Did a gig today. I like doing gigs, I love performing and it’s a nice challenge, to keep people enthralled with just some vibrating bits of metal and a few jokes. I was playing at the Maltings Arts Theatre in my home town of St Albans. They are running a series of folk concerts on the first Friday of every month and this was the first. The next is King Alfred’s Cakes with guitarist Simon Stephenson supporting on the 3rd February and after that it’s Malcolm Hobbs with a friend of mine and a fine singer, Marianne Neary supporting.I’d encourage anyone in the area to come along to these, they are good fun. I might be making a second appearance in April with There and Back Again, but that’s subject to Pip being available to drive up from Devon.
I love performing, but I’ve been doing it for a long time. I remember vividly one of my first ever concerts. I went in very determined and bashed out a classic called “Lightly Row” on piano. My teacher said rather faintly after I had finished “er, well done. That was very, erm, non-legato”, which was the politest word she could find for “bashy”. I was only 5 or 6 at the time though. After that I performed regularly on piano, including in the Purcell Room on the South Bank and in the Guildhall for my diploma, which was the last time that I was truly terrified in a performance. It didn’t go very well, but I passed. After that however I took a gap year, went to university and didn’t perform solo for nearly 3 years. I played in ceilidhs and with There and Back Again, but not solo. That changed when I performed at the New Roots final last year and remembered how much I loved doing so.
The gig tonight was much like any other. Arrive nice and early so that I can confirm that no, I would not like any amplification, but thank you anyway. This makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, but does mean that setting up means finding a chair I like the look of and getting my boxes out . This then means hanging around for half an hour making small talk with the feature spot. This time it was na-mara, who are fantastic musicians and lovely chaps. Eventually my spot comes along and I go out to *ahem* rapturous applause. I got rather tangled in my introduction (using play instead of dance and vice versa when introducing my set of morris tunes and trying to correct myself) but after that the patter was OK. Got some laughs and some not at me.
The playing was pretty solid, apart from one fluffed entry and a few minor slips. Premiered a new set, a Quebecois waltz and a Swedish 5-time Polska, as well as my usual mix of Morris tunes, Quebecois fiddle tunes and Norwegian tunes. I was pushed for time, this was a half hour set and my set was 35 minutes long. I knew this, but the set that I had written down was symmetric in terms of instrument, speed and time signature (more or less) and I was rather proud of it, so I rushed the patter a bit, curtailed two sets and was still 2 minutes over. Never mind, the organiser didn’t seem to mind. Really lovely audience (makes such a difference), got some lovely comments afterwards and na-mara were true gentlemen by thanking me at the beginning of their set and the end. Of course what I forgot to do was print out flyers, or business cards, or something with my name on it and this web address.
I need a set longer than half an hour, which is convenient, because the next gig I have (seamless segue) has just that. It’s on Monday the 16th January at 20:30 at Tudor Folk Club in Chesham. I am the featured artist for a singer’s night, which means that for the first time, I will be playing either side of my very own interval. I’ve got two sets of 20 minutes to play with, which will give me a chance to stretch my fingers a bit (although I have at least an hour’s worth of repertoire before I start scratching my head and playing ceilidh band sets). I’d love to have a good audience, it’s a nice club and it would be nice to get asked back some day. So if you are in the area then please do come along, listen to me and maybe do a spot of your own.
I got the Chesham gig at Towersey. I was playing with There and Back Again and theoretically with Gog Magog Molly (although I only actually managed one dance), but I thought that I would enter the open mic competition. After my audition slot, a nice chap came up to me who said that he organised Tudor Folk Club and would I be interested in playing? This was nice. I got to the final of the competition by the way, but didn’t win, which I was slightly relieved about. The prize was to play the first set of the finale concert, for which Spiers and Boden were headlining. It’s a bit of an ask for any box player to support John Spiers, however far removed! One day I’d love to do it though. Every box player’s dream is to support an amazing box player and for them to come up to you afterwards and say “I really enjoyed your set, well done”. Until that day though I’m content to perform in folk clubs, supporting anyone, for expenses. Because I like it!