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Topic Newsletter Archive
Newsletter No 225 - March 2021
Hello all, I hope you're all keeping well, as always.
As usual I'll list all the regular streaming stuff at the end: I keep an eye on most of it, but it's possible that some online performances have been discontinued for whatever reason, but there's plenty going on out there.
Ready for the Day – Martin Francis
Musicians have reacted to the pandemic in different ways. Some cannot bring themselves to write or learn new songs if there’s no prospect of performing them to a live audience. Others buckle down and write, self-record, mix and produce a whole new CD.
After an initial phase of the former, Martin has done the latter. Ready for the Day is a collection of mostly-new self-penned songs, with himself on vocals backed by guitar, bouzouki and bodhran. The recordings are clear and well-balanced; with prominence given to the lyrics thereby ensuring the messages come over clearly. Quite a few are ‘love songs’, but often with a twist – a couple who don’t get together until thirty years after they first meet; and a story of unrequited love in the school playground. There are two songs with a distinct social edge: including an impassioned plea for understanding, compassion and tolerance towards refugees. And some of nostalgia, yearning, and wishing that things could be different.
All in all, it’s a pleasant collection of songs, each one of which is well worth the listen. The CD is available for just £5, including postage – Martin only wants to cover his production expenses – and it’s well worth it for the CD itself, and also to support one of our fellow musicians doing the best with the situation we’re all in. For those who don’t know Martin, he hails from the Yorks/Lancs border, and was last at the Topic as part of a duo: Morfran Heights, in May 2015. He can be contacted on 0777 454 0582, or at email@example.com Go on, it’s only a fiver!
Live Stream Review Celtic Connections Week 2
Following the highs of the first week of on-line concerts, the final 10 days of the 2021 Celtic Connections Festival continued with many more excellent events. The last weekend was the culmination of the efforts made by the team at Celtic Connections with The Transatlantic Sessions concert standing out. Having featured for the last decade – so not to be excluded this year – musicians performing in Glasgow and Nashville merged seamlessly to produce music of the highest order. A very high bar was set – but Molly Tuttle (a name known to me but previously unheard) was outstanding.
The Roaming Roots review was a more eclectic venture, ably led by Roddy Hart and his band, a variety of artists, including Lau, performed a fine range of songs from different genres – even featuring Running Up the Hill by Kate Bush (!). For me this was one of the most interesting and enjoyable concerts.
Other events featured music from the Scottish Isles, beautifully filmed and recorded, which left me yearning to be able to visit, with the Festival ending with a final concert featuring highlights from earlier events, alongside previously unseen footage.
Whilst possibly unfair to single out individual performances, given the overall high standards, new names to me - the trio Peat and Diesel and also Rachel Sermanni - are artists I will check out further.
The festival is already scheduled for 2022 – let’s hope by then that live audiences will be able to return – but in the meantime, the 2021 event will live long in the memories of those who took the opportunity to watch and enjoy.
Duncan McFarlane's Tune a Day marathon
Definitely worth another mention....Duncan McFarlane has sung a ‘Tune a Day’ series on Facebook since March 20th 2020, three days before the first UK lockdown. Whilst this was initially aimed at being short term, he’s now reached 300+ songs (currently there’s 100+ Trad songs, 100+ Contemporary songs and almost 100 of his own compositions) ...mostly Folk, but with some surprises! Now aiming for 365 to complete a full year, he’s already had many thousands of views. The series can be found daily at https://www.facebook.com/duncan.mcfarlane.79. The entire series is now also on YouTube as a Playlist. Subscribing is free and that gives easier navigable access to the whole lot at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLi2SK01Utl3JSlUzufJNSa6flCwcTostB
THE TOPIC IN CYBERSPACE
Two Topic Facebook concerts this month:
Hazjak (Lynne O'Malley and Steve Chapman Smith) Thursday 11th March 8pm
Duncan McFarlane (see above!!!) Thursday 25th March 8 pm
TOPIC YOUTUBE CHANNEL
I hope those of you who wish to access the new Topic YouTube channel are able to do so without any problems. Details as advised in my separate newsletter of 20th December.
The mummers' play - about the Boar of Bradford, no less - written by John Waller and performed by Topic regulars (mentioned previously) is available to watch on the channel (along with other Topic-related delights) so head on over to:
and from afar....
A reminder that Roger Sutcliffe (hardly needs any introduction!) has sent us a note about Zoom singers and Musicians Nights from his part of the world for anyone who would like to join in. They take place on a Tuesday:
Here is the link: firstname.lastname@example.org. and the website is https://www.cuttywrenfolkclub.com/.
OTHER ONLINE STUFF
Dougie McLean does a series of online concerts, some free, some longer ones for which you have to book and pay to watch. He has lots of website/contact pages which you can find by googling him, but this one seems to give most of the info about these concerts: https://www.facebook.com/ButterstoneTV
Pete Coe's club - Ryburn Folk Club, https://www.ryburn3step.org.uk/ - have top shanty man Jim Mageean on Wednesday 3rd March 8 pm via Zoom. For details email email@example.com. or phone 01422 823099. Jim is one of the guests featured by Ken Hudson on his Roving Folk Show on Phoenix FM this coming Sunday February 28th between 10 and 12am - a bit late for this newsletter I know, but you can hear the programme on Phoenix Radio Listen Again, by following the instructions on the Roving Folk page.
There's the usual regular stuff going on online: NB some artists may be taking a rest from regular streaming, but by following the links you can usually watch past sessions.
Kath Reade, singer songwriter, has been using lockdown as an opportunity to broadcast her songs live on Facebook and they have been getting thousands of views.
Kath has now set up a new facebook page, Kath Reade's Songs, so all her songs can be found in one place.
Skinner & T'witch, a Leeds-based duo who have been to the Topic on a singers and musicians night, have a facebook page which is well worth visiting, they have different stuff going on regularly, eg "Pick & Mix" sessions with some well-known performers, and what they call "Garden Sessions", plus lots of other stuff.
The Grove Folk Club is running sessions every Friday on their group Facebook page at folkatthegrove. The club has contacted me to say anybody is welcome to send in a video to take part, see the fb page for details.
Karen Pfeiffer & Paul Walker continue to do a regular afternoon spot on Fridays at 4pm.
Honey & The Bear bring their excellent music every Sunday evening at 7.30 pm https://honeyandthebear.co.uk/
Winter Wilson's "Live from the Lounge" every Thursday, 8.15 pm, see their facebook page.
Check out The Live Room Saltaire - https://theliveroom.info/ who have had to suspend their live concerts but are continuing to stream some excellent shows. Lots going on there.
HEART (Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre) in Leeds has been closed for the duration of the latest restrictions, but keep an eye on their website https://www.heartcentre.org.uk/, there's sure to be something as soon as circumstances permit.
I've just come across something called The Folk Forecast which advertises all sorts of folky stuff going on (with some big names) which you might find very useful, self explanatory of you follow this link:
https://thefolkforecast.substack.com/people/17173534-the-folk-forecast. Thanks to Graham Smout for the info.
rs the current week, if you subscribe they will send you details each Monday.
Event to note: A virtual concert by Boo Hewerdine on 6th March. There is a songwriting workshop during the day but unfortunately that's sold out. Not sure of the time of the concert but if you email firstname.lastname@example.org you will get all the details. (Tickets are £12)
Finally, some sad news, for those of you who remember Cloudstreet - Nicole Murray and John Thompson - an excellent duo from Australia who toured the UK regularly and have appeared at the Topic. John Thompson passed away on 4th February after a long illness. John was an extraordinarily talented and throughout his life an extremely hard-working musician with a truly amazing CV, which includes having played the role of Songman in the Australian touring production of War Horse. He will be sadly missed, particularly in his home country.
Sorry to end on such a sad note.
Take care and best wishes to everybody.
Topic Folk Club