Totally Acoustic Festival in Moniaive

totally acousticCelia and I had a fantastic time playing at the Totally Acoustic Festival in Moniaive last weekend. All of the acts performed without amplification, and ranged from poetry and classical piano, to gypsy jazz and our good selves playing melodic traditional music. Additionally there were jugglers to add a carnival feel, and outdoor-cooked food all day. It was a really lovely event.

It has been said that ‘Moniaive probably has more musical events and festivals (per head of population) than anywhere else in the country‘. For a small village it really is an unparalleled place  for music, which was reflected in the welcome and the hospitality we received from Tim at the Craigdarroch Hotel, where we played on Saturday evening. We did an hour-long set for a small but perfectly formed audience, who listened attentively in the absence of a PA system. It helped a lot that the lounge bar of the hotel had such great acoustics, with its wooden floor really accentuating the bass notes on Celia’s harp.

IMG_0265After our spot we were delighted to be joined by local musicians for a session. There has been a long history of great sessions in the area around Moniaive, which Celia and I both regularly travelled to take part in years ago, which meant that many of the lovely people who joined us were old friends: Jackie, Jane, Dave, Wendy and others. We were also joined by Andy Laurenson on fiddle, an old friend of mine who I originally met in Langdale in the early 1980s. Andy is a member of the gypsy jazz band Trio Gitan, and I was pleased to see he had not forgotten how to play traditional tunes after all these years.

We spent a very restful night in a lovely room at the Craigdarroch, then after a big breakfast Celia and I went for a walk over the hill towards Tynron, perusing the wildflowers as we went. Back to the pub at lunchtime, we were joined once again by our friends for a Sunday session to finish off the weekend in style. We were also joined by Pete – one of the organisers of the festival – on accordion, which was an extra bonus as he has such an amazingly sensitive, melodic style.

This was the first Totally Acoustic Festival, and Celia and I were very pleased to be asked to play at it. I am glad to say that Tim and Pete are already talking about doing it again next year!

 

 

Bev and Celia at Folk at the Loo

13433171_1299306960098436_7278319262187851835_oOur second festival last weekend was Folk at the Loo, at the Waterloo Hotel in Blackpool. This was jointly organised by the Waterloo Hotel and Carla Farrar Music, and was the first of hopefully many folk weekends at this pub, which is situated just down the road from where I grew up.

Huge thanks to Carla for putting us on, alongside so many amazing bands, and big thanks to the sound guys who worked very hard to make us sound how we wanted. Special thanks also to Maureen Blair from Ravenswood Photography/Rock Chick Images for the fantastic photos of us seen on this page.

Loanhead Music Festival

Loanhead1Celia Briar and I are just home from playing at the Loanhead Music Festival. Loanhead is just south of Edinburgh, and is a former mining town, so somewhat appropriately the main events took place in the Loanhead Miner’s Club, with sessions taking place in pubs around the town.

Celia and I opened the concert on Friday night, and we were extremely lucky to have the use of a superb P.A. along with expert soundman Derek from the Gallus Crows, who was able to facilitate what have become our very particular needs!

Lately we’ve been playing lots of our own original material, as we work on recording our C.D., so we brought a number of our own compositions into our concert in Loanhead. We were delighted to be joined for one set of reels by Fiona, one of the Absolutely Legless group of Irish dancers, who took to the floor to dance a step or two! Mostly, however, we concentrated on doing what we love to play together most – slow, melodic and haunting melodies from a number of traditions. We had a lovely audience who gave us a great reception, and we enjoyed every minute of it!

KAthy stewartAfter we finished Kathy Stewart and Her Frequent Flyers took the stage. We really, really enjoyed Kathy and her band, she is so charismatic and such a good performer, and is backed by some amazing musicians who spent half the night showing what amazing multi-instrumentalists they all are by swapping instruments! Kathy and her band played what I suppose I would describe as ‘Americana’, with lots of great blues harmonica from Kathy’s partner Ken and some really strong vocal harmonies. They are a fantastic band, I would love to see them again.

Local celebrities the Gallus Crows ended the night with a bang, showing off their amazing cumulative songwriting talents and instrumental and vocal skills. I particularly loved the song Gordon Andrew sang – and composed – about the Stone of Mannan, the story of which was drawn from local mythology based in the dark ages.

The Crows were joined for the last few numbers by  festival organisers Bruce Hogg on slide guitar and Gill Hogg on percussion, which was a fitting end to the evening as it looks likely that this was the last ever Loanhead Festival. Bruce is stepping down as festival organiser after sixteen years at the helm, and no one has so far stepped forward to take over the job.

After the concert was over we retired to a bar called Paddy’s, where we had a few beers and songs and tunes and copious amounts of craic. After that it was back to Bruce and Gill’s for a late night chat and a few cheeky drams before finally going to bed. Needless to say, the sun was up by then!

Celia and I were busy separately on Saturday, with me teaching a tin whistle workshop, and Celia judging the Recycled Instrument and Songwriting competitions. The workshop went well, with five whistlers who worked very hard to learn a tune in the space of an hour. We also talked about ornamentation as applied to the Irish tin whistle. They were a great bunch, and I hope they found it useful!

I ended up somehow involved in the Recycled Instrument competition, by virtue of playing Peter’s plumbing pipe tin whistle for him! Peter had attended my workshop, and managed to learn a tune on his homemade whistle, so we cooked up the plot afterwards that I would play it for him in the competition. I was rooting for him to win all the way!

Peter had some stiff competition, however, with a ‘boximer’ (A sort of cross between a dulcimer and a… I don’t know what else! – made out of an old box), and Bruce’s banjo made out of all sorts of bits and bobs. In the end it was a three way tie (with some discussion about whether or not getting me to play Peter’s whistle was actually cheating). No one was entirely sure if everyone came joint first, or joint last!

As for the songwriting competition, I only got to hear the winning song as, in true Eurovision style it was performed again after the results were announced. The song, ‘Emily’s Song’, was very haunting, all about telling a child she will be safe, and using imagery from fairy tales. The singer was Lorna Jane Gracie, and she was an incredibly worthy winner. Very, very poignant and beautifully performed,  and brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. Well done to Lorna Jane, amazing stuff. I hope I get to hear your song again.

On that note we bade farewell to Loanhead and our lovely hosts Gill and Bruce. We had a lovely time, thank you to everyone for making us so welcome!

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Celia and the giant Loanhead ear-trumpet!

Loanhead Festival and Folk at the Loo

Celia and I will be super busy this weekend, playing at two different festivals and travelling to Scotland and back to do so.

First up is the Loanhead Music Festival on Friday. We’ll be playing in the concert in the Miners’ Club on Friday night at 7.30, alongside Kathy Stewart and Her Frequent Flyers and the Gallus Crows. Then on Saturday 2.00 – 3.00 I will be teaching a tin whistle workshop, also in the Miners’ Club.

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We’ll be heading back from Loanhead on Saturday night, then off again on Sunday, this time in a southerly direction, to Blackpool for Folk at the Loo. This is a two-day event run jointly by Carla Farrar Music and the Waterloo Hotel, and showcases some amazing bands, including Troubadour, Cartoon Food, Phantom Voices and The Sail Pattern, all of whom are my particular favourites to see live! An unfamiliar (to me) band are The Blackaways, and a couple of solo artistes, Adam Smith and Emily Kate, but all of these come with rave reviews too.

Celia Briar and I are playing on the Sunday evening of this event, and I am only sorry I can’t be there for the Saturday as well to watch the rest of the acts. The good news is that we will be there to see the amazing Phantom Voices, who are astonishingly good.

This event is definitely well worth going to, especially as the whole weekend is free entry!

folk at the loo

 

Bush Rush and Melodrome Allstars at Bentham Carnival

The Bush Rush made a splash at Bentham Carnival last weekend, basking in the sun as we flounced around banging on Yorkshire windows and demanding that Heathcliffe let us in.

13321927_10154206229709817_2797752949597015363_nAfter performing the Bush Rush in the Horse and Farrier car park along with a fabulous group of locals who were game for a laugh, Lucy and I got to lead the parade through the village, along with Anne the lovely vicar of Bentham who Bushed up and did all the moves with us. We had a reet good time.

After the parade was over we spent some time enjoying the carnival as oddly-dressed punters, then met up with the rest of the Melodrome Allstars at Hoggs and Heifers for our late afternoon gig. What a lovely pub, a great venue with a really enthusiastic and attentive audience.

A reet good day out was had by all adjacent to the wild and windy moors, oh yes indeed.

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Bev Whelan, Lucy Reynolds and Roger Purves playing in ‘Ear Sounds’ (part of the Melodrome Allstars collective) at Hoggs and Heifers in Bentham 

 

Bev & Celia in Concert – St Paul’s Church, Blackpool

photoCelia and I trekked over to Blackpool last night for a concert in St Paul’s Church in Marton. This is becoming a popular concert venue in the town, with a lot of work being done behind the scenes to make it happen by a number of dedicated, regular members. A lovely man called Will was responsible for the organisation of our concert last night, at which he did a fine job!

We decided to try a slightly different approach at this particular concert, in that the the first half was entirely made up of music and stories about notable 16th/17th Century Irish harpers, including Thomas Connellan, Blind Rory Ó Catháin, Cornelius Lyons and, of course, the great Turlough O’Carolan. Celia’s expert harp playing was the main focus of this part of our concert, and she mesmerised the audience as always. She also delivered her Lancashire dialect poem about O’Carolan: ‘On his Horse, with his Harp, in his Hand’, which raised a few laughs.

BlackpoolgigThe second half comprised of some of our more regular favourites, and focused a little more on the flute and whistles. We played a mixture of mainly Irish reels, jigs, hornpipes and airs, along with ‘Lancaster Lasses’, a minuet from the local Winder Collection and an Eastern European tune in 11/8. We finished the set with a Swedish tune that we both love to play, Kirkwaltzen, followed by Carolan’s Draught to bring us back full circle.

All in all it was a very successful night, and was followed up by a very friendly pint with several of the organisers in The Saddle just round the corner, one of my old favourite pubs in Blackpool. It was nice to be back in my area of origin for a night – in fact, as I pointed out to Celia, I was born nobbut a stone’s throw  from the Saddle, on the very same road. There was even an old mate of mine (Mike Evans from local band Thistle, which I was actually a founder member of in years gone by) drinking in the pub. It is indeed a small world!

One thing we are finding at present is that we are constantly being asked for CDs of our music, and last night was no exception. The good news is it looks like we will start recording next Monday, so watch this space for further info!

Melodrome Allstars at the Robert Gillow

Gigs with the Melodrome Allstars are always different. As it is a loose collective of musicians, our gigs are usually made up of whoever is available on any given night.

13220782_10209330098907536_4754179019478708128_oLast Thursday at the Robert Gillow in Lancaster – 12th May 2016 – the emphasis was on showcasing duos and trios, rather than the full ensemble. Lucy and Roger were first up. The highlight for me of their duo set was ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, sung in Lucy’s inimitable style.

Lucy left the stage for a bit while I joined Roger for some Irish trad-influenced tunes. Roger and I have been working for a while now on a version of Dave Brubeck’s fantastic melody ‘Take Five’ played in a 6/8 Irish jig rhythm. It shouldn’t work but somehow it actually does! We play the usual 5/8 melody, then skip into 6/8 in the middle, and we used this piece to finish our short set. Other tunes we played harked back to the 1970s folk rock era of Horslips, reflecting the early influences of both Roger and myself.

Ear SoundsLucy joined Roger and myself again for our trio ensemble. Audience favourites seemed to be our cover of Going Up the Country, complete with flute solo as recorded by Canned Heat, and also Echo Beach in which the flute takes the keyboard motif from the original recording. Fun times!

No pics of all three of us on stage together, but here we are posing a la 1970s folk rock album cover.

After we’d finished our set, the stage was taken by Tree of Songs, AKA Chris Watkins and Sarah Thornton. Sarah is quite new to this performing malarky but you’d never know it as she sings and plays with great confidence, and her voice is exquisite. Chris’s vocal harmonies blend perfectly with Sarah’s amazing voice. They are really great to listen to, and highly recommended if you ever see them on anywhere.

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13198419_10209330098987538_3333072635483102624_oNext up was Brendan and Jody Cronin. Brendan has possibly the largest and most varied repertoire of anyone I have ever met, and tends to do themed performances. He and Judy did a mixture of covers and their own songs in this set, with some lovely vocal harmony work from Judy.

After a short break I joined Brendan and Judy on stage to finish off the night with some Irish classics, including an instrumental version of The Shamrock Shore, and a few well-known singalong numbers.

That was the end of another enjoyable night playing with the Melodrome Allstars. Next up, we will be playing at Bentham Carnival in June – see my 2016 Performances page for more details as I get them.