5th February 2019
What a quiet evening it was to begin with. Quiet that is, in terms of the number of musicians present. Perhaps there was something happening elsewhere, but this evening marked a departure from the usual style of several performers and included many collaborative enterprises. Rather exciting, actually.
My introduction wasn’t anything very unusual though. I sang two Joni Mitchell songs accompanied by bouzouki: ‘Carey’ from her 1971 album ‘Blue’ and ‘Urge for Going’ from ‘Second Fret Sets 1966 – 68’, but I am familiar with it from her ‘Hits’ album of 1996.
Jim followed, playing guitar (I had previously only seen him play fiddle) and singing ‘Wings’ a song which questions why people cage the things they love most, written by the late Brian Bedford. His second song was about the single greatest tragedy of the blitz in London, where 200 people died at Bethnal Green underground station as they stumbled and fell down the stairs, and not because they had been hit by a bomb. This poignant piece: ‘Rosemary’s Sister’ was written by Hugh Williams. Jim also enthusiastically recommended Keith Willson’s book of poetry and made a request for Keith to read the poem about his double-bass Fred placing an ad in the ‘Lonely Hearts’ section under the title: ‘The Double Bass Seeks Love’.
The poem duly delivered was full of Keith’s characteristic wit. Keith remained on stage to perform a slow blues with Ian, another musician who had joined us for the evening, offering his harmonica-playing skills. These two had not previously met, but, after some technical re-arranging, slipped into a slow blues, ‘The Slow One’, a love song about two people meeting at a wedding several years after splitting-up. Between them, they definitely put the blues back into the ‘Folk and Blues’ identity.
In a change of style, Manus, also coincidentally having a Joni Mitchell moment, produced a guitar-focused version of ‘Boho Dance’ from her seventh album of 1975 ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’. Joni Mitchell’s songs can be quite complex. She is a very idiosyncratic song-writer and performer, using unusual timings and tunings, but very nicely done Manus. He continued with the ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ from the 1962 film of the same name, (music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer)and Simon joined in on sax. Apparently he was not familiar with the piece, not that you would notice. Simon, who has now joined us several times, also brought some wonderful alto sax into the mix. Very chilled.
The evening moved from folk to blues to jazz then rock and roll with Clive. As a sixty years tribute to Buddy Holly who died on the 3rd of February 1959, Clive gave us a lively version of ‘Peggy Sue’. The song was written by Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison and Norman Petty, about Jerry’s girlfriend. Having watched Mama Mia at Christmas, Clive was also inspired to sing Abba’s ‘Andante, Andante’, written by Bjorn Alvaeus and Benny Andersson and released in 1980. So the evening then progressed into some vintage ‘pop’.
Chris Martin was on next, and I think it would be fair to say that his songs were not folk, or blues, or jazz, or rock and roll, or even pop, so were a different genre as yet unconfirmed. His first song ‘Bixie Bear’was complemented by some lyrical soprano sax from Simon. Bixie Bear was dancing in the moonlight, hand in hand with that wooden man. I wonder if these were friends of Panyan. Heather joined in at the piano with Simon on sax again for Chris’s 1990 song ‘Right for Me’.
Heather remained at her piano (an electric one, reliably in tune, not the house instrument) She sang a lovely, pensive song, it’s first public performance as it was only completed earlier in the day: ‘Missing You’. She followed this with an instrumental that was all up and down the keyboard, a ‘protest song’ called ‘Silent Fathers’ about men who lose access to their children.
Simon, flaunting his best Christmas jumper, a gift from his sister three years ago, sang us a ‘proper’ folk club song, ‘Caledonia Calling’ a modern Scottish ballad written in 1977 by Dougie MacLean. Then came a collaboration, with Simon on sax joining Simon on guitar and vocals for a version of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Monkey and the Engineer’. Monkey at the controls ‘left the engineer with a worried mind’. This was a song with real gravitas.
The night was still young enough for another song from everyone. I sang ‘Blackwaterside’, a real, proper folk song that I heard first by Bert Jansch. Jim had to be gone, so Keith followed with the ‘The Worst Thing’ on guitar, a song that regrets the ruining of a relationship. He changed position to play piano, and with some technical rearrangements, Manus’ last song was an instrumental version of ‘This Masquerade’ by Leon Russell, released in 1995. Simon joined them on sax and there followed some very interesting, jazzy wrestling and interweaving of threads and phrases.
Clive brought us back to folk with his version of ‘London River’ made popular by Fairport Convention, from their ‘Heritage’ album of 1998. Chris performed his ‘Xeroxed Armies’ solo: a man with nothing has nothing to lose……. . Heather, on piano, sang ‘Yesterday’ with Simon on sax adding a lovely solo. Simon on guitar ended the evening with the beautiful Mary Gautier song ‘The Rocket’ (featured in my video selection). I accompanied Simon, (rather poorly as it happens), but he brought the evening to a nicely rounded conclusion after a very musically diverse two and a half hours.
For those among us who play the piano, there is an awareness of the house piano, which, lovely as it is, is not totally in tune and a bit uneven to play, so electric pianos turn up from time to time. I love the house piano because I haven’t had an acoustic piano for years and it is so very different (challenging!), but rewarding, to play. I noticed the piano on the Norah Jones video I have posted and it looks very beaten-up, doubtless in tune however, but it probably would have been far easier to plug in an electric one. Then there’s Willie Nelson’s guitar! Now that looks like a worn-out but dearly loved instrument, if ever there was one.
The evening was uncharacteristically marked by extended periods of arranging the stage and sound equipment, but nobody seemed to mind.
Thank you all for so much musical variety and virtuosity, to Simon of the guitar, for setting the room up and Chris for managing the sound.
With new horizons and possibilities reflected in this evening, we look forward to another evening of music on the 19th.
Take care and see you next time, Ella
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