Five Old Concert Reviews

Four Parts Guitar – Lichfield Guildhall – February 13th 2011

A capacity audience at the Guildhall saw some of the finest guitarists in the country when Four Parts Guitar opened their latest tour in Lichfield.

The ensemble, consisting of acoustic guitarists and composers Gordon Giltrap and Clive Caroll, Jazz guitarist John Etheridge and classical performer Raymond Burley played their own short sets, before playing a set together.

Giltrap started his set with Appalachian Dreaming, and also played his best known piece, Heartsong. Raymond Burley played a collection of classical solo pieces, whilst John Etheridge used a looping pedal to play some jazz standards, and a piece by the composer Abdullah Ibrahim. Closing the first set, Clive Caroll started with a selection of Irish pieces, before playing his ambient acoustic piece Oregon, which was an abject lesson in leaving space in music.

The second part of the concert saw the musicians playing a selection of pieces in a group format. They started with the Gordon Giltrap composition ‘A Dublin Day’ for all of the players as well as a complex suite of mediaeval style music by Clive Caroll, which featured his playing blending with the classical playing of Raymond Burley. A good evening of music from some acclaimed performers.

Concert Review – Ewan Robertson and Rua Macmillan

Lichfield Guildhall – 20th March 2011

A double bill of recent prize winning Scottish musicians played to a select Lichfield audience when the singer and guitar Ewan Robertson, and the composer and fiddle player Rua Macmillan appeared at Lichfield Guildhall.

Ewan Robertson was on first, playing songs from his acclaimed solo debut ‘Some Kind of Certainty’. He is best known as a member of the Breabach, but seemed equally at home with just his distinctive voice, melodic guitar playing and well chosen songs, from both traditional and more contemporary sources. Hs set included such songs as the traditional ‘Gin I were a Baron’s Heir’, and ‘Ship in Order’, and the touching ‘When I’m gone’ by 60’s folk stalwart Phil Ochs, and ‘The King of Rome’ by Dave Sudbury. The fiddle playing of Rua Macmillan featured in the set’s last song, a reading of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lighting’ which turned the well known ballad into a song of Appalachian brooding, and bluegrass inspired musical interludes.

The second half of the concert featured the composer and fiddle player Rua Macmillan, with accompaniment by guitarist Tia Files and the bodhran playing of Adam Brown. Their set consisted of music from their recent release, Tyro, and started with the spirited ‘Ooh Pierre’ and continued with such compositions as The Jigs, Harv’s and Kitchen Criminals, as well as a number of slower airs which featured an octave violin. All three musicians were good players, and their ensemble sound was full, and varied.

The encore of the concert saw Ewan Robertson playing violin with the Rua MacMillan Trio on the slow, traditional air ‘Bidh Clann Ulaidh’. Although there were, sadly, a lot of empty chairs, the four musicians played very well, and put a lot into their performances, which bodes well for the rest of their tour, playing music which deserve to be heard.

Concert Review – The Shee – Lichfield Guildhall – 15th April 2011

The female folk super-group The Shee played to an enraptured audience when they appeared at Lichfield’s Guildhall. The six piece band played a number of their own compositions, as well as bluegrass material and gaelic Scottish and Irish songs in their concert. Acclaimed by many experts, their two albums ‘A Different Season’ and the newly released ‘Decadence’ provided most of the songs.

The band played songs such as Dick Gaughan’s ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’ with the harmony singing, and the electric harp of Rachel Newton adding new layers to the songs The harmony singing of Olivia Ross, Laura Salter, and Rachel Newton added a lot to songs such as the Appalachian sounding ‘Chilly Winds’ and the balladry of ‘Ged is Grianach An Latha’.

The spirited instrumentals, mostly written by the group’s accordionist Amy Thatcher, added a lot to the sets, where the electric harp provided an almost dance like bass, the Mandolin of Laura Salter providing a bluegrass part, while the flute, whistles, and violins played the melody lines.

Although only two albums into their career, the group, which amongst its players includes former Radio Scotland Musicians of the year, and various nods from other folk awards, are a strong draw on the live stage.

Craobh Rua – Lichfield Guildhall – Friday November 4th 2005

One of Belfast’s finest bands played to a select, but enthusiastic audience when Craobh Rua played the city’s Guildhall.

The youthful four piece played a selection of upbeat instrumentals and songs that paid tribute to the emerald isle’s musical culture. The band, led by banjo and mandolin Brian Finnegan player started their gig with a lively instrumental set, that allowed for an interplay between the band, and allowed the skilled fiddle player Micheal Cassidy and Uilean pipe player Desby McCabe to show how fast they could play.

The band alternated between spirited jigs, reels, and hornpipes, and songs, that were sung by guitarist and vocalist Jim Rainey. Highlights of their set included the Uilean pipe solo during the second half, as well as well as the ballad song ‘Belfast Mountains’.

Other pieces, such as Junction Set, Skip Jig Set, and Come Upstairs with me/Irish Girl/Humours of Ballymanus, were also well received. The band also played a Gallican song, about cannibalism, with the threatening undertow of the musical setting helping to summon the right type of atmosphere.

The one fault of the band was that towards the end of the set, the pace was allowed to drop, and this was the point at which it should really have picked up. The band finished their main set with a selection of upbeat reels, which were greatly enhanced by audience handclaps, and their encore was very well deserved.

Concert Review – Dave Swarbrick and Kevin Dempsey –

Lichfield Guildhall – 11th October 2009

Lichfield Arts continued their practice of bringing fine quality folk musicians to the Guildhall when Dave Swarbrick and Kevin Dempsey played at the guildhall.

Most widely known as a member of Fairport Convention,  Dave Swarbrick is a very widely known folk fiddle player, whilst singer and guitar player Kevin Dempsey also has a good reputation on the folk performance circuit.

The gig started with a selection of English reels, before they played the northern song ‘I know my love’. The bluesy, syncopated chordal guitar part fitted perfectly with both the vocals, and the decorative violin solo.

‘The Wicked Polly’ also featured a similar treatment, even though its provenance was as an older 18th century American song.

Most of the set was instrumental, with a series of Reels, Jigs, and Hornpipes from all over the world, and a number of pieces coming from the Northumbrian Pipe repertoire. A set of three tunes by Turlough O’Carolan were translated from the celtic harp to solo violin, and showed Dave Swarbrick’s deep seated love for and understanding of older musical forms.



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