It will be festive japes and tunes a-plenty at our December event as BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST's annual Christmas tour rolls into town!

In 1995 Paul Hutchinson (accordion) and Paul Sartin (oboe, violin and vocals) shared a musical passion borne out of the desire to earn sufficient money to support their extravagant lifestyles. Their amazing musicianship coupled with wry humour stunned audiences around Europe and the States.

As a singer, oboist, violinist, composer and arranger Paul Sartin is a former member of the sadly-missed BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Winners and Nominees Bellowhead and Faustus. He edits publications of music manuscripts, delivers workshops, and is Consultant and Director of the Andover Museum Loft Singers. Having gained an Honours Degree and Choral Scholarship at Oxford, he gained a First for his Masters in Traditional Music, and in 2007 recieved a 75th Anniversary Award from the English Folk Dance and Song Society. His recent composition, ‘The Hartlepool Monkey’, for Streetwise Opera, was nominated for a BASCA award.

Paul Hutchinson is well known from his work with Hoover the Dog, Karen Tweed and the Playford Liberation Front. He is a superlative accordion player with a unique style inspired by church organ music, violins & concertinas! Paul is an experienced workshop leader tutoring at Cecil Sharp House on a regular basis, Hands On weekends, Folkworks Summer Schools and Halsway Manor. His favourite colour is no longer pink.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be local old-time string band THE NINETREE STUMBLERS.

Born a hundred years late and 4000 miles too far East, The Ninetree Stumblers dredge up nuggets of the Old Weird America from the crackly grooves of 78RPM shellac. Three multi-instrumentalists - Liam Kirby, Dan Weltman and Ruth Gordon - from right here in Bristol, the band trade guitars, banjos, fiddles and more, clambering from song to song through shows that set Moonshine-fuelled hoedowns against sombre Baptist hymns, cockeyed ragtime and sweetheart waltzes.

The concert will be held on Friday 16th December at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND. Doors open at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start, and there will be a full bar, serving Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO. real ales, Severn Cider, a selection of wines, soft drinks and tea and coffee. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/tankard/mug as part of the club’s drive to cut down on waste. There will also be a raffle featuring some great prizes including CDs, beer and more.

Tickets are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend, BRISTOL TICKET SHOP and online HERE. They are priced at £14 each, but if you buy before Friday 9th December they’ll cost you just £12 as part of the ‘Early Bird’ scheme. Members tickets are a bargain £10 each and are available direct from Ant Miles or from the Members Only area of this website.

Once upon a time in the distant past (yes, I know!!) there was a programme on the telly called 'Take Three Girls'. Not being old enough to know about, nor indeed particularly interested in, the goings-on in Swinging London back at the end of the sixties, I never actually got to watch it. But in recent years it’s come to mind again and I can imagine the conversation that might have occurred in the shared flat one evening: 

"‘Ere Victoria, you play the cello and Avril’s an art student. Why don’t the three of us form a band and hit the big time?"

Fast forward some forty years, take three very different girls, form a band and... LADY MAISERY might just fit the bill. This is definitely not your Supremes or Bananarama.  For a start they play instruments. And sing harmonies.

And boy, do they sing harmonies.

'Katy Cruel', the opening song of the second set, just seemed to throw out one unexpected chord after another; three instruments and three voices wafting over the heads of the audience and, yes, up into the crowded balcony as well. For this was quite possibly Downend Folk Club’s biggest attendance in the thirty or so months since it started.

Photo: Julian Cox

In a band featuring three songwriters there’s little elbow room for others to get a look in, although the evening included songs from such diverse folkies as Richard Farina and Sidney Carter with a touch of Todd Rundgren for good measure. Not surprisingly, Hannah James’ vocal on 'The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood' was pretty far removed from Farina’s Greenwich Village background.

At this point the rarely-seen ‘bansitar’ - a combination of banjo and sitar - made its appearance adding to the vast array of instruments. Playing fiddle, harp, accordion, concertina, banjo, various percussion items and several clogs, sometimes too much talent is concentrated in too few people. Insert imaginary collective sigh from audience!

But 'songs’ doesn’t really do the evening justice. This was more an impressionist painting giving a hint of this or that, enticing us into a wilderness of sound, and particularly true of the seasonal snippets - three short pieces illustrating different times of the year in sound and word. Hannah’s accordion making pure wind sounds rather than standard notes. Several 'diddling' tunes, sung rather than played. Hazel Askew’s beautiful harp constantly in the background.

Songs there were though. Opening with the superb 'Sing for the Morning', the first track on their new album 'Cycle', and according to Rowan Rheingans "a song that I wrote on a long bicycle ride". Continuing with the unaccompanied 'Diggers Song' and the horticultural security influenced 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme' (yes, I had to check the spelling too) before finishing the first half with a heart-warming tale of Aunt Sheila and more diddling.

Just a few short minutes then to re-fill the glasses, chat to your mates, buy the raffle tickets and see if anyone can mend the heating system, before more of the same including a personal favourite in Carter’s 'Crow on the Cradle' with the revelation that Sidney Carter’s son is now based in Bristol. He really should have been present to appreciate what his dad gave to the world.

At the end of the evening Hazel summed it up: "Downend Folk Club - cold in temperature but warm in heart." Wearing at times an array of mittens, shawl and baggy jumper, the same could have been said of Lady Maisery.

No DFC night would be complete without the support act. "I wanted something to do with my voice" said Kathryn Marsh who, together with guitarist David Sutherland make up the midlands-based ASHLAND. Playing several songs written by Kathryn’s dad, another making its debut in their set and a smooth bluesy number this really was a case of Old, New, Borrowed and Blue and was the perfect warm-up. Literally.

- Cliff Woolley


Back when Downend Folk Club launched in the Spring of 2014, Chairman Ant Miles was interviewed about the club on BBC Radio Bristol. Amongst the questions that day was, “Who is that one act that you really want to get to perform at the club?”. Ant answered empahtically and without hesitation: “LADY MAISERY”.

And the long-awaited day is finally here. The multi-award winning trio will grace the stage at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND for our November event as they tour their brand-new album, 'Cycle'.

In an English folk scene currently bursting with bold and innovative folk music, this vocal trio shine brightly. With their unique approach to harmony singing and thoughtful and striking arrangements of both traditional repertoire and original compositions, Hazel AskewHannah James and Rowan Rheingans harness and celebrate their united voice. Whether unearthing a feminist twist hidden in a traditional tale, delivering a poignant anti-war ballad, or showcasing their immense multi-instrumental talents in original compositions that draw on a myriad of musical influences, Lady Maisery are skilful explorers of the power, beauty and vitality of song. Over the last five years, the trio have toured widely, performing sell-out shows across the UK and Europe.

Photo: James Fagan

Underpinning every performance are Lady Maisery's distinctive harmonies: sometimes lush and rich, sometimes dark and invigorating, they intertwine with assured precision. The trio are also one of the foremost English proponents of mouth music, or "diddling” – once common in England, and still found across parts of southern and northern Europe, this form of singing without words is a perfect showcase for their sheer musicality. Each also an accomplished instrumentalist, many songs are expertly accompanied by a rich tapestry of Rowan’s fiddle, banjo and bansitar, Hazel’s harp and concertina and Hannah’s accordion and foot percussion.

Since the release of their debut album in 2011, 'Weave and Spin' (named Album of the Week by The Independent), Lady Maisery have attracted substantial attention, including being nominated for the Horizon Award at the 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and regularly appearing live on national radio. Their second album 'Mayday' (2013), a darker and more politically coloured record, cemented their growing reputation as a truly unique band on the English folk scene, with five star reviews from the likes of The Financial Times newspaper, music critics called it an album full of “ideas, purpose and urgency…powerful, enthralling work” (Songlines). Their third album 'Cycle' was released at the end of October and is already attracting excellent reviews, including four-stars from the The Guardian... you can read that review HERE.

Lady Maisery’s members are all highly respected performers in their own right: Hannah James is currently touring her first solo show ‘JigDoll’ and also plays in folk legend Maddy Prior’s trio 3 for Joy; Rowan Rheingans is half of the critically acclaimed duo The Rheingans Sisters and also plays with BBC Folk Singer of the Year Nancy Kerr’s Sweet Visitor Band; and Hazel Askew is well known as a musician and singer in award winning duo The Askew Sisters and the early music group The Artisans. All three are also key members of the English/Scottish supergroup Songs of Separation whose debut album and stunning premiere at Celtic Connections festival pushed them straight into the indie album charts top 20 in January 2016 - a very rare accolade British folk!

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be Midlands-based duo ASHLAND, a Midlands based acoustic, folk and roots duo with Kathryn Marsh on vocals and David Sutherland on guitar/vocals.

The idea for the duo came from Kathryn’s search for a musician willing to learn songs penned by her father; songs which helped form many of the musical memories of her childhood. David, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with an impressive history of collaborating with others, (Kim Lowings and Chris Cleverley) offered to help. Both musicians soon realised that Kathryn’s pure, yet powerful vocals worked well with David’s own material and so in October 2015, Ashland was formed.

The concert will be held on Friday 18th November at our second home of Christ Church Downend. Doors open at 7.30pm, with the music starting around 8.00pm. There will be a full bar, serving locally-brewed GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO. real ale as well as wine, cider, soft drinks and tea and coffee. Tickets are priced at £14 each, but you can get them for £12 each up until a week before the event as part of the club’s ‘Early Bird’ ticket scheme. Tickets are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend, BRISTOL TICKET SHOP and online HERE. Members tickets are £10 each from the Members Only area of this website. Just login using the details that were emailed to you when you joined. The 'Early Bird' and Members ticket offers end at midnight on Friday 11th November.


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