50 years - the concert

Posted Nov 04, 2008

Without a doubt - a great evening. I arrived at Sheffield City Hall about 1pm. Steve Heap and the team from Mrs Casey Music were already there along with Kit and her co-workers. Phil Vickers of AVLS was setting up the sound system. A buzz of activity in fact.  

My job was to rehearse with everyone the songs I wanted them to do with me. In the case of John Kirkpatrick this was fairly straight forward as we had recently been in concert together at the Red Lion in Birmingham. James and Nancy and I hadn't played together since 2005 in Australia at the National Folk Festival, so I was a bit wary - but it went well. They're great musicians and remembered the complex arrangement for 'Captain Swing' (I even remembered the words!).  Martin Simpson and I had decided to do a couple of things, one from 'Sit Down and Sing' and another from the work-in-progress CD which I'm entitling: 'Below the Radar'. Martin played a storm and we both had a great time. At the start of the second half, I invited Val and our son David to join me on stage. There were many in the audience who remembered the days, back in the sixties, when Val and I were a duo singing on the folk scene. We decided to sing a song from the very first children's album we made in 1966. We sang and David played guitar. I'm pleased to say we all managed pretty well! Val and I were delighted David had joined us. He is usually involved in the music by designing my album/CD covers and publicity. With Kit as stage manager and general manager of the event, all the family were involved in the concert - and that's not to mention my grandchldren, Jessica. Molly and Henry - for some, they nearly stole the show!! Their presence delighted me.

Chumbawumba had invited me to sing 'Word Bomber' on their recently released CD, "The Boy Bands Have Won". So this is what we were to do. After a somewhat faulty rehearsal (on my  part), I was word perfect by the time we went on stage. I introduced David Ferrard, a singer-songwriter from Edinburgh by singing two of his songs, 'Take Me Out Waltzing Tonight' and 'Visions of our Youth' with John K playing. A surprise to everyone was that John and I were joined by Donald Grant on violin. I felt especially honoured that Donald agreed to join us. He is an excellent musician who is a member of Sheffield's Ensemble 360, a classical music ensemble. He is also a member of the Elias Quartet, a chamber music quartet. He too is from Scotland and grew up playing Scottish jigs and reels etc. In my limited experience, he is one of the rare classically trained musicians who can 'swing'.  I intend no offence by this statement but I don't know how else to describe the many wonderful classical musicians I have had the pleasure of knowing and listening to over the years. Musicians of extraordinary ability and skill yet have difficulty playing 'outside' the classical discipline. He joined us on a number of pieces and his playing was beautiful and sensitive. David Ferrard then sang his 'Hills of Virginia'. He was joined by Donald and Martin. He deservedly received a wonderful response from the audience.  All this happened  after my good friend and comrade, Tony Benn had generously introduced the evening and me. Tony and I closed the first half of the concert by performing an excerpt from 'The Writing on the Wall', our highly successful programme that we have now been performing for almost twenty years!

Finally, we ALL arrived on stage for a rousing and wonderfully sung John Tams' "Rolling Home". 

The massed choir of performers and audience almost lifted the roof! It was a fantastic end to a  fantastic concert. I had been on stage for most of the almost three hours of the concert. I was exhausted for two days after! The following day (20th) was my 73rd birthday and the family came round with their good wishes. I hope I managed to stay alert and not show my exhaustion? Our good friends from Canada who had come over for the concert were staying with us. I'm not sure I was much of a host but Val, as ever, ensured everyone was well fed and comfortable.

A wonderful evening for which I thank the many people at Mrs Casey Music and Brass Tacks Music Agency - to Kit for her idea that there might be such an event - to Phil and AVLS for a superb sound system - to the extraordinary musicians and performers who agreed to share the stage with me - to Val and my wonderful family for their support over 50 years and to the hundreds of you who came and the thousands who have supported me over the years. You, the audience, are my most serious critics and the ones I most listen to and respond to - while you keep coming I'll do my best to keep singing - THANK YOU - all of you, whether you were there on this evening or not!  

60 years?