Wednesday, 24 August 2011

the great northern adventure

photo by ian aitchison

Castaway was always going to be a small challenge for me even though most of the material I chose for the programme was well rehearsed and played in at FDPFAFDW gigs. It was the first and only gig I can remember where the programme was set and could not be changed. I often switch songs around during the show and did so frequently with the EBB. Every one at The Duchess in York was given a copy of the programme so I had to keep to it. I had also chosen to include three pieces that were quite a departure from my usual repertoire so there was enough to keep me on my toes before I began.
When I arrived at the Duchess Callum the sound engineer was already running some sounds and the acting manager brought me a proper northern cup of tea within minutes of my arrival. The club is really very nice. It is clean and very well equipped and the dressing room is a model for all dressing rooms. UK clubs take note. So, a great start to the evening then. My sound check was leisurely but thorough and I was totally satisfied with every thing by the time the doors opened and the night began.
Most of you will have seen the programme on here or on my web site. I ad-libbed a monologue about waiting, in the night, for a female to return home. The clock ticks and the time goes by. I included strategies told to me by women friends to keep them safe at night as well as dos and don’ts for men. Never walk behind a female in the dark. Cross to the other side of the road etc, etc.
Next I sang a small lament or psalm to a drone on my phone. The phone produced the only technical glitches of the evening but none were too distracting. The other piece was a short reading called The God Light Pop. It seems some folk struggled with this but most people were on the trip with me. I could feel it. It is a piece of prose from the perspective of both myself, and people I have known and worked with who have extra needs. The language is gleaned from them. It is set against a back drop of war and destruction but I believe it also speaks of an indomitable optimism that I often find when ever I am in the company of people with learning difficulties and or physical disability. We have much to learn from their truth.
Unusually, I took a fifteen-minute break in the middle of the show. I believe the whole performance lasted two hours and it whizzed by. In the second half I performed some thing I called We Chant.

we chant - video by shirlok - copyright one songs 2011

What a lovely audience! I really enjoyed myself.It was great to see some old friends again and to hook up with some of my Scottish and Welsh comrades. Thank you to all who came for making it special for me.

The following day was a day off which was spent in Barrow in Furness on the peninsular that extends into the Irish Sea. In the evening I had supper with Alexandra and Nigel my hosts for the following days FDPFAFDW gig in their garden on the outskirts of Ulverston.
alexandra and nigel

A couple of gazebos were erected and we surveyed the scene and decided on the best place for the PA to be installed and where the audience would be if it rained. The sky was leaden and we all hoped for a break in the cloud and a fine day for the show.
This is an excellent area for sea fishing but the tides were against us and even if the tides had been suitable the weather was not. I was glad that we had ruled out any fishing at early stage. After some excellent barbecue we chatted for a while and then it was back to the hotel to rest up. I spent most of the early part of the following day in bed catching up on the news and answering emails so by the time I had to set off for the show I was well rested and raring to go. I don’t remember a series of shows where I was as relaxed and confident about pretty well every thing. There is always a little nervousness as the “onstage time” draws near but with out that I believe the show suffers and doesn’t have any edge to it.
By the time I reached the garden venue the rain was falling and apart from a very short, occasional let up it increased steadily as time passed. Nigel and Alex had put a lot of time and effort into this event, as do all the FDPFAFDW hosts and I think as every one began to arrive the main concern was that Alex and Nigel should have a good night no matter what the weather chucked at us. That is what happened.
john bailey

After some delicious and warming curry John Bailey, who supplied the PA system, kicked off the evening with a lovely set of acoustic songs. The rain came down but we were not going to be swayed from our determination to enjoy and his set was very well received.
There was a little break and the rain fell in sheets but I tuned up,stood under the little gazebo and let it flow. In the growing darkness and soaking rain we joined and I managed to get through all of my songs except one. I owe you one A and N.

local people

I got lost in the songs at times, which is always a good thing. It allows me to experiment slightly, improvise and play with new things. At the moment my favourite toy is my voice. The new Tanglewood guitar is playing in nicely but the voice is giving me the buzz. I can do things vocally today that I could never do in the past and I don’t know why. Some one suggested that the EBB used to drown me out quite often. It is difficult to be subtle at times with a roar such as the one the EBB produced but hey! Swings and roundabouts, I loved that too. There is another difference too. After an EBB gig it was mostly the guys who gathered post gig to chat. Not so nowadays the mix is healthier I think. It seems my new songs appeal to women and they have lots to say about them. I’ll drink a little cognac to that and toast them all.
by the estuary before the deluge - photo by shirlok

My audience would not be beaten and together we stood and I sang while the rain tattooed on canvas above me. Eventually health and safety became a small issue. We powered down as droplets of water ran under the gazebo roof and down onto my guitar and myself. Washed out? Not in the least. Job done and we all retired to dry areas to chat and share stories. Seventy people braved the elements to make it a very special and memorable night.
The invited audience was typical of these shows. They were diverse, interesting and interested. I could have stayed for hours chatting but for the necessary long journey south next day. We said our farewells and I departed into a rain soaked night and back to the Travel Lodge in Barrow. I shall remember this gig for the weather and the lovely people, the great conversation, John Bailey playing the spoons and the superb hospitality of my hosts Alex and Nigel. I loved it all.



Anonymous said...

out demons out!

Anonymous said...

The human voice is the best of musical instruments.
You were splendid what a range, choir boy to Paul Robson.
Love to hear you without the guitar just vocal.
Yours aye,
Jack and Janet.

Anonymous said...

Missed an e but you hit them (Robeson )comrade .
Yours aye

Alexandra said...

Thank you for your kind words Edgar, it was our pleasure to have you here. Stoic to the end, despite a deluge of biblical proportions and it still sounded great!

We'll never forget it.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic gig in York. What a mixture of stuff..............what a voice.

Lewis said...

A very memorable gig in Ulverston - thanks Edgar! And thanks for singing my EBB 45s and for using my weird pic on this blog. Hope to see you again soon.

Lewis said...

Or even signing them!

Nige said...

Many thanks for a superb night and I may "hold" you to that one song you owe us :) I was really pleased to see that you are not a museum piece and it was great to chat with you. Hope we can tempt you back for a return (I will check the tide tables before booking.......). The memory of the soaking is diminishing and I can only reiterate the general consensus "it was fantastic, an absolute blast". Looking forward to hearing the audio. Thanks again for an amazing night!!!!

Anonymous said...

Castaway was tremendous. We saw another side to a deeply passionate and sincere man.
Thank you Edgar!