Review: Harp & a Monkey at Ryburn Folk Club

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The January Ryburn Folk Club night got the new year off to a good start with guests Harp & a Monkey supported by a wide range of resident and visiting singers.
After the usual instrumental warm up by ‘The Sessionaires’, Pete Coe led some of us in his anthemic Red Shift song ‘Seven Warnings’ followed by probably the most varied set of songs we’ve heard at the club for many a year. These included a brand new and somewhat different style song from resident songsmith Chris Manners,  a fine ‘Locks & Bolts’ ballad from Sue Burgess, a Dylan song (North Country Blues) from Chris Coe who also joined forces with Annie Dearman on the somewhat racy traditional song ‘Fancy Lads’.
Later in the night we heard ‘Banks of Newfoundland’ from Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison, Dave Pawson’s ‘Lizzy Lindsay’ and a very authentic sounding ‘Silver Dollar’ from Phil Cerny. A very un-authentic sounding ‘Jolene’ was delivered with concertina accompaniment by Terry Evans whose husband Huw himself delivered another of his rambling anecdotes about life, with no great punch line but plenty of laughs along the way.

 

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Phil Cerny and Huw Evans

Harp and a Monkey polarise opinion. Many of the audience had travelled specifically to see them and knew what to expect. Some people who didn’t know them were a little put off by their pre-recorded backing tracks. Instrumentally they share banjo, guitar,  accordion, glockenspiel and, not unexpectedly, harp. These were often doubled up on the backing tracks along with additional content like sound effects, atmospheres and some very carefully chosen and occasionally highly emotional oral history interviews, underlining the content of a song. The nearest I can get to it in description is to liken it to a live version of the Radio Ballads. For me it worked really well, but I’m not only a Radio Ballads fan but a qualified film sound designer and I felt completely at home with the concept – and their interaction with the tracks was masterful.

To even things up acoustically, PA was a necessity but there is no getting past the fact that it does create a barrier between performer and audience. It wasn’t a problem when we had Nic Jones last year but then it wouldn’t be would it? Here, it did restrain the audience a little and the opportunities to join in chorus and refrain lines were not as readily taken as usual. This was more than compensated by the friendly, amusing and engaging presentation from the three excellent performers.

The songs themselves were high in social comment. Apart from a couple of traditional songs (The Manchester Angel and The Molecatcher) and a re-working of Harry Boardman’s ‘Bolton Yard’, it was self penned stuff. Three songs from their ‘wartime suite’ started the second half, ‘The Gallipolli Oak’ being the most memorable. The story is of a man taking an English Oak sapling to plant somewhere near the unmarked grave of his slain teenage son, bribing a Turkish gardener to water it. Generations later the Turkish man’s descendants are still watering the tree and the soldier’s family still visit the tree. At the other end of the scale was a song about the plight of men who survived the war but didn’t successfully survive the peace.

The ‘allegedly’ Playford tune, ‘Oats and Beans and Barley Grow’, gets a new set of words under the title ‘Payday’. A song which had particular resonance for me, having visited some of the Spanish Civil War museums last year, was ‘Walking in Footsteps of Giants’, a comment on the fact that many northern men who took part in the mass trespass on Kinder in 1932 also went on to walk across the Pyrenees and join The International Brigade against Franco’s fascists.

There could be so much to say about all of the songs.You won’t find any tub thumping,  as they approach both the hardness and the beauty of life from most unexpected directions and are beautifully crafted. Rather than produce an academic treatise here, I would urge you to open your mind, go and see the band and, better still, buy the CDs. You’ll be rewarded with a hugely thoughtful performance dressed up expertly with a music that often belies the content. As they remarked from the stage – the darker the material the more the instrumentation starts to resemble a ‘Peppa Pig’ backing track. Don’t be fooled – there’s  humour, pathos, blood, sweat and tears in there!

R3S January Barn Dance with Barry Goodman and the Tonic – Saturday 16 January 2016

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Still trying to keep to the New Year’s resolutions – healthier living and more exercise?
Then why not join Ryburn 3 Step for the first Family Barn Dance of the year at Waring Green Community Centre in Brighouse this coming Saturday?
The band is the Tonic with caller Barry Goodman. Barry is a singer, musician, songwriter, caller and folk arts educator who is well-known for his broad range of interests and activities and is seen at most of the major folk festivals in the country.
The Tonic is Julie Atkin (piano & vocals), Ollie Woods (percussion and vocals), Gavin Atkin (fiddle, duet concertina, melodeon and vocals) and Malcolm Woods (melodeon and vocals). They have (individually and collectively) been involved as singers and musicians in social and folk dance, music and song for many years, and together produce simple direct dance music in the traditional style.

Long Company donation to Calderdale Flood Relief

The Long Company  performed their Mummers play at the Alma Inn, the Navigation Inn, the Hinchliffe Arms, and the Old Bridge Inn to the delight of assembled onlookers. We are delighted to announce that, thanks to the generosity of the audiences, the collection of £300 has been donated to Calderdale Flood Relief.

DSC09930    Bruce

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year – Welcome to 2016

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Happy New Year to our friends, performers,supporters, and all.

The New Year Ceilidh at Greenhead College in Huddersfield was once again a splendid event, with over 140 revellers having a great time.

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R3S NYE dance1_15

 

 

 

Now our festivities continue with the Long Company Mummers who will perform their play on 4 nights leading up to Twelfth Night: 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th January. After each play the ‘gathered revellers’ will adjourn inside to the snug for an evening of music, song and dancing. Look at the Events for details and directions.

Saturday 2 January 2016 – The Alma Inn, Cottonstones;

Sunday 3 January 2016 – The Navigation, Sowerby Bridge;

Tuesday 5 January 2016 – The Hinchliffe Arms, Cragg Vale;

Wednesday 6 January 2016 – The Old Bridge Inn, Ripponden.

Christmas party at the R3S Folk Club 16 December 2015

Review from Huw Evans

Christmas Party capers

One of my favourite Christmas recollections is of the time that Tony Blackburn played Steeleye Span’s ‘Gaudete’ and on its conclusion remarked that he didn’t think it very Christmassy. You will have to have the strange convolutions of my brain explained to you to see the link with the Christmas party held down at The Works in Sowerby Bridge: some of the festive clothes worn by performers were definitely on the gaudy side and as all students of the English language know the origins of the word gaudy lie in the Latin ‘gaudium’ meaning joy.  Not only that but the evening’s proceedings were a veritable cornucopia of Christmas cheer: all manner of performances from a seemingly endless supply of talent, vocal, instrumental and terpsichorean providing ample quantities of joy and rejoicing on all sides so that even Mr Blackburn would surely have appreciated it.

The programme, planned by Steve Harrison and Annie Dearman, flowed seamlessly through no less than thirty-two separate performances from a splendid opening with Pete Coe singing the rousing Sheffield carol “Sweet Bells” through to the grand finale of Pete, the Pit Band and the Ryburn 3-Step Step Dancers leading the audience through Wassail Song.

In between there were songs traditional and modern, sacred and secular, readings, recitations and story-telling. What price a version of ‘Ugly Duckling’ Danny Kaye never dreamed of, the cautionary tale of a (temporarily) flying baby, or the travails of a young lad whose ambition it was to be a pantomime dame?  Or stories and songs from Gloucestershire, Wales and the Appalachian Mountains?

It is impossible to do justice to all the performances,but some still linger in the mind. Chris Coe and Annie Dearman sang delicately, precisely, beautifully ‘Westrun Wynd’ and, in the second half ‘Bonny Boy’.  Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham, having endured a nightmare four hour drive, got to sing twice: you could have heard a pin drop.  Chris Manners demonstrated his versatile dexterity as wordsmith and musician.  Alice Jones, all sequins and feathered wings, pumped her harmonium and sang like an angel.  And, of course, holding the evening together, was Pete Coe, performing solo, as half of a duo and as part of The Pit Band.

Who else? The Ryburn Three-Step Step Dancers (whose enthusiasm almost lead to their downfall when they discovered that the stage was smaller than they thought) and the Ryburn Longsword Dancers who knotted their blades into a semblance of a Christmas tree, Steve Harrison, Terry Evans, Tim Edwards, Gill Heritage, Pauline Jones, Sue Burgess, Sue van Gaalen, Phil Cerny, Tim Edwards, Sue Coe and Huw Evans.  What else?  Melodeon, tenor guitar, English concertina, fiddle, hammer dulcimer, harmonium, guitar, octave mandolin, harmonica and a virtual yoyo…

Gaudate!

Huw Evans

Seasonal celebrations for R3S started at ‘The Works’ in Sowerby Bridge on 16 December with the Folk Club Christmas party. Over 20 of our residents andRyburn Singers_Xmas party 15 regulars performed seasonal sonAlice Jones Xmas party 15gs and novelties much to the delight and amusement of all who attended. As well as the singers anUgly Duckling Xmas party 15d musicians, the Ryburn Step Dancers and the Ryburn Longsword Dancers gave flashy displays of fRyburn Step Dancers Xmas party 15ancy footwork and sword wielding, and the Ryburn Singers charmed us with their harmonies. And there were party food and mince pies as well!

Coming up in the seasonal celebrations are:

Saturday 19 December – Barn Dance with Steam Chicken and Lisa Heywood at the Waring Green Community Centre in Brighouse;

Thursday 31 December – New Year Ceilidh with the Black Box Big Band and Pete Coe at Greenhead College in Huddersfield (advance tickets only).Long Company (13)_2jan14

2 – 6 January 2016 – the 4 appearances of the Long Company Mummers, who are only allowed out at the start of each New Year.

 

To start the 2016 programme, the first guests at the Folk Club in the New Year are ‘Harp and a Monkey’ on 27 January 2016.

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!

Andy Day.

Ryburn 3 Step Christmas Party – Wednesday 16 December

Long Company (13)_2jan14The annual Christmas Party will be on Wednesday 16 December starting at 8 pm at The Works in Sowerby Bridge. Residents, regulars and visitors are welcome to come along and contribute “seasonal songs and novelties” to celebrate 2015 and start our Midwinter festivities.

 

The programme for the party can be found here:

Folk Club Xmas party 2015

Then starting on Saturday 2 January, The Long Company Mummers will be performing a free spectacular open-air Mummers play at 8 pm at 4 local venues, followed by music, dance and song inside:

Saturday 2 January 2016 – The Alma, Cottonstones;

Sunday 3 January 2016 – The Navigation, Sowerby Bridge;

Tuesday 5 January 2016 – The Hinchliffe Arms, Cragg Vale;

Wednesday 6 January 2016 – The Old Bridge Inn, Ripponden.

Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman at the R3S Folk Club 25 November 2015

 

The room at The Works in Sowerby Bridge was full for Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman on 25 November. Dave and Anni have been singing together for 30 years and their accomplished performance of songs from Dave’s own writing and Anni’s native North-east have earned them a fine reputation on the Folk scene in the UK and abroad. Their voices seem perfectly matched for two-part harmony, while the occasional solo demonstrates the personal character of their IMG_0416(1)individual interpretations.

Starting with “The bonny ship the Diamond” Dave and Anni immediately gave the audience something to sing about. We then spotted the deliberate mistake in the murderous intent of ‘Sweet Randall” (‘Woody nightshade’ doesn’t actually kill you but then ‘Deadly nightshade’ doesn’t rhyme), and were treated to two insights into the peculiar attractions of colliers and keelmen. A poem (one of “Two Songs”) by C. Day-IMG_0418(1)Lewis and set to a tune by Roy Harris told how the ‘Flowers of the town’ were lost in the Great War. Dave’s song “Charlie Fox” was followed by the “Ullswater Hunt” to give an interesting pair of viewpoints. They finished with “Roll on another day” and “My lady of autumn” as an encore. In between the songs we heard about where the songs came from and how they had developed, while Dave and Anni’s marvellous enjoyment of performing them was evident throughout.

Songs from the residents and floor singers included “Byker Hill” from Pete Coe (with Johnny Adams, Chris Coe, and Steve Harrison), a lesser-known version of “The black velvet band” from Steve Harrison and Annie Dearman, and “Young Hindhorn” from Chris Coe. Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne gave a terrific performance of “Tom the Barbour”, accompanying himself on Anglo concertina, and Sue Burgess sang “Ramble away”. Sue van Gaalen, Chris Manners and Terry Evans gave the audience food for thought at the start of the second half, and Tom Lewis’ song “Radio times” gave us a history of popular music from the 1950’s on.

Andy Day.

Review of Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp at the Folk Club on 28 October 2015.

The mood of this particular event was apparent from the start  as the residents and guests produced well-crafted songs and tunes, one after another to give a gentle and thoughtful tone to the whole evening. The guests were Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp;Laura, whose day job is Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House and her partner Ted Kemp (who is also a librarian) proved fine bearers of our native song tradition.

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Their set was packed with a selection of songs from north and south of the country, always chosen with a variation of tune or words to delight the discerning traditional music audience. There were so many notable songs from the duo it is hard to pick one from the bunch but their performance of ‘The female highwayman’  was excellent and reflected Gordon Hall’s much loved rendition without being a parody which could so easily happen in the hands of less sensitive performers. Laura accompanied some songs on concertina and cello, whilst Ted accompanied Laura on banjo and guitar for many of the songs, but also added gentle vocal harmonies tIMG_0364(1)o a number of her songs, notably Frank Hinchliffe’s ‘The Golden Glove’, to subtle effect. Well-known songs such as ‘The Manchester Angel’ and the Coppers’ ‘Shepherd of the Downs’ sounded fresh in these performances. All lovely stuff.

 

A spirited set of tunes from the evening’s ‘pit band’ (Pete Coe, Steve Harrison, Johnny Adams, and Andy Day) opened proceedings. Pete Coe gave us two songs during the evening. On the first song he was accompanied by Steve and Johnny for his brilliant version of Spanish Lady which he sang in memory of Al O’Donnell (who passed away recently) from their days together at Cheltenham folk Club back in the 1970s. Later in the evening, Pete sang the seasonal soul-caking song ‘Welcome Cold November’ a very poignant recollection of his childhood in Cheshire, ‘Soul-caking’ round the streets of Northwich. Chris Coe showed yet again her mastery of the classic ballad form by singing ‘The wife of Usher’s Well’. Sue Burgess regaled us with ‘ Blue-eyed Sally’ and Sue van Gaalen  sang her version of a ‘Died for Love’ ballad. Alice Jones also sang a traditional song ‘The Cruel Mother’. All added to the evening’s sense of songs well chosen for the occasion, some reflecting the approach of Halloween. For the fashionistas amongst you, Alice’s dress was printed with lurid spooky monsters! Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison dug into their back repertory for ‘The Besom Maker’ and their anglicised version of ‘The Roving Ploughboy’ with words taken from Robert Burns and tune from Jane Turriff, both accompanied on melodeon. The audience were invited by a very welcome guest floor singer, Terry Evans to sing along with her in Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason to believe’,  proving just how well known and much loved the song is,  whilst accompanying herself admirably on concertina.

 

How lucky we are to have so many people able to create such a great atmosphere at our club.

Annie Dearman.

An Independent Folk Development Project in the Ryburn Valley