REVIEW: CHELTENHAM FOLK FESTIVAL SUNDAY MIDDAY CONCERT: CHELTENHAM TOWN HALL
The mellow music offered up in the warmth of the main hall provided
Sunday's mid-day audience with some welcome respite from the cold and wet outside.
Old friends of the festival Grace Notes, comprising Maggie Boyle, Lynda
Hardcastle and Helen Hockenhull, opened proceedings with their beautiful
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acapella harmonies on Tom Waits' The
Briar and the Rose. Next, Boyle's rich melodic flute added great poignancy
to Richard Shindell's melancholy Wisteria.
Always keen to express their social conscience in song, a precisely arranged
and sonorous rendition of the Irish Magdalen
Laundry recounted the pain of the girls consigned to spend their lives in those
institutions. They wrapped up with the rousing Mingulay Boat Song, the audience swelling the chorus of "Heel y'ho
boys, let her go, boys" to end a sadly short but nevertheless remarkable set.
Next up were The Old Fashioned, with old Cheltonian Fi
Fraser on vocals and the black-clad Pete Bullock and Howard Mitchell on piano
and double bass respectively. Theirs was a curious set, with traditional dance
tunes mixed together with macabre lullabies and gentle comedic ditties, the pick
of which were Derek Pearce's My
Reversible Fleece and Joyce Grenfell's Stately
as a Galleon.
There were some notable things about the amazing young duo Vicki
Swan and Jonny Dyer's set. Firstly, their usually high death count was kept
down to a single casualty in the Anglo-Scottish border ballad Lord Randall, a man who has been fatally
poisoned by his lover. Secondly, they used a bewildering variety of
instruments, the most unusual of which was Swan's Swedish keyed fiddle or 'nyckelharpa'.
This was used to perfection on a pair of complex and courtly Nordic polskas. Dyer's
was probably the most impressive vocal performance of the festival, his rich
and smooth voice balancing well with a fluid and understated guitar technique,
particularly on O Madam I'll Present You.
He then added a touch of Americana with his own uplifting composition Follow Me Home before the duo finished off with a rousing acapella version of
the sailor's farewell song Health to the
Company. This had been one of the best performances of the whole festival.
It was left to the young three-piece Cupola to close the show
which they did with some dexterity. There were yet more polskas, described by
fiddle player Sarah Matthews as "a bit like a waltz with a PhD", Doug Eunson's
hurdy-gurdy hypnotically driving the dance tunes round and round. A stately Following the Old Oss fast forwarded us
to May Day and Padstow in an attempt to coax out the sun, before winding up with
a lively Jon Spiers tune The Hungry Badger's
Delight and a storming encore with double melodeon and fiddle combining potently
on The Kennington Jig and the Canadian