The Big Chris Barber Band The Ham, 8:00
It is difficult to believe that Chris Barber first started touring in the early 50's, and seems so full of energy, both playing trombone and singing, at 82!
War Horseconcert The Ham, 3pm
Opening Welcome Concert Ham Marquee. 11:30.
The award winning Sidmouth Town Band opened this free, 'taster' concert by playing beautifully some regular brass band favourites and competition pieces. It is clear to see why this superbly disciplined band of mainly youngish musicians, have received so many accolades and given pleasure to local residents and band enthusiasts throughout the County and further afield.
This was followed by short sets, featuring young musicians from Halsway Manor and Roots Acoustic, who all demonstrated why English folk music is in good hands.
The Exmouth Shanty Men, Debby McClatchy invigorated the programme with their customary enthusiasm. The headline artist was the evergreen American banjo and song icon, Exmouth Shanty Men, Debby McClatchy, making one of her regular visits to these shores. This short concert helped to set the standard for the remainder of the Festival.
The Tradition Gathers Woodlands Hotel, 8:00.
This was a real treat for lovers of 'The Tradition'. Mostly acapella singing, but with contributions from Will Duke (melodian) accompanied by his son, a recent Newcastle graduate, on fiddle more than capably standing in for Dan Quinn, who was unable to attend.
Songs, in the East Coast of Scotland dialect, from Joe Aitken, and Geordie Murrison demonstrated that whilst all the words may not be fully understood by English listeners, the story and mood of the song can be ably conveyed by these two masters of the genre whether in humour or pathos.
Len Graham, from Northern Ireland, is one of the most gentle and tuneful singers and he showed just why he is held in such high regard - this evening and in later appearances during the week.
His fellow countryman Jack Lynch was also to the fore, in that respect. Dublin based Jerry O'Reilly, a stalwart of the Goilin Club and always good value for money, performed with customary power and enthusiasm.
Holding up the English vocal contributions were Peta Webb & Ken Hall, organisers of The London Traditions Club, and respected bearers of tradition. Peta's unique vocal style continues to delight.
Themed Singaround Rugby Club. 3:30.
For some years, Colin Andrews has been a stalwart of the South West Folk Scene as a performer and journalist.
During the Festival he has run regular Themed Singarounds, formerly at The Woodlands, but now transferred to the Rugby Club venue. These have always proved popular and this year was no exception. This particular one was described as a 'Sinaround' and participants had to come up with a song based on 'Murder,Rape and Pillage' or the parts thereof..
Needless to say, there was no shortage of volunteers and the subjects were broadly treated without repetition, some raising a smile and others of a more serious nature.
An enjoyable afternoon - another event at which a donation only is asked for.
Festival Folk Club Arts Centre. 8:00.
The organisers of the Chippenham Folk Festival, Bob & Gill Berry run this evening on semi-formal lines by inviting Festival guests to perform a spot.. The Berrys themselves are of course consummate performers and it is this writer's view that young budding artists would do well to study their approach to, and delivery of, their material. Both sing with great sincerity and Gill's lovely voice always transfers to the audience the joy she exudes when singing. The special guests on this evening were the ever reliable and hard working Pete Coe, and Gavin Davenport.
Contributions from the audience made this another successful evening.
Shapenote Singing Workshop Methodist Church. 9:30.
This was a delightful, uplifting musical session. The Babylon Lane quartet demonstrated what can be done when four voices blend in well practised harmony. The West Gallery 'Quire' and orchestra rang out with disciplined enthusiasm, thereby encouraging the assembled 'congregation' give of their best. The results of this workshop would surely be a highlight for later in the week.
Jackie Oates and Old Man Luedecke Ham Marquee. 3:15.
Don't let the name mislead you. Steve Leudecke is a young man, new growth from old routes. He is fresh and enthusiastic. His melodies in Sidmouth begged to be hummed. His memorable set had many poetic gems from his 'My Hands are on Fire' collection of love songs. It is a CD to be savoured and shared. His influences range from Toronto to Nova Scotia from Woody Guthrie to the inner Leudecke. His lyrics were contemporary and always married to the irresistible rhythm of the old time banjo. We were totally entertained in Sidmouth by the brilliant Old Man Leudecke a young master at the same time. His links between songs were charming, family stories for example, he is missing his twin girls first steps while here in Sidmouth or gripping musings on the minute, the ridiculous and the sublime. Hurry back Old Man and thanks for coming.
Jackie is now resident in Oxford with her partner and admits that a settled existence may have helped her gain a new confidence in her performances. It must also be a factor that she is now backed by a fine trio of young musicians. Continuing success is assured.
Benjamin's Book. Manor Pavillion. 8:00.
Written and presented by the multi-talented, musician/actor, Tim Laycock, this period costume play followed the fortunes of Dorset Farmer Benjamin Rose, based on his preserved manuscript book. The fiddle music was provided by Colin Thomson, with Tim on his concertina from time to time. This skilled presentation held the interest throughout with balanced sound production from Doug Bailey and his team.
The Manor Theatre is a fine venue, but when full, quickly becomes overheated. Ice cream sales were up!
Mary Humphries and Anahata Woodlands Hotel. 3:00.
I first heard this duo many years ago, when we were both recording on the Wildgoose label. Since then, I have never lost an opportunity to listen to them when within my compass.
Collectors and students of mainly English tradition, they do not forget Mary Humphreys's Welsh roots. They perform with professionalism and delight in their subject. Anahata's cello work is mellow and understated in accompaniment, and his skill on his several melodians, outstanding. Mary claims that she is relatively new to the concertina, but her developed skill is testament to many hours of practice. Together they produce a glorious sound.
The track of the traditional song 'Rue' was recorded on their first C.D. It is no surprise to learn that its popularity has resulted in it being re-recorded on their latest.
For me there is no finer performance of this song, which was included in their programme as a request.
Spiers and Boden plus Pete Coe Ham Marquee. 8:00.
Spiers & Boden - Musical pyrotechnics would best describe this duo's performance, which has become well established on the British Folk scene. They always leave their audience calling for more and this occasion was no exception. They blend seamlessly into their programme of jigs and reels, many of them self composed. It is easy to see why they are in demand for Festivals and concerts.
Big Sing Methodist Church. 1:00.
Here, however, one was allowed to observe Stephen performing the role as conventional choirmaster, moulding a disparate group of sopranos, altos, tenors and bases into a choir, capable of performing later in the week. The short, intended repertoire included a jazz orientated number and a traditional Maori song. Like all good choirmasters, Stephen employed a mixture of charisma, discipline and humour to achieve an end result. I regretted not being around to hear the final performance.
Concert with Martin Simpson Trio and special Guests Ham Marquee. 8:00.
To the average guitar player, the skills which Martin Simpson demonstrates on this instrument appear to be from another planet, and with his trio we were treated to a selection of his virtuosity.
He then introduced his first guest, the fine singer Fay Hield, who has rapidly become a firm favourite with audiences and also fellow musicians, in various combinations, throughout the week.
She was then followed by Jon Boden and he, together with the band, romped through a number of high speed instrumental acrobatics, to the delight of the audience.
His third guest was the long term treasure of the British Folk Scene, June Tabor, who has lost none of the quality and clarity of her special voice. Her treatment of 'Heart Like a Wheel' will remain in the memory bank. Martin provided a suitably sensitive accompaniment.
The final guest was the Scottish veteran performer Dick Gaughan, joining Martin in three songs - perhaps by coincidence, war related. Unfortunately, the instrumental backing volume tended to obscure the vocals on two of the numbers and the sound engineers should have taken this into consideration.
Working With Scottish Songs Lower Methodist Church Hall. 9:30.
The well known Scottish singer, Janet Russell, who was also appearing during the week in the group Sisters Unlimited, ran this workshop. This was potentially a wide ranging topic given the inclusion of the Burns repertoire and the range of Scots dialect. Nevertheless, she managed to encourage an interesting debate on questions raised by the audience. She also encouraged some of those present to demonstrate songs in which they sought clarification of phrases and pronunciation.
No doubt, this subject could do with additional workshop time.
Eve Mathews reports Later in the Day!
Archie Fisher & Dick Gaughan Ham Marquee. 3:15.
Archie Fisher reached Sidmouth a day late buts lets be grateful. This favourite uncle like figure was totally relaxed on stage, at peace with himself, seeking to prove nothing except share stories through engaging thought provoking songs. Whether he is singing the praises of his beloved Borders area or the Bonnie Border Las or even his favourite horse, Archie Fisher's gentle voice and masterful guitar work leave nothing behind. He lives the lyrics, whether it is his own material or the material of his chosen singer/song-writing favourites. His years in presenting BBC Radio Scotland 'Travelling Folk' has given him knowledge of stories and anecdotes. He is a communicator first and foremost. He engaged a packed Ham Marquee from start to finish. A gentle giant of folk had captured all in his web.
Yes he sings of justice and equality and does not suffer fools gladly. He is also audience conscious and entertains as well. Two legends in one Marquee. Gentle and strong, loving and protesting long may both of them sing.
I went from this to the end of the Blackmore Gardens Workshop Showcase, and love to see the enthusiasm and hard work that has been put into this side of the Festival, by both the leaders and participants.
The Ukelele Orchestra of Sidmouth - a large group ranging from pre-school to grannies wielded their colourful instruments, played and sang a must-do workshop for next year!
Once again the Sidmouth Festival Week has flown by, but left us all with many memories of music, dance and friendship.. until next year.
review by: Hector Gilchrist
photos by: Eve Mathews
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