‘Tis the season that The Albion Christmas Band is out making merry music throughout England. This year band mates Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Simon Care and Kellie While are also celebrating 15 years together as a band.
Simon Nicol and Simon Care gamely agreed to answer (or at least consider answering!) 15 questions about the band, the music, and their own holiday traditions. Take a look at the answers and then be sure you have your tickets for an Albion Christmas Band show.
1. What’s your first memory of playing with the Albion Christmas Band?
Simon Care: “First memory is thinking how privileged I was to be sitting next to the legend Simon Nicol.”
2. What’s the best compliment a fan ever gave you as part of Albion Christmas Band?
Simon Care: “Lots of audience members say that the show makes their Christmas and wouldn’t be the same with out it.”
Simon Nicol: “A lady came up to get a couple of CDs signed once, and she had a couple of teenagers with her as well as her white-haired mother and aunt. She said it was the first and only time the three generations had been out to anything as a group, and that they had just the best time together: that the show had that cross-generational appeal. It made her year to have her family complete in that way.”
3. What is your first ‘Spinal Tap’ moment with The Albion Christmas Band?
Simon Care: “The ‘Spinal Tap’ moment has to be doing the Christmas show in May at Folk On the Pier Festival. It was totally surreal, the whole audience got into the Christmas spirit!”
4. How does The Albion Christmas Band differ from some of the other holiday folks groups out there?
Simon Care: “I think it’s different because we don’t concentrate solely on traditional material. We look at all aspects of Christmas and winter customs using traditional and contemporary material.”
Simon Nicol: “By keeping it simple and un-showy. Apart from the odd occasion when Simon Care demonstrates his mastery of the arts of Terpsichore, I think it’s like watching a radio programme.”
5. How does your family celebrate Christmas?
Simon Care: “Usually at home on Christmas day then out with my Morris side on Boxing Day.”
Simon Nicol: “Every Christmas Eve we go to our local theatre’s Pantomime show and boo the villains and cheer the happy couple who overcome all in the name of love. Then it’s all back to the house for beer wine and snacking…”
6. Do you do holiday shopping when you tour (obviously with The Albion Christmas Band)?
Simon Care: “Yes me, Kellie and Ashley usually try to visit one of the big shopping centres during the tour, Bluewater, Trafford Centre or one of those.”
Simon Nicol: “Well, the first thing is to get Kellie something for her birthday, as it falls on the 17th of December, so I probably pick up something for the kids while I’m browsing…It can fill in the odd hour on days when the drives aren’t too huge. Getting parked up near the shops in those weeks is never easy though.”
7. What is your favourite part of touring with The Albion Christmas Band?
Simon Care: “Favourite part is spending time with Simon, Kellie and Ashley. Great friends as well as work colleagues.”
Simon Nicol: “Possibly having the day to myself just driving on my own, stopping when and where I want. I love my car and all the rest of the year I’m part of a travelling pack of musos so it’s a complete change of pace.”
8. What’s one thing your fans might not know about The Albion Christmas Band?
Simon Care: “We are the longest surviving Albion line-up in the Albion families 40 year history.”
9. Is there one song you’re especially looking forward to playing this year?
Simon Care: “‘The January Man’ by Dave Goulder, sung beautifully by Kellie.”
Simon Nicol: “‘The Frozen Man’ is back – the James Taylor song. Love it!”
10.What’s your favorite traditional Christmas song (whether the group plays it or not).
Simon Care: “‘On Christmas Night all Christians Sing.'”
Simon Nicol: “‘In The Bleak Midwinter,’ which we do include some years…”
11. If you could have one special musical guest perform with the band, who would it be and why?
Simon Care: “I think it would have to be Richard Thompson, just because he is such a lovely chap and would be a delight to work with.”
Simon Nicol: “Kellie’s mum, Chris. Because their voices are blend made in heaven. But she’s always out on the road with her own outfit, St Agnes Fountain…”
12. What’s the one thing you always take with you on tour?
Simon Care: “My melodeon, toothbrush and wallet. I can buy anything else.”
Simon Nicol: “My MacBook. And my American Express card! Hang on, that’s two things.”
13. Set the record straight. Is there anything people believe about you or the band that isn’t quite true? Or –– start a rumour!
Simon Care: “I think people think that I have earned lots of money from music and live in a big posh house. Untrue.”
14. Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Simon Care: “We do like to have a nice meal and usually have a few glasses of wine to settle the nerves.”
Simon Nicol: “Taking Mr. Care for a beer or two while Kellie titivates and Ashley counts and sells the merchandise!”
15. Share a funny or heartwarming fan story.
Simon Care: “A few years ago two friends of mine came to see us in Huddersfield with their young grandson (5 years old). They contacted me to tell me that now aged ten I inspired him so much he is playing the melodeon and wants to be a professional Morris dancer.”
— By Nancy Dunham