Review of Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, James Yorkston and The Carrivick Sisters concert in aid of charity for musicians

AN EVENING WITH MARTIN CARTHY AND DAVE SWARBRICK, JAMES YORKSTON AND THE CARRIVICK SISTERS AT THE CECIL SHARPE HOUSE  REGENT’S PARK LONDON ON 18th DECEMBER 2012

At the outset let it be known that folk gatherings have never been top of my list in Winter, however,  I was very pleased to have had the good sense to attend this superb concert at the ‘Mecca’ of British Folk and to patronise such a worthy cause.   This concert was sponsored by the Musicians’  Benevolent Fund, was most ably hosted by the one and only “Whisperin’ Bob Harris” OBE, and portrayed the musical talent of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, John Yorkston and The Carrivick Sisters.

Bob opened the concert and, in his usual warm and relaxed professional manner, he extolled the virtues of The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and stressed its significance to musicians.   In essence, the fund was set up to “provide help and support to musicians and their dependants, and those in related occupations, when illness, accident or old age bring stress or financial burdens to bear.” During the evening the mellifluous Bob declared that tonight’s audience was the largest ever held in this venue and I sincerely hoped that The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund would benefit admirably from their generosity

This concert was, in my opinion, a concert of contrasts:  contrasts of music types from Bluegrass to Baroque, rhythms and time signatures, styles and origin. Contrasts in instruments (albeit all of the stringed variety) ranging from the banjo to the fiddle.  And contrasts in artists ranging from the young twenty somethings to the young seventy somethings!  There was, however, one issue in common with each of the headline artists…. they had, at some time in their career, sought and received the help of the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund.

First on were …. The  Carrivick Sisters …… twins Laura and Charlotte seemed totally at home on such an occasion and they performed a series of their original songs and instrumentals using a variety of stringed instruments, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and banjo along with a several carefully chosen “covers”.  I particularly enjoyed listening to Laura’s compositions involving the Dobro which reminded me so much of Iris DeMent and marvelled at Charlotte’s nimble finger picking. In my opinion their overall stage presence, interaction with the audience and musical prowess belied their tender age (compared to Bob anyway!!).  During their set they made reference to financial support proffered by The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund to fund their latest album release.

Next we listened to James Yorkston who hails from Fife…..James  started out as bassist for a punk band  and then, as some would put it, “saw the light” to become one of Scotland’s most renowned singer- songwriters.  James opened his set by conveying to the audience his sadness for Douglas Paul who, as his bass player, had been with him since 2001 and had recently passed away.  James related also his past memories of this magnificent concert hall.  To me (and others) it seemed that most of his hour’s performance was a lament for “Doogie”.  Nevertheless despite the poignant occasion, James’ emotional music and lyrics were fascinating to listen to, more so when embellished by his two guest singers  Belfast-born, Chicago-raised Jill O’Sullivan from the group Sparrow and the Workshop and Mayo man singer-songwriter Seamus Fogarty.  James’s expounded and commended the vital work of The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and how it had helped him financially when one of his children became seriously ill…..

And finally after more stirring and passionate words in support of The Musicians’ Benevolent  Fund by Bob, the highlight of many peoples’ evening…..the high priests of British folk music and top of the bill, Martin Cathay and Dave Swarbrick both looking so relaxed and at home on stage in front of a very eager audience.  “I played here 54 years ago” quipped Dave……I noted that the majority of the audience weren’t even thought of then!

And then it began…..over an hour of remarkable and awe-inspiring music played by the Grand Masters.  It was incredible to listen to and a total contrast to anything before.  Their choice was significantly of the Baroque era but not in that style as we know it.  There were songs and instrumentals encompassing various compound time signatures and no hint of bar counting!!  It was wonderful to watch and hear the stirring fiddle playing by Dave neatly intertwined with  Martin’s guitar and his well-celebrated vocals….Dave’s “I left my Heart in New South Wales” was my favourite of the evening…..

Seemingly, in next to no time the concert came to a close despite the audience clamouring for more encores from Messrs. Martin and Dave. Finally, to each and every musician gracing that stage and beguiling a very enthusiastic audience we thank you for such a memorable evening.

Peter Burch – 25th December 2012

Speaking about his involvement, Bob Harris OBE said “I am delighted to be part of this wonderful event and hope that it raises the profile for the Musicians Benevolent Fund which is a vital lifeline for so many musicians, without which they would face a very uncertain future.”

Further information about The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund is available here: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/

This event was made possible by everyone involved donating their time and The English Folk Dance and Song Society generously allowing free hire of Cecil Sharp House.


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