Category Archives: Folk music

Under the Fields of Heaton

Under the Fields of Heaton

It’s odd to say that I’ve had a lovely weekend commemorating a disaster, but there you go…  The concert on Saturday night was a sell out with people packed into St Teresa’s Church Hall to hear Johnny Handle, Appletwig Songbook and Heaton Voices.  One of the girls had to admit that she loved Johnny’s music but she had absolutely no idea what he was saying in between songs….  Geordie dialect a bit beyond her there!  Another member of the choir posted that she had enjoyed discovering Handle – especially his old album cover:
johnnyhandlecover Johnny’s new track to commemorate the disaster fits perfectly into the folk tradition and will hopefully be a long standing addition.

With my Mining Institute hat on, I sold books in the interval and chatted to people how I hope will come in and see the original maps and images behind the book and the slides.  With my Heaton Voices hat on, I had to try and remember all the lyrics of these new mining songs which we have learnt specially for the Festival!  Things were mostly successful, even for the songs which we only finished learning last week….

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Then today there was a service of commemoration at St Teresa’s which was very moving.  It’s a beautiful modern church, full of light.  For me, the most poignant moment was seeing 75 candles brought to the altar because it really highlighted what 75 people actually look like rather than as a number of victims.  It was particularly relevant as the range of ages was reproduced as well with ages from 6 to 80 represented in the procession just as there was in the victims.

All the music in the service had a theme of light, so Heaton Voices sang “May you See Diamonds” and then encouraged the congregation to join us and sing.  People took it well and joined in and smiled!  On the way out, one lovely lady caught me and gave me a hug and said “thank you so much for coming, and for being so enthusiastic! Just full of life – all of you!”  I thought that was a very sweet comment, especially from a stranger!

After the service we were pleasantly surprised with cakes!  There was a huge spread on in the Church Hall so thank you very much to everyone who baked.  Sorry we had to run – the choir were all due at our weekly rehearsal!  Despite the two gigs of the weekend, Richard had us all working hard learning “Waiting” – his piece on the Heaton disaster focusing on the lives of the widows who had to wait months for the bodies to be retrieved.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped make the weekend such a success; from the organisers and performers down to the audience who were so friendly.

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Mining Librarian becomes singing librarian…

So work and play have collided quite a lot recently.  2015 is the bicentenary of the Heaton Colliery disaster and there is a whole programme of events; I also live in Heaton and sing with Heaton Voices…  So on Saturday I will be at the concert as both the Mining Institute Librarian (selling books, promoting library etc) but also as part of the choir!  Should be a busy evening.

On top of that, I was lucky enough to be able to sing with the backing choir with North East Socialist Singers for the Institute’s first CD production!  Thanks to an Arts Council England grant, we have had a singer-songwriter in residence, Gareth Davies-Jones, who has produced a whole album of songs relating to the amazing resources in the Institute, and I got to sing on Master Shifter and Gresford.  The Seam has been a fantastic project and I’m going to be speaking about it at NAG conference this September too.

Finally, I get to do my own gig!  I play and sing as part of Euphoria and we’re on as the support act to Assembly Lane with Moonshine Stragglers at the Bridge Hotel on Thursday 7th May at 7:30pm.  It’s our first gig together so all a little nervous, so all support would be appreciated!  Tickets £5 on the door.

01 A4 folk train US song poster April 15(1)

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Folk music and archives combined…

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Isn’t it nice when your job and your hobbies come together?  My day job is librarianship but my evenings are often spent with folk music.  Last night I went to a show which beautifully combined the two – The Full English at the Sage Gateshead.  They used material taken from the new online archive developed at the English Folk Dance and Song Society and brought it to life on stage.  Big screens showed linked photographs of collectors, singers, or just connected images.  They even played along to old footage of morris dancing, and used original wax-cylinder recordings to springboard into their own tunes.  There was also new tunes written by Nancy Kerr, inspired by the collections.

Overall, it felt like a real “show” – time and effort had clearly gone into arranging it and it was definitely worth while.  I’ve been a couple of disappointing gigs at the Sage recently but this one felt like value for money.  Best of all, they finished the show with a singalong chorus number, and even displayed the words on screen to help us all join in!

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