folk night in Lower Hardres
Lower Hardres, near Canterbury
Easter Sunday, 20th April 2013
I recall a particularly wond'rous cycle ride out to Lower Hardes, late evening sun illuminating vegetation that had just been soaked in a heavy downpour, red-gold light on clean green leaves, everything looking incredibly lush, a thin steam rising in places. As I cycled past a roundabout near the Ridingate, an unlikely looking MC (proper East Kent geezer) stood, expressively gesticulating and loudly rapping:
"Sufferin' jesus, this ain't my venue
The man through the mesh says it's time to crash
The creeping flesh of a nervous rash
The last man to make a dash
Is on the menu
Here's the boss with a mouthful of emeralds
A Maltese Cross and a pocket full of chemicals
Jack Frost snappin' at the genitals
Wash my cosh it's a visit from the general
Rule out sub section nine
Lights out... sack time
The killer gorilla with the perspex hat
Says I say so... and that's that..."
[No, I didn't remember all of that, but I caught the lines about the moutful of emeralds and the perspex hat, made a mental note, and just Googled to delightedly find that it was from a John Cooper Clarke poem called "Thirty Six Hours"...slightly disappointing to find out that it wasn't a spontaneous freestyle, but not bad for a sleepy cathedral town!]
Sarah Yarwood, who surprised most of her friends around here last year by suddenly revealing her extraordinary talent for unaccompanied folk singing, put this night of traditional music and song together. There may be more to come — I hope so. Sarah's mum was present (they sung together last November in the woods), as well as various East Kent folkie types, curious locals, non-folkie friends of Sarah and co.,... So a nicely mixed-up audience, and a good mix of music too. Aidan from Arlet managed to persuade his partner Dominique (a top-notch folk fiddler, but a bit shy with it) to do some duets together — this was of a very high standard indeed for a pub folk session. Various unaccompanied singers sung. A fingerpicking guitarist played some pieces in the Renbourn/Jansch tradition, a real ease in his playing. Sarah's friend Claire surprised some of us by accompanying Sarah for a song or two (only the second time in public, but sounding great, keep it up Claire!).
I'd brought my saz along, not so much for an opportunity to play for an audience, but wanting to support Sarah in what she was doing. I played a few traditional tunes from various traditions on my non-traditional saz: "Ryb on Afon" (Cornish), "The Cuckoo" (English), "Spancil Hill" (Irish), "Ambee Dagez" (Armenian), "Kaike Ena Sholio" (Greek). As I don't play much around here, and solo performance is always a bit strange, I felt unhelpfully self-conscious and bodily tense, kept forgetting to breathe! It was pretty ropey at first, but by the last couple of tunes I'd relaxed into it. Of course I'm going to be my harshest judge, and the people there responded well (the fact that it's an unusual and beautiful-sounding instrument tends to distract casual listeners from the clumsiness in my playing!). As always, I just need to play more.
The ubiquious James Todd showed up at the end with his banjo, suprised everyone with a rather excellent interpretation of Pink Floyd's "Breathe". The woman running the pub was clearly into the whole thing — free beer and Pythagorean samosas for musicians, most welcome!