Going ahead with my “80 gigs around the UK”, I stopped at the Hungry Horse Folk Club on the 5th of May 2011, arriving there at about ten to eight. John, the founder of one of the best folk club I have seen around has managed to gather talent of all ages, sub-genres (within Folk), all experience levels in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere on the first floor of the Rake Pub in Cheshire. It was the night for each and every singer/musician and storyteller who could make it. The voices, the melodies, the atmosphere, the less known songs, the popular songs all contributed to make that evening special, unique for me. As we gathered round the tables to make a virtual round table, it seemed we had vouched to enjoy ourselves and entertain each other. Two brilliant guitarists and melody makers started one after the other, setting the scene and reaffirming the general atmosphere of sharing and enjoying.
Then I had to perform. I must say I was intimidated. The format was unusual. Also, I normally have my list of songs in a certain order but after hearing those two and knowing the format, I had to quickly rework a new order as it were 😉 So I sang Out of the Black. I did not introduce it as my first album’s title track because that statement would not have fitted the format. It would have made it about me even about my music and this gathering invited us to music (in general), enjoyment. What a great way of reminding me of that important perspective. I sang two verses and sang them again. I did not add the bridge in order to maintain one same tune throughout, which I felt in the two previous songs made it welcoming to the rest, helping them to partake. Brilliant. The verses in Out of the Black are rich enough anyway.
At my next turn, I performed Tenderness to balance the apparent sadness of Out of the Black (especially since I had removed the bridge which contains touches of hope). Tenderness is short and sweet and that is why I liked to perform it. It is also a waltz so that makes a clear change from my previous performance. The clapping was amazing, encouraging, and although equal to everyone else after each performance, was no less honest. It was clear each time that there was something particular that made them and myself where appropriate (i.e. for everyone else but me, lol) applaude: the wit at times, the comedy, the musicality, the memory, the thought, all these were as many entertainment forms and as many reasons I personally found to applaude.
After me, was a storyteller. I have heard one before during my gigs, a lady with a harp, a voice and scottish accent that used as efficiently together contribute to take you away on the magical trip of her making. This was different. You could not escape. You had to listen and almost hold your breath because you had to know what the next bit was. You had to hear every bit of the journey he told until you burst out the breath that you held during his story for its unexpected and hilarious ending. Then, there was the man who, with his couple of string instruments joined in most songs but now was giving us his version of enjoyment.
Somewhere in the midst all these musicians where the audience. They were very much part of the experience, being encouraged (not forced) to participate if they felt like it. A couple of men did, one citing a beautiful poem of his making and the other one completing the next attempt of a poem with a joke that reminded me that we were among friends. John the organiser with his mature and agreeable voice backed by two ladies one through beautiful harmonies the other with a nice beat; An Irish lady sang Ireland (and later Scotland) acapella making feel like either of them could me my homeland so much the song called me back ‘home’.
The atmosphere lightened up when the next performer took stage as it were, performing wittingly funny songs, not before having introduced them in an even funnier way; he had me laugh at the same time as I had to control the noise I made for fear I might miss any bit of his beautiful melodies. Next to him was a man who, changing the atmosphere from comedy to relative sadness could have been in danger of losiong the audience. But the depth of his singing took everyone right through to where he needed us to be and we sang with him.
John had warned me that going in circle like that would mean that I would play a couple of times. So I was surprised when towards the end he requested that I sang again, having come the furthest for this. I did not expect to sing a third time. So I thought quickly. And of all the songs I could have played, I am still amazed that I chose Free Like Smoke. This is the first time that I go to a gig and I don’t play Open your eyes, not even on this last occasion. But that one I played my heart out to say thank you for their welcoming me. But when I finished I still felt like saying thank you again, so I did.
A cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (“Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”) was the perfect closure to the circle and to the day. The good thing about this is that I did enjoy every bit of it while it lasted and I know where to go to get some more, and from what I understand they will be happy to have me again. I told you they were nice 😉