Sometimes, you just know you’re in for a great evening. 

When a Downend Folk Club concert sells out over two weeks in advance and has a waiting list for tickets as long as your arm (stealing arm or otherwise, with apologies to those who weren’t there for the “in” joke), you just know you’re in for a great evening.

When you’re going to see GILMORE & ROBERTS, you just know you’re in for a great evening.

You can feel the excitement in the room as soon as you arrive. The hall is packed, not a seat anywhere to be seen, well ahead of the start time. You can see the frisson of excitement in the eyes of your fellow audience members. You catch a fleeting glance of one of Gilmore or Roberts and the excitement grows. You just know you’re in for a great evening.

We’ve been here before, Downend Folk Club and Gilmore & Roberts. Back in the mists of time (well, March 2016) Katriona and Jamie first stepped on to the stage at Frenchay Village Hall. It was pretty much a sell-out that night too, although perhaps not quite as quickly. The people in the audience that night have long memories, they made sure they didn’t miss out this time around. Because, once again, this was a concert that will live long in the memory.

As soon as the duo launch into Bone Cupboard, a sparse, almost hypnotic song about skeletons in the closet taken from their latest album, A Problem Of Our Kind, the audience are transfixed and, at the end of the song, the rapturous applause (and did I even hear a whoop or two?!), breaks the spell in the best way possible.

Katriona plays fiddle (right-handed) and mandolin (left-handed) and sings. Her voice is a thing of unusual beauty. Delicate with a roughness around the edges, there’s a gravitas to her delivery; you believe the stories her songs are telling you. Jamie plays guitar; usually the traditional way, but for one occasion, on The Stealing Arm (there’s the explanation of that private joke), laid across his lap, his fingers hitting the strings and the body of the guitar to create an explosion of sound. And he sings, too; his substantial, full-bodied voice, thick with northern charm, is the perfect counterpoint to that of his partner.

The evening is full of highlights. Gilmore & Roberts’ songs, mostly self-penned, tell great stories. There are tales of a doctor who never got the recognition he (nay, she) deserved (Doctor James); tales of a scarecrow (Scarecrow, as if you couldn’t have guessed), and tales a plenty about the human condition, both good and bad; a theme that Katriona explains they found running through their newest album without having really intended it (The Philanthropist and Selfish Man being great examples).

There are two unexpected highlights. First the duo step in front of the stage for Ghost Of A Ring, completely acoustic. You could hear a pin drop, Jamie’s guitar with a neat little refrain complementing Katriona’s hushed vocal and gently strummed mandolin. The other one? Well, I won’t spoil the surprise for anyone that’s yet to see them. You’ll know the moment from the smile it brings to your face and the laughter it brings along with it.

Opening the evening’s entertainment are MATT QUINN & OWEN WOODS… or should that be Owen Woods & Matt Quinn? They couldn’t quite make up their minds, forming the backbone of some very amusing on-stage banter. They are a melodeon and concertina duo. There aren’t many duos out there using two squeezeboxes, but on the basis of this showing, there should be more. They take us on a whistlestop tour of English and European tunes. It’s the perfect folky foil to the contemporary acoustic joy of the main act.

But it is to Katriona and Jamie that the evening belongs. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should. You just know (by now) that you’d be in for a great evening.

Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Chris Dobson

Our 2020 programme continues to deliver pure class with a return visit for a multiple award-winning duo this month’s offering for South Gloucestershire’s music lovers.

Contemporary folk/acoustic duo GILMORE & ROBERTS combine award-winning songwriting with astounding musicianship and their trademark harmonies to create a powerful wall of sound. Nominated three times at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Katriona Gilmore (fiddle, mandolin) and Jamie Roberts (guitar) met while studying at Leeds College of Music and released their debut album in 2008.

Since then, the duo have toured Canada and mainland Europe, played some of the UK’s biggest acoustic festivals, toured with folk rock legends Fairport Convention and won countless accolades for their genre-spanning work. Gilmore & Roberts released their fifth studio album, A Problem Of Our Kind, in October 2018.

Recorded at the duo’s home in South Yorkshire by co-producer Ben Savage (well-known on the UK roots scene for his own acclaimed musical output with The Willows and Hannah Sanders), A Problem Of Our Kind contains some of the most stripped-back arrangements of Gilmore & Roberts’ career so far, alongside full-tilt band numbers featuring their regular festival rhythm section of Fred Claridge (drums) and Matt Downer (double bass).

And as always, there’s not just one great act on the bill, but two, as MATT QUINN & OWEN WOODS open the evening’s entertainment. Matt and Owen are a concertina and melodeon duo, performing traditional and contemporary dance tunes from around the world. Having been part of the short-lived melodeon quartet Boxtet, they both wanted to continue working together. With Matt changing from melodeon to his duet concertina, they create an infectious sound, performing traditional and contemporary dance tunes from around Europe and Canada.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st February 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 cider, 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 discount for those bringing their own receptacles.

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We are thrilled to reveal our fantastic line-up for Summer 2020. We say this every time… but it just doesn’t get much better than this! Have a good read through the information below, and please do continue to support us and buy your tickets well in advance... it makes such a difference!

Kicking off the programme on Friday 22nd May, will be a very special evening in the company of SAM CARTER, who will be accompanied in the beautiful surroundings of CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND by a the Home Waters String Quartet. Sam is on tour armed with a first new album in four years, and the string quartet show is one of only two in the whole of the UK… we really are very lucky to have this one! The evening's entertainment will get underway with a set from the highly-rated young folk singer LIZZY HARDINGHAM. Please note that this is actually the fourth Friday of the month… we’ve moved it back by a week to make space for Bristol Folk Festival.

Our June event, on Friday 19th, will be headlined by HANNAH JAMES & TOBY KUHN. Well-known to Downend Folk Club regulars as one third of Lady Maisery, Hannah met Toby in Summer 2018 at Floating Castle festival in Slovenia. After seeing Hannah perform one of her solo pieces Toby suggested she should keep him in mind if she ever needed a cellist. After a short jam in the Slovenian sunshine it was clear that these two musicians shared a common approach to music making and a real artistic chemistry. Toby Joined Hannah at a solo gig a few days later and a new duo was born! Opening the evening’s entertainment at FRENCHAY VILLAGE HALL will be popular local duo COOPER & TOLLER.

Friday 17th July sees our Summer Programme rounded off by a long-awaited return for UK roots star LUKE JACKSON. An accomplished performer who impresses from the outset and takes his audience on a shared journey with a full bus down the bye-ways of love, hope, sorrow, and melancholy via the service stations of folk, roots, blues, Americana and soul. Getting the evening underway will be PEARL FISH… you might not have heard of her yet, but you’re gonna love her! We're at our FRENCHAY VILLAGE HALL HQ for this one, too.

Each concert starts at 8.00pm, with doors and the bar opening at 7.30pm. Tickets are on-sale now HERE. We're offering the Season Ticket option again, which means you can buy tickets for all three gigs in one go and avoid those pesky booking fees. You can also get tickets from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend.

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