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Live Reviews

HECTOR CHRISTIE & CHRIS EDWARDS - Cellar Upstairs Folk Club - London 23 January 2016

There's a lot of competition in Central London to grab your entertainment money on a Saturday night. It says much for this club's trust in organiser Sheila Miller that there was a very healthy turnout for this duo largely unknown in London. Two 40 minute sets, culminating in demands for an encore, showed that the booking certainly paid dividends for all concerned.

SWEET LIBERTIES - St. David’s Hall, Cardiff - 27 November 2015

Our democracy, such as it is, has been a long time in the making. In 1215 the Magna Carta was signed and in 1265 Simon De Montfort called his Parliament. To celebrate 800 years in the pursuit of democracy and equality of rights, the English Folk Dance and Song Society and Folk By The Oak commissioned Martyn Joseph, Nancy Kerr, Sam Carter and Maz O’Connor to examine the history and compose new music to mark the rights and liberties that people have fought to achieve and protect. They were joined by musicians Patsy Reid and Nick Cooke for performances across England and Wales in November.

The Trip to Birmingham

Alex Monaghan reports back from a traditional music festival in deepest Digbeth.

Four days in Birmingham at the end of November. It doesn't sound like a dream holiday, but a sell-out crowd was attracted by this year's Tradfest. On its second run, this aspiring annual festival of Irish music is organised by a small bunch of local lads who play music but also have the skills to run a major event. Between them, they manage logistics, funding, advertising, ticket sales, technical matters, stage management and crowd control. The first Tradfest in 2014 was a surprise success, and 2015 built on this to make things even better.

Manifold – The Peace Tent

Deep in the heart of the Peak District lie two beautiful river valleys – the Dove and the Manifold. The latter gives its name to a wonderful and small (and small is beautiful) Folk Gathering. No, it is NOT a Festival, it really is a gathering. A collection, not bigger than 240 of Malcolm Hawksworth’s friends. All gather to celebrate music, poetry, chat and beer in great company.

FIDDLER'S GREEN FESTIVAL - Rostrevor, County Down - 19-26 July 2015

The Fiddler's Green Festival has come a long way in the last 29 years. It began as a one day event, progressed to a weekend festival, and now extends to eight days and seven nights of music, culture and craic. Two things help define the festival - The Sands Family and the location, Rostrevor, a scenic village nestling on the shores of Carlingford Lough against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains, which really do roll down to the sea.

SADDLEWORTH FOLK WEEKEND - Uppermill, Oldham - 18-19 July 2015

Take a small inheritance from an elderly aunt, add a challenge from an ex-PA and sprinkle in a dozen pleas from festival goers and stewards... and what do you get? The inaugural Saddleworth Folk Weekend, with Ali O’Brien directing operations. Ali is no stranger to this role as she was director of the original Saddleworth Folk Festival which sadly ceased to exist a few years ago. In the intervening years, many requests to bring it back fell on deaf ears as there was no funding or financial support. Then, good old Aunty Elsie died and left a small inheritance. The unselfish Ali decided to put on a Folk Weekend, smaller than its predecessors and with a cosier atmosphere. This warmer ‘feel’ came through during the entire weekend and many were heard to echo through the hills and valleys around that they were “glad it’s back”, “really missed it” etc.

SHIRLEY COLLINS’ 80TH BIRTHDAY BASH - Cecil Sharp House, London - 31 October 2015

I bought my first Shirley Collins’ record, The Banks Of The Sweet Primroses, in 1968, and was instantly entranced by her voice and her songs. I went to see the The Albion Dance Band in 1976 and to the National Theatre production of Larkrise in 1979, in the hope and expectation of hearing Shirley singing. On neither occasion was she part of the band. It was soon after this that Shirley stopped singing for reasons she explains in her book, America Over The Water. It was only at Cecil Sharp House on this Saturday afternoon that I realised that I had, in fact, never seen Shirley sing live.

CYLCHCANU 2 / SONGCHAIN 2 - St David’s Hall, Cardiff - 14 October 2015

Last year I reviewed the first Cylch Canu in glowing terms. It was so successful that it may become an annual event. I do hope so, as we were once again treated to a delightful evening of tunes, song and dance.

ORAN: A CELEBRATION OF THE SONGS OF RUNRIG - Blas Festival, Inverness - 12 September 2015

The Blas Festival, held every September at various locations throughout the Highlands, regularly culminates in a grand finale concert at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. This year’s concert was extra special, being a Gaelic star-studded show paying homage to the music of Runrig and sold out faster than the proverbial hot cakes. The singers and musicians ranging through generations and performing to a packed audience, equally wide-ranging age-wise, featured Cathy-Ann McPhee, Julie Fowlis and Mànran. A lengthy programme covered both the earlier and later stages of Runrig's long recording career including interpretations of some English as well as Gaelic songs from the Macdonald brothers' vast repertoire.

ALISON MCMORLAND, GEORDIE MCINTYRE AND FRIENDS - Tolbooth, Stirling - 23 October 2015

If one way of judging the success of an event is to leave the audience begging for more, then this gathering of singers and musicians certainly met that criteria. The evening began with Geordie and Alison singing Inveroran, penned by Geordie. This song, in praise of the Highlands of Argyll, had a short refrain which was picked up immediately by the audience, setting the scene for the rest of the night.