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!


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.


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


Lake District Folk Weekend


Celia and I playing at the Lake District Folk and Acoustic Club in Staveley

I’m delighted to say that Celia and I have been booked to appear at the Lake District Folk Weekend in August! We will be playing in-concert at several venues, including the concert in the River Bar on the Friday night, and I will also be delivering a tin whistle workshop.

Full details will be added to the 2016 Performances and 2016 Workshops and Classes pages of this website as I get them.

In the meantime, see the Lake District Folk Weekend website for information about the festival. I understand tickets will be available for sale very soon!

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!

A great weekend of music and fun

It’s been an eventful weekend, starting off on Saturday with Celia Briar and myself playing in concert as support for Barluath at the Big Whistle Festival in Bury. We had a really nice time, and were particularly impressed by the sound engineers who made us sound amazing!

On Sunday we hared off to Langdale Charity Folk Festival. First order of the day was the Bush Rush, which is a Kate Bush audience participation/flashmob event I run in partnership with my friend Lucy Reynolds. Basically we get people to dress up like Kate in the Wuthering Heights video, and perform the dance to Wuthering Heights. I was doing a solo ‘Rush’ at this festival, and had a great turnout. As always it made people smile and was incredible fun.

bevncelialangdaleLater on Celia and myself did a set in the main bar of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. It is always a pleasure to support this festival, at which all acts appear free of charge. I am pleased to say that over £3000 was raised over the weekend for the festival’s adopted charities: Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs and the Great North Air Ambulance. Over £40,000 has been raised at the Langdale Festival for charity in total since 2008, which is an amazing feat and something I am always very proud to support.

I will leave you with a series of images of beautiful Langdale at dawn, taken not because I got up early, but rather that I stayed up all night…




Bev Whelan and Celia Briar at the Lake District Folk and Acoustic Club

StaveleyCelia and I had previously gone along to the opening night of this club, which is based at the Hawkeshead Brewery in Staveley. We had a really good night, listening to so many lovely singers and musicians and joining in the choruses. We also played a few tunes which went down really well, and to our delight the club asked us back as featured guests, which we were only too happy to accept.

The turn-out for our guest performance last night was amazing, and even got close to prompting ‘house full’ signs, according to Sandra our host!

First up were the beautiful voices of Chapin-Wickwar, whose vocal harmonies and gorgeous songwriting blew us away. Not easy to play the flute with a lump in your throat after hearing such poignant lyrics!

Celia and I took the stage after that, and we received such a wonderful warm reception from the audience. Once more the Staveley crowd seemed to love our slower numbers in particular, so we concentrated on delivering what they liked. We managed to create a few laughs with our line of patter as well, which is always a good thing as we firmly believe folk music should be fun and entertaining.

Thanks once again to the wonderful organisers and audience, you made us feel very welcome, and we loved playing for you!