needham is rarely heard singing solo, but has a lovely voice and is a fine concertina player. Normally seen performing with Keith Kendrick, it was a treat to hear her doing her own thing. Her set of traditional and contemporary songs included 'Banks of the Nile', 'Rock & Reel', 'Didn't I Dance'; and to finish the excellent set, Keith Marsden's poignant 'Normandy Orchards'.
Kirsty Bromley is another previous guest at the club who we were very keen to invite back. She has such a clear, strong voice, with a beautifully straightforward delivery and clearly she just loves singing. In the first of two sets today she sang Dougie McClean's 'Return to this place', her own song 'Through All Your Life'; Sweet Rain (Kate Fagan); 'Eat, Drink and be Merry; 'The Joy We Cling To'; and 'Rise out of the Ashes' (with her friend Sarah).
Moirai - a newly formed band playing their debut gig, headlining a concert at the Poppy! Moirai are: Jo Freya (instruments of several flavours), Sarah Matthews (violin and viola), and Mel Biggs (diatonic accordion) - oh!, and all three sing! With a talented group like that it was no surprise that we were treated to a set that was excellent, varied and full of surprises, and regular injection of humour. Starting with a set of French tunes, they followed with a great little song 'Magpie Sitting on an Old Chair'; then 'Muriel's Waltz', a lovely solo rendition by Sarah of 'My Love is Like a Red Red Rose'; and the appropriate 'Poppy's Reel'. It was an excellent set, but we all went to the break with the refrain from Jo Freya's song 'Sideways' stuck in our heads - "I went to school with my knickers on sideways" - mostly, we were trying imagine how that looked!
Music sessionWhile we set up the room for the evening, and the guests and visitors had a food and drinks break, the downstairs bar was filled with the sounds of a music session led by Phil Preen, Jim Hellewell, Wil Walker and Nick Murphy.
First up for the evening concert was a second 30 minute set from the delightful Kirsty Bromley. She started with 'One more time' (Paul Metzers); then her terrific version of 'Crow in the Cradle' (Sydney Carter); and 'On English Ground' (Chris Wood & Laurel Swift). For the second part of her set, Kirsty was joined again by her friend Sarah playing the cello on 'Falling' and 'Sweet Nightingale'; then for a singing duet for a 'community song' they had been taught on their recent trip to New Zealand.
Finally, it was time for the final act for the day, the grand finale, the Emily Portman Trio.
Emily is a singer with a haunting voice who accompanies herself on concertina, and has built up a reputation as an excellent writer of songs - her song 'Hatchling' won the Best Original Song category at the 2013 BBC Folk Awards, and her debut album 'The Glamoury' was nominated for two awards. She has teamed up with Rachel Newton, a fine harpist and fiddle player from Scotland; and viola and fiddle player Lucy Farrell. Their voices combine to produce intriguing and beautiful harmonies.
In a highly skilled and polished two-part concert we were treated to 'Sunken Bells'; 'Hollin'; 'Old Mother Eve'; and the excellent and fascinating 'Stick Stock Stone Dead'. Emily sang alone on 'Oh to be alone'; then Rachel led 'Rock You in my Arms' - showing off her own lovely voice.
After the interval, the second set was started in fine style with a solo from Emily, then for the song 'Two Sisters' she was joined by Rachel. Finally, after bringing back Lucy to complete the trio, they sang through another quality set, including the award-winning 'Hatchling'. For me, the highlight of the show came near the end when they sang 'The Hinge of the Year' with Emily on ukulele, Rachel on harp and Lucy playing a saw!
The trio were brought back for one last song and, rather delightfully and in contrast to the rest of the concert, they sang 'Lullaby' unaccompanied from the floor at the front of the stage - lovely!
And so ended another extremely pleasant and delightful day at the Poppy!