shewhomust: (guitars)
We watched the Eurovision final on Saturday. If I were taking this seriously, I suppose we'd have watched both semi-finals, and then lived-blogged our way through the final. But to take Eurovision seriously is to miss the point.

I did consider live-blogging the final, but couldn't bring myself to do it. If I had, it might have kept me awake, at least until the end of the competition. As it was, I nodded off somewhere in the last few songs: looking at the running order, I don't remember anything after Belgium, so that must be when I fell asleep (sorry, Belgium) and woke up as we launched into the mid-way entertainment, wondering "When do we get to France?"

Since we are living in the future, I hadn't missed my chance forever, and caught up not only with France's entry as performed during the show, with spectacular lighting but also with the official video, a stronger performance of the song but with the distraction of a couple dancing - or appearing to dance - all over various Parisian landmarks. Usually you can count on France singing in French (or at a pinch, Breton, but in any case, not English) which always wins points from me. Requiem was half-French, half-English, despite which I rather liked the song; I could still remember phrases of it ten minutes later, and that's unusual for Eurovision. I don't know why it didn't score higher. Was it too blatant a bid for the sympathy vote, with the lyric:
On pleure mais on survit quand même
C'est la beauté du requiem
and the visuals playing on the idea of Paris, city of lights?

Another deep and meaningful entry was Italy's Occidentalis Karma - it seems there was a reason for the man in the gorilla suit. Only in Eurovision would you decide - quite late in the proceedings, apparently - to underline the serious message of your song by bringing on a man in a (not very good) gorilla suit. So perhaps there was a reason for Azerbaijan's staging: the blackboard with key words I sort of understand, because you'd need help to remember the lyrics, which seem to have been rendered from the Azeri by Google translate. But why is the man with the horse's head standing on a stepladder? Or, if you prefer, why is the man on the stepladder wearing a horse's head? You might as well ask why Belarus's duo, channeling the young Sonny and Cher (or perhaps Esther and Abi Ofarim) were in a small boat? Still, they sang in Belorussian, which is a first, so top marks for that!

The slogan of Eurovision 2017 was "Celebrate Diversity". This was achieved by having three presenters, all white men - all youngish, able-bodied white men - wearing dinner jackets each of which had a different design of sparkly decoration. You think I'm just being snarky? Here's the official video explanation of the brand: the image is based on a traditional Ukrainian necklace, a string of beads of different sizes. The European nations are like the beads of that necklace, all different but alike enough to make a harmonious whole - no, that's my interpretation.

And, to be fair, the winning entry was the one which was most unlike any of the others. By which I don't mean Hungary's operatic blend of Gypsy drama and rap (one man and his milkchurn, a woman in white to express adoration in dance and a woman in black to play the fiddle) though politically this was a remarkable piece of ethnic diversity. I don't mean Romania's blend of rap and yodelling, though musically that's pretty WTF even by Eurovision standards. No, I'm talking about Portugal's decision not to play the Eurovision game of bigger means better, more staging, more lights, more dancers and special effects, and to present instead what BBC commentator Graham Norton described as "just a boy in his bedroom singing a song written by his sister". Which, allowing for the lights which have transformed that bedroom into a magic forest, happens to be true, but it is a very pretty song - none of this is my kind of music, and this particular kind of 'LaLa Land' nostalgia less than most, but it was the bookies' favourite and it won, giving Portugal its first ever Eurovision victory.

It has happened before that the winning song has been a rejection of the razzmatazz and hype. I'm thinking of 1994, when Ireland won with Rock 'n' Roll Kids, a male fuo, two older-than-the-average-contestants singing about being middle aged, without a big band, accompanying themselves on piano and guitar. It was Ireland's third consecutive win, and there was a rumour (though Wikipedia denies it) that it was deliberately designed not to win, not to incur the expense of hosting the contest yet again. I'll end with a reminder of what Eurovision used to be like, back in a quieter age, with Terry Wogan in the commentary box:

shewhomust: (guitars)
It was the Folk Degree students' concert at the Sage last night. There are always worthwhile, even if some years are more to my taste than others, and I sometimes feel we're the only people in the audience who aren't the parents of one of the performers. Last night was a good one - some promising performers, some good material, and we were sharing a table (they call it 'cabaret style' seating, and it disguises the comparative emptiness of the hall) with a couple who spotted [personal profile] durham_rambler's Fair Isle Bird Observatory sweatshirt, and told us they were from Shetland: their daughter was one of the students, and they lived across the road from Steven Robertson - and no, they hadn't been to Fair Isle...

The show opened with the whole of years one and two singing Leon Rosselson's song for William Morris, Bringing the News from Nowhere, which I am disappointed not to find on the internet. A trio already performing together as Hareshaw Linn (it's the name of a waterfall) did three songs: one of their own composing, Terry Conway's Fareweel Regality. and Hares on the Mountain - a bit pretty, perhaps, but very promising. I would not have expected to enjoy Katie McCleod's two songs - dramatic delivery, jazzy cool, not my style at all, but against the odds, it worked. There should be more videos in this post, and I've been looking for them, and not finding them - worse than that, in fact, I've discovered that embedded videos don't seem to have transferred from LiveJournal, leaving holes in a number of posts.

Meanwhile, our bathroom fitters were texting us to say that they now knew how they planned to fix the underfloor damp problem, and could they come at eight o' clock this morning? That's the good news, but it's also the bad news. We settled for nine o' clock, they arrived, opened doors and windows, and turned off the water; I gave up any idea of baking bread, and we went out to lunch. It's all progress...

ETA: Even in an edited highlights post, I should have mentioned The Big Band With No Name, because although this may sound like an ad hoc arrangement to emsure that every student, however unconfident, does something of their own, it actually included at least two individuals who played with great personality, despite not appearing elsewhere. Also the young woman in the checked shirt who sang Willie o' Winsbury (performing in a trio which also, if I am remembering this right, included the ubiquitous Bertie Armstrong) - good voice, interesting if slightly over-arranged accompaniment, brilliantly confident introduction. "She'll go far," says [personal profile] durham_rambler.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Sitting in the bar of the Pride of Bruges, on the Humber, typing offline ready to post when I'm ready to claim my half hour of free wifi -

After a mad frenzy of packing and preparation, wrangling last minute client demands, topping up my mobile phone for the first time since I bought it several years ago (which we did at the big out-of-town Tesco, though next time - if we ever reach a next time - will be easier)... Well, yes, after everything else and setting off later than we meant to, a very pleasant and easy drive to Hull.

Roger (whom in another place you may know as durham_rambler, but who has not yet rambled to DreamWidth) had downloaded the Radio2 Folk Awards to his phone, so that we could listen to it through the car audio: I am so impressed at his mastery of the technology, and it worked very smoothly, apart from an interlude when his bluetooth hearing aids hijacked the signal, so I never heard Nick Lowe paying tribute to Ry Cooder, but we got it straightened out in time to hear Ry Cooder explaining how much he owed to Tom Paley, so that was all right.

And we had folk music (within Radio2's understanding thereof, but I enjoyed the interval sampling of the finalists for the Young Folk Award) driving through spring in northern England. The fields are very green, except where the rape is coming into bloom, where they are eye-searing yellow. The hedges are mostly green, though the blackthorn is a tattered lace of white. The verges are studded with yellow which surely can't be cowslips, not in those numbers? There's the odd clump of primroses. Remind me again why we are leaving England right now?

But of course if we were home,we'd be working, not going out enjoying all this. Likewise, in a properly organised world, we'd have taken time to sample the culture which Hull currently offers: instead, we headed straight for the ferry, drove on board with hardly any queueing, and here we are in the bar, I have had a cup of tea and the pianist is playing Name That Tunee' (we've just had Hotel California).

Later: Dinner in 'The Kitchen' buffet restaurant, and a bottle of La Sauvageonne, a Gerard Bertrand rosé, described on the menu as biodynamic and on the label as 'en conversion' (in the process of becoming organic): I have no idea whether these two things are compatible, but it was a pretty pale pink, maybe a touch sweeter than I would choose for drinking alone, but this gave it the weight to stand up to the various random items we selected from the buffet.

As the light faded from the sky, we watched Spurn Head slide away behind us.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Friday you already know about: what next?

[livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler had discovered that there was an exhibition about Topic Records at the Barbican library (this link explains more, and links to a video: 75 years of folk music in ten minutes). GirlBear was familiar with the space, and was able to warn us that it wouldn't be a very large exhibition, but even so, the three of us felt it was worth a visit. We allowed ourselves an hour to look round, and that was plenty, even allowing time for reading documents and reminiscing about the records. I'd have liked more about the field recordings, and less about the stars, but I'm already converted and don't need to be preached to: and I'm sad enough to get a buzz out of things like Davy Graham's first recording contract.

After lunch, GirlBear had an assignation with the Society of Recorder Players, and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and I visited the Museum of London. Where there are many splendid things, and I took many pictures. )

We dined that evening with [livejournal.com profile] helenraven - or perhaps I should say with [livejournal.com profile] kelpercomehome, since she lured us south of the river with promises of wines she had discovered on her travels. The journey was more exciting than it should have been, since the nearest tube station was closed (though we didn't find this out till the doors of the train were closing) and we had forgotten the number of her flat - which wouldn't have mattered if it weren't for the security gates fitted since our last visit. So we coulsn't simply proceed along the walkway until we recognised a friendly door. But we worked it out, we arrived, the wine was excellent and the company even better - and that was Saturday.
shewhomust: (guitars)
Listening to the news the other morning, half asleep, and the tributes to Leonard Cohen, I heard the anouncer mention "his greatest hit" and automatically thought of Suzanne: I came up to university with a copy of 'Songs of Leonard Cohen' and found that half the college had their own copies - and quite a few people had 'Songs from a Room', too. Those are the songs that got under my skin, that throw up phrases when I'm thinking of something else.

Nothing that came later got as close to me - although when [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and I watched the Omnibus profile that appeared on the iPlayer, I was surprised how much of it I knew, and how well. But it was as if he'd vanished in the intervening years: he hadn't, of course, but I hadn't been paying attention. I know exactly when I did start to pay attention again: it was in 1994, when I saw Atom Egoyan's Exotica: Everybody Knows isn't quite the only thing I remember about the film (which I liked very much) but it stands out.

Looking for that date, I found this interesting article about Cohen's inadvertent brilliance in scoring film soundtracks - where I also learned some things I had not known about Leonard Cohen's greatest hit. Yes, of course it's Hallelujah. I knew that really (when I'm awake), though bear in mind that as I was saying, your greatest hit is likely not to be my favourite. Actually, I'd go further: some time ago, I wrote about 'those songs', big emotional anthems to which I also have an adverse reaction. I owe the word 'anthems' to commenters who took a more rounded, less irritable view of the phenomenon that I did. Now, I don't think that Hallelujah as we heard Leonard Cohen sing it in that Omnibus footage is one of those siongs - but by the time k.d. lang has finished with it, oh, yes, and brilliantly so, I wouldn't have it any other way. And apparently the transformation was effected by the unexpected alliance of John Cale and Shrek. I may need to go and lie down to think about that.

Meanwhile, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] sovay, Hallelujah in Yiddish. Of course.
shewhomust: (guitars)
It's five years since we saw Martin Simpson at the Davy Lamp Folk Club, and on Saturday he was there again - and so were we. They don't sell tickets in advance, just encourage you to turn up early, so we drove to Washington between the fireworks, and settled down with the prize crossword, which was an alphabetical jigsaw.

It was entirely worth the wait: a magical evening, from the opening perfect pairing of St James Infirmary Blues with Dylan's Blind Willie McTell (bonus link: Dylan's version) to the encore, a new song about his mother to sit alongside Never Any Good With Money -

- OK, let's get this over with. I feel mean about this, but for the record. For a start, I'm sufficiently contrarian that if anyone, anyone at all, says "Now I'll sing you my greatest hit," my heart sinks. Your greatest hit is unlikely to be my favourite of your work, and that certainly applies to Never Any Good With Money. You couldn't grudge the man the pleasure it obviously gave him to sing about his father, and find that people responded to what he was telling them, but I think he's written better songs (Dark Swift, Bright Swallow, for example, which last night came with sound effects of exploding shells to accompany the story of what happened at Slapton Sands), and even so, in truth I think he's a good songwriter but a brilliant interpreter of other people's songs -

And having got that out of the way, last night's selection of songs made me very happy. I love that Martin Simpson's repertoire is constantly renewed, a perpetual work in progress, so that each time you see him there are new discoveries alongside the old favourites. Different flavours predominate at different times, pver the years, as you'd expect: there've been times when it was all about the blues, and times when the big ballads squeezed out everything except one or two tunes - come to think of it, that's what's missing at the moment, not enough tunes...

But there was as much great music as you could cram into one evening. I was particularly happy to hear Charles Causley's Katherine of Aragon, as set by Alex Atterson (I admit I still prefer the version I learned long ago from Alan Francis - which is of course not the version Alan Francis sings, but my misremembering of it, but still...). He ended the first set with a blistering version of Leon Rosselson's Palaces of Gold. And, for a big finale before that encore, entirely unexpected, Emily Portman's Rags and Bones.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
This week is slipping away without trace: maybe if I focus hard I'll find out where it's gone...

Monday didn't feel like Monday because we had an overnight guest, D. stopping by on his way south from Orkney. But we went swimming (my, the pool was busy) and did a little housework to make ready, and I cooked - and then we all had a pleasant evening together. So not a day on which nothing happened, not at all.

The presence of a guest may explain why Tuesday morning felt so leisured: though it wasn't, really - by ten o'clock D. had set off for home and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler had gone out to his meeting.

It's a meeting that runs all morning and a bit more, so lunch was late; and we were going out late afternoon, so there was barely time between to watch Countdown and do some ironing.

The evening started early, because we wanted to stop on our way to the Sage to see an exhibition at Gateshead Library celebrating 21 Years of Northern Print: Northern Print I know, because it's one of the places we often visit during Ouseburn Open Studios, but I didn't know what to expect of the exhibition, other than that I liked the picture used in the advertising. This was Julian Meredith's 'Blue Whale', a set of life-sized prints of a blue whale. I sppreciate that they couldn't exhibit the thing itself, and that including photographs in an exhibition of prints would have felt anomalous, but everything we saw - and we saw some entirely desirable prints - was dwarfed by it, even in its absence. (I can't find the actual photo anywhere to link).

We were going to the Sage to hear the Furrow Collective. It wouldn't be fair to call this the Emily Portman traditional songbook, because (onstage, at least) it's a very egalitarian grouping, but that's the way I came to it. The Emily Portman Trio (Emily Portman, Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton are joined by Alasdair Roberts for mostly English and Scottish ballads, mostly as gloomy as that repertoire suggests (Emily Portman has a lovely version of Barbara Allen, for example, Rachel Newton a ferocious Lord Heathen). It didn't have the impact for me of Emily Portman's songwriting, but an entirely enjoyable evening. The song they are treating as the 'single' from the new album is pretty atypical, but here it is anyway:



And if anything happened today, the time to write about it has slipped away from me: time to go out to the pub quiz!
shewhomust: (guitars)
Snarky remarks aside, the news that the Nobel Prize for Literature has gone to Bob Dylan cheers me up no end. I certainly don't have a problem with rewarding him for his words, rather than his music: yes, his songs are deeply embedded in my mind as songs, but it's the words which are magnificently Dylan's own; his best tunes are borrowed. The Academy is quoted as saying it was not a difficult choice - though in that case, I wonder what took them so long: all his best writing was done decades (I prefer not to contemplate how many decades) ago. Perhaps they were nervous about his reception of the award, recalling his not exactly gracious acceptance of his honorary degree from Princeton.

Bonus facts: I didn't realise, until I came to write this, that the locusts were real. Nor that he was only marginally mellower accepting an honorary degree from St Andrews. I shall look foward to the Nobel award ceremony.

But whether he wants it or not, he deserves it.
shewhomust: (guitars)
You go months without a concert, and then three come along together.

I didn't know what to expect from Ashley Hutchings - From Psychedelia to Sonnets: "With words and music Ashley entertains in his romp through his musical career..." Well, I'm up for a romp through the career of Ashley Hutchings. But how do you put on the sort of one-man show in which the one man reminisces about his career and performs stripped back versions of some of his greatest hits, when the performance side of that career has always been in bands?

Maybe other people had the same doubts. How else do you explain the low turn-out? I know I said that I thought Gordie MacKeeman deserved a bigger audience, but I was surprised that the Sage had put out tables, café-style, for Ashley Hutchings. And irritated that we'd rushed to finish our wine before the concert started, when we could have taken it in with us. Ah, well.

Once I got over that, it was a very entertaining evening: Ashley Hutchings an avencular figure (the Guv'nor indeed), aided and abetted by Ruth Angell and Becky Mills. The women did most of the singing, pleasant unmemorable songs, while Hutchings read from his lyrics and - an unexpected literary form - sleeve notes, and told stories. I had blanked his part in Fairport Convention, associating him more with Steeleye Span and the Albion Band, so it was a surprise that Fairport got the lion's share of the attention - but if you have stories to tell of the time Jimi Hendrix asked if he could jam with you, you're going to tell them, aren't you? Also a surprise how little traditional music was mentioned: he talked about Lark Rise but not about Cecil Sharp.

Robb Johnson's concert last night was an even more intimate affair. I'd been braced for this, having seen him last time he played the Sage, and also had the foresight to confirm at the bar that we could take our wine in with us. By the time we went in, all the café tables set out in the small middle hall were occupied to some degree, and we ended up sharing a table right at the front with a couple visiting the Sage for the first time, having made the journey up from somewhere near York - and yes, agreed the organiser, he deserved a better audience, but there were more people here than last time. So I could enjoy my ringside seat at a great gig with a clear conscience.

It was one of those magic performances where everything just clicks: good atmosphere, lovely guitar playing, great songs, it all adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Songs about Brexit, about Sidmouth Folk Festival, about Louise Michel - if I could find any trace of that one on the internet I'd post it here. We spoke to Robb Johnson about it afterwards - did he know Bryan and Mary Talbot's Red Virgin? - and enthused about it together. Perhaps it's as well I can't find a video, though, because obviously the appropriate choice is the song he wrote after his last gig at the Sage:

shewhomust: (guitars)
Ten days ago we heard Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys at the Sage - Hall 2 of the Sage itself, this time, promoted from Gateshead Old Town Hall where we have previously seen them (more than once, I thought, though I can't find any record of that). As before, an immensely enjoyable live band - they deserved a larger audience than the Sage had managed to muster - who I'll happily see every time they play locally, without feeling any need to buy their CD and listen to it in their absence. Sorry about that, guys.

Last night's concert was about as different as it could be: the Durham Hymns in the chapel of Ushaw College. The Durham Hymns was commissioned as part of the First World War commemorations, with poems by Carol Ann Duffy inspired by contemporary texts, set to music for choir and brass band. Plenty there to be ambivalent about, but a friend had been immensely impressed by the premiere at the cathedral, so we agreed to join her for this small performance at Ushaw.

The setting, in the college's magnificent Gothic chapel, could have added so much atmosphere - but somehow it didn't work out that way. The choir and the band seemed immensely remote, below the altar at the end of the long high nave; and the readers seemed to be having problems with the acoustics - the more emotion they gave their words, the more the echo blurred what they were saying. As the performance went on, they seemed to get the hang of it, and by the end they were almost entirely intelligible, but the initial problems added to the distancing effect. Right at the end, after the last poem, which is called The Last Post, a single trumpet (I think - don't quote me) played the Last Post from the west end of the chapel, ringing clear and true down the nave - and when the choir and the band picked up the finale, it felt magically connected by this one strand, and the effect was electric. Which only made me more aware what had been missing. I wonder how it would have played in the lesser grandeur of Ushaw's Exhibition Hall, where we recently heard Alistair Anderson and co.

Somewhere between these two we watched a television documentary about early films of the ascent of Everest: the programme's argument was that huge resources were thrown at the ascent of the mountain, the race to be the first to the summit became a matter of propaganda and the role of film in that race doubly so. I don't dispute it, but I was more interested in the story of John Noel. I expect everyone but me already knew this, but it was new to me, and fascinating. As a young man in the army in India he became fascinated with the distant peaks of the Himalayas, and in 1913 disguised himself as a pilgrim to travel into Tibet and get closer. Then he came home and lectured to the Royal Geographic Society about it, and seems to have created, single-handed, the idea that Everest ought to be climbed. When an Everest expedition set out in 1922, he was its official photographer and cinematographer, developing his photographs in icy water in a darkroom-tent. The expedition failed, in the sense that it did not reach the summit, and no-one was willing to fund another. So Noel set up a company to make a film of the expedition, and by buying the rights, made the expedition possible. In 1924. This time he was able to film even higher than before: he filmed Mallory and Irvine setting off to attempt the summit, and he filmed the search party return without finding them. His film, The Epic of Everest is on YouTube. Some of Noel's photographs (I'd like to see more of these).

I'm pretty much immune to the romance of mountaineering: when I hear of people returning again and again to attempt climbs on which their friends have died, and on which soomer or later they will die themselves, what I think is not complimentary. I am if anything repelled by the rush to climb summits in order to take selfies, scattering the slopes with litter. Noel would seem to have a lot to answer for. Even so, what a story! And what pictures!
shewhomust: (guitars)
Having omitted to hear any music when we were in Whitby, we made an effort not to miss the Sedgefield Folk Festival completely - though this only amounted to going to one concert, on Saturday evening. Four acts at the Parish Hall (one of them the Teacups, of whom I have been a fan since they were students on the Folk Music degree course), no bar but bring your own (and I packed a picnic as well). Allocated seats at long tables, which placed us close to the front but far enough over to one side that we couldn't see all the performers: convenient to have a table, but these were large and made the hall uncomfortably crowded.

The opening act was / were Gilded Thieves, but I'm glad I hadn't seen this video before the event:



Because I would have been disappointed. The live performance was all verve and enthusiasm: they had gained a bass guitarist and a percussionist, and singer Laura had acquired a tambourine. The delicate charm of the video was lost in all this percussion (and from where we were sitting, the fiddler was too far left to be visible, though let's not overstate this, she was still audible). I caught myself thinking - and this is the opposite of my usual reaction - that their songs seemed quite interesting, and what they needed was a band who would do a more varied, less thrashy arrangement, in which it would be possible to hear the words. The people who made the video might just be that band.

Next up were the Teacups - or at least, three of them. Alex, it seems, is now living in the US (Boston area, apparently, that's all I know) with a wife and child: he returns each year for three months, into which the band contrive to arrange as many gigs as possible. They would not normally have agreed to perform as a trio, but had had a good time at Sedgefield in the past, and didnh't want to say no. So this time, have the trailer for their album, to hear what they can do when they are all present and correct:



But I was glad to have caught up with them, and to buy my copy of that album. How can you not love a group who, realising them that everyone in the fdolk world is preparing material on a First World War theme, devises a close harmony version of Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire?

After the break we had Alterego, a fun and lively ceilidh band. On stage, they were a bit overpowering, but they'd have been good to dance to.

Finally, after another break (and the inevitable raffle) the star of the show - Kieran Goss. I should have heard of him, I think. His name was vaguely familiar, but then, so many names are. He's clearly very big in Ireland - and indeed in Sedgefield: pleasant country-tinged songs and good chat, but just not my music.

I always hope that I'm going to be blown away by someone I haven't heard before, and sometimes it does happen. Not this time, though.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
  • The morning after our return from London, with no food in the house and D. arriving that evening, we went to Tesco's. I didn't mean to buy any wine: this was supposed to be an in and out, quick and efficient, kind of shopping. But the French wines are right at the end of the aisle, I wondered what they had from the south-west, and there on the top shelf was a display of Terreforts de Madiran 2003 at £3.25 a bottle. (That's $4.70 at today's rate, and the article I've linked to quotes a price of £11.99 last November.) Madiran ages well, but 2003 is a fair age: perhaps it was past its best? We bought a single bottle, and opened it that evening. At first I thought: agreeable, distinctive Madiran tannins, but fading, worth that ridiculously low price but not as intense as it should be. But as we emptied the bottle it began to fill out, and the last drop of the last glassful was a delight. The next day we went back and bought all they had left, which was only six bottles. We opened another one on Sunday, a bit earlier this time, to let it breathe, and it was wonderful, all liquorice, leather and black fruits, bramble and plum. I wonder if it will last long enough to try on [livejournal.com profile] helenraven alongside those Uruguayan tannats?


  • We are approaching completion of this stage of the building and decorating: unfortunately we are approaching it as Achilles approaches the tortoise. The spare bedroom is painted and almost papered, but the paper ran out with one tiny strip (maybe three inches wide, between the wardrobe and the corner) still to do, so we have been waiting for more paper to arrive. Due tomorrow morning (and the carpet is due tomorrow afternoon, so I hope there'll be no delay). When the decorator arrives, we're assuming he will also put a second coat of paint in the kitchen, and bring a long brush to paint behind the radiator. We had a nasty moment when the fridge was pulled out of its corner and revealed an unpleasant damp patch, but that has now been sealed and replastered. The new paint is very red. I thought I was choosing the shade closest to the existing terra cotta, and was puzzled that it was called 'Red Barn', but oh, yes, very red. I am rethinking which pictures go where.


  • Ushaw College is a former Catholic seminary, now busy reinventing itself as a welcoming events venue. This is disconcerting. But it has some fabulous architecture, and if it wants to fill that space with folk music, that's fine by me. We couldn't make all of the folk festival last weekend, but we were there on Saturday evening for Alistair Anderson's new band, Northlands. So new that their only web presence is on Alistair Anderson's news page: for the record, then, singer and flute player Sarah Hayes, Sophy Ball on fiddle and Ian Stephenson on guitar. Great fun, a mixture of solo spots and ensemble pieces, maybe not entirely settled in as a band but giving every sign of enjoying playing together. Long may they do so. The concert was in the Exhibition Hall, a chapel letting its hair down observed by bishops and other clergy in the roof beams:

    Bishop


  • Quotation of the week - but which week? We were watching the extended version of Have I Got News for You on the iPlayer. Paul Merton, intervening before Gyles Brandreth could lure Ian Hislop into a grammatical debate, announced "The gerund is a three-wheeled vehicle which was very popular before the invention of the horse."


  • Last night our dear friend F. celebrated a dignificant birthday by inviting a group of friends to an Elizabethan banquet at Lumley Castle. Don't be misled by the description, this is not about authentic re-enactment and historic recipes, this is the banquet as pantomime. It was extremely well done, and we even managed a certain amount of conversation in between the entertainment.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
This post has been a Work in Progress for the last week, and meanwhile stuff keeps happening. Nonetheless, here it is at last. We were in London for a week, for reasons I explained on our way south. It was a busy week, and now it is over and we are returned to our regular programming, whatever that may be. Here's the compressed version of the last week: Further compressed by the cut! )

And then we came home. But that's another story.
shewhomust: (guitars)
I would have told you that the last time I saw Dave Swarbrick was with Martin Carthy at a Musicians' Benevolent Fund benefit at Cecil Sharp House, which LJ tells me was in 2012 - or maybe at his solo gig at the Waiting Room in Eaglescliff. But no, in fact it was just over a year ago, in concert at the Sage, once again with Carthy. But then, for over twenty years every time you saw Swarb could have been the last time.

There's a very good obituary in The Telegraph ("Well, they've had practice," says [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler).

I was looking for some suitably solemn or melancholy piece to embed here - O'Carolan's Farewell to Music, say - and was tempted by Fairport's Farewell, farewell, which is thematically apt, but not really a showcase for the man's talent. But I couldn't resist this (and not just because I've been listening to Dorten Yonder rehearsing their own 'Chickens!' set:



And, just for [personal profile] durham_rambler, a bonus track from the archives:

shewhomust: (guitars)
If I hadn't already booked tickets for Woody Sez, we would have been in Sunderland last Friday, to hear Bryan and Mary Talbot talking about their new book, The Red Virgin, a life of Louise Michel.

Because that's how life goes: you wait years to be entertained by a biography of a left-wing hero, and then two come along together.

Woody Sez is a show about Woody Guthrie, of course. I keep wanting to say it's a one-man show, because that's the format, though there's a cast of four, and while David Lutken devised the show and plays Woody throughout (from the age of three onwards), the other three performers play everyone else, and many - many - instruments too. They are Eleanor Brunsdon, Ruth Clarke-Irons and Will Wolfe Hogan (according to the website for the current UK tour, since the flier handed out at the theatre wasn't giving that sort of information).

Likewise, it wasn't until I started writing this that I realised the show isn't new: this Guardian review was published in January 2011. Then again, a show about Woody Guthrie doesn't get old. I didn't learn much about Guthrie that I hadn't already known. I suspect the text relies heavily on his own writing, which seems a good choice for what is essentially a celebration, and a showcase for the songs - and what else would you want it to be?
shewhomust: (guitars)
I've tended to regard Peter Maxwell Davies as a Good Thing without really knowing his music. Listening to the radio news coverage of his death, I suspect I may have encountered something from his days as an enfant terrible before he mellowed into the Master of the Queen's Music (I paraphrase the BBC). Today they've been playing fragments of a very pretty, plaintive piece of piano music, and by the time I'd heard it a couple of times I was thinking "But surely that wants to be a fiddle tune?"

Thankyou, YouTube:

shewhomust: (guitars)
Newcastle has a new festival, the Brundibar Arts Festival, rooted in classical music but reaching beyond, moving from Holocaust Remembrance Day to a "positive affirmation of creativity in adversity" - of which tofay's offering was a sequence of four pop-up klezmer concerts by Horovod.

We took the train to Newcastle, and were at the Lit & Phil bright and early for a splendid performance upstairs in the library. A bonus pleasure was the appearance of an old friend who we don't see often enough, scurrying in a couple of items into the performance, into on of the few free seats (middle of the front row, inevitably): later she explained that she had reached the metro station before realising that she didn't have her purse with her, so her journey had been more flustered than it should have been. We took her off for coffee, and enjoyed catching up on the news.

We'd all enjoyed the performance enough that we were ready to hear it again, at its final venue, the City Farm in the Ouseburn, so M. went home to collect her car and her purse while [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and I set out to walk along the Quayside. The Sunday market was still going. I don't know when I was last there, but it has changed: it used to be all cheap plastic and shiny things, and there were still one or two stalls selling these, but most of the stalls were food and coffee, like a much extended Farmers' Market (bearing in mins that much of what appears at our Farmers' Market is not farmed locally). We resisted all temptations, though, navigated our way into the Ouseburn (I would not have taken the right turning had it not been where we parked for a recent concert at the Cluny) and reached the Farm Café in time for a bowl of soup before the band arrived - and a cup of coffee after.

I'm glad we went back for a second helping of Horovod: this was their fourth concert of the day, and I think they were more relaxed, if also wearier. I wish they had more small-talk: individually, after the performance, all four members of the band were very approachable, and willing to talk about the music, but during the show they didn't have much to say to the audience. Still, that left more time for the music, which isn't a bad thing!
shewhomust: (guitars)
On Saturday we went to the first concert of the year, Tim Dalling and his Bonie Squad (pronounced 'bonny') at the Cluny - or rather Cluny2, a venue new to us, out of the back door of the pub and in again, down stairs and down more stairs to a little theatre space which must surely be below the level of the Ouseburn.

"We're going to fill the theatre with dead people!" said Tim. That has been the theme of this winter - and besides, the last time I had an evening out the room was full of phantoms. Tim's dead people weren't ghosts, though, just people who weren't alive any more. He sang songs about dead people: his grandparents, his brother, Michael Marra (and, more cheerfully, Michael Marra's song about Frida Kahlo's Visit to the Taybridge Bar). And he sang his own settings of the work of dead poets: Ernest Jones, Louis MacNeice, Julia Darling. Sometimes accompanied by Neil Harland on double bass, Ian Carr on elegant guitar and stand-up comedy, Rhona Dalling on violin, vocal and support (her own songs and banjo), sometimes solo - including a lovely a capella version of Julia Darling's Indelible, miraculous ... A good evening.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Last Saturday we missed a birthday party because there was so much snow last night we went to a Christmas party amid reports that this is the warmest December on record. We are in London: it's another country.

I've been too busy struggling to keep up with Christmas preparations to post about it as well. There's little to report: lussekater were baked, only a day late; Christmas cake baked, although 'soak fruit overnight' turned out to take three days, and next year I really am going to review the quantities; some presents have been bought, and some of those wrapped and dispatched - thoough some remain to be found, and there are some people who will not receive their presents until, if all goes well, the days between Christmas and the New Year; cards are done except those for neighbours; and we are in London for our annual pre-Christmas visit, so what has not been done will await our return. Time to party!

As usual, we would have liked to set off earlier than we did, but there was last minute wrapping, and we were watching the clock all the way, but arrived in time for a bowl of chili before the Islington Folk Club Christmas party. The club is upstairs at the Horseshoe pub, in Clerkenwell; one day I will visit Clerkenwell by daylight, but on a December night it's a fine Dickensian London scene, dark alleys and glittering lights, sacks of rubbish awaiting collection and bright cocktail bars.

The Christmas party, as BoyBear says, is always the same and always different. There was the Angel Band, the house band, complete with what we think was a bass clarinet (reaches to the floor, and you can tuck small items into the bell for safe keeping), Christmas tunes and morris tunes sometimes sliding from one to the other; there was pass the parcel, with the traditional forfeits (the solo mummers' play); there were floor spots, tending towards the seasonal.

Shepherds, awake!


Dorten Yonder sang Shepherds, Awake!, and later, as advertised on BoyBear's T-shirt, Holly, Holly; Amanda MacLean, whose book I posted about a while ago, sang a very funny Twelve Days of Christmas enumerating the traditional features of the club, the seven Swedish polskas, a very melodious five "Don't slam the door!" the four Angel Bands, and a book of Bernard Puckett's pub poetry. And we dispersed with a certain amount of "See you at the Carol Evening on Sunday..." so the fun has only just begun.

One thing, though, one conspicuous absence. Tomorrow would have been Phil Ochs's 75th birthday. I only know this because I stumbled, almost by chance, across an event at the People's Bookshop last Sunday. That would be a post of its own if only I had more time, but the condensed version is, regular event rebranded to remember Phil Ochs, but attended mainly by people who, with all good will, don't remember, haven't heard of. It was described as one of a number of events on this theme, but the internet only shows US events, and my informants on the London folk scene know nothing, either. Sad that so many great songs are so little known:

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