Sunday 15th July 2018
Our second ever concert night at the Poppy, way back in July 2011 featured a duo I knew only by reputation and featuring an instrument I had never seen – the Swedish nyckelharpa. Jonny Dyer – a handsome young lad playing guitars and accordion; and Vicki Swan, playing bagpipes of various nationalities, flute and nyckelharpa; were still quite recent arrivals on the scene and were selling knitted wool hats to raise money to buy a second nyckelharpa!
Moving on seven years, and with several successful CDs in the bag, Vicki and Jonny have grown to become a highly acclaimed duo playing concerts, shows and festivals, playing as a dance band (with a particular liking for Playford tunes), teaching at workshops, and writing some great songs and tunes of their own. And Vicki now has at least three nickelharpas! Those hats must have sold well!
Our July 2018 evening was started by our own Phil Preen, who had bought one of those 2011 hats. On one of the hottest nights of the summer (editors note: since surpassed several times!) Phil leaped onto the stage wearing his woollen hat and sang “Cold, Haily, Windy Night” (My Hat is Frozen to my Head …)!
Then it was time for Vicki and Jonny to take the stage. Their web site carried a highlighted warning: “Warning: An evening with Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer may contain songs with a high death count and plenty of love (quite often at the same time). You are guaranteed to find out more about the nyckelharpa, bagpipes and have a generally good time. Free smiles with every performance” … and that’s pretty much what we got, but with extra laughter thrown in for good measure.
Racking up the death count was largely down to ‘The Blantyre Explosion’; Love was well represented, with songs and tunes written for weddings, the traditional ‘Golden Glove’, and Jonny’s song ‘Paper and Pins’ – the title track of their 2016 album. The lovely chorus song ‘Friends’ (subject matter pretty obvious) was one of my favourites, while Vicki sang about the pleasures of ‘Beer’ (one of my favourite topics!). All of this was punctuated with some great tune sets including ‘The Red House’ set and a lovely Purcell/Playford medley.
Vicki and Jonny both sing well and shared the vocal duties, but mostly with Jonny leading and Vicki providing very well thought-out harmony. The range of instruments and the skill of the musician was excellent, with no less than three nyckelharpas on show, flutes, smallpipes, accordion and guitars/bouzouki, and … in a memorable moment … a duet featuring a conversation between Swedish bagpipes and Cow Horn!
Vicki and Jonny have come a long way since we first saw them, and they gave us a terrific night at the Poppy. Brilliant stuff!
Thanks go to Phil Preen for starting off the first half, and to Jenny Bell and Wil Walker who got the second half underway with a song from their just launched new CD.
Thanks also to those who stayed for the after-hours singaround, including Vicki and Jonny, Wil and Jenny, Ian Price, Lyn Cooper, a couple of new faces (whose names I’m afraid I didn’t discover), and the Poppy team: Juliet, Phil, Julie, Dave and Mary. A few people stayed just to listen too!