Tag Archives: Cecil Sharp House

Cecil Sharp House – folk music venue

Daria Kulesh at Cecil Sharp House 23/2/17 (Album launch: ‘Long Lost Home’)

Folk singer Daria Kulesh, Russian-born but British-based, has not chosen an easy subject matter for her newly-released solo album Long Lost Home, which is being formally launched at Cecil Sharp House tonight. But it’s an absolutely fascinating one and, as we find throughout the performance of all twelve songs from the album tonight, it is also a deeply moving one.

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Long Lost Home tells the story of Ingushetia (or the Ingush Republic). It is now a republic within the Russian Federation, bordering Chechnya, but it’s one with a dark and tragic history. On 23 February 1944 (exactly 73 years ago from tonight’s performance) Ingush civilians were falsely accused of collaborating with the Nazis and the entire population were either deported or shot under the orders of Stalin. Ingushetia was the lost homeland of Kurlesh’s maternal grandmother. And it was through her grandmother that Kulesh was to learn so much of her ancestral home and the tragedies within it but also the everyday lives and loves of some of her ancestors, a number of whom are brought movingly to life once more in Kulesh’s songs.

Possessing a beautiful clear voice that is both powerful and pure, Kulesh is immediately able to connect emotionally with her audience as the lives of the characters in her songs unfold. Musically, she’s supported by a fine cast of musicians, both on the album and on stage. Kulesh herself plays the shruti box (Indian drone instrument) but we also have a rich tapestry of sounds from traditional Russian/Kulesh stringed instruments through to the dulcimer and the double bass and even, for one song, the Scottish bagpipes.

Yes, much of the subject matter has a darkness to it. However, as Kulesh herself emphasises there’s also a spirit of hope and humanity and kindness to these songs. The last song of the album Only Begun ends on a very optimistic note. It’s not quite the end though. Kulesh and her colleagues are called back on stage for an encore. As an added bonus, Timur Dzeytov, a traditional Ingush musician who accompanies Kulesh on the album and here tonight, also plays a couple of Ingush dance numbers, complete with some impromptu Ingush dancing, to round off the launch of Long Lost Home.

Daria Kulesh can be proud of what she’s achieved here, both through her very unique contribution to the UK folk scene and through this perfectly fitting and timely celebration of Ingush culture and history.

http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

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Moore, Moss, Rutter at Cecil Sharp House 13/4/16

BBC Young Folk Award winners each year are given a slot at Fairport Convention’s Cropredy festival, and I really enjoyed this trio at Cropredy back in 2011, the year they won their award. But I must confess they’d completely fallen off my radar and it was only seeing a magazine article about them recently that I was prompted to check out their forthcoming schedule and discovered they were due to play Camden’s Cecil Sharp House. So here we are!

Moore, Moss and Rutter are Tom Moore on violin, Archie Churchill Moss on melodeon and Jack Rutter on guitar and vocals. Although forming in 2009 it turns out the trio all continued to live in different parts of the country, and with university degrees to start and complete it as well as other musical collaborations it meant that gigging was sometimes sporadic rather than constant. But now they are on to their second album (the prog-ishly titled II) and we get to hear a number of songs and tunes from that tonight. In a varied set they deliver a few well-chosen traditional songs. But it’s perhaps the tunes where they really, really excel – with stunning interplay between violin, guitar and melodeon. Amazing sounds, of course, but seeing the interaction between the the three as they work a tune from one to the other really makes them worth seeing live.

They do a nice version of the traditional tune Portsmouth – the one given an added burst of fame by Mike Oldfield in the 70s when he had a hit with it. And of the self-penned material, Moss’s tune-set Six Weeks/Early Thursday is a definite highlight. Having spent the past 15 years living in Brockley south-east London, perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening for me is when they announce that one of the next tunes they are going to play is called Lewisham Way, the long main road at the end of our road in SE4. It’s an esteemed street, steeped in creativity, with Goldsmiths College at one end and the music hall singer, Marie Lloyd, being one notable former resident. So it only seems right that it should get its very own folk tune. Written by Moore and coupled with a hornpipe by Henry Purcell it can be found here.

The three go down really, really well tonight and their latest album is well worth a listen. I picked up a copy and Moore, Moss, Rutter are now firmly back on my radar.

http://www.mooremossrutter.co.uk/mmr/Home.html

 

 

Luke Jackson and Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar at Cecil Sharp House 6/4/16

While I certainly know the output of Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar pretty well these days I was not familiar with Luke Jackson’s work at all. Jackson walks on to the stage and rich, bluesy, distinctive vocals immediately fill the room. With some dexterous guitar playing he gives a rootsy, acoustic blues feel to the contemporary singer-songwriter genre and is an immediate hit with the Cecil Sharp audience.

His often highly personal songs cover a range of topics on the trials and tribulations of modern life, from popping pills, drinking and fighting in Ain’t No Trouble, to the desperation of young suicide in the hauntingly beautiful That’s All Folks. Jackson is a prolific songwriter with three CDs of his material released already. A number of tonight’s songs are available on his excellent and highly listenable mini-album: This Family Tree. (Details here)

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar then join Jackson on stage to provide lovely added harmonies on his final song. And after a short interval Russell and Algar return, sans Jackson, and we move from contemporary singer-songwriter to traditional folk duo. Winning the BBC’s Young Folk Award in 2013 (the same year Luke Jackson was a runner-up, incidentally, and how they first met) the duo appeared to arrive fully formed with an incredible degree of musical maturity at an impossibly young age. But they’ve continued to go from strength to strength and are now on to their third album. Russell’s rich and expressive voice simply oozes with character and passion while Algar’s fiddle-playing, always delivered with exquisite perfection, veers from the wildly energetic to the beautifully sensitive.

They are touring in support of their new album The Silent Majority, released just last month, and we get to hear a number of songs from that tonight including the title track itself, a cover of the Lionel McClelland song which serves as a warning of the tragedies that unfold when “the silent majority stays silent”. Another highlight is George, a great Glasgow-based drinking song, as well as a beautiful version of Rolling Down The Ryburn. It’s not just about the new album though and we also get some well-chosen favourites from their first two albums including The Queen’s Lover, written when a 17 year-old Russell was studying for his history AS level, and Away From The Pits, written by Ciaran Algar’s father, Chris, a homage to his native Stoke On Trent.

Luke Jackson, who was joined by Russell and Algar for the final song of his set, returns the favour and comes back on to accompany the duo for their last song: three talented musicians, two very different acts but one highly entertaining evening. Another very successful night for Cecil Sharp House.

http://lukepauljackson.com/
http://www.russellalgar.co.uk/

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Related reviews:
Greg & Ciaran at Green Note
Greg Russell & Rex Preston

Mawkin at Cecil Sharp House 11/11/15

Cecil Sharp House’s 2015 programme of concerts continues to excel with a cracking performance from Mawkin. Formed in 2002 as a three-piece, Mawkn evolved into a five-piece band offering a rousing brand of folk-rock.

The set is heavily dominated by material from their great new album The Ties That Bind, released in July. And they deliver us a nice mix of traditional English tunes and songs, some original compositions as well as the odd little nuggets from America and Sweden. Unlike some folk acts who feel compelled to unearth out ever more obscure traditional songs, Mawkin don’t shy away from performing some really well known traditional material, songs like Birds Upon a Tree, which they got everyone singing along to, and Searching for Lambs, both of which appear on their new album.

Vocals are shared between guitarist David Delarre, who takes the bulk of the singing duties, and his brother (and the band’s hugely talented fiddle-player) James. The latter I wouldn’t have minded hearing a little bit more of. He has a really engaging vocal delivery – a sort of 90s indie meets English folk. The musicianship is superb, particularly the interplay on stage between fiddler, James Delarre, and melodeon player, Nick Cooke. At one point, the rest of the band leave the stage while these two let rip on a couple of instrumentals.

While many of the rockier contemporary folk acts have gone for the box-style cajun percussion rather than drums these days, Lee Richardson unashamedly plumps for the full drum kit. And not only does he use it to make some of the faster folk numbers really rock, he also creates some spookily atmospheric soundscapes with it. At times he reminded me of Martin Lamble’s playing on Fairport’s “A Sailors Life” – the track that started off the whole drums-on-English-folk-songs thing back in the late 60s.

Mawkin have been making music for well over a decade now and while there probably weren’t more than thirty people here tonight, the noise the audience made in showing their appreciation was testimony to just how well this band was received. Deservedly so.

Setlist:
I Can Hew Boys
Skymningspolskan / Betsy Likens
My Love Farewell
Wreckers
Envikens Waltz
Duo
Searching For Lambs
Andro / Lang Stayed Away
Birds Upon a Tree
Jolly Well Drunk
Song On The Times
The Frenchy Set
Shanghai Brown
Merry Mawkin / Peacock Follow The Hen
Young May Moon

http://www.mawkin.co.uk/

2015-10-01 18.55.14

Nancy Kerr & Sweet Visitor Band at Cecil Sharp House 20/11/14

One of the most distinctive voices on one of the most significant folk collaborations of 2014, Nancy Kerr’s incredible song-writing and memorable performances on the Elizabethan Session have already made it a folk classic. And she does bring something unique to contemporary folk. No-one loves the pure, crystal clear vocals from the likes of Sandy Denny and Jacqui McShee more than me. They were always an intrinsic and essential feature of the late 60s folk revival in England and their influence rings out to this day. But as beautiful as those voices are, I’ve often wondered how many female vocalists in past centuries really went around delivering folk renditions in Received Pronunciation. Nancy Kerr, on the other hand, has a different vocal style altogether. Earthy and wonderfully expressive, with echoes of an old-time music hall singer thrown in, her voice is no less beautiful and utterly enthralling.

Tonight there is a good turnout for Kerr and her band in the main Kennedy Hall at Cecil Sharp House. The band begin with Never Ever Lay Them Down, the opening track from Kerr’s new album, Sweet Visitor. Described by the vocalist/fiddle-player as a song about city life and love in and age of austerity it is the perfect vehicle, not only for Kerr’s distinctive voice, but also for the rocked-out folk backing from her incredibly talented band. Joining Kerr on fiddle and lead vocals are James Fagan on guitar; Tom Wright on drums, electric and acoustic guitars; Tim Yates on double bass; and Rowan Rheingans on fiddle.

Other highlights tonight include Where Jacaranda’s Grow, Kerr’s reflection on the increasingly hysterical immigration debate in Australia whose lyrics, she noted with sadness, were now also equally relevant to Britain. She also gave us fabulous renditions of a couple of songs she was commissioned to write for the BBC ahead of the 2012 Games. The first, Apollo on the Docks, talks of the coming of the Olympics to the “banks of the Lea” and “Old Silvertown”. With its catchy melody and instantly memorable chorus, even though its subject matter is only a little over two years old, it sounds like it could have been written a hundred years ago and could well become a modern sing-along folk classic.

Kerr reflects warmly on her experiences as part of The Elizabethan Session earlier this year and one of the songs she performs from that tonight is the brilliant Broadside. Those expecting a carbon copy rendition of the original, however, are in for a surprise. This is very much the heavy metal version and Fagan lets rip on guitar. “Why try and compete with Martin Simpson?” he explains.

The band encore with Now Is The Time from the new album, a secular hymn for all those campaigning for a better world, with poignant harmony singing from the whole band. To experience such an illustrious band, talented singer and wonderful songs at Cecil Sharp House, the iconic home of English folk music, is a real delight. The main hall is in need of a bit of TLC these days (there is a restoration appeal) but when the house lights dim it provides a wonderfully atmospheric setting for a very memorable performance from Nancy Kerr and the Sweet Visitor Band.

http://nancykerr.co.uk/

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Related reviews: The Elizabethan Session and The Full English

The Elizabethan Session at Cecil Sharp House 22/3/14

It could almost be an idea for a trashy reality TV show. Get eight musicians confine them to a country house and set them the challenge of writing some songs that they would all perform live together a week later. Oh, and the musicians would all be folk musicians and the music would be inspired by the music and personalities of the Elizabethan era…. In some ways I was wondering what I was letting myself in for when I saw this advertised. But catching sight of the line-up of musicians involved I had little doubt that it was going to be something worth watching. And it was. An absolutely stunning evening.

I can’t pretend I know much at all about sixteenth century music. But anyone thinking an Elizabethan session was going to involve an evening of twee songs about Merrie England, perhaps performed in the style of the theme music from Blackadder, would soon be disabused by the first song.  Shores of Hispaniola, a haunting but beautiful song reflected on Elizabethan England’s gruesome and sordid involvement in the early transatlantic slave trade. Remarkably, we were told, Nancy Kerr had the thing written before breakfast on the very first morning, following a talk to the musicians from an esteemed Elizabethan historian the night before.

The Elizabethan Sessions project was initiated by those behind the Folk by the Oak folk festival working with the English Folk Dance and Song Society. They brought together an amazing line-up of established and up-and-coming artists: Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, Jim Moray, Bella Hardy, John Smith, Hannah James, Rachel Newton and Emily Askew.  A packed out main hall at Cecil Sharp House was there to see them.

As well a great collection of new songs, including ones evoking Shakespeare, a “feminist sea shanty” and Martin Simpson’s beautiful song about “brawling, murdering, gay, atheist playwright” Christopher Marlowe’s untimely death in a Deptford bar, we also got some amazing instrumentals, too. Early English music specialist, Emily Askew, brought out and played a weird and wonderful collection of Elizabethan-era instruments throughout the evening.

It was incredible to think that a week before the performance at Cecil Sharp House none of these songs or tunes even existed. But hearing them for the first time and ordering the soon-to-be-released live CD of the sessions immediately after the show, I do know that the music performed tonight was going to become just as familiar to me over the coming months as the songs from another recent stunning folk collaboration, the Full English, have become.

http://www.folkbytheoak.com/TES

Elizabethan

The Young ‘uns at Cecil Sharp House 5/3/14

Fascism. Fighting it, defeating it, singing about it. Fascism looms large in the life of the Young ‘uns, three twenty-somethings who’ve been singing together ten years now (hence the cringe-worthy name). But if anyone was expecting  unsubtle diatribes, as ranty as a street-corner seller of the Socialist Worker, you couldn’t be further from the truth. What you get is beautifully sung, evocative and thoughtful songs. Their last album “When our Grandfathers’ Said No” marks the time poverty-stricken Hartlepool sent Oswald Mosely and his crew packing in the 1930s. Their latest album similarly reflects on how members of a Bradford mosque disarmed an EDL rally outside through the simple act of offering them tea and biscuits. Songs from each of these albums were performed beautifully at Cecil Sharp House, HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

But as the Cecil Sharp House Director made clear in her introduction it’s not just the beautiful songs and amazing harmonies that you get at a Young ‘uns  gig, a major part of it is their brilliant on-stage humour;  three friends who are constantly taking the piss out of each other, the audience and fellow musicians in a warm but hilarious and totally unscripted way.

They sing a mixture of traditional and original songs and, don’t worry, it’s not all about Oswald Mosley or the EDL. One of my favourite songs of theirs is “Love in a Northern Town” describing how the group’s songwriter Sean Cooney’s nana met her husband and reflecting on the changing fortunes of Hartlepool. Highly recommended.

http://www.theyounguns.co.uk/

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