Category Archives: music

CONCERT AT HALSWAYS: MARTIN TAYLOR & MARTIN SIMPSON

Award-winning jazz guitarist Martin Taylor has teamed up with acoustic and slide guitar virtuoso Martin Simpson to perform a number of selected dates across the UK – including an appearance at Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, on Sunday 2 December at 7pm.

The pair share the stage throughout the performance – adding to each other’s songs and instrumental pieces, and taking them to sublime new heights. This is an unmissable evening for guitar and acoustic music fans, in the company of two guitar-playing legends working in harmony.

“Martin Taylor is one of the most awesome solo guitar players in the history of the instrument. He’s unbelievable.” (Pat Metheny)

Martin Taylor was name-checked on BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show as being considered THE best guitarist by no less than Jeff Beck – leading to a live session on the show the next morning. Completely self taught, he has enjoyed a remarkable musical career spanning four decades and during that time has invented and developed a way of playing the guitar that is admired, and often imitated, by guitarists all over the world.

As well as being a true guitar innovator, he is also a master concert performer, dazzling audiences with his solo shows, which combine virtuosity, emotion and humour, with a strong stage presence. He has collaborated with musicians from many different musical genre including Stephane Grappelli, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, George Harrison, Dionne Warwick, Bryn Terfel and Jamie Cullum. In 2002, he was appointed MBE “For Services To Jazz Music”, in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List, which he received personally from Her Majesty The Queen at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.

“Martin Simpson’s performances elicit powerful emotions and subtle, understated beauty.” (Guitar Player)

After 35 years as a professional musician, Martin Simpson is widely acknowledged as one of the finest acoustic and slide guitar players in the world, and his interpretations of traditional songs are masterpieces of storytelling. His solo shows are intense, eclectic, spellbinding and deeply moving.

Martin has been nominated an astounding 23 times in the 11 years of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – more than any other performer – with 9 consecutive years as nominee for Musician of The Year, which he has won twice. Whether playing American old-time music, blues, a Dylan song or his own material, Martin Simpson is unpredictable, individual and a guitarist of immense subtlety.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills, Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for intimate concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to talk with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets are priced £20; buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

 

EXMOOR COMMUNITY MUSIC PROJECT COMMEMORATES FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY

Article and photos by Elizabeth Atkinson, Project Manager for ‘Fragments: Voices from the First World War’

West Somerset will be hosting the world première of a new choral piece by local composer Emily Feldberg on 10 November, involving more than 90 musicians from across Exmoor and beyond. Fragments: Voices from the First World War brings together the voices of British and German people caught up in the war, using original sources from the time. It will have its première at Minehead Avenue Methodist Church on the eve of the centenary of Armistice Day, and will be conducted by leading choral conductor Nigel Perrin. Tickets for the evening performance have already sold out, but there is still an opportunity to hear Fragments at the open rehearsal on the afternoon of 10 November, at the same venue, starting at 2pm.

The composer, who lives in Carhampton, started work on the hour-long piece in 2014, at the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict, and completed it earlier this year. “Writing any music about the First World War is extremely emotional,” she said. “I have spent the last four years both crying for the tragedy and questioning whether I was representing people’s experiences appropriately. I have really tried to let the voices of German and British participants speak for themselves.”

A wide range of texts dating from the First World War have been used for the piece, including the words of a Devon farmer, a Ruhr miner, a German soldier, a woman munitions worker, a grieving mother, a conscientious objector’s memoirs, the Somme Army report, a humorous poem from the Wipers Times and verses found on a scrap of newspaper in a German railway carriage in 1918. Different musical styles in the piece reflect this range. Starting and ending with the words, ‘Lest we forget,’ the music moves the listener from the first swells of patriotic fervour through the tragedy of loss, to the jaunty defiance in the face of danger of the Tommies in the trenches and the women in the munitions factories, and the horrors experienced in the mire of the Somme. It takes in both the agony of decision for conscientious objectors and the stoicism of young British and German soldiers in the face of impending death. The piece draws to an end with the sombre reflection that ‘Peace has come to a suffering world’ and the implied challenge expressed in the words of Quaker peace campaigner Corder Catchpool (1919): “We are only justified in going on living if our futures manifest, at every point and at all times, a heroism equal to that of those killed in battle.”

From the outset, this project has been shaped by the input of many different people in many different ways. “Composing a piece of music is only the beginning,” said Emily. “People have shared stories, suggested ideas, provided texts and given advice and encouragement. Each new contribution has changed and widened the end product. It really has become a community project, not only because of the number of people involved in the first performance, but also because of those who have influenced its development.” Even the publicity has drawn on local inspiration, featuring graffiti scratched into the lead roof of Carhampton church tower 100 years ago: ‘PEACE NOV 11 18’.

The title of the piece was the result of much debate. Eventually, the idea came from Di Osborn of Roadwater, whose husband John is singing in the performance: “I thought perhaps you could call it just Fragments: Voices from the First World War,” she wrote, “then the ‘fragments’ would reference not only the snatches of text but those poor young men who got blown to smithereens and also the fragmented lives caused by warfare.” A century on, those fragments still impact on the lives of most of us, and this has both contributed to the content of the piece and deepened the involvement of many participants, and may well add poignancy to the experience of the audience in November.

Most of the participants have a direct connection to the conflict. The section on Conscientious Objectors was inspired by materials provided by Chris Lawson of Minehead Quakers (Chris and his wife Christina will both be involved in the performance) whose father was a Conscientious Objector in the First World War. Among other materials, Chris provided Emily with the journal of a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit, with which two uncles of Philippa Gerry, who is singing in the piece, also served. Philippa’s father was shot and gassed on the Somme, an aunt supervised hospital trains, a cousin nursed the wounded in northern France and died of pneumonia and two more uncles’ lives were irretrievably changed by shell shock. Thelma Vernon’s grandfather, like so many others, was killed in the first year of the war, while Helen Jowett was moved by her own grandfather’s experience of the trenches to write a poem, ‘Devon Farmer’, which now forms part of the libretto of the piece (the only text not actually dating from the war). And the effect is felt through the generations: the baritone soloist for November’s performance, Jamie Rock (a favourite visiting soloist for Minehead audiences), wrote, “My Great Great Grandfather fought and died in WW1, so it will mean a lot to me and my family to represent his fallen friends and foes. I hope my Granny will be able to make it over for the performance.” And one survivor of the conflict will be present at the performance: Tim Hedgecock will be playing in the orchestra on a violin his grandfather played in an army band in India during the war.

Links with the German experience of the war are also important for many of the participants. Emily has German family links herself, and has also drawn on the accounts of German friends and relatives. Emily’s friend Anna Fleisch related how her grandfather only spoke about one aspect of his experience of the war: although billeted on enemy ground, his unit were given cake by the women in the village on their safe return from the trenches, and Emily has used this for the section entitled ‘Kuchen’ (‘Cake!’) in the piece. For other participants, the German link is more recent: “I’m half German,” said Bill Griffiths. “My mum would have been really proud that I’m doing this.”

Orchestral rehearsals started back in 2017, and a choir of more than 50 singers started rehearsals in April of this year, with members coming from as far afield as London, Yorkshire and Scotland, as well as from a wide range of local choral groups. Participants’ responses to the music have been overwhelming. Helen Jowett wrote, “The music is wonderful and so emotional – I can’t sing ‘Kuchen’ [depicting a mother who has lost her son] without a wobbly voice!” while cellist Jenny Quick wrote, “It is a fantastic achievement and already wielding the power to touch and move us all.” Singer John Osborn, writing in response to a full-day workshop with conductor Nigel Perrin, wrote, “I have Emily’s music in my head all the time. I was three feet off the ground when I got home from Saturday’s workshop – it was one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

For some singers, this is the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition. Tim Pettigrew, who is singing a solo from the choir as a conscientious objector, wrote, “It realises a childhood dream when my Mum started taking me to the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral (in the 1950s and ’60s) and I remember being emotionally electrified for days afterwards by the baritone solo of the Priest at the conclusion of Part 1 of The Dream of Gerontius.  I wondered what it must be like to sing something like that and even daydreamed that I might do something similar one day. Well now, some 60 years later, you have realised my dream and have given me a musical experience that I will cherish and which will be with me for the rest of my life.”

The project is also bringing together singers with a wide range of musical experience and expertise: some have never been involved in anything on this scale before and some don’t read music but have learnt the whole piece from singing along with the music on the project website, while others are seasoned performers bringing their skills to the piece to the benefit of all concerned. The orchestra, too, contains players with a wide range of skills and experience, including one adult learner who has never played in an orchestra before. Participants’ own suggestions have also led to additional support: they can now sing along to their own lines on the website, watch videos of rehearsal sections, practise their German pronunciation with online tutorials and attend extra sections for note-learning. “The rehearsals have a real buzz,” said Emily. “You can feel the commitment.”

An Arts Council grant has enabled the amateur performers to work both with conductor Nigel Perrin and with five professional orchestral players, and local individual and business patrons are also supporting the project with funding and services. There are still opportunities to give support: please email emilyfeldberg@btinternet.com or phone 01643 821756 for details.

Entry to the open rehearsal on 10 November is free, but donations towards the cost of the project would be welcomed. Souvenir programmes will be on sale at the rehearsal, containing the full text of Fragments and the composer’s notes on the piece: anyone attending the rehearsal or performance is advised to read these before it starts if they can. As it is a working rehearsal (so visitors are asked to remain silent), there may be some stops and starts, but a full run-through of the hour-long piece is planned for shortly after 2pm.

To find out more about the project and get a flavour of the music, visit www.emily-feldberg-music.uk/ or simply search online for Emily Feldberg music.

PHOTO: Emily, the composer, working with the orchestra.

 

 

 

 

KITTY MACFARLANE: ‘NAMER OF CLOUDS’ ALBUM LAUNCH TOUR COMES TO SOMERSET

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, is delighted to be welcoming Somerset singer-songwriter Kitty Macfarlane to perform at the Manor on Sunday 4 November at 7.30pm, as part of a nationwide tour to support the release of her stand-out debut album, ‘Namer of Clouds’. ​

Released only last month, on Navigator Records, the album has already garnered huge acclaim from both the mainstream and folk press. The Guardian wrote, “Her remarkably accomplished debut album beguiles with its poetry and tenderness, and her eye for detail, vivid imagination and bright vocals make it a captivating listen. She is a talent to watch.” Speaking on BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, Mark Radcliffe declared tracks from the album as “Stunningly beautiful – what a production, what a sound”.

Over a few short years Kitty Macfarlane has rapidly risen to become a ‘must-see’ name on the UK folk scene.  While her support appearances on tours with Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, and Blair Dunlop have fuelled her growing fan-base, it was her acclaimed 2016 EP ‘Tide and Time’ that got everyone talking; still in her early 20s, her “impressively mature” (fRoots Magazine) debut album is cementing her reputation as a major talent. Kitty is coming into her own with some remarkable songwriting, a marked empathy with the environment, and a strong sense of place; references to Somerset landscapes, wildlife and folklore pepper Kitty’s music, connecting to her love of the area where she grew up.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills, it provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to catch-up with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets are priced £10, with a concessionary price of £4 for children and full time students of any age. Buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

MAGICAL EVENING OF SONG AT MINEHEAD METHODIST CHURCH

There will be another magical evening of song on Saturday 29 September at Minehead Methodist Church starting at 7.30pm. Two years ago, the initial concert was very well received and led to many requests for a repeat performance. Once again, the concert will feature the highly acclaimed Minehead Male Voice Choir and talented soloist Eloise Routledge. All proceeds will be donated to the West Somerset Advice Bureau, a local charity which provides a free, independent advice service to residents across West Somerset.

The Choir has a loyal following of supporters and always provides excellent entertainment with many favourite songs which range from shows, musicals and films, to traditional, folk, spiritual and operetta. Founded in 2000, the Choir has 40 members and is very capably led by Jacqueline Butterworth, an experienced and highly accomplished Musical Director.

Eloise is an experienced opera singer and concert soloist, having performed in the UK and abroad with companies such as Garsington Opera, Holland Opera and Welsh National Opera, and in venues from Birmingham Symphony Hall, Nottingham Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, to Sydney Opera House and major concert halls across Australia as guest soloist on tour with Treorchy Male Voice Choir. Now based in Somerset, Eloise has been singing more locally at Bristol’s Colston Hall and Wells Cathedral, and enjoys bringing a range of repertoire from opera to show greats and well-known favourites to her audience.

It promises, once again, to be a very enjoyable Magical Evening of Song and an opportunity not to be missed!

Tickets are £8.50 and will be available from Toucan Wholefoods in The Parade, Minehead, The Tantivy in Dulverton and from reception at the West Somerset Advice Bureau, Market House Lane, Minehead. Alternatively, please telephone 01398 371248. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.

JAZZ AND EXMOOR CHURCHES

The United Reform Church in St Peter’s Street, Tiverton was founded in 1660 by Theophilus Polwheile. It was rebuilt in 1831 with his name prominently displayed. The church was eventually sold and deconsecrated.

Sue Johnston bought the building in 2014 and has transformed it into an arts and community centre, known as the Oak Room. Several hundred years later, although the church survives, it is being used in ways that Theophilus never could have dreamed of. The removal of some pews has provided space for a range of artistic and cultural activities, including drawing classes, yoga, theatre productions, a cookery club, and, on the first Friday of every month, live jazz.

Now, the space that once echoed to “All things bright and beautiful” reverberates to the rhythms of jazz, blues and folk music. Although many of the pews remain, armchairs and sofas provide more comfortable seats for listening to music from New Orleans, Chicago and the West Country. The licensed bar and coffee area would undoubtedly have scandalised.

The high ceiling and wooden floors seem to enhance the acoustic qualities of the space. As Sue points out, it was built before microphones and public address systems, and it was important that the unaided voice of the clergyman could be heard clearly by the congregation.

Another church that regularly echoes to the jazz beat is St Luke’s in Simonsbath on Exmoor. Although still a working church, it is also the main venue for the annual Simonsbath Festival. The festival began in 2011 and has grown ever since, with each year bringing top-class musicians to the tiny and secluded hamlet. Jazz, opera and classical music as well as folk music from around the world have all been featured. The festival runs from May Day to Midsummer.

The connection between churches and jazz has had, for at least one jazz fan, a pleasing circularity. In 2016, Nigel Penfold attended All Saint’s Church in Dulverton to listen to a fund-raising concert by Le Jazz. This is a quartet of musicians who combine classical musical educations with a love of jazz. It was, he said, an eye-opening moment. “The number of people in the audience and the evident enjoyment they got from the music, convinced me that a club dedicated to good, live jazz could be commercially viable”, he says. A month later, the South Molton Jazz Club (SMJC) was born and has now established a regular audience, who meet on the last Friday of every month to enjoy a wide range of jazz styles at the George Hotel, South Molton.

Exactly what constitutes jazz is sometimes a moot question. The West Country has a long history of embracing “Trad” or New Orleans jazz, featuring trombones and banjos. Indeed, some people claim that this is the only “true” jazz. Nigel hopes that his policy of having a different band each month encourages people to be more adventurous. Gypsy jazz one month, an Oscar Peterson piano tribute the next, and saxophonists followed by vocalists all help emphasise the huge range of music available under the jazz banner.

“People reacted well to the concept”, says Nigel. So, in autumn 2017, he started looking for an additional venue in Tiverton. This led him to the Oak Room. Applying the same formula as in South Molton, the First Friday jazz club in the Oak Room has hosted a wide range of bands including Manouche, with gypsy jazz guitar players from Poland, and the more local group Dark Town Strutters (pictured), a New Orleans band of, as he puts it, “Extremely experienced, not to say venerable, musicians”, who describe themselves as the only band listed as a national monument by English Heritage.

New jazz venues are rare and word soon spread through the musicians’ network. Nigel is regularly contacted by foreign music agents seeking gigs for their touring bands.

The prize for the band which travelled furthest to perform for the SMJC goes to the B. D. Lenz trio. This is a New York based jazz/funk combination of guitarist, bass player and drummer who flew into the UK from the US on a Thursday, performed in Birmingham that evening and drove to South Molton to perform the next day. The journey from Birmingham took them seven hours, on one of the hottest days of the year.

“They arrived forty minutes before they were due to play“, says Nigel. “They set up, they played for two hours and they were brilliant”.

Professionalism and experience like that don’t come cheap but, as Theophilus might have said, “Is not the labourer worthy of his hire?”

Future plans include integrating the impressive pipe organ in the Oak Room into a gig. However, finding a keyboard player willing to tackle the enormous instrument has so far proved difficult. The wooden floor also has musical possibilities. Sue’s partner, Ken Maharajah, is a talented artist and one of his favourite subjects is the swirly, passionate flamenco dancers of Andalucia. Following an exhibition of Ken’s paintings at the National Museum of Flamenco in Saville, Nigel’s ambition is to use Ken’s contacts to bring a flamenco dance troupe and band to perform at the Oak Room.

Live music is alive and well in the South West. Sometimes in unlikely places.

Contacts: www.SouthMoltonJazzClub.com 

www.oakroomtiverton.com

www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk 

 

 

 

 

MINEHEAD & EXMOOR MUSIC FESTIVAL

The Regal Theatre is proud once again to welcome the Minehead and Exmoor Music Festival for a week of rehearsals and performance. This is the 55th season of the Minehead & Exmoor Music Festival, which presents a week of concerts across West Somerset. 

The Regal provides a home where the orchestra rehearses and also hosts 3 major concerts.  (The Young Artists’ Concert on Sunday 22 July (at 7pm) and the Chamber Concert on Thursday 27 July (at 4pm) take place at the Methodist Church opposite the theatre.)

The orchestra, which plays a pivotal role in the Minehead Music Festival, was originally founded by Tim Reynish in 1963. It has been running in its present form for 30 years under Artistic Director and Conductor Richard Dickins.  Once again he has produced a fine programme of music which everyone is sure to enjoy. Every year he manages to persuade eminent international soloists as well as up-and-coming stars to come and perform with the orchestra.

The players are drawn from all over the country but most come from the London area where many of them perform with well-established orchestras and chamber groups. They produce high standards of performance which audiences eagerly anticipate.

Here is the festival line-up…

FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA CONCERTS AT THE REGAL THEATRE
CONDUCTED BY RICHARD DICKINS          

TICKETS: Adults £18.00, Students £3.00

Monday 23 July at Regal Theatre, Minehead
The Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Dickins
Mozart:  Symphony No 35 (Haffner)
Paul Patterson: Double Bass Concerto
A world premiere performance
Soloist Leon Bosch
Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 (Scottish)

Wednesday 25 July at Regal Theatre, Minehead
The Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Dickins
Rossini:  Overture to The Barber of Seville
Bruch: Violin Concerto No 1
Soloist Maya Magub
Brahms: Symphony No 3

Saturday 28 July at Regal Theatre, Minehead
END OF FESTIVAL CONCERT
The Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Dickins
Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Dvorak: Cello Concerto No 1
Soloist Laura van der Heijden  
Shostakovich: Symphony No 5

Tickets are now on sale at the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), 10am – 3pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 1pm Saturday.

FOLK TRIO LEVERET AT HALSWAY MANOR

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts are delighted to be welcoming acclaimed instrumental trio Leveret to perform at the Manor on Saturday 16 June at 8pm. ​

“Classy players … their intuitive way with tunes is glorious” Mojo

Leveret is a unique collaboration between three of England’s finest folk musicians. Andy Cutting (melodeon), Sam Sweeney (fiddle) and Rob Harbron (concertina) are each regarded as exceptional performers and masters of their instruments. Together their performances combine consummate musicianship, compelling delivery and captivating spontaneity. Leveret’s music is not arranged in the conventional sense and instead they rely on mutual trust, listening and responding as they perform live. Their playing is relaxed and natural, drawing audiences in and inviting them to share in music making that is truly spontaneous and yet deeply timeless.

“This is all about the joy of playing and the intoxicating thrill of three masters of their craft … the empathy between them as the music ebbs and flows is exceptional; you can also see the smiles and winks between them. The feel-good warmth they generate is palpable.” Colin Irwin [fROOTS review of In The Round]

Fiddler Sam Sweeney was the 2015 BBC Folk Awards Musician of the Year, directs the National Youth Folk Ensemble and is known for his work in Bellowhead, Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, The Full English and his own Made In The Great War project. Melodeon genius Andy Cutting, a three-time BBC Folk Awards Best Musician, is a compelling solo performer and currently works with Blowzabella, Topette, June Tabor, and Roger Daltry. Concertina wizard Rob Harbron leads the English Acoustic Collective summer school and is known for his work with The Full English (Best Group and Best Album BBC Folk Awards 2014), Emma Reid, Fay Hield, Jon Boden and others.

“You won’t find English folk music played better than this”R2

Leveret’s music is firmly rooted in the English tradition but sounds fresh and new.  With their albums New Anything and In The Round and over a long string of sell-out gigs, the trio have built a strong reputation as consummate musicians and captivating performers. Latest release Inventions brings Leveret’s trademark groove, energy and intuitive playing to bear on a set of new tunes composed by the trio, three of today’s finest tunesmiths in the folk field.

“Sublime, exquisite music – don’t miss them” Martin Simpson

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to catch-up with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets are priced £15. Call 01984 618274 (option 1), email office@halswaymanor.org.uk or buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

ALAUDIAE TAKE TO THE STAGE AT ST LUKE’S FOR SIMONSBATH FESTIVAL

After a brilliant evening in the company of ENPA chief executive Sarah Bryan, the fantastically talented opera singers Miranda Westcott and Claire Egan will take time out from their busy schedule of performances at prestigious venues such as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to give a concert at St Luke’s on Saturday 26 May at 7.30pm.

Members of the vocal trio Alaudiae, mezzo-soprano Miranda Westcott, from North Devon, and soprano Claire Egan return to Simonsbath Festival to present a hugely varied mix of songs celebrating A Woman’s Love and Life, from sixteenth-century madrigals to reimaginations of recent pop hits such as John Legend’s ‘All of me’ and Beyonce’s ‘Halo’.  At the centre of the evening’s programme is Schumann’s cycle ‘Frauenliebe und Leben’, balanced by a selection of folk music from the British Isles, with many other delights.

Miranda and Claire are joined by Arngeir Hauksson (theorbo, renaissance guitar, lute, percussion) and Marc Verter (piano).

Arngeir regularly performs for Shakespeare Globe productions and Marc performs in the UK and abroad at venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and St John’s Smith Square.

Tickets cost £15 to reserve the seat of your choice; standard tickets £10 (£11 on the door); student/unemployed £7.50; with free admission for 14s and under.  Refreshments are available and a snack may be booked in advance for the interval.

And it’s your last chance to catch this year’s fabulous Simonsbath Festival Art Exhibition, now in its final week and closing on 28 May, at The Old Pottery, Simonsbath, in the centre of the village just by the Exmoor Forest Inn. One of the printmakers will be on hand on most days to explain the processes they use to produce their work. Phone Sandy Schott on 01643 831844 for details.

To buy tickets for Saturday’s concert, visit www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk, email tickets@simonsbathfestival.org.uk or telephone Marian Lloyd on 01643 831451.

To receive a full colour, printed festival programme or to join the mailing list email info@simonsbathfestival.org.uk or to find out about becoming a Friend of Simonsbath Festival and enjoy ticket discounts and priority booking while also supporting the festival, email friends@simonsbathfestival.org.uk or call Polly on 01643 831302.

WORLD PREMIERE FOR ST MARY’S BRIDGWATER

Bridgwater Choral Society will be performing the world premiere of Benedicite, a composition by their Conductor Iain Cooper, during their May concert. The work is a short piece for choir, brass quintet, piano duet and timpani, which Iain says is “bright and cheerful and written in an accessible style with some lively, syncopated rhythms”.

Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Faure’s Requiem will complete the varied programme for the concert on Saturday 12 May 2018. It will be performed at St Mary’s Church, Bridgwater. The recently upgraded building now offers better lighting, access and seating. The soloists will be Andre Soares (baritone), and Mary Morgan (soprano). The orchestra will be led by Brigid Kirkland-Wilson, and the conductor will be Iain Cooper.

Tickets are £12 (unreserved) and are available via the website www.bridgwaterchoral.org or on the door on the night.

PHOTO: by Ken Grainger.

BLOWZABELLA CELEBRATING 40 YEARS IN 2018: LIVE AT HALSWAY MANOR 

International folk legends Blowzabella celebrate 40 years with a festival weekend at the picturesque Halsway Manor in the Quantock hills, alongside special guests Naragonia (Belgium). The festival weekend is now sold out but tickets are still available for a public Concert / Dance on Saturday 12 May at 8pm.

At a typical Blowzabella gig there are songs, dance music, and songs you can dance to. The variety of the arrangements and the mixture of unusual and more usual instruments provides plenty to enjoy whether you’re out there dancing or sitting on the sidelines listening.

Blowzabella play dance music composed and arranged by the band for a variety of English and European traditional dances. The dances are easy to pick up and you don’t have to be an expert to get involved, just have a go. Many people choose not to dance and come along to watch and listen – and that’s fine too. The band have done gigs like this for donkey’s years so you’re always in safe hands.

Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling. They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song.

Blowzabella are: Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones; Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.

Many of their tunes are “standards” in the modern British/European folk repertoire and are played by people all over the world. Bands across Europe who experiment with folk music often cite Blowzabella as a major influence. Much loved and respected, there is no one else quite like them.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. Parking, a bar and camping are all available onsite.

Tickets are priced £15 / £6 for under 18s. Tickets with camping & breakfast are priced £30 / £21under 18s. Buy securely online: www.halswaymanor.org.uk.