Last week I went to a wonderful concert at the National Centre for Early Music, happily for me located in York. I've been to many types of concert there over the years, from Jazz to Klezmer through Classical, but I don't think I'd ever attempted English Folk Music. This is a genre that I can usually take only in small quantities, as I tend to find mock west country accents singing about fair maidens a bit tedious. And some folk songs can sound extremely repetitive. Once, in a pub in Whitby during the Folk Festival (my presence in the town at that particular time was completely accidental), I had to endure an especially grating song that repeated over and over without any apparent variation or development. When the band finally came to a stop, one of the musicians carried on playing for a few notes, proving my point, I feel.
So when I saw Kathryn Tickell and the Side advertised as folk music in the NCEM's brochure, I was initially doubtful. But then I found out that she had played with The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Aha! Now that's music I do know I enjoy! I got her latest album, loved it, and bought my ticket.
Although not knowing much about Folk Music, over the years I have discerned a connection between it and real ale, so I began the evening by purchasing a bottle at the bar. In the spirit of embracing the new, I picked a beer I'd never heard of called Mostly Ghostly, and went off with my bottle and glass to find a seat. Once sat down I put on my glasses (sad, but increasingly necessary) so I could read the label on the bottle: "York Brewery and the Chilli Jam Man present..."
And I thought I'd learned to read beer before I pay for it.
Yes, it was everything you would have expected from 5.4% real ale flavoured with chillies, combining two things both notorious for their ability to get things moving to produce an effect that lasted well into the next morning. Although a very well crafted ale, I have to admit that my favourite beer aftertaste is not "hot". In the second half I washed the memory away with a bottle of Wold Top Brewery (this time checking the label for surprises).
It was nice to see that the concert was sold out. I've been to shows there where they've had to put out tables "caberet-style" to disguise the lack of customers, but not this time. Agewise, though, I was one of the younger attendees, which is sad, as this music has so much to offer. The band is a quartet, featuring cello, piano accordion, harp, and Kathryn Tickell herself on fiddle and Northumbrian pipes. I really like this last instrument (the others are great too), which came as a surprise, as the Scottish bagpipes are one of my least favourite musical instruments. The quality of their playing was superb, and their love for the music really shone out. The clog dancing was a nice touch, too.
From now on I will make more of an effort to listen to Folk Music, as there is clearly much that I would enjoy. I start off with Kathryn Tickell's pleasingly extensive back catalogue.