CD Review – GNOSS ‘The Light of the Moon’

The Scottish quartet GNOSS are releasing their latest album ‘The Light of the Moon’ on 7 May 2021.

Their debut album ‘Drawn from Deep Water’ was nominated for 2019 Album of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards and this new album is their first recording of all-original material – 12 tracks, a mix of instrumentals and songs featuring the lead vocalist’s arresting voice.

GNOSS ‘The Light of the Moon’

To my ears, the whole CD is a total delight – a far cry from the many ‘fast tunes’ so often associated with Scottish music. The music is fresh, bright and full of variety in tempo and mood. This is skilled, sensitive musicianship complemented by poignant, harmonious lyrics in a rich tapestry of sound. I found myself smiling as I listened to it.

GNOSS are Aidan Moodie (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Graham Rorie (fiddle, mandolin, electric tenor guitar) who hail from the Orkneys, Connor Sinclair (flute, whistles) from Perthshire and Craig Baxter (bodhran, percussion) from Clackmannanshire. Their natural talents were further honed by study at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The double bass of James Lindsay of Breabach complements their signature sound on this album. And the recording and co-production was by Skerryvore’s Scott Wood.

With this pedigree, it’s easy to see why this band has made a huge impact in such a short time. In 2019 they gave a sell-out performance at Celtic Connections, hosted Orkney Folk:The Gathering and made a headline debut at that festival in 2020. This is definitely a band with great promise!

Tempted to buy the album? Good decision! Head over to the GNOSS website to place your order. Want to try before you buy? Great news! You can see GNOSS perform ‘The Light of the Moon’ in its entirety on the final night of CCM Live 2021 Festival (26-28 February). Get your tickets for this whole fabulous festival at https://www.ccmlive.co.uk/tickets/.

New Roots 2021 – calling young musicians!

The call is out to young musicians under the age of 25 who sing or play traditionally based music to enter for New Roots 2021. Whether your style is traditional or contemporary folk, roots or world music, whether you perform traditional material or write your own, the organisers would like to hear from you.   There are two categories, under 18 and 18-24. New Roots has been running since 2000 and the standard rises every year.

The list of judges for 2021 has now been finalised. Between them, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, Ffion Mair from the Foxglove Trio, Andy Stafford and Valmai Goodyear represent a wide spectrum of insights into the folk scene. Their task will be firstly to listen to the entries sent in and select the performers who will take part in the final on Sunday October 24, 2021 at Trestle Arts Base in St Albans. On the day they will give constructive feedback to performers. There is no overall winner and everyone who makes it to the final will win one or more performance opportunities. The aim is to match the performers to the opportunities at folk festivals, clubs and other events which are offered to New Roots finalists. At folk clubs, opportunities include support slots, featured spots on singers’ nights and full bookings. Of course, in these uncertain times, it is unclear whether these arrangements will be back to their pre-pandemic state, so we have backup arrangements to hold the finale online, as in 2020 and for online performance opportunities.

Performers who want to enter are invited to complete the entry form on the New Roots web site and email it to info@new-roots.org.uk. In reply, they will get an email telling them how to upload up to 15 minutes of their music. The closing date is 31 August 2021. For further and more up to date information on the web site www.new-roots.org.uk This site also has a form for event organisers who wish to offer performance opportunities for young musicians.

Further details: www.new-roots.org.uk email: info@stalbansfolkmusic.org.uk or ring Alison Macfarlane on 01727 852111.

Great Online Music Coming Up

We’re still in lockdown but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, here are some wonderful online gigs to keep our spirits up:-

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Edwina Hayes
  • On Wednesday 17 February at 8.00pm Edwina Hayes is giving her first Zoom concert hosted by Live to Your Living Room. You need to book tickets here. Live to Your Living Room also have lots of other great concerts including Nick Cope on 16 February and David Eagle of the Young’Uns on 20 February – check out their website here
The long-awaited sequel to the first online gig!
  • In the morning at 10.00am on Saturday 20 February, the Spooky Mens Chorale present SPZOOMKY 2, the long awaited sequel to spzoomky. This time they promise even better technology and more ideas to make it (as they term it) a VERY GOOD THING. You need to book your ticket – hurry as places are limited but it’s FREE. Go to  www.spookymen.com to book your tickets. You can of course make a very welcome donation and the link to do this will be in the confirmation email. This is certainly something worth getting out of bed for! (And you can see the first show on the website too, if you missed it first time around)
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Miranda Sykes
  • On Saturday 20 February at 7.30pm Miranda Sykes is giving another concert from her living room via her Facebook page. The theme is ‘Strong Women – Songs written by UK female singer/songwriters’. The concert will be free to watch but there will be a tip jar if you are able to make a donation.
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Chris While and Julie Matthews
  • Also on Saturday 20 February at 7.30pm, Chris While and Julie Matthews are offering a technically stripped down gig, acoustic on Facebook live. They say it won’t have all their normal bells and whistles, lights and full audio and visual production but it will have all the same heart and humour! You don’t need tickets but if you want to contribute to the tip jar that would be very much appreciated. paypal.me/wmhomeconcerts
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  • Over the weekend 26 – 28 February, one of Scotland’s leading folk-based agencies, CCM Live is presenting CCM Live 2021 – an online festival with seven fantastic Scottish artists – Blazin’ Fiddles, Gnoss, Imar, Jenna Reid, RURA, Siobhan Miller and Talisk – streaming live from Glasgow, alongside brand new footage from leading Finnish group Frigg and multi award-winning Canadian roots duo Madison Violet. Full-length, full production and fully covid-safe festival sets streamed directly to your homes around the world! Details on CCM’s Facebook page and tickets available here
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  • For ukulele fans, there is a treat on Saturday 27 February with an all day ukulele festival Ukes for Unicef. Great fun, great music and a great charity to support. Normally a live event, the 2021 version will be online with workshops, open mic sessions, concerts and much more. Head over to the website for more details and to get involved
  • On Saturday 27 February starting at 10.00am, Chester Folk Festival is running an all day online February Folk Day. Artists confirmed so far include The Goat Roper Rodeo Band, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, Full House, Roy Clinging, Graham Bellinger, Kate McCullough, An Croenen, Rondez Vous, The Love Music Trust Youth Ensemble and Nick Mitchell. You can buy your tickets here. This day is a curtain raiser for the 2021 Online Combined Chippenham and Chester Folk Festival 28 – 31 May. That’s another date for your diaries!
Ninebarrow – who will be joined by their full band for the album launch concert
  • On Sunday 28 February at 7.00pm, Ninebarrow are treating us to the second of their Wandering Minstrels episodes – a brand new, very cold(!) adventure – to the wilds of West Dorset and to the South Dorset Ridgeway! The show will be free-to-air here, and you can join Jon and Jay on the night or catch-up at any point after it’s first broadcast! And on 5 March at 7.00pm Ninebarrow are broadcasting their next online concert, filmed in full HD with multiple camera angles at the stunning St James’ church, Poole and complete with spectacular lighting design from Andrew Marsh to bring you the launch of the full band’s great new album ‘A Pocket Full of Acorns’ (which is receiving fabulous reviews). This promises to be a spectacular evening. Book your tickets here
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  • On Friday 5 March at 7.30pm, husband and wife duo Megson are streaming their End Of Winter Celebration Live Stream to celebrate the arrival of Spring and the launch of their new single. They’ll be performing a mix of Megson classics, some older gems and some brand new tracks including the new single – Through The Winter. VIP tickets are available here to include a download of the show and a download of the new single.

I hope you find something in this list to help you get through these difficult times – please continue to support live music and musicians however you can. Thank you.

Whittlesea Straw Bear went Online in 2021

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the Straw Bear Festival had to take place online in January this year. If, like me, you are missing festivals, you can find most of the videos here www.strawbear.org.uk

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The two Bears – grandfather and grandson – Paul Cornell and Noah Randal. (Photo by Megan Randall)

But how do you run a festival that is based around a central figure dressed in five stone of straw, that usually depends upon crowding several thousand people into a small Fenland town? That was the dilemma facing the Straw Bear organisers as it became clear that live events were not going to be possible in January. Over the summer, they began an 8-month planning process that became Straw Bear Online.

Very early on, they agreed that they would try to run their virtual festival in a way that followed the format of the live event as closely as possible, and that they would put a Bear on the streets of Whittlesey in some form.

The making of the Bear was one of the first things to be finished, mainly by Brian and Christine Kell and Ady Bull, using Brian’s garage as a workshop. Paul Cornell had already offered to be the “isolation Bear”, and a lot of planning was put into a route, risk assessment and whether a small number of the Straw Bearers could serve as a distanced audience along the way. However, as December came around and with Tier 4 and lockdown looming, three generations of the Cornell/Randall family pulled out all the stops to take out the Bear on Christmas Eve and film some poignant footage that had several of their YouTube viewers in tears as it formed the finale of the “Processions through the ages” video.

Paul Cornell was the Isolation Bear (Photo by Ady Bull)

They were also keen to include some exclusive content that people coming to visit for the weekend might not ordinarily see. “How to build a Bear” and interviews with some of the many people who have driven the Bear over the years were well received, without taking away the mystery of the festival’s central figure. As Brian said: “The driver is not the beast. All the driver does is give the Bear mobility. It’s an entity all of its own.”

The Bear makes its way down Gracious Street. (Photo by Christine Kell)

They were also able to bring people together in real time with a selection of Zoom events to choose from. Over 400 people enjoyed two live music sessions led by members of White Rose Morris and the Straw Bearers, who are often found in the Letter B until the small hours of Sunday morning, an at-home ceilidh with top musicians Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews, with caller Martyn Harvey, and a talk on “40 years of straw and string”.

Putting on Straw Bear Online was a huge amount of hard work, alongside their everyday responsibilities of work and home schooling. Rebecca Kell is worthy of particular mention, as she built an entirely new website from scratch and did almost all of the video editing.

It was a trip down memory lane for many, and there were lots of fond reminiscences in the YouTube chat as they recalled past visits and spotted friends now departed in the archive footage. The organisers were delighted to have it re-affirmed that Straw Bear means so much to so many people. It wasn’t quite like being there in person, but it was the most festival-like experience they could put on while staying at home – and it was definitely the warmest Straw Bear ever!

And we are all very much looking forward to the time – whenever that may be – that the Straw Bear can once again dance through the streets of Whittlesea.

Something Special for Valentine’s Day

On Sunday 14 February at 2.00pm GMT, Folk on Foot bring us all together in a FREE six hour Festival of Love – a virtual joining of hands around the UK and the world. The artists are Bella Hardy, Beth Porter and the Bookshop Band, The Breath, Chris Wood, Eliza Carthy, Gwilym Bowen Rhys, Heidi Talbot, Jon Boden, Karine Polwart, Kerry Andrew/You Are Wolf, Kitty Macfarlane, Kris Drever, Lady Nade, Lisa Knapp and Gerry Diver, Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, O’Hooley and Tidow, Peggy Seeger, Rachel Newton, Sam Lee, Seckou Keita, Seth Lakeman and Steve Knightley. Each artist will sing an original love song, a traditional love song and a cover version of someone else’s love song.

Although the Festival is free to watch, if you can, please show your love for musicians by making a donation. Half the money raised will go to the charity Help Musicians to support musicians facing severe financial hardship and the other half will be divided equally between the 28 artists taking part in the Festival.

Full details on Facebook or the Folk on Foot website.

Can you help find the person who bought this guitar from Cash Converters in Stevenage?

On behalf of a Unicorn reader, I am putting out this appeal to help find the person who bought this 12 string guitar from Cash Converters in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

First of all I want to emphasis that the buyer has done absolutely nothing wrong and the sale was totally legitimate.

BUT, the person who sold the guitar had made it himself and now wants to make another one but (oh dear! oh dear!) did not take down any details before he parted with it.

He does not want the guitar back but would dearly love to be able to contact the person who bought it and chat and confirm some technical details such as how far apart to strings.

Can you help? If so, please email unicornmagazine@hotmail.co.uk or ring 07939 541927 and I will put you in touch with this heart broken guitar maker.

Thank you very much.

Great Folk Music to Get Us Through Lockdown 3

Happy New Year to you all! Despite the virus and the weather there is plenty to be cheerful about in the world of folk music. Here are a selection of things that are happening in the next few weeks:

  • On Friday 8 January at 7.30pm, Miranda Sykes is celebrating her birthday by doing a live concert online from her living room. Tune in via her Facebook page here. Free to watch but there will be a tip jar.
  • On Sunday 10 January at 8.00pm, Firebrand Music presents a virtual concert by Phil Beer via private YouTube link. 2 x 45 minute sets with a 10 minute interval. Tickets £15 plus booking fee, per household can be bought here.
  • The amazing Celtic Connections is online for the first time in 2021 running from Friday 15 January to Tuesday 2 February. Tickets for the whole festival are available for only £30 (early bird) or £40 (full price) on the Celtic Connections website now. This is a fantastic opportunity to hear and see performances from a fabulous range of performers – without the costs of travel and accommodation! I can’t wait!
  • On Saturday 16 January at 7.00pm, Ninebarrow do their latest livestream. This talented duo have really raised the bar with their wonderful livestream concerts from various (challenging) venues this autumn and I’m sure this concert will be no exception. Details are on their website where you can also watch Episode One of their ‘Wandering Minstrels’ streams – a must for anyone who loves the Dorset landscape and the great music these guys produce.The shows are free to watch but please make a donation if you can.
  • On Saturday 6 February at 8.00pm, Steve Knightley goes online with The David Hall, South Petherton. Two sets of 45 minutes with an interval and an optional meet and greet. Tickets from the David Hall website here.
  • Tim Edey continues to entertain and delight us with his regular Saturday Sleeping Tunes and he has re-streamed some of his concerts. See his Facebook page and website for details.
  • I’m delighted to tell you that several festivals have already announced plans to go ahead in 2021 – Beardy Folk Festival, New Forest Folk Festival, the Gate to Southwell Festival and Shrewsbury Folk Festival are the ones I definitely know about.
  • St Albans Folk Festival 2021 will take place from June 25-27 2021. We can’t predict what form it will take, but there will definitely be a festival. If you missed the 2020 day of free music, you can catch up with the online showcase performances on theYouTube channel and you can make donations via https://www.gofundme.com/f/st-albans-folk-festival-2020
  • And until 29 January you can catch up on BBC IPlayer with the great work of the Association of Festival Organisers at the hearing on the future of UK music festivals at the Select Committee of the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport. The outcome of these discussions will be crucial for folk festivals in 2021.

And before I end this blog, I want to offer huge congratulations to John Kirkpatrick who was awarded a very well-deserved MBE in the New Year’s Honours for services to folk music. And to wish Reg Meuross belated best wishes for his birthday which he celebrated this week.

Many folk clubs are continuing with online events and Zoom meetings – do check out your favourites and support them. Some local radio stations are also featuring folk music and introducing a new audience to it. Please let me know about events and gigs you come across so I can share the news across the Unicorn Magazine community.

In the meantime, stay safe and keep the music and dance going in any way you can.

Folk music for the Festive Season

With just three weeks to go to the big day, here’s some more news of folk music and happenings to brighten your festive season.

  • Live to Your Living Room is putting on an amazing range of great Zoom concerts throughout December (Vicky Swann & Jonny Dyer, Maclaine Colston & Saul Rose, Lau, Melrose Quartet and A Winter Union to name but a few). Tickets need to be booked in advance and you can do that here.
  • St Neots Folk Club has reopened and the meeting on Tuesday 8 December features the duo Drywood (Phil Underwood and Denise Dryburgh). There is a Christmas party on 15 December and a full programme of meetings for January and February 2021. Details and information on how to book your seat are on the club’s website.
  • The fledgling Baldock Folk Club has been putting on virtual live shows on a Wednesday every two weeks throughout the pandemic.On Wednesday 16 December they are hoping to have a live Mummers play. See the club website for details.
  • Emily Slade performs some wonderful songs, accompanying herself on guitar on her YouTube channel.
  • On Thursday 10 December at 7.30pm Flossie Malavialle and Jez Lowe are both doing a set during a live Zoom concert hosted by Darlington Folk & Acoustic Club. For more details and to reserve a place please email Bob Tuddenham at darlofolkacousticclub@gmail.comClub website: www.darlingtonfolkclub.com. Tickets are on a first come first served basis so don’t delay.
  • Chris While and Julie Matthews are consoling us for the cancellation of the St Agnes Fountain tour by doing a series of virtual Christmas concerts. Christmas hats and jumpers optional but ‘Follow that Star’ lights OBLIGATORY! Tickets must be purchased in advance and you can do that on their website here.
  • We were all saddened to learn that Towersey Festival had (inexplicably) not been given a grant like so many other festivals. But undaunted, the team are carrying on and on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 December, they are bringing you Towersey Festiv-All – 2 nights and 1 day of fully festive festival fun.Two top class concerts featuring some big names including Michael McGoldrick Music, John McCusker & John Doyle, Peter Knight’s The Gigspanner Big Band, Jim Moray, Manière des Bohémiens and Edwina Hayes. And one day of that unique Towersey fun with a festive twist.So book your tickets for the evening gigs, buy your Christmas lantern kits and donate for the daytime stuff if you can (it is all FREE but if you can donate it will all go to support the festival and the artists involved). Find out more and book tickets at www.towerseyfestival.com/festiv-all
  • On Monday 21 December you can watch the (virtual) Midwinter Solstice Sessions Singaround filmed at the beautiful Higher Eggbeer Farm on Dartmoor. Full details have not yet been announced but I understand the all star line up will include Show of Hands (with Miranda Sykes), Chris Hoban, Jim Causley, Geoff Lakeman and James Studholme from the fabulous West Country 7-piece Police Dog Hogan. Audio and video will be expertly provided by Jolyon Holroyd. Full details to follow on the Show of Hands Facebook page soon. Stay tuned!
  • You will also find information about virtual solo gigs by Steve Knightley and Phil Beer on the Show of Hands Facebook page. These include Steve’s virtual solo gig at Hitchin Folk Club on Sunday 13 December.
  • Also on Monday 21 December at 7.30pm, the incorrigible (and wonderful) Belshazzars Feast (Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson) perform a virtual gig Silent Night: The Belshazzar’s Feast Christmas Concert. Tickets must be bought in advance and you can do this and get full details on their Facebook page here.
  • Nancy Kerr has a new lockdown project for December! “Kite Tails: A Month of Northumbrian” billed as a chance for her to reconnect with a family tradition, and her fiddle. Find details on her Facebook page and follow the links to see her perform the songs on her YouTube channel.

One of the hardest things about writing these blogs is to know how much information to put in. I would hate to offend a band, an artist or a club by omitting their event but I also know that people don’t like to read very long blogs. So I’m between a rock and a hard place!

These are dark days but spring and the vaccine are coming so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Stay safe, keep supporting the music and enjoy the festive season as much as you can.

Music on 27 November and a Correction

  • On Friday 27 November at 8.00pm Folk at the Maltings, St Albans, Herts presents an online concert with two award winning singers, James Findlay and Maddie Morris. Tickets are £14 for individuals, £25 for two people using the same device, £35 for three or more people using the same device. Book tickets here. James won the 2010 BBC Young Folk award. Coming from a family of folk singers, his enthusiasm lies firmly within the English tradition and he is particularly passionate about songs from his home counties of Dorset and Somerset. James has made three highly acclaimed solo albums and an album of songs with Lucy Ward, Bella Hardy, Brian Peters and Jackie Oates. Since 2015, his distinguished career in touring theatre has limited his time on the folk scene, so this concert is a rare chance to hear him sing. Maddie Morris is a contemporary folk musician, who is heavily influenced by traditional protest song and won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk award in 2019. Originally from Bedfordshire and currently based in Leeds, Maddie is a strong believer that ‘the personal is political’ and uses her own experiences to raise discussions around contemporary issues within society. In 2020 she graduated from Leeds Conservatoire’s Folk course and won the Peter Roberts CBE memorial prize for the highest undergraduate mark in the Leeds City Region as well as the Conservatoire prize for the highest mark on the folk course 3 years running.
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  • Also on Friday 27 November at 7.30pm, John Kirkpatrick presents a one-off online gig ‘Tunes From The Trenches – Songs from the First and Second World Wars’ Tickets are £10 and are available here.
  • And finally a correction to the information I posted last week about Robert Mott. I’m grateful to Roger Comley for telling me that Roger was a member of Icknield Way Morris Men, not Ickenham Morris as stated in the blog. Apologies for any confusion or upset this misunderstanding may have caused.

There is a great deal of wonderful music coming up over the festive season so keep your eye on the blog for details and dates for your diary.

Meanwhile, stay safe, keep well and enjoy the music.

So Much Wonderful (online) Music

Lockdown is even harder since the clocks went back so here are some wonderful online concerts to cheer you.

To make this blog a manageable length, I have just listed the events and highlighted how you can get more information/tickets, rather than giving full details.

  • Several local folk clubs are putting on events. You can find details on their websites or social media – St Neots Folk Club, Chesham Folk Club, Cambridge Folk Club and Hitchin Folk Club.
  • Live to Your Living Room have a series of great concerts coming up – starting with Martin Simpson on Sunday 22 November. You have to book tickets in advance. Full details on their website here.
  • Reg Meuross has been very active throughout the pandemic and has now recorded a series of concerts in Dartington Hall. See his Facebook page for details.
  • The Young’Uns air Episode 4 of their incomparable YTV series on Friday 20 November at 8pm. Details on their Facebook page here.
  • On Saturday 28 November, you have a choice of viewing. Show of Hands stream the recording of their last live concert before Lockdown 2 ‘Now We are Four’ (Phil Beer, Steve Knightley, Miranda Sykes and Cormac Byrne). Buy tickets in advance and get the new double album too. And also on 28 November there is a live online show by the tribute duo ‘Simon & Garfunkel Through the Years’. Full details here. And Martyn Joseph has an online concert on the same day hosted by The Studio at TPS. Details and tickets here.
  • On Sunday 29 November, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan perform a virtual house concert ‘Live at Sam’s’. Details here. And the Melrose Quartet online gig (postponed from 18 November due to Covid issues at their children’s schools) will now air on Sunday 13 December. Details here.
  • Simon Care has restarted his Sunday evening concerts – raising money to help people in need. Details here. Simon has been a star and a stalwart throughout the pandemic quietly helping so many people and bringing great music to our screens.
  • Megson will be doing a Yuletide Live Stream on Friday 4 December. Details here.
  • Saturday 12 December again offers a choice of concerts. Kate Rusby’s full-length Christmas gig HAPPY HOLLY DAY will be streamed worldwide at 7.30pm UK time. Tickets available here. And on the same day,the duo Ninebarrow become a five piece band for their concert recorded live at @Lighthouse Poole. E-tickets now on sale and details here.
  • Tim Edey has been producing some wonderful concerts throughout the pandemic (despite battling with poor internet connection in his neck of the woods) and his weekly concerts continue. See his Facebook page for more information. And on Christmas Eve, Tim is doing a two hour show ‘Celtic Christmas Eve with Tim Edey’. Tickets and information here.
  • And finally, if you are looking around for Christmas presents, look no further than #FolkForChristmas This brilliant initiative is encouraging people to buy products or services directly from folk artists. You can find all sorts of recommendations, music and merchandise with the proceeds going to artists most of whom have had their income drastically reduced in 2020.

Hope you find something in this long list to brighten the dark evenings.

Stay safe and keep the music alive.