It’s always a pleasant surprise to see how many people will get out of bed to travel miles for a sing-around that starts at 10.30am, but it happens every year at The Poppy Folk Day. Up with the lark this year were Malcolm Goodall, Jan Robertson, Yvonne Dreyer, Pat Shore, Stephen and Julie Wigley, Jerry Simon, Maureen, and Les; ably supported by Poppy Crew members: Dave, Mary, Phil, Julie, Juliet, Allison and Claire. A splendid start to the day!
The first spot of the early afternoon concert usually goes to a member of the Poppy organising team, and this year it was the turn of Dave Walters to get the show on the road, with a set of unaccompanied songs, starting slow with ‘Little Yellow Roses’ (a minor hit for Adam Faith in the sixties!) and building in mood to finish with Poppy favourite ‘John Ball’.
Next up was ace fiddle player Alistair Bloomfield (also appearing later with The Phil Langran Band). Alistair plays fiddle for longsword and rapper teams, and is an excellent and versatile musician. He presented us with a nice range of tunes including a beautiful O’Carolan tune and a set of waltzes in addition to lively jigs and reels. Excellent stuff!
Lyn Cooper and Dave May play for barn dances and ceilidhs as part of The Navigation Band in and around Leicestershire, but today they played a range of musical styles with tunes from England, Scotland, Ireland and France, interspersed with songs from Dave (‘Whiskey, Johnny’) and Lyn (‘Sailing to Liberty’s Sweet Shore’ and Les Barker’s ‘Sudden Waves’).
Last up, and headlining the first concert, were a brand new duo with excellent pedigree. Intarsia features the brilliant Sarah Matthews – no stranger to the Poppy stage! – and percussionist par excellence Jo May(Token Women and Stepling, among others). Jo’s percussion on a wide range of instruments really added an extra dimension to Sarah’s songs and tunes. Starting with a rapper dance tune written by Sarah, and a Jo May piece ‘Somewhere in Between’, we were then treated to Sarah’s singing of Bill Caddick’s ‘The Barmaid Song’. A Canadian 7-time fiddle tune followed, then the song ‘The Derby Miller’ with the tune ‘The Dusty Miller’ – neat! More clever percussion stuff next, with a pair of tunes described as “African rhythms with an Irish jig setting”. The set finished with two songs: ‘Julie’s Chance’ (one of Sarahs songs from the ‘Waltzers and Wonders’ show) and, lastly, Sarah’s ‘Candlelight’ with tenor guitar accompaniment. Let’s hope Jo and Sarah can find enough time in their very busy musical lives to keep delivering this unique Intarsia sound to audiences!
And so, on with the show! The second afternoon concert followed, conveniently, just after the first one! What planning!
Cookie (Graham Cooke) is a Nottingham singer-songwriter with some great songs about local places, people and life. He’s a smashing chap, and it was a real pleasure to give him an opportunity to sing some of his songs to the Poppy audience. His Nottingham songs included ‘Albert Ball’, the ‘Fox and Grapes’, and the ‘Cries of Old Nottingham’; and his ‘The Boots Were Black’ is a terrific protest song, which has been covered by our next guest – Paul Carbuncle.
Paul Carbuncle is no stranger to the club and is always popular with his mix of political comment and comedy, and his infectious good humour and connection with the audience. He’s also a very prolific song writer and managed to squeeze thirteen songs into his 40-minute spot – mostly his own compositions or his own ‘punk-folk’ arrangements of traditional songs. Traditional songs ‘The Lover’s Ghost’, ‘Drunken Sailor’ and ‘The Mermaid’ were given Paul’s own unique makeover; while clever and funny self-penned songs like ‘Squirrels’ (always a favourite), ‘When Englebert lived on Cocklington Road’ (a true story, apparently), and Les Barker’s ‘Ben Kanobi-nobi-too ri-ay’ were scattered through the set. Paul’s best song, for me, was the very poignant ‘Chopping an Onion’ – look him up if you missed him – he’s a breath of fresh air!
Heading up the late afternoon was the very popular local band, The Phil Langran Band. Today’s line up featured Phil Langran (vocal and guitars), Steve Benford (acoustic guitar and banjo), Mark Walker (bass guitar), Frank McCarthy (electric guitar) and Alistair Bloomfield (fiddle). They describe their musical style as an ‘intertwining of Americana, Celtic, folk and blues themes’, and their very polished set included all those elements. Phil’s voice reminded me somehow of Lou Reed with an understated, easy-going style. The set included a lovely waltz tune ‘Dunmanus Bay’; a terrific banjo-fiddle dual in ‘The Diamond Wheel/Munster’; the lovely ‘Time’s Dark Wing’ and ‘Jukebox Love Song’, among other excellent songs.
After a break from all the excitement, during which time a lively session was held in the downstairs bar, it was time to move on to the evening concert.
Our support for this concert was Sheila Mosley, an excellent singer-songwriter from Leicestershire who we had hoped to have as a guest at last year’s Folk Day. A throat infection got in the way of that plan, but it seemed serendipitous in the end as Sheila is a great admirer of Grace Petrie. Sheila’s set started with ‘Streets of London’ - a song that has been sung by so many people over the years that we sometimes forget what a terrific song it is, and still relevant today. This was followed by another great song – ‘The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood’; then ‘Dangerous Dance’, ‘Toast and Marmalade’, ‘Any Heart Will Do’, and finally the John Tams classic ‘Rolling Home’. A lovely set of songs!
And so, to the star of our Folk Day, Grace Petrie, who has become hugely popular as an activist, songwriter and singer of songs about social injustice. She is totally genuine and sincere and the audience (many of them new faces at the club) were with her all the way. The first set started with a woman’s take on Roy Bailey’s ‘Old Man’s Tale’, and included ‘The Emily Davison Blues’, ‘You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys’, and one of Grace’s most popular songs, ‘God Save the Hungry’. The songs were introduced with intelligent and relevant stories to back up the theme. The second set changed direction slightly, and started with a song, ‘Ivy’ written for Grace’s new niece, and a song inspired by Carl Sagan’s biography ‘The Golden Record’. Other stand-out songs included ‘Black Tie’, ‘Fire in Your Heart’, and another of Grace’s ‘hits’ – ‘They Shall Not Pass’. A huge round of appreciative applause brought Grace back to sing ‘Workshy’ for a well-deserved encore.
And that was the end of another very successful Poppy Folk Day! The audience gradually made their way home, and we started looking forward to a similarly excellent Folk Day next year!