Courtney Marie adds to Pocklington Arts Centre’s raft of rearranged shows

Courtney Marie Andrews: June date at Pocklington Arts Centre put back by a year

AMERICAN country singer Courtney Marie Andrews is moving her June 17 2020 concert at Pocklington Arts Centre to…June 17 2021.

“All customers are being contacted this week to offer them a transfer or refund,” says venue manager James Duffy, whose 30th birthday falls today, by the way.

Courtney’s now postponed date next month with a full band was to have been a showcase for her new album, Old Flowers, originally set for release on June 5 on Loose/Fat Possum Records.

Phoenix-born Courtney, 29, is now rescheduling the album launch too, again in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Hello dear ones,” she says on the Loose website. “Unfortunately, I must push back the release to July 24th. In order to protect the safety of its workers, the vinyl manufacturing plant producing my record is temporarily closed for the time being, meaning it won’t be possible to meet the original release date.

“During these strange times, I think it’s important we work together, rather than trudge ahead alone and abandon those who have helped artists along the way. I can’t explain to you how much this record means to me personally, and I am so incredibly excited for it to reach your ears soon. It’s just showing up fashionably late, 2020 style.”

John Smith: November 3 date at Pocklington Arts Centre

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) continues to update its list of rescheduled shows for 2020/21, with the prospect of more being added in the coming weeks and months.

Inquisitive folk truth seeker John Smith has switched from May 21 to November 3; American singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, from June 27 to February 2 2021; retro country soul band The Delines, from July 28 to February 23 2021, and BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine will now ask “What the hell is going on?” on February 26 2021, rather than May 1 2020.

Billy Bremner & Me, comedian Phil Differ’s comedy-drama recounting his dream of eclipsing the fiery Leeds United and Scotland captain’s footballing deeds, has moved from June 5 to March 11 2021; Herman’s Hermits will re-emerge on April 22 next spring, and Mock The Week comedian Andy Parsons’ sold-out April 28 gig is re-booked for April 24 2021.

Led as ever by vocalist Maddy Prior, folk favourites Steeleye Span’s 50th anniversary celebrations of debut album Hark The Village Wait will have to wait until its 51st anniversary, their show now moved from May 3 2020 to May 7 2021.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Catrin Finch, from Wales, and Seckou Keita, from Senegal, will be joined by Canadian multi-instrumental trio Vishten on June 10 next summer, rather than June 13 2020 as first planned.

The Felice Brothers, from the Catskill Mountains, New York State, will be playing almost a year to the day later than their original booking. Ian and James Felice, joined by drummer Will Lawrence and bass Jesske Hume, are in the PAC diary for June 22 2021, replacing June 23 this summer.

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

The spotlight would have been on their 2019 album Undress, as well as their back catalogue from 2006 onwards, but now there should be new material too. .

All existing tickets holders for the rescheduled shows are being contacted by the PAC box office for ticket transfers or refunds.

PAC director Janet Farmer says the public response to the East Yorkshire venue’s prolonged closure, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has been “wonderful both in terms of financial support and well wishing”.

“To date, we have raised £8,660 from crowdfunding and customer ticket refund donations, a total well beyond our original target,” she reveals.

“We have been working with artists and agents to reschedule the whole of the venue’s spring and summer 20th anniversary season and most, if not all, shows are being transferred to late 2020 and into 2021.”

Shed Seven guitarist Paul Banks and singer Rick Witter: Acoustic headline set at Platform Festival 2020 at The Old Station cancelled. Hopefully they will be Chasing Rainbows next summer instead

July’s Platform Festival, organised by Pocklington Arts Centre, with a line-up including Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Shed Seven’s Rick Witter & Paul Banks, Richard Thompson and Omid Djalili at The Old Station, has been called off too, Again negotiations are on-going to feature as many of the 2020 artists as possible in the 2021 festival’s run from July 21 to 27. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

“It was heart-breaking to have to postpone the majority of the venue’s 20th anniversary celebrations but the safety of our audience members, performers, staff, volunteers and wider community has to come first. We intend to turn these events into 21st anniversary celebrations next year,” says Janet.

“During this period, we believe it is critically important that PAC continues to support its staff, artists and creative partners. We are working closely with our peers, across the region and indeed the country, on collaborative projects during the closure and we hope to announce a series of online events very soon.

“While we will be increasing the venue’s online artistic output, we are very aware there is no substitute to watching a live performance and sharing this experience with fellow audience members. We, like all of our customers, look forward to the time when this can resume.”

Pocklington Arts Centre remains in regular contact with Arts Council England, the Music Venues Trust and the Cinema Exhibitors Association. “All have been very supportive with advice and support,” says Janet. “PAC is determined to weather this storm and emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

“We are all braving this crazy storm, in different ships, but together,” says Courtney Marie Andrews

The last word, for now, goes to Courtney Marie Andrews: “We are all braving this crazy storm, in different ships, but together,” she says. “I am continuously inspired by everyone coming together, in so many ways, during this unprecedented time.”

The how and the why The Howl & The Hum have made THE album for our distant times

Keeping in touch across the socially distant mental landscape of Millennial life: York band The Howl & The Hum

THE Howl & The Hum, York’s most impactful band since Shed Seven, are in tune with these alienating, disconnected, socially distant, Corona-crisis times.

“Amid all the postponements and album delays elsewhere at the moment, we are happy to announce that our unfortunately-titled album Human Contact is still coming out on May 29,” says lead singer, songwriter and now soothsayer Sam Griffiths.

“Maybe that title is going to haunt us forever…but we haven’t literally predicted genuine events that have now happened, but we wanted to make a universal record and calling an album ‘Human Contact’ is universal.”

Chosen before the nation went into lockdown, and touch was shown the red card, the album sleeve depicts a severed arm. “Human Contact is about a very modern kind of loneliness, one which doesn’t allow us to forget,” says Sam. “These days, ever more than before, we are constantly reminded of our past: of intimate moments which have escaped us, whether these be via technology, or through a lack of personal interaction.”

The artwork for The Howl & The Hum’s debut album, Human Contact

Recorded in September 2019, when Corona was still but a pale lager, Human Contact was inspired by focusing on the minutiae of relationships: “all the strange objects, conversations, teenage bitterness and silences that permeate young love and loneliness,” as Sam puts it.

Now, eight weeks into lockdown, self-isolation is all around us (if that is not a contradiction in terms). “Hopefully it goes to prove our point of the importance of human contact in a digital age,” says Sam. “If you like, you can call us soothsayers, prophets, seers, much like The Simpsons’ writers, for predicting unfortunate future events. We WILL begrudgingly carry that mantle, but really it’s just a break-up album.

“Inspired in part by personal relationships, personal loss and the onset of dementia in someone close to the band, this album is in both parts a break-up record and a love letter to memory. It celebrates, and is wary of, various kinds of human contact in everyday life, and how everything fades over time.

“All we have now is our memoriesand that is all we are made of, so this album is a necessary exploration of trying to overcome our past, only to realise that in doing so we are losing what it is to be human.”

“Someone called it ‘goth pop’, and I can see that, but I just write pop songs,” says Sam Griffiths

The shadow of Covid-19 may further darken Human Contact, but the feeling of isolation has deeper roots. “A lot of people describe Millennials as being lonely, contacting each other through the façade of the internet, where they don’t have to see you as a real person,” says the Millennial Sam, a former University of York student.

“Originally, I came up with the idea for Human Contact as a sci-fi short story. I liked late-Victorian stories in that style, but now I was writing for the 21st century, starting it as a fear-driven story, but turning it into a story about a man whose depression overwhelms him.”

Human Contact was transformed into a song, brought to fruition by Sam, his Leeds flatmate, bass player Bradley Blackwell, drummer Jack Williams and guitarist Conor Hirons. “There was a slight fear and horror-show element to it that made it into a groove-driven song, and the song title came first before we picked it for the album title,” he says.

Sam is loath to pigeonhole The Howl & The Hum: “I’m still not sure of the genre. Someone called it ‘goth pop’, and I can see that, but I just write pop songs,” he says.

“The aim is not to shoe-horn yourself into one style, and the reason I asked Conor to play guitar in the band is that he makes it sound like anything but the guitar. He’s more like a set designer, so the guys are not just decorating a set; they all end up telling the story.”

“The guys are not just decorating a set; they all end up telling the story,” says frontman Sam Griffiths of bandmates Conor Hirons, Bradley Blackwell and Jack Williams

Citing everyone from hip hop queen Lizzo to modern folk artists Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, via  the classic lyricism of Leonard Cohen, as inspirations, Sam and co worked on the album with producer Jolyon Thomas at Big Jelly Studios in Kent.

“Our manager hooked us up with Jolyon, whose dad Ken worked with [Icelandic band] Sigur Ros, and I can definitely see that connection in how we sound,” says Sam. “Jolyon used to look after Slaves and Royal Blood, and we liked how he was able to capture how we are when we play live.”

One glaring omission from Human Contact is crowd favourite Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, the rousing anthem that always closes the band’s sets. “We feel we have sort of already released an album’s worth of material with all our EPs and singles,” says Sam.

“It was strange to release Godmanchester Chinese Bridge as our first single, as we were a country band until then, and maybe it has been superseded by Sweet Fading Silver.

“So, I’m fine with Godmanchester Chinese Bridge not being on the album, but I’m glad it’s a song that has a place in people’s hearts.”

The Howl & The Hum release Human Contact on May 29 on AWAL Records. AWAL, by the way, stands for Artists Without A Label.

Pending further Coronavirus measures from the Government, a tour is in place for September 7 to October 17, taking in two nights at Leeds Brudenell Social Club on October 6 and 7. Watch this space for news of a 2020 York gig at a later date.

York Musical Society embraces remote rehearsal revolution for singing therapy

Zoom with a view: York Musical Society members face up for Monday’s online rehearsal

YORK Musical Society’s online rehearsals are on song and on trend, as the Monday sessions on Zoom go from strength to strength.

Session host Lesley Peatfield says: “We’ve been running them from the start of the lockdown, and I’m especially proud as a lot of our older members have successfully navigated the software to be able to manage this.

“Some have even got their first computers for lockdown to be able to appear at our regular Monday night events.” 

As many as 80 singers join in, their ages ranging from an 18-year-old bass to 90. “We meet at 7pm for the sopranos and altos and 8pm for the tenors and basses, an hour each every Monday evening, when either David Pipe, our musical director, or John Bradbury, our accompanist, each take a session, leading from the piano, and swap over each week,” says Lesley.

“As well as hosting, I keep each session running technically and answer questions in the chat box.”

In the week the nation went into Covid-19 lockdown, York Musical Society was to have performed at York Minster. “That should have been a night of Faure’s Requiem, alongside a less well-known Michael Haydn requiem, which is so beautiful,” says Lesley.

“Thank you for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” said one York Musical Society member in the online chat room after a Monday rehearsal

“We had to cancel, of course, but we do hope to offer that programme sometime next year.”

Coming next, on Saturday, June 13 at York Minster, would have been YMS’s summer concert, Splendours Of The Baroque, a joyful programme of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Marcello’s Trumpet Concerto in D minor, Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba and Handel’s Coronation Anthems.

“We’ve had to cancel that concert too,” says Lesley. “The Corona-tion anthems – Zadok The Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart Is Inditing – and have never been more appropriate,” says Lesley, poignantly.

After one Zoom rehearsal, Lesley wrote on social media: “Over 80 members joined us for a bit of note bashing for Vivaldi and Handel. Even though we may never perform this, the feeling of the community coming together is priceless.”

Members’ post-session comments to Lesley on the chat line testify to the “virtual” rehearsals being such a breath of fresh singing air amid the pandemic. “Thank you – this is the highlight of my week in lockdown,” said one.

“A very big ‘thank you’ for the Monday evening rehearsals, which I am very much enjoying, and for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” wrote another. “Thank you to David [Pipe] and to John [Bradbury] for their patience and efforts and to Lesley for her expertise in enabling the sessions.”

Zoom for improvement: York Musical Society members gather for a “virtual” singing session

A third commented: “I’d just like to express my thanks to you all for organising these online rehearsals. I think David is too modest about how valuable they are musically. We can learn a lot at this stage.

“There is no doubt they are a huge boost to the morale of all the individual members, restoring our sense of community and connection to those we cannot meet in person.”  

A fourth enthused: “It is amazing how some proper singing, even over only half an hour, leaves one with such a good feeling inside.  Can’t wait for the next session.”

The Zoom uplift each Monday is best summed up by one member, who confessed to “enjoying it far more than I thought I would”, concluding that “Singing is pure therapy”.

Such a sentiment no doubt will be shared by so many other singing groups in York and beyond, now in the grip of the “remote rehearsal revolution”, be it Ewa Salecka’s “Prima Virtual Ensemble” or Jessa Liversidge’s myriad groups.

Looking ahead, Lesley says: “ We’re rehearsing with a view to an informal performance for friends and family at St Olave’s School, where we normally rehearse in the Shepherd Hall, whenever we manage to get back to face-to-face rehearsals.” Roll on that day.

Kevin Clifton must wait year longer to play dream role after Strictly Ballroom delay

Clifton suspension: Kevin Clifton’s dream role is put on hold for a year after postponement of the Strictly Ballroom tour. Picture: Dan Hogan

KEVIN Clifton will not be in Strictly twice over this year.

In March, the 2018 champion announced he was leaving the Strictly Come Dancing professional squad after seven seasons in annual pursuit of the BBC One glitter ball trophy, filling his diary instead with the 2020/2021 UK and Ireland tour of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, directed by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, no less.

The tour should have run from September 26 to June 26 2021, but the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated its postponement until a new starting date of September 27 2021 in Plymouth.

“Kevin from Grimsby”, 37, will play his dream role of Scott Hastings at the Grand Opera House, York, from November 15 to 21 2021, rather than November 23 to 28 this autumn.

Further rearranged Yorkshire dates are: Bradford Alhambra Theatre, November 22 to 27 2021, Hull New Theatre, April 25 to 30 2022, and Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, May 30 to June 4 2022, on a tour that will end in where else but the ballroom-dancing mecca of Blackpool on July 2 2022.

“You can still expect a simply fab-u-lous show for all to enjoy,” promises director Craig Revel Horwood

Announcing the tour’s postponement, the producers say: “To ensure everyone’s safety in these uncertain times, we had to take the difficult decision to reschedule the original tour dates.

“But the good news is that all of the shows in the touring schedule have been rearranged and tickets for each performance will be exchanged automatically, so fans will not miss out on this musical extravaganza. Details of how to exchange tickets will follow in the coming weeks.” 

Clifton says: “I’m really delighted that the Strictly Ballroom tour has been rescheduled.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s my all-time favourite film and Scott Hastings is my dream role, so I can’t wait to bring this musical to theatres across the UK next year.  In the meantime, please stay safe and keep well, everyone.”

Director Craig Revel Horwood enthuses: “I’m thrilled that our new production of Strictly Ballroom The Musical has been rescheduled for 2021/2022.  The tour may be a year later, but you can still expect those same sexy dance moves, scintillating costumes and a simply FAB-U-LOUS show for all to enjoy, starring the one and only Kevin Clifton.”

Clifton joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, performing in the final five times, missing out only in 2017 and 2019, and he was crowned Strictly champion in 2018 with celebrity partner Stacey Dooley, the BBC documentary filmmaker, presenter and journalist.

“I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings,” says Kevin Clifton, dressed a la mode as Hastings goes into battle on the ballroom floor

A former youth world number one and four-time British Latin Champion, Clifton has won international open titles all over the world. After making his West End musical theatre debut in 2010 in Dirty Dancing, he starred as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer at Wembley Troubadour Park Theatre and as rock demigod Stacie Jaxx in the satirical Eighties’ poodle-rock musical Rock Of Ages in the West End, a role that also brought him to Leeds Grand Theatre last August.

Clifton last performed at the Grand Opera House, York, in the ballroom dance show Burn The Floor last May.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical tells the story of Scott Hastings, a talented, arrogant and rebellious young Aussie ballroom dancer. When his radical dance moves lead to him falling out of favour with the Australian Dance Federation, he finds himself dancing with Fran, a beginner with no moves at all.

Inspired by one another, this unlikely pair gathers the courage to defy both convention and family and discover that, to be winners, the steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom.

Featuring a book by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, the show features a cast of 20 and combines such familiar numbers as Love Is In The Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time with songs by Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect.

Rock on: Kevin Clifton as rock demigod Stacee Jaxx in Rock Of Ages at Leeds Grand Theatre last August

Strictly Ballroom began as an uplifting, courageous stage play that Luhrmann devised with a group of classmates at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia in 1984. Eight years later, he made his screen directorial debut with Strictly Ballroom as the first instalment in his Red Curtain Trilogy.

The film won three 1993 BAFTA awards and received a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. Strictly Ballroom The Musical had its world premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre in 2014, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, staged the first British production in December 2016 to January 2017.

When announcing his full-time move into the world of musical theatre only a week before the Covid-19 lockdown in March, Clifton said: “I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical. When I was ten years old, I first watched the movie that would become my favourite film of all time. This is my dream role.

“Plus, I get to work with Craig Revel Horwood again. I really can’t wait to don the golden jacket and waltz all over the UK in what’s set to be an incredible show.” Now, alas, he must wait for a year longer.

Tickets for the York run are on sale at; Bradford, “on sale soon”;  Hull, from May 15, at; Sheffield, “in the autumn”.

Joanne Clifton, Kevin’s sister, as Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show at the Grand Opera House, York, last June

Did you know?

KEVIN is not the only member of the Clifton dancing family of Grimsby to have graduated from Strictly champion into musicals. Sister Joanne, 36, appeared at the Grand Opera House, York, as demure flapper girl Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie in February 2017; combustible Pittsburgh welder and dancer Alex Owens in Flashdance in November that year and prim and proper but very corruptible Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show in June 2019.

Leeds Festival off. “Just not possible to go ahead in strange times,” say organisers

Cancelled: Oasis old boy Liam Gallagher’s headline slot at Leeds Festival 2020

LEEDS Festival is off. The last mighty oak on the summer’s rock calendar has fallen, bowing inevitably to the Coronavirus pandemic prohibitions.

Along with its southern marrow, Reading Festival, the open-air event at Bramham Park, near Wetherby, would have run over the bank holiday weekend of August 28 to 30, headlined by Liam Gallagher, Stormzy and Rage Against The Machine.

Organisers say Leeds Festival will return in 2021. Tickets bought for 2020 will remain valid for next summer’s August 27 to 29 festival run, while refunds will be available too.

The official statement says: “Leeds Festival will no longer be taking place this year. We’ve been closely monitoring this unprecedented situation and we were hopeful we could deliver the ultimate festival to you in August, something to look forward to in these strange and confusing times. However, it has become clear that it’s just not possible for this year’s festival to go ahead.”

Stormzy: Grime figurehead, pictured at last summer’s Glastonbury Festival, will not be heading north this summer

“We want to extend our gratitude to our teams, artists and partners who work so hard each year. And to our fans, we’re nothing without you. We thank you for your continued support and understanding.”

Leeds Festival joins a long list of Corona-cancelled music events, such as the inaugural York Festival from June 19 to 21, headlined by Madness, Westlife and Lionel Richie; Forest Live at Dalby Forest, with Kaiser Chiefs on June 26 and a James Morrison/Will Young double bill on June 27, and the summer season at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

Off too are the Platform Festival in Pocklington in July, headlined by Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Shed Seven’s Rick Witter & Paul Banks and Richard Thompson; Deer Shed Festival 11 at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, Thirsk, from July 24 to 26, featuring James, Stereolab and Baxter Dury, and Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on September 19.

York Racecourse is yet to announce the fate of its Music Showcase Weekend of race-day concerts by Pussycat Dolls on July 24 and Rick Astley on July 25. All seven meetings on the Knavesmire track up to June 27 have been cancelled, so watch this space for an update.

Madness: June 19 show at York Festival cancelled

Meanwhile, the Leeds Festival organisers are working closely with ticketing partners. “They will be in touch very soon to process your refund, or, if you prefer, you can retain your ticket and carry it over to next year,” the statement says.

“Look out for an e-mail from your ticketing agent and please only contact them if you have not been contacted after seven days as they are very busy at this time. If you purchased your ticket from a physical outlet, please contact that outlet to obtain your refund.”

Looking ahead to next summer, the organisers strike a positive note: “We’re already counting down the days to when we’re back in the fields we call home for the August bank holiday weekend,” the statement waxes lyrical. “We promise you that Leeds 2021 will be worth the wait.”

“Keep safe, keep healthy and look after each other,” the message ends.

Bowie, Barbra and Britney in your living room on Saturday? Yes, courtesy of diva Velma Celli’s online kitchen-sing drama

Dish of the day in her Bishy kitchen: Glam York drag diva Velma Celli is back on your telly or PC this weekend

VELMA Celli, York’ glamorous globe-strutting drag diva, will be Large & Lit in her latest lockdown concert streamed from her Bishopthorpe kitchen on Saturday night.

Ian Stroughair, the alter-ego of fabulous cabaret creation Velma, returned to self-isolate in his native York, rather than his adopted milieu of London, directly from a tour of Australia, and obeying government orders, he has stayed home since quarantine.

Ian, who presents The Velma Celli Show at The Basement, City Screen, York, each month, organised Velma’s first intimate kitchen gig for May 2, in support of St Leonard’s Hospice, in Tadcaster Road, where his late mother was a patient.

“I’d always wanted to find a way to support the hospice, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity,” said Ian, who raised £1,288 for St Leonard’s that night. “With so many conventional fundraising events postponed due to the lockdown, it was a great way for people to support the hospice while enjoying a fantastic, fun and fruity evening of live music in their own living room.” 

Ian’s glittering cabaret queen has starred in such self-originated shows as A Brief History Of Drag, Equinox – Something Fabulous This Way Comes and Me And My Divas, as well as The Velma Celli Show, and now he adds Large & Lit In Lockdown to his title list.

Diva Velma’s repertoire of impersonations of singers and their peculiar mannerisms draws inspiration from a multitude of the best female vocalists of the past 75 years, from Judy Garland to Lady Gaga and beyond. “And unlike many drag queens, Velma always performs live, adding her own special spin to familiar songs,” Ian says.

“This time we’ll have some Bowie, Barbra and Britney,” promises Velma

Charles Hutchinson asks Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli for quick answers to quick questions ahead of Saturday’s 8pm gig.

How did the first kitchen concert go? What was the highlight for you? 

“It was so much fun but totally bizarre not having an audience. Trying to navigate this new way of working was tricky but still fun. The highlight was telling my house mates to clap at the end of the songs! Bless them, they didn’t know if they were allowed. LOL!”

How did it work out singing a “remote” duet with York country singer Twinnie?

“I sang from the kitchen and she was out in the garden – which you can get to without coming through the house – on a radio mic. There was a rather fabulous patio door reveal! ‘Social-distant duetting’ is the new black!” 

Why have you chosen Large & Lit In Lockdown for the latest show title? Nice alliteration, by the way!

“I love alliteration and I am large. Mainly because it’s become custom in this house to fry EVERYTHING!” 

Where will you perform on Saturday? In the kitchen again or another room?

“Kitchen, better acoustics.” 

How will the set list differ from the first concert?

“It will be completely different. This time we’ll have some Bowie, Barbra and Britney! Ya welcome!” 

Choice of dress for the occasion?

“Whatever I can still fit into.” 

Any songs come to mind to perform in response to the Government’s new advice to Stay Alert?

“All By Myself, the Eric Carmen song.” 

When do you envisage being able to return to the world of the stage, the greasepaint and the live audience?

“I don’t want to think about that! Most likely 2021. Urgh.”

How do people acquire a ticket for the best seat in their house for the live stream from Case De Velma Celli?

“As per [usual], all you need to do is get ya tickets from the link below a.s.a.p. and a live link will arrive in your email inbox on the day of the show. Click on it at show time and BOOM! There she is.

Love and light, Velma.”

Please note: Saturday’s online event can be streamed on a PC or internet-enabled smart TV; tickets cost £7.

Black Swan Folk Club launches virtual club nights amid surge of revised gig dates UPDATED

Chris While and Julie Matthews: A special concert for the Black Swan Folk Club’s virtual folk club night

YORK’S Black Swan Folk Club is filling the void in the Coronavirus lockdown by organising a “virtual folk club night” on YouTube every Thursday.

Club co-organiser Chris Euesden says: “We started about a month ago and quite a few people seem to be tuning in. A new one is posted each Thursday at around 7pm, and so far we’ve included a special concert from Chris While and Julie Matthews, bluesman Brookes Williams and the late Vin Garbutt, among others.

“We aren’t deleting anything, so all the old club nights, which go back about six weeks now, can still be viewed on YouTube for the duration of our shutdown if you’ve missed any.”

To access the club nights, go to and search for the Black Swan Folk Club York UK channel. The direct link is:

“There you select ‘Playlists’ and that brings up all the club nights,” says Chris. “Each one is listed as a separate Playlist.

“We’re trying to stick to the club format as close as possible with videos of a few songs from resident singers and then a main spot from whoever would have been the guest that night.

“The nights are made up from a series of clips, some especially recorded for the club night and others already available on YouTube, but specifically recommended by the performers themselves.”

Eliza Carthy: New date for postponed concert at The Crescent, York

Chris continues: “The familiar format is not always possible and there are some changes, but it’s close. Of course, the thing about a ‘virtual’ club night is that you can bring in some special guests who normally wouldn’t have been there.

“If you enjoy viewing the videos, please subscribe to the channel or ‘like’ the clips and that will give us a good idea of the audience we have.”

Coming next will be a guest set from Irish-influenced musicians Roisin Ban on Thursday (May 14), when they would have been playing the Black Swan under pre-Covid circumstances. Lined up later for the “virtual club” are American singer-songwriter Katy Moffatt and Australian duo Sadie and Jay.

“We’re also hoping to do something special to replace what would have been the City of York Folk Weekend – to be renamed The Roland Walls Folk Weekend from this year – which was to have taken place from June 5 to 7,” says Chris.

“It’ll be a Virtual Folk Weekend special with footage from many of the bands, singers and musicians who would have been involved.” 

Meanwhile, a few revised folk gigs in York have been confirmed, to be followed by “a review of where we stand at the end of this month,” says Chris.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman: NCEM concert moved to November 17

Dates for the diary are:

Drever, McCusker, Woomble, at The Crescent, York, August 24, 7.30pm; tickets from

Maz O’Connor, Basement Bar, City Screen, York, September 9, 7.30pm; tickets,

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 17, 7.30pm; tickets, 

Eliza Carthy Restitute Live, The Crescent, York, January 24 2021, 7.30pm; tickets,

Grace Petrie, The Crescent, York, May 18 2021, 7.30pm; tickets,

Scheduled to appear at the Black Swan Folk Club later this year are: Anthony John Clarke, September 10; Christine Collister and Michael Fix, special club night, September 18; Sam Kelly & Jamie Francis, October 8; Lucy Farrell, October 15; Sam Carter, October 22; Charlie Dore & Julian Litmann, November 19, and Martin Carthy, December 3.

Black Swan Folk Club launches virtual club nights amid surge of revised gig dates

Eliza Carthy: Rearranged gig at The Crescent, York, next January

YORK’S Black Swan Folk Club is filling the void in the Coronavirus lockdown by organising a “virtual folk club night” on YouTube every Thursday.

Club co-organiser Chris Euesden says: “We started about a month ago and quite a few people seem to be tuning in. A new one is posted every Thursday, and we’re not deleting any, so they’re up there on YouTube for the duration of our shutdown if you’ve missed any.”

To access the club nights, go to and search for the Black Swan Folk Club York UK channel. The direct link is:

“There you select ‘Playlists’ and that brings up all the club nights,” says Chris. “Each one is listed as a separate Playlist. We’re trying to keep to the schedule as planned, so you can see videos of the guests and residents who would’ve been performing on that date.

“That’s not always possible and there are some changes, but it’s close. Of course, the thing about a ‘virtual’ club night is that you can bring in some special guests who normally wouldn’t have been there.

“If you enjoy viewing the videos, please subscribe to the channel or ‘like’ the clips and that will give us a good idea of the audience we have.”

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman: NCEM concert moved to November 17

Meanwhile, a few revised folk gigs in York have been confirmed, to be followed by “a review of where we stand at the end of this month,” says Chris.

Dates for the diary are:

Drever, McCusker, Woomble, at The Crescent, York, August 24, 7.30pm; tickets from

Maz O’Connor, Basement Bar, City Screen, York, September 9, 7.30pm; tickets,

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 17, 7.30pm; tickets, 

Eliza Carthy Restitute Live, The Crescent, York, January 24 2021, 7.30pm; tickets,

Grace Petrie, The Crescent, York, May 18 2021, 7.30pm; tickets,

Scheduled to appear at the Black Swan Folk Club later this year are: Anthony John Clarke, September 10; Christine Collister and Michael Fix, special club night, September 18; Sam Kelly & Jamie Francis, October 8; Lucy Farrell, October 15; Sam Carter, October 22; Charlie Dore & Julian Litmann, November 19, and Martin Carthy, December 3.

York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Ryedale Voices keep singing in virtual world

Making room for Zoom: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Ryedale Voices singers gather remotely to record their parts for the Keep Singing video

MAY was supposed to be an exciting month for the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Ryedale Voices.

“The Phil” were due to travel to Germany and Holland, as part of the choir’s 95th anniversary celebrations, to sing alongside choirs and singers with whom they have a friendship that spans more than 50 years.

On the other hand, Malton’s Ryedale Voices, led by Alison Davis, have only just passed their first anniversary. This month should have entailed performing their first full concert with Alison’s other choir, Harmonia, and Richard Kay’s small ensemble The Sound Fellows.

In the Coronavirus clampdown, these events, like so many, have had to be cancelled for now. However, this does not mean the choirs have suspended all activity.

Richard Kay, the Phil’s assistant musical director and Ryedale choir’s conductor, took it upon himself to keep the two choirs going through the lockdown period, helped enormously by Alison Davis and Helen Smith, the Phil’s accompanist, as rehearsals by Covid-19 2020’s de rigueur modus operandi, Zoom, started six weeks ago.

“The primary purpose was to tackle any potential feelings of isolation by keeping the choir members connected, but I was also keen to keep us all singing and to keep repertoire fresh,” says Richard. “That’s why, inspired by many other choir leaders across the country, I began to lead rehearsals for the two choirs over Zoom.”

The “virtual choir” experience is very different to normal rehearsals. The time lag between different internet connections “doesn’t allow you to sing together” and so Richard has been recording the separate parts for each of the songs, combining them in Audacity, and using these to sing along to over Zoom.

Although many of the singers are not particularly tech savvy, these boundaries have been overcome, and regularly 40 to 55 singers have been taking part at the Monday and Tuesday virtual rehearsals.

Aware that choral singers gain the greatest satisfaction from hearing themselves singing together, Richard initially invited the members of each choir to send him audio recordings of their individual parts for songs with which they were familiar.

“Encouraged by the positive responses from the singers and followers of the two choirs, and by a very positive reaction on social media, I decided that the next challenge should be to write, learn and record a video of a brand new song relevant to the current situation we find ourselves in,” Richard says.

“I wanted to keep the feeling of this song positive and so I composed a piece called Keep Singing. Over the next few rehearsals, we learned this song and were joined by singers from other choirs to make this a joint York-Malton collaboration between singers from the Ryedale Voices, the Phil, Harmonia, The Sound Fellows and the Scarcroft Parents’ Choir.”

For a direct link to the Keep Singing recording, follow this link:

“Whatever trials we will continue to face through 2020 and beyond, I would encourage everybody to Keep Singing,” urges Richard.

Richard Kay: advocate of the Keep Singing philosophy in these Covic-19 times

Six key questions for Richard Kay, set by Charles Hutchinson

Everywhere you look, singers have been quick to adapt to lockdown days by going digital for Zoom sessions etc. What would you put that down to, Richard?

“I can’t speak for everyone but one of my first thoughts was to try to continue rehearsals online for the choirs that I am involved with.

“It just so happened that both Ryedale Voices and York Phil were coming out of a period of learning new music and coming up to some big events: a festival in Whitby and a tour to Holland and Germany for the Phil and the first ever concert for Ryedale Voices.

“Both choirs were, therefore, in pretty good shape and very excited at the prospect of sharing our music when lockdown began. It would have seemed a great shame to lose the ‘match fitness’ over the prolonged lockdown and so we were keen to find alternative methods of keeping ourselves singing and keeping new repertoire fresh. “However, there was a more important reason for me to look into this. For me, singing is a physical activity that greatly improves mental health. This, combined with the sense of togetherness that you get from being a member of a choir or group, was in danger of being severely impacted.

“With many members of our choirs needing to self-isolate and living in more remote areas, I wanted to get the choirs together to tackle those inevitable feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“Following on from that, I realised how many music groups were doing the same and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the ‘virtual’ musical performances that so many have put together, so I thought, ‘why don’t we try one ourselves’. It has given us something to work towards and something to feel proud of.”

What challenges has it thrown up for you personally, creatively, technically, emotionally?

“I am no Luddite but equally I am not hugely knowledgeable when it comes to technical matters. The practicalities of running a choir rehearsal over Zoom were initially very daunting.

“I followed the recommendations of other choir leaders and sought advice from Jessa Liversidge but ultimately you’ve just got to give it a go yourself. I have been learning as I go along, but I have had the support of choir members who have also been grappling with new technology.

“The need to support others to join in with Zoom and, further down the line, to record and share their videos, has been quite time consuming. Then there has been the learning of the software for recording and compiling different tracks. I now have a new-found respect for the work of sound engineers in recording studios. #

“All of this has taken time, which in turn has impacted on home educating and childcare responsibilities, but I think it has been worth it. At a time when all my other work came to a stop it has been a good creative project to focus on.

“The strange thing about Zoom is that the choirs cannot all sing together. The time lag means that they can only listen and sing along at home. This does make it something of a one-man show for the choir leader but it has been a nice way to utilise my performance skills!  For me personally, it has also been lovely to try out a spot of composition after many years.”

What repertoire has been rehearsed over the past six weeks? 

“Rehearsals for the Phil take place on Mondays; Tuesdays for Ryedale Voices. Both run from 7.30pm to 9pm, with a Facebook live “social” for the following half hour on Monday nights for the Phil.

“We have managed a mixture of learning new songs, practising songs that were new to us to keep them fresh and singing through old favourites for the sheer enjoyment. “For the Phil, this has included singing along to some of our CD tracks. For Ryedale Voices, I have been recording each part and combining them so that we have recordings to sing along to and singers are encouraged to highlight tricky bits for their sections – as  well as pointing out bits that I have got wrong in my recordings!

“I have been lucky to be able to use the recorded piano parts sent to me by two very capable pianists in Alison Davis and Helen Smith, as well as asking Helen to play certain lines on her piano during the Zoom sessions.

“We have also had some time for chat and to sing a few renditions of Happy Birthday. For this alone, I have left all the members’ mics on but with the different time lags, the cacophony of many different versions of the song make it pretty entertaining.

“Repertoire for both choirs includes some sacred music, some arrangements of pop songs, songs from musicals and some rousing spirituals and freedom songs. As well as the Keep Singing track, look out for the Phil’s Lily Of The Valley and Ryedale Voices’ Siyahamba, also compiled during lockdown, on our Facebook pages.”

Why is singing such a positive thing to do, both individually and collectively?

Singing is generally a joyful thing to do, and we need that kind of positivity at the moment. I am aware that singing regularly around the house is usually an indicator that I am in a happier place.

“Similarly, if we make ourselves sing, even singing along to the radio, it tends to make us feel better. We can’t sing collectively at the moment, but it lifts the heart to see everybody singing during the Zoom rehearsals.

“We were still missing out on hearing ourselves singing together so a virtual track like Keep Singing has enabled us to hear ourselves together once again.”

Keep Singing, as a title, sounds like it does exactly what it says on the tin: perfect for positivity in such strange times. Discuss…

“Yes! I wanted to ensure that we all kept singing first and foremost but this then inspired the writing of the song. There will be many creative people making artistic responses to the Coronavirus pandemic and while I wanted to write a song inspired by the current situation, I didn’t want to make it downbeat.

“As I say, singing is a joyful experience and so I wanted to make it a joyful song. The fact that we have made it a collaboration between different choirs is also very appropriate.

“The Ryedale Voices were due to perform a joint concert in May with Harmonia and a small ensemble I run called The Sound Fellows. While this didn’t happen, I realised that anybody from any choir could join the Zoom rehearsals – one of the advantages of being stuck in your own living room – and so why not open it out to more singers?

“I have been helped hugely by Alison Davis, who runs Harmonia, and the Ryedale Voices, Helen Smith (accompanist of The Phil), and Dave Todd from the Phil, who managed to compile all the separate videos into a Zoom-like grid for me.”

What would the singing groups be doing in the summer ahead, were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic?

“The Phil were due to be in Germany and Holland in May and then had a number of concerts lined up before their summer recess, including their ever-popular Summer Concert at the York Citadel. It seems strange that instead our minds are now turning to Christmas!

“The Ryedale Voices were hoping to capitalise on their first concert at the end of May with a recruitment drive – especially for any Malton-based men – and then who knows!

“To be honest, we just can’t wait to get back into a rehearsal room together but we are concerned about how long it may be before a large group of singers – many of whom fall into vulnerable categories – can all get together again.”

Seasick Steve strives for lockdown path to Love & Peace en route to July 24 album

Seasick Steve seeks a road to Love & Peace

CALIFORNIAN blues tornado Seasick Steve is keeping busy in lockdown as he builds anticipation for the July 24 release of his tenth studio album, Love & Peace.

“Since we all locked up, I was thinking about music,” says the 69-year-old singer, songwriter and builder of customised scrap guitars.

“I was supposed to be going on tour, but now I can’t do it. For me, music is all about y’all … it’s about playing for people. I surely miss you all and wish I could be out there playing for you.”

Seasick by the sea: Seasick Steve takes in the view

Instead, Seasick has taken to plugging in and blasting out his veteran boogie blues from his kitchen live on Facebook every Sunday night.

What’s more, he has released the homemade Live To An Empty Room concert video, available to watch at

Seasick Steve’s blend of DIY inventiveness and dogged determination is present too in the video for his new album taster, Clock Is Running. Setting Seasick’s raw riffage to Dan Magnusson’s rollicking rhythms, the song’s message chimes with our lockdown times as he looks forward once more to  hitting the road and seeing the world, while urging you to take a chance while you still can. 

The artwork for Seasick Steve’s July 24 album Love & Peace

The video plays on that concept of making the most of things, in Seasick’s case when faced with trying to make a compelling visual in lockdown.  Seasick – real name Steven Gene Wold – filmed himself jamming the song on the porch and sent the footage to New Beach to work their magic in creating an imaginative animated video.  

It surely will be the only time he will be seen playing an imaginary guitar, as you can witness at

Both Clock Is Running and the title track are available as instant downloads for those who pre-order the album from Seasick’s official store at, as well as on all streaming platforms.

Seasick note: Seasick Steve plucks his guitar

Seasick, who played a sold-out show at York Barbican in April 2015, has written an album full of hope for the future, against the tide of these troubled times, combining boogie, blues, rock, Americana and folk.

The track listing will be:  Love And Peace; Regular Man; I Will Do For You; Clock Is Running; Carni Days; Church Of Me; Toes In The Mud; My Woman; Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Boogie; Travelling Man; Ready Or Not and Mercy.

Released on the Contagious label, Love & Peace’s various formats will include a heavyweight clear vinyl, packaged with a signed print of the cover.