Acquire piano, plug in fancy wiring, now Joshua Burnell is ready for virtual concert

Joshua Burnell: Living room concert tomorrow night. Picture: Elly Lucas

THE future of folk, alias York multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Joshua Burnell, will be joined by his partner, vocalist Frances Sladen, for a one-off online concert organised by the East Riding Theatre, Beverley, tomorrow night (October 17).

“We’ll be playing acoustic versions of songs old and new,” says Joshua, who released his futuristic new album, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep, on September 4.

What can viewers expect when they head to ERT’s Facebook page for the free 7.30pm concert? “I’m still figuring out exactly how it’ll work!” said Joshua, when first announcing the folk-fused baroque’n’roll virtual gig.

The artwork for Joshua Burnell’s new album, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep

“But we’ll definitely be sharing tales that influenced the songs, as well as reflections on how the lockdown affected our musical process.”

Here Joshua, winner of the Rising Star award in the 2020 Folking Awards, answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on this weekend’s Live In Your Living Room concert.

How did this living room gig come about?

“We were supposed to be playing a live show at East Riding Theatre as part of the album launch tour, which couldn’t go ahead. Then, Chris [music and comedy programmer Chris Wade] sent me an email out of the blue, asking if we’d like to do an online show in anticipation of a real show next year. Of course, we were delighted and said yes!”

“There’s a handful of new songs we’ve been desperate to share with an audience,” says Joshua

“I’m still figuring out exactly how it’ll work!” you said initially when contemplating playing an online gig. Have you figured it out yet?

“Just about. I’ve invested in some fancy wires that I can plug into my normal wires and then we’ll be on the internet. If that fails, we’ll just have to go round to every audience member’s house, stand in the garden and perform two metres away from their window.” 

Which instruments will feature?

“I’m glad you asked! Especially for this show, I have acquired a piano. A real piano. With actual strings and wood and everything. I figured it’d be a relief having one thing I can’t forget to plug in… and it sounds beautiful too. I’ll have my trusty acoustic guitar to hand too.” 

“For the first time, I’ve had a real affinity with the 17th century minstrels,” says Joshua

How prominent in the set list will be songs from the new album?

“We’ll be opening the set with some favourites from Flowers Where The Horses Sleep. There’s also a handful of new songs we’ve been desperate to share with an audience: lots more stories and characters. Some of them are so new, it’ll be my first time hearing them live as well as the audience’s. I can’t wait!”

What do you most enjoy when performing as a duo rather than with your band?

“The first thought that comes to mind is that there’s less gear to carry. And now the commute consists of along the landing and down our staircase, it really is a dream. 

“Especially for this show, I have acquired a piano,” says Joshua

“On a slightly more sensible front, it’s a completely different show, so that brings different styles and genres and arrangements to the table. When we approach material that we usually play with the band, it’s good fun finding stripped-back arrangements that work for us, as opposed to just playing them without the other instruments.”

Do you have any other shows in the pipeline?

“Nothing else online planned yet, but there’s a whole album-launch tour that’s been waiting to go for a while. It was meant for this autumn but has been postponed to next spring. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with the ol’ Covid.

“For the first time, I’ve had a real affinity with the 17th century minstrels. Just imagine what it must have been like trying to rearrange a tour in the middle of the bubonic plague!”