Shrewsbury Folk Festival – tickets are now on sale

Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Kate Rusby

Tickets have gone on sale for the 2019 Shrewsbury Folk Festival as organisers have shared the first names to be added to the bill.

Weekend tickets to the four-day event, that will take place at the West Mid Showground from August 23 to 26, are expected to be in high demand. Last year the first tier of tickets were snapped up in less than 30 minutes and weekend tickets sold out a month before the August Bank Holiday event.

Two of the UK’s top solo stars Kate Rusby and Martyn Joseph will be topping the bill along with the legendary Oysterband and female supergroup Daphne’s Flight, who are returning after a triumphant performance in 2017. Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore have also been invited back after wowing crowds earlier this year.

Grace Petrie – photograph by David Wilson Clarke

Gary Stewart’s Graceland – a reworking of the Paul Simon classic – has also been signed up along with solo shows from Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley, singer songwriter and activist Grace Petrie and appearances from The Phil Beer Band and Merry Hell.

Exclusive to the festival will be a special day of programming on its Pengwern stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their musical partnership. The While and Matthews Takeover will see the pair curate performances on August 25th that will culminate in a big band show to close the night.

Granny’s Attic

Other acts will include Chris Elliott and Caitlin Jones, Edgelarks, Geoff Lakeman, Granny’s Attic, Mankala, Paul Downes, Rapsquillion, Reg Meuross, Track Dogs, the Urban Folk Quartet, and Winter Wilson. Festivalgoers will also be able to watch folk opera Here At The Fair by Mick Ryan.

Festival Director Sandra Surtees said many more artists are yet to be revealed.

“As ever the Shrewsbury line-up will feature some of the biggest names in folk, some popular performers that have been requested by our audience and a number of world and Americana acts.

“But the festival is about so much more than just the music – there’s so much to do during the weekend for all ages. The festival has its own magical atmosphere and we have many visitors who wouldn’t class themselves as ‘folkies’ but they just come to enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere with friends and family and listen to great music.

“The festival continues to go from strength to strength with a devoted audience who return year after year, demonstrated by the fact that we regularly sell out in advance.”

The festival has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, workshops, crafts, food village, real ale, cocktail and gin bars and on-site camping and glamping.

There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays held in the town centre and a parade through the streets on the Saturday afternoon. Weekend and day tickets can be booked at  www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

RAPSQUILLION – Earthly Joys (Own Label)

Earthly JoysRapsquillion is a harmony group known to “stalk the Welsh Marches with their eclectic mix of songs” though these days they seem to be stalking well beyond the border country. However, their CD Earthly Joys certainly lives up to the eclectic label, covering a wider range of material than I’d expected with panache.

The line-up for this album consists of Trevor Hedges (vocals, guitar), Kay Hedges (vocals, flute), Jenny Wright (vocals, recorder), Dave Wright (vocals, harmonica), Andy Ketchen (vocals, guitar, concertina), Sue Lawrence (vocals, flute, violin), and Nancy Ketchen (vocals, bodhrán), while Jon Bell contributes concertina to ‘Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates’ and Sue Stockton-Link takes lead vocals on ‘Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r Bore’.

Here’s my track-by-track reaction:

  1. The CD kicks off in fine style with ‘Asikhatali’ (sometimes known with a variant spelling, or as ‘The ANC Song’ or ‘Children Of Africa’). Sophisticated harmonies that play well to the individual qualities of the singers.
  2. The second track revisits ‘The Broadside Man’, by John Connolly and Bill Meek of The Broadside. To be honest, I always want to take a red pencil to the line about the pirate hanged on Tyburn Tree, but I suppose the likelier ‘hanged on Execution Dock’ would have presented rhyming problems. Nevertheless, this version has a nice balance between the harmonies on the chorus and the individual voices on the verses, all suitably propelled by the underlying bodhrán.
  3. ‘Street Calls/Sea Coal’ combines a medley of street calls with a haunting arrangement of the Graeme Miles song ‘Sea Coal’. .
  4. Andy Ketchen’s ‘Raffa’ is based on a story of a boy and his raven heard on the Welsh Borders. Unusually for this CD, it has a (very suitable) prominent guitar backing, and the attractive lyric is augmented by lovely high harmonies on the chorus from ‘the gorgeous Rapsquillettes‘.
  5. I always preferred Mike Harding in serious mode, and his song ‘King Cotton’ is about as serious as it gets, with its images of hard living among the dark satanic mills of the industrial North. The tune here isn’t quite as Harding sang it, but the harmonies are very effective.
  6. ‘Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r Bore’ is a plygain (‘cockcrow’, being sung characteristically at an uncivilized hour on Christmas morning) carol with words generally credited to David Hughes (1794-1862). Harmonies worth getting up for.
  7. ‘John Barleycorn’ is pretty much the ‘Hey, John Barleycorn’ version collected in the ’50s from George Attrill of Sussex. A stirring tune with ace harmonies.
  8. ‘An Dros’ takes a break from vocalization with an instrumental track, an attractive pair of Breton dance tunes – an An Dro being a circle dance in 4/4. Much as I like their singing, I wouldn’t hate it if they did more things like this. J
  9. There have been many excellent close harmony versions of ‘The Lyke Wake Dirge’ since the Young Tradition recorded it in the 1960s, making full use of its scope for eerie harmony. This version has more dynamic and harmonic variation than some other versions. I like it a lot, but I’d have preferred it if the main melody had been a bit further forward in the mix.
  10. ‘Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates’ is a sea song that has increased in popularity since it was featured in Master And Commander (apparently – somehow I missed that bit!). It’s a jaunty tune (slightly reminiscent of ‘Come Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl’) underpinned by Jon Bell’s concertina.
  11. ‘Quand Je Bois’ is an ambitious polyphonic arrangement of a French drinking song, going into Gilles Chabenat’s bourrée ‘La Poule Huppée’. I’ll drink to that.
  12. The tune of Chumbawumba’s ‘Singing Out The Days’ in part resembles ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’, but the words are more reminiscent of the plight of the Poor Bloody Infantry in the Great War. A great song, well sung.
  13. ‘Time Ashore Is Over’ is Bill Meek’s forebitter-flavoured song, written for the Fishing Heritage Centre production Here’s To The Grimsby Lads, adapted to present the voices of both the trawlerman and his wife, with restrained concertina and flute.
  14. Finally, some rafters get raised with the Jim Boyes song ‘Unison In Harmony’, long associated with Coope Boyes & Simpson. An entirely satisfying end to the set.

Before I heard Earthly Joys, I wasn’t sure how well Rapsquillion’s irresistible charm in a live session or workshop would transfer to CD. But it works very well: what’s lost in spontaneity and humour is regained in vocal depth and dynamic subtlety. The group’s many fans will certainly not be disappointed, and I suspect that the CD will make them more than a few more fans.

David Harley

Artist’s website: https://rapsquillion.co.uk/

‘Street Calls/Sea Coal’ – official video: