Welcome to our June Newsletter
On Friday, 14th June 2019, we are proud to present
Hard to believe, but this is our last concert of the season. We know you will all soon be migrating to the coast for your staycation or visiting your favorite festival over the summer months and so we can give the hard working committee and library staff a well-earned break! Talking of which, we would like to thank both the management team and the support staff at the library who help make our concerts happen and also thank the many helpers and all of the committee who work as volunteers to put on each event. It's a great community partnership in Chesterfield and we hope you agree it brings a tremendous contribution to the cultural life of our city. We will be back in September, as usual, with another year of great acts lined up.
For our final concert of the season we have a double-header consisting of two highly entertaining artists, both of whom have proved extremely popular when visiting our club before.
Les Barker writes strange poems and comes from Manchester, but he's now Welsh. He was an accountant before he became a professional idiot. He's written 85 books, which sell in large numbers at his gigs because people don't quite believe what they've just heard. His poems have spawned a number of folk heroes: Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower, Captain Indecisive and Spot of the Antarctic, to name but two.
Making a very welcome return visit to the club, Flossie is a French-born singer who became involved in the British folk scene in 2000-2001 while she was on a teacher exchange in North East England. Her repertoire is very wide and spans various genres. It includes well-known songs by Allan Taylor, Kieran Halpin and Colum Sands and she also performs wonderful renditions of Edith Piaf's eternal favorites No Regrets and La Vie en Rose. She is a sensational performer who intrigues audiences with her superb voice and her comments on the peculiarities of our own English language.
What you may have missed...
Megson supported by Del Scott Miller (March 2019)
Review by Dave Banks
Chesterfield Folk Club's February concert had us a wee bit worried beforehand, with low advance sales. However, the artists' reputation further afield obviously carried a lot of weight, as sales on the door were very impressive, bringing the audience numbers up to a well-above-average size and creating the usual warm and bubbling atmosphere in the Chesterfield Library Auditorium.
Barnsley songwriter and guitarist, Del Scott Miller opened the show with a fistful of raw ballads. He started off with a classic Nick Cave number – Red Right Hand – which he carried off with conviction and aplomb – as good as I've ever heard it done, in fact. It's a powerful song containing some great images of a shadowy figure tempting innocents away from a conventionally moral life ("He'll rekindle all the dreams / It took you a lifetime to destroy…. A shadow is cast wherever he stands / Stacks of green paper in his Red Right hand"). Del then took us into his own songwriting territory: his songs are unashamedly political, powerful and considered. He told us the tale of a Yorkshire boxer trying to provide for his family during the miners' strike and being persuaded to throw a fight at odds of 22 to 1 (the title of the song) to earn a quick wad of cash. Del hammered home the message that death is the great socialist leveller – We Always Go Out with As Much as When We Came In ("The fella' in black always wins"). Del particularly shone when he treated us to a couple of quieter numbers, which showcased his ability with the guitar (he's a guitar tutor in real life) – especially The Quietness and Repeat Myself ("Failure teaches but one thing / Pass the baton while you can"). Del plays a lot of gigs locally – go see him! – and has released a several very excellent albums and EPs of songs and spoken word, the most recent of which are entitled The Pen, the Sword and the Song and Three Red Songs, which you can find at https://delscottmiller.bandcamp.com/.
Del was followed by Megson - our main act – the husband and wife team of Debs and Stu Hanna, playing accordion and guitar/banjo, respectively, and forming a veritable powerhouse of vocal harmony. They hail from Teesside but have recently made a move down to the wilds of Cambridgeshire. They seemed such friendly, cultured, lovely artists that I find it confusing to feel my fingers itching for my best green ink and Daily Telegraph apoplexy and asking why, oh why, do they sing with Artful Dodger-like glottal stops??
Stu and Debs, who went down a storm with the audience. They started off the show with an excellent, reflective number from their new album Con-tra-dic-shun called (and this is a smart way to begin a show) Are you sitting comfortably? The song invited the listeners to reflect on all the stuff that we fill our lives up with, "counting down the days till we die" and never quite reaching the quiet, comfortable place that we yearn to be. At a second level it also gently invites the audience to put aside the cares of the proceeding day and prepare themselves for an evening of music and song. Almost a Quakerly experience - I loved it. Are you sitting comfortably? If you are – then we can begin.
Megson's music was combination of self-penned, often humorous songs and more traditional folk. Some of Megson's own material (A Week Away in Caravan and Two Sides to Every Story) was a little sweetly domesticated for my taste and veered into territory earmarked for Terry and June (although, on reflection, I do kind of like Terry and June and Megson’s light-hearted lyrics are clever and funny). I also confess that Megson’s closing song – a singalong number called When the Good Times Come Again – felt strangely toothless. "Ah, yes", I thought, when the song was announced, "excellent ironic choice of a song in our decadent pre-Brexit Britain". But could I trace an iota of irony in the lyrics? Maybe it’s just me – I’ll check in soon and get my irony detectors serviced. Forgive me (especially, Megson, if you’re reading) for these arguably somewhat ungenerous reflections. The view above is very definitely a "Minority Report", and not reflective of the audience’s opinion as a whole.
And I will immediately say that large portions of the musical magic offered by Megson blew my socks off! Megson can write terrific songs - such as the aforementioned Are You Sitting Comfortably? – and the driving Burn Away (their song about the steel industry). They also tapped into a very rich vein of songwriting inspiration, by rooting out old political and social tracts and lyrics from the 19th Century.
For example, the song Jackey and Jenny was written by James Rewcastle, essentially as an exemplary pro-temperance song. Then there’s the wonderful Contradicshun itself, a verse by Gateshead bard Joe Wilson and mined from an 1870 anthology entitled "Tyneside Songs, Ballads & Drolleries". The lyrics should surely give pause for thought to both music critics and, for that matter, the rest of us in these troubled years when we feel obliged to challenge every social and political stance that crosses our path:
Contradicshun throw aside - let friendly comfort be your guide Think well before you start to chide, for contradicshun’s nowt but pride.
For me, the best song of the show was Voice of the Nation. The lyrics were written in 1810 by one "J.C." (surely our Jezza isn’t that old?) and discovered by Megson in an 1812 collection called "Rhymes of the Northern Bards". The words were written shortly before the Peterloo Massacre, during the times of the controversy of the Rotten Boroughs and the need for electoral reform to ensure that Britain’s cities were adequately represented. Megson cooked up a terrific banging anthem for these words, with wonderful, slightly discordant descending harmonies in the chorus, ideally tailored to lyrics such as "In every debate concerning the State, these relics of representation majorities gain and boldly maintain their will is the Voice of the Nation". Wow! Who needs new lyrics when the old ones are so relevant to today!? . And then there was the wonderful traditional Tyneside folk song, "The Keach in the Creel (The Catch in the Basket)" about a paramour being lowered in a basket down a chimney to visit his beloved.
It was an evening that thoroughly engaged the audience – both by the quality of musicianship and harmony, and the warm nature of Stu and Debs’ stage presence. I heard the comment several times that, "We’d never come across them before, but thoroughly enjoyed the evening". I will also happily admit that, some misgivings notwithstanding, I bought Megson’s new album (Con-tra-dic-shun) and have listened to it several times since with great pleasure. So, please forgive an honest critic, Debs and Stu, and come back to visit us soon.