When we announced our Spring 2020 programme a couple of months ago, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed a different name listed as the headliner, with Odette due to be the opening act. But when the originally booked artist was revealed to be double-booked, chairman Ant Miles had no hesitation in promoting Odette to the headline slot... and Odette immediately responded by offering to bring her trio!
“The impact Odette has made in the last year or so has been huge, and we only had her doing support because it was booked a long time ago. Her growing profile is probably already beyond support slots, if I’m being honest,” Ant said. “So we had to make a change and act quite quickly... the solution was obvious! We’re absolutely thrilled to have Odette as our first act of 2020.”
Odette will be joined on-stage by Rory Innerd on fiddle and mandolin, and Alex Duncalf on cello.
And stepping into the support slot vacated by Odette will be ANT MILES himself. Ant performs mostly traditional music and has played at the club on a few occasions before with his band, ROAD NOT TAKEN... but never on his own. “I hope it won’t put people off coming,” quipped Ant. “It will be my first proper performance without the rest of my band, but I’ve been thinking about doing it for a while... the need to find a last minute support artist focused my mind a bit!”
Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 17th January 2020, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. They are priced at £12 each in advance (£10 for members), or £14 on the door. There will be a full bar, stocking locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., along with cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will be a raffle with prizes including CDs, gift boxes of beer and sweet treats. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware. Those that do this will have 50p knocked off the price of their drink.
Sometimes the best Christmas presents are the unexpected ones. They’re not the ones that you asked for. Not the ones that you dropped heavy hints for. Not the ones that you carefully write on a note on the fridge. They are the delightfully dizzying ones. The ones that show how much someone cares.
Tonight the unexpected present, delivered by the utterly charming JACKIE OATES, were two staggeringly beautiful songs by indie cult hero Sufjan Stevens. In this set of wintry wonder these songs lit the candles and provided a festive glow. Christmas In The Room did exactly that; brought some proper Christmas magic to this lovely church. Sister Winter did the same. It was gloriously, stunningly lovely. Neither were exactly what you'd call folk and both were deliciously surprising because of it.
Jackie Oates is a multiple Radio 2 Folk Award winner, described as having "the sweetest voice of her generations of English folkies" and has a full band with her on this Solstice evening. This one-off Christmas show is a joyful bundle of carols, new songs and covers and marks her last show of the year. It is never anything other than a proper festive treat. It is the quiet corner that you need in a time of frenzied shopping.
Two carols feature in the first half; The Trees Are All Bare and The Halsway Carol. Both out-shimmer the huge Christmas tree that sits at the back of the altar and both give us a hint of a Winter festival that pre-dates the birth of a Nazarene. The same can be said for the mesmeric The Contest Of The Ivy And The Holly. Who knew that holly traditionally represented men and ivy women? Incredibly this features some top quality recorder augmentation and is another song of simple, earthy loveliness.
Aside from some fine violin playing from Oates herself the band are made up of Mike Cosgrave on keyboards, guitar and recorder and John Parker on double bass. There was also an array of melodeons. There are eight of them and they all belonged to John Spiers, formerly of Bellowhead. Anyone aware of the collective noun for melodeons? A wheeze? Whatever it is he added something sprightly to the tunes and a glorious drone to the wintry songs.
In an evening of wondrous highlights one song stood out. A magnificent version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel was everything that a Christmas carol should be; surely even the Heathens amongst the congregation were moved as a church full of voices were lifted toward the altar. Up until this point the best version of this old favourite was by Jim Moray who is, of course, the brother of Jackie Oates. What a family they are.
If the carols and the wintery songs were the main course of this Christmas feast then the covers were the crackers. John Lennon, Tom Waits and, most moving of all, Ewan MacColl all stopped by for a mince pie. The MacColl song was one of his last – The Joy Of Living - and in the hands of Oates and her band it was just the loveliest thing imaginable. If you need to be reminded that the world is a decent place you should look no further.
As we prepared to troop out in the December night Jackie Oates was afforded a huge ovation. But she wasn't the only one. The evening had started with THOM ASHWORTH, a singer songwriter with a difference. No plaintive fiddler or acoustic guitar strummer, Ashworth plays acoustic bass. And sings. And that's it. His short set was a masterclass in folk interpretations. There was a bit of festive stuff, a Richard Thompson cover, some clever bass loops, songs about drinking and politics and an acapella, unamplified finale. He was the perfect appetizer to the main course of unexpected Christmas gifts that was to come later.
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Alan Cole
Last year's Christmas concert will live long in the memory, and the our 2019 festive event will be no different as we welcome folk superstar JACKIE OATES and her band to South Gloucestershire for a special Christmas concert in the majestic surroundings of CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND.
Jackie first performed at the club with Mike Cosgrave as long ago as July 2015, so when we heard that she was doing a Christmas Tour with a full band lineup, our minds were made up instantly! Jackie's is a name synonymous with the reinvigoration of English folk music, beguiling audiences with a delicate balance of tradition and reinvention.
Her mellifluous voice and imaginatively plaintive fiddle style has won her several BBC Folk Awards during a 10-year recording career that began as a member of the nascent Unthanks and has continued with six acclaimed solo albums. To quote the illustrious Mojo magazine, Jackie Oates enthrals. She will get everyone in the Christmas spirit by performing a selection of Christmas and winter carols and songs as well as songs from her new album The Joy of Living.
Opening the evening with some equally seasonal songs will be the acoustic bass-wielding THOM ASHWORTH, to add to the festive feel.
An acoustic bass guitar may not seem like an obvious choice as an accompaniment instrument, but Thom shows that this distinctive instrumental voice can find a home in folk music, and that four strings are enough to delve into the canon of British folk music. Equal parts interpreter of traditional song and insightful political songwriter, the press has repeatedly compared him to Martin Carthy, Chris Wood, and Billy Bragg. This selection of luminaries doesn't tell the whole story though as Thom's inventive musicality and powerful tenor voice shine through. Thom's debut album Head Canon was released in earlier this year.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at Christ Church Downend on Friday 20th December 2019, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. They are priced at £14 each in advance (£12 for members), or £16 on the door. There will be a full bar, stocking mulled wine (for this month only) as well as soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will be a raffle with prizes including CDs, gift boxes of beer and sweet treats. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware. There is now a 50p reduction on the bar prices for those that bring their own vessels.
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