REVIEW: Mary Humphreys & Anahata – Ryburn Folk Club

Mary and Anahata at the Ryburn Folk Club. Photo: Andy Day

When you run a club with a great guest list it’s especially nice when one of your great guest acts also consist of old friends. Mary Humphreys lived in Ripponden and was one of our splendid resident singers as well as being a committee member. Anahata was a musician resident in Cambridgeshire who we knew from the English country music scene and it was shortly after he moved to Bradford that he and Mary formed a duo. Sadly it wasn’t long before jobs dragged them both to Cambridgeshire and we had to wait several years for them to move back into the area. We’re delighted to have them back and this delight was reflected in their reception by the Ryburn audience.

Given the weather there were not so many resident singers as usual so we were treated to two nice long guest spots. Mary and Anahata are very good at winkling out different versions of songs and tunes that you (think you) know. If you thought you knew the age old favourite dance tune called Speed the Plough then think again because the William Clarke of Fentwell version is somewhat more challenging. Familiar though we are with Pete Coe’s traveller collected song Catch Me If You Can, the ‘same’ song collected from Charlotte Dann of Cambridgeshire and entitled The Cuckoo and the Nightingale is quite different.
Charlotte Dann was the source of two more excellent songs – a version of the incest ballad Lucy Wan and a first class economical version of Barbara Allen with an excellent and unusual tune.

Another different version was The Plains of Waterloo as collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Mr Henry Mallion in Cambridgeshire.
It’s nice to hear a song you’ve not heard before and The Crystal Spring filled that purpose – one of only two known versions and a song of which very little is known.

Mary and Anahata at the Ryburn Folk Club. Photo: Andy Day

Given the instrumental expertise of this duo there were tunes in abundance from 3/2 hornpipes (one by Purcell and one from the north-east called Geld Him Lasses, Geld Him (the origin of which we’ll gloss over), through Playford and manuscript sources to two tunes from Anahata’s own pen.

One song stood out, for me if not for everyone, and that is When Fishes Fly with a most beautiful if unusual combination of banjo and cello. The stand-out tune set was probably the Playford set of Rosamund’s Pond and My Lord Cutt’s Delight, the second via the 1695 north-east manuscript of Henry Atkinson. These two manage to squeeze out every ounce of flexibility and creativity from melodeon and English concertina, and we’re happy to say they’ll be playing for the next Ryburn Dance. Even if you don’t dance it might be worth coming to sit and listen.

The supporting cast was:
Pete Coe with Matt McGinn’s Looking For a Job
Sue Burgess – Maid of Mourne Shore
Colin Batho – (late for Burns Night) with Westlin’ Wind
Chris Manners – a brand new song about retirement
Chris Coe – Stan Hugill’s Shallow Brown
Mal Jardine – The Black & Brown Ale

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