February Folk Day
Saturday 27th February 2010

Reviews by Sue Bargh, Didge Lewis, Mike Jones, Phillippa York, Barbara Cunningham and Glynne Davies. Pictures by Paul Thompson.

Please enlarge photos by clicking on them.

Bella Hardy
Bella Hardy
Greg Russell
Greg Russell
Bartram, Brookes and Weatherall
Bartram, Brookes & Weatherall

Jonny and Lucy
Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell

Greg Russell opened the February Folk Day concert with a superb choice of self–assured musical treats. From the spotlight on the stage his confident and secure voice enthralled the capacity audience at this years sold out event.

Next, the entranced crowd were delighted by the sound of two gently cooing doves, namely Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell.  Stunning vocals and responsive playing were the tools they used to present their artistic songs. These heavenly sounds permeated through the mounds of freshly baked scones and cakes, hearty homemade broth, and steaming beverages, to the kitchen where my shift ended late afternoon, and there was no room to stand or sit in the concert room.   

At tea time I hosted the sing-a-round with Don Harrison and we had to congratulate ourselves for having just enough time to allow every one a turn and finishing bang on time. We enjoyed the huge variety of local talent, visitors from other counties, traditional music reclaimed from previous generations, and songs from the pens of the participants themselves. Including the talents of master musical craftsman Graham Bellinger and lyrical treasures regaled by Charlotte Peters Rock.
Most of these singers had also earlier attended the lunch time singaround hosted by the omnipresent Roy Clinging, where there was another great mix of people, songs and instruments.

A quick change of scenery and the room was transformed for the popular evening Folk Club, hosted by the cherished and respected local band Full House.

As darkness descended outside, the ever popular ceilidh lit up the mood inside the main hall, with Shropshire Heroes enticing the dancers to the floor.

For most of the evening I stayed with familiar companions resident in  the session room, which is coincidentally very handily situated by the bar…Inhabited by the same throng, who sat in the same places as last year, the year before, and the year before that. A jolly time was had by all, all afternoon, and all evening, delighted to be reunited with old friends, almost as much chatter as music, and they are probably still there ……

The catering was highly complimented this year, and the bar staff congratulated too for the carefully choreographed serving of the fine ale.

All the behind scenes team, tireless, and amiable, worked hard to ensure the smooth running of the day.

Late one night ,in a few months time, if you are walking past that old Community Centre, which serves its close knit neighbourhood so well, if you listen very carefully , you are bound to hear the rafters still humming and vibrating… a little jig, a rousing chorus, a sweet song , laughter and applause.

Sue Bargh

It was a great day and a busy one for the organising team with many different things going on, including a full afternoon concert. As a part of the team, I don’t usually expect to sit down and take in much of a concert. In fact, often I don’t see any of it at all. However, this year I was really lucky and managed to see a little of almost all the acts.

Greg Russell lived up to his pre event publicity in the local press. With a nice choice of songs, a voice that belied his years and some excellent guitar playing, Greg is already a natural performer - confident and taking only moments to make the stage his own. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of him in the future.

I guess you could call Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell a new act too. They’ve been performing together for not much more than a year. Lucy has a really nice voice, is a good fiddler, and Jonny is a very accomplished young guitarist. All this suited their programme of rather gentle ballads.

I managed to sneak back for Bill Whaley and Dave Fletcher, who I’ve had the good fortune to listen to several times before. I confess, when I first came across them a few years back the notes in the concert programme didn’t make me think I’d like them at all. However for some reason, I stayed for the first number, perhaps I couldn’t get out quick enough, but I was immediately sold. My liking was confirmed by subsequent performances and their set at the Folk Day was one of these. This sort of moment when you find that you like something you didn’t think you’d would is one of those things that make folk music so great.

There were still things that must be done and so I didn’t get to see as much of Bella Hardy as I would have liked. This the first time I’ve seen Bella accompanied by the harp of Corrina Hewat .which I thought worked well. Bella’s voice is more entrancing as ever, and is matched by her fiddle playing. Watching her over the last few years, she has matured as performer and between songs is now an accomplished foil to the dry Yorkshire repartee of Chris Sherburn. Wish I’d been able to see more.

I have focussed on the concert but there was a continuous lively session all day in one room and a well attended teatime sing-around in yet another room. I would have reported on the fun in the crèche but I’m apparently too old to take part, and there’s a dress-code too – something about nappies.
The highlight of the evening was a Ceilidh, but by this time, I had decided that my job done, I would put my feet up. I’m saving myself for the Festival at the end of May.

Didge Lewis

Hoole Community Centre was the venue for a one-day folk festival that began at 12 noon and lasted until 11.30 pm in the evening of a wintery Saturday, 27th February. The Community Centre was a very satisfactory venue, as apart from the main hall, a number of other suitable rooms were available for various activities, and a kitchen provided festival goers with hot drinks and assorted healthy dishes of food at very reasonable prices. A real ale bar was hosted by Chester Folk Survivors.

The concert in the main hall started at 2 pm with Greg Russell, a 16 year-old, who confidently and competently sang a mixture of traditional and new songs, alternating between his two differently tuned guitars. The packed main hall was, he said, his largest venue so far but he doesn’t seem at all bothered by that and was warmly received.

Jonny Kearny & Lucy Farrell followed, having driven down from the North east but forgotten their CDs. Jonny on guitar, accompanied by Lucy on the fiddle, both sang - sometimes songs written by Jonny, which commented and reflected on life’s everyday problems, particularly love-life, and with a wry humour. Obviously a duo that could entertain and cheer listeners, and with a talented song-writer a future is awaiting.

Bartram, Brookes & Weatherall, on Washboard/Bodhran, fiddle and accordion, really livened up the audience, with traditional ballads, shanties and more. Chris Bartram had acquired his washboard in Louisiana, he said, and it covered his chest with two shoulder pieces that held it fast like the front of a suit of armour, which he played, not with thimbles but, with two dog-brushes. He reminded the audience not to forget and use it to brush their hair.

Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher, like the above, favourites of the audience, again sang a mixture of traditional songs and more recently penned ones, with which the audience sang along - interspersed with humorous banter.

Top of the bill was Bella Hardy, the 25 year old fiddler, accompanied by Corinna Hewitt on harp and Chris Sherburn on concertina. Corinna had driven down from Scotland and had been pulled put of the snow by a farmer and his tractor in order to get underway. The combination of the three musicians and Bella’s singing was sublime. Once more there was a mixture of traditional and newer songs.
As the concert in the main hall ended at 5 pm, and the doors were opened to allow fresh air in, I noted on the door that a notice said that, the concert had sold out-not bad for such a wintry day.

At 5.30 Sue Bargh and Don Harrison hosted a singaround in one of the smaller rooms, where a dozen or so people either sang unaccompanied or with a guitar, both self-penned and traditional songs. Some, it turned out, had travelled from considerable distances away. Surely, all those who attended the event went away feeling that it had been a very enjoyable day of excellent music that warmed the soul.

Mike Jones

The Music & Song Session in the morning was relaxed in atmosphere with a variety of talents.  Vegetarian soup was delicious – recommended by a couple of people who remembered it from previous years.  The event was a lovely opportunity to chat to people I hadn’t seen for a while and to meet new people.  
The concert was good; I particularly enjoyed Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell, beautiful vocals, violin and guitar. The Benjamin Brown song was an interesting story.
I was first customer at the music stall - interesting material and good prices.
Phillippa York

We spent almost all day in the session which is what we always tend to do and never made the Concert or Folk Club. The session was very good with an interesting mixture of songs and tunes.
As for the high spot - it’s always great at Chester Folk Festival events to meet old friends.

Barbara Cunningham

I enjoyed the Folk Day  when I got in, being met at the door and told that the place was full and could I come back later shows the popularity of the artists booked, but didn’t reflect that there was still space in the session, which what I came for. The session had plenty of varied music which suited me, and the teatime singaround with Sue & Don was, as always, top class. The evening session was again varied and must have been good because I stayed until the end.

  Glynne Davies