Shooglenifty – Lichfield Guildhall – March 7th 2008
Shooglenifty, one of Scotland’s most forward thinking musical groups played to an enthusiastic Guildhall when their tour reached Lichfield. The six piece band, who have played all over the world, and have been together for 17 years, played their mix of traditional musical forms with dance and rock music grooves.
The front line of violinist Angus Grant, Mandolinist and lead composer Luke Plumb, and Banjo player Garry Finlayson where powered along by drummer and percussionist James Mackintosh, guitarist Malcolm Crosbie and bassist Ranald Macarthur.
Their two hour set was mostly drawn from their two most recent albums, Troots and The Arm’s Dealer’s Daughter, with a wide ranging and varied set that ran the gamut of traditional Scottish music, with echoes of Klezmer, and Indo and Ethnic music forms, jazz, celtic music, funk, blues and rock rhythms and traces of dance, rave and trance elements in the shifting soundscapes. All of the musicians were talented players, with the stand out musicians being Luke Plumb and Angus Grant, where their intricate playing was often played in unison and harmony.
The tight knit arrangements of tunes such as ‘The Trim Controller’, ‘The Patient Nurses’ ‘Excess Baggage’ and ‘McConnell’s Rant’ were as well performed as their studio counterparts, whilst slower tunes such as ‘Carboni’s Farewell’ were delivered in a quieter fashion with Bodhran replacing the drums. Spanish and European music styles were used in such tracks as ‘The Nordal Rhumba’ and ‘A Fistful of Euro’s’, where backing tracks and samples were also used to good effect.
Shooglenifty’s unusual line-up added new sounds to the mix, with the banjo being used to add spectral sounds and chords to the mix, whilst the group played as an ensemble, with very few solos being allowed for indulgence.
The high energy set lifted during the second half, with the band’s efforts being rewarded with a standing ovation and a number of encores.
Concert Review – The Old Dance School – Lichfield Guildhall – May 9th 2010
A fast rising band continued Lichfield Arts practice of bringing promising bands to play at the Guildhall, when The Old Dance School appeared as part of the association’s folk season.
The six piece band, made up of former music students from the Birmingham Conservatoire played songs and instrumentals taken mostly from their soon to be released new album, Forecast, as well as a number of other pieces from their previous work Based on a True Story.
With influences ranging across folk, to ambient music, classical music, even elements of jazz and dissonance, this was not really a concert for the Arran Sweater and fingers in the ear crowd. As well as the traditional fiddles, recorders, whistles and guitar, the group also featured double bass, trumpet and flugelhorn, and clever use of live looped and sampled sounds.
The four melody instruments of trumpet player Aaron Diaz, whistle and recorder player Laura Carter, and violinists Samantha Norman and Helen Lancaster were ably supported by the guitar of Robin Beatty, percussionist Tom Chapman on cajon, and cymbals, and double bass player Adam Jarvis.
They started the two hour performance with ‘The Envelop’e, whilst other pieces included the slow aires ‘Lewis’ and ‘Rosemann Bridge’ whilst more experimental pieces included ‘Wen’ and ‘The Enlli Light’ with looped guitars and woodwind adding new sounds to the mix.
‘Wire over the River’, ‘Passage to Spike Island’ ‘Amber’ and ‘The Taxidermist’ were upbeat, tuneful pieces, while the only song to feature in the set ‘John Ball’ featured the singing of Laura Carter and able vocal support from the rest of the group. Although most of the band are composers, they finished the set with ‘Spaghetti Panic’ by the accordionist Andy Cutting, and an encore of ‘The Broken Pledge’ showed the group’s talent at their best.
Lichfield Arts Concert Review – The Poozies
The Poozies, one of Lichfield Arts more popular bands played their music, steeped in tradition, but with more contemporary concerns when the five piece ensemble played at the Guildhall.
The concert was started with ‘Dangerous Times’ one of Singer-Songwriter Sally Barker’s own songs. With three original members, guitarist Sally Barker, and Harpists Patsy Seddon and Mary Mcmaster’s, they were assisted by two new recruits, accordianist Mairearead Green, and Eilidh Shaw on Fiddle.
Their set ranged from traditional ballads and airs, to more boisterous reels and jigs, with Fiddle and Accordian leading, whilst the electro-harp provided much of the music’s momentum and bass.
The delicacy of the harps was bought out in some of the evening’s slower pieces, whilst the five part vocal harmonies of the Waulking Music added a new depth to the music.
An encore of ‘Another Train’, an acappella song with powerful, pitch perfect 5 part vocal harmony was the best way for this band to end their concert.
Concert Review – The Shee – Lichfield Guildhall – 18th December 2009
The female folk super-group 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 debut album ‘A Different Season’ 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, with pieces such as ‘Happy Halloween’, and ‘Maccrimmon’s’
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 one album into their career, the group, which amongst its players includes former Radio Scotland Musicians of the year, and various nods from other folk awards, will develop into something quite unique.
Concert Review – Uiscedwr – Lichfield Guildhall – April 24th 2009
Lichfield Arts continued their practice of bringing some of the finest traditional musicians to Lichfield Guildhall, when the trio Uiscedwr performed. The band, fiddle player and singer Anna Esslemont, Bodhran player and percussionist Cormac Byrne and guitarist James Hickman played a wide selection of music from their seven year and four album career, with much of the music coming from their soon to be released new album, Fish, Cat, Door.
The gig started with The Dirty Nine Steps, a light pop infused melodic reel, which showed the interplay of all three members, and allowed them to show their surprisingly full sound, powered by the dynamic bodhran playing. As well as folk and traditional influences, other genres featured in the set, from the chamber jazz feel of the song Prescription Junkie, to Katie Bennett’s End of the Day, with its minimalist backing, and almost trance like percussion part sounding something like Portishead.
The band played mostly their own material, with Sunshine and Crucked Reels showing what can be done with forms that are passed down from generation to generation.
Germs went from the traditional The Jolly Beggarman to Bluegrass and featured a solo from James Hickman that showed he knew more than harmony playing, whilst E.S.P was a duet for Violin and Bodhran and shows the playing relationship that the group’s founding members have built up during the band’s existence.
Cormac Byrne’s showcase Bodhran solo featured everything from rain like sounds, and modern percussion techniques, as well as quotes from Queen’s Another one bites the Dust.
More world music influences crept into the band’s sound during Esta Levista and Escobar, whilst the encore of Flea Circus was more than richly deserved.
Concert Review – Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Ukulelescope
The Ukulele Orchestra played two sold out shows when they bought their newest show to the Lichfield Garrick.
Now something of a tradition at the Lichfield Festival, the popular group performed specially written music for a number of silent films.
The work of Heath Robinson, various adverts and science and nature films was greatly changed by the dulcet tones of the group. The Ukulele is enjoying something of a resurgence with the four string instrument now overtaking the recorder and violin as the first instrument that school children learn.
Previous shows by the orchestra have seen them playing popular music and lighter items from the classical repertoire with new arrangements, but this was the first time that most of the music was written by the group.
Classical sounding themes were interspersed with spoken word interludes. A balalaika orchestra was sound-tracked by a lively Russian sounding theme, a travel film was accompanied by a delicate theme, as was a faded film of 1920’s beauty queens.
A student film ‘The Witches’s Fiddle’ featured a magic violin which made anyone listening dance to songs ranging from the Wurzel’s ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’ and the ‘The Birdie Song’.
This was a lively and entertaining show, which in musical terms would have made a good concert without the visual accompaniment.