Spring is here and we’re learning some new tunes – mostly upbeat jigs and reels but with a twist, as usual. We’ll be bringing a new “big set” to our May gig at The Snickleway Inn in York.
We had a couple of great gigs over the St Patrick’s Day week. We were booked to play in an Irish bar from 7 to 9pm on the day itself. The first thing the manager asked us when we arrived was if we could play from 7 to 10.30pm. One of the advantages of playing together for so many years is that we have plenty of tunes we can call up. Angela had another gig elsewhere in town until 9pm but joined us for a banging final set.
We’ve got a few festival gigs coming up over the summer but this year we won’t be able to play at The City of York Roland Walls folk weekend at The Black Swan as a couple of us are away. So, the rest of us will see you there, but in the beer garden, not onstage.
Like all our friends on the music scene in York, we entered 2021 with no gigs in the diary and unable to meet. 2021 had merged into 2020 and now it’s difficult to remember what happened in one year rather than the other. We watched many, many online gigs. Celtic Connections online last January was inspirational. We made it a communal thing with the band, re-creating the excitement of curtain-up on our respective sofas. It leaves you in two minds about the joy of online access to this music and these musicians versus the sheer brilliance of live music. Bravo Celtic Connections for your part in showing a marriage of the two can be achieved.
On the other hand, we didn’t really participate in online offerings. We made a couple of videos (each of us playing our part at home, Angie stitching the video together, Jack editing the sound), but that was all. Playing in isolation is not what the music we play is about.
As soon as lockdown allowed, we started rehearsing again. Usually, our rehearsals are all about new sets of tunes and new songs. This year was very different – we put about a dozen new tunes and songs into the set but we had to rehearse all the old tunes to remind ourselves of the twists and turns. An unintended consequence was a cull of the older tunes because we didn’t have enough rehearsal time to recap everything, and we knew we probably wouldn’t actually play them anymore.
Our first gig after lockdown lifted in July was at The Snickleway Inn on Goodramgate in York. This is our favourite gig and we’re eternally grateful to the landlord Graham for regularly inviting us back. These gigs, one Thursday a month, are a familiar space for us to try out new tunes and, on a good night, a complete rave by time we start the second half. The corner we play in ought to be too small for all six of us but we’ve figured out how to fit everyone in with the minimum of gear and it means we can all see and hear each other really well.
Our friend Bob Mitchell is a great photographer and chronicler of the York music scene. His photos of the band at The Snick are documents of record and can be roughly dated by the band members’ hair styles. In December, Bob captured the party atmosphere in the pub particularly brilliantly!
Our first few 2022 dates at The Snick are on the website.
The photographic record also shows the appearance of Linds’ black flute as during lockdown she moved from silver flute to the traditional wooden flute – a different sound and very different to play. It’s now her main instrument.
Things got a bit busier after the lockdowns lifted and we played at a couple of festivals. Scalby Folk Festival is becoming a regular thing for a few of us and a lovely occasion to play some of the more reflective tunes. We also found our way back to The Merchant Irish bar in Scarborough, where the Sunday early evening audiences are really appreciative.
It’s been great to see the music scene re-emerge after lockdown. Jack has been gigging with another great local band, Billy has been busy with so many projects, Angie has been gigging with her other bands and town has been incredibly busy. It has been uplifting and reassuring to re-connect with our friends on the York scene and to see so many back gigging and organising tours.
We love our occasional private party gigs and in September we were delighted to play at The Fulford Arms for Nicole and Magnus’ wedding. Over recent years York has lost several of the places where we played regularly (notably our support spots at Fibbers) so it’s great to see how The Fulford has developed into such a major local venue.