Heather Findlay at the double for Christmas at NCEM and in York library

Shining light: Heather Findlay in angelic pose for her Christmas show

HEATHER Findlay will play York concerts on successive nights this week, the first with Friends in her Christmas Show at the National Centre for Early Music on Friday.

The next night, the York singer joins fellow composer Simon Snaize for a “pre-Christmas solstice spectacular” in the last of four concerts in the inaugural Live In Libraries York season in York Explore’s wood-panelled Marriot Room.

“I love making my Christmas show really magical, nostalgic and unique,” says Heather. “So, there’s a slightly different line-up, with Sarah Dean joining us on harp and special guest Annie Donaghy on vocals, and a couple of unannounced guests too.”

On Saturday, Findlay accompanies Snaize as he showcases his new album, A Song Of Bones, and his 2012 recording The Structure Of Recollection, in an intimate performance to a capacity audience of 50. CDs of the new record will be on sale on the night before the official release in January.

Wrapping up for winter: Heather Findlay heads to the NCEM for her Christmas show

Heather Findlay and Friends’ Christmas Show, plus Annie Donaghy, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, Friday, 8pm; Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize, Live In Libraries York, York Explore, Saturday, doors 7pm. Box office: NCEM, 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk; Live in Libraries, exploreyork.eventbrite.co.uk

WHISPER it abroad, the inaugural Live In Libraries York season of intimate concerts in York Explore Library and Archive’s Marriott Room, in Library Square, concludes this weekend.

East Yorkshire folk-Americana singer-songwriter Edwina Hayes was first up in September, followed by hotly tipped York band Bonneville And The Bailers on October 25; Bradford songwriter Bella Gaffney on November 21, and Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize in a rare duo gig on Saturday.

The season has been curated by York busker David Ward Maclean in tandem with Dave Fleming, Explore York’s inclusive arts and media co-ordinator.

Simon Snaize and Heather Findlay: performing in a rare duo format at York Explore

Here Charles Hutchinson puts questions to David and Dave.

What prompted you to set up this series of concerts and how long has it taken to arrange the season, David? 

“It started from a chat with York Explore manager Barbara Swinn and Explore York’s Dave Fleming about the feasibility of the Marriott Room as a regular venue. Although we settled on a short series of just four concerts, it’s still taken a while to work out the logistics of both the requirements for staging the events and York Explore’s very busy timetable as a working library.”

How did Live In Libraries York come to fruition, Dave?

“Barbara and I thought it was a great idea to approach David to help curate, advise and develop the concept and the season of concerts.

“I’ve known Dave for years, both on the music scene and working together many years ago when I worked for City of York Council’s Arts & Culture service as community arts officer and working as part of the Illuminating York team.

“I coordinated a series of live short cultural performances in some of the city-centre churches called Inspire York and Dave created a soundscape in one of the churches. Barbara came across Dave performing in York and was captivated by him, so I suggested a chat and for Dave to check out the space and see what he thought.It’s fair to say he was blown away by its potential for live intimate performances.”

Bonnie Milnes of Bonneville And The Bailers, who played Live In Libraries York in October

What attracted you the Marriott Room, David?

“The first thing that struck me was the sound: astonishingly clear acoustics, requiring no more than the minimum amplification, if any. That’s probably down to the wood panelling and the wooden floor, combined with a fairly high ceiling.

“Also, due to its location at the rear of the library, it’s a very quiet location, making it the perfect small listening venue. We’ve limited seating to about 50, so that there’s plenty of room, and that also makes for a great intimate atmosphere. It looks gorgeous too.

“There are very good Green Room facilities behind the Marriott Room, and the performer accesses the venue from a different door, which I always think enhances an event. Everything I’ve ever looked for in a small venue. I’m hoping to book in myself next year sometime.”

What are the Marriott Room’s attributes as a concert setting, Dave?

“There’s nowhere else like it in York! Everyone who has popped down to check out the space wants to perform in the space. The interest has taken us by surprise. 

“We did a test concert a few months back with two internationally renowned harpists. It was sold out and both the performers and audience were captivated by the experience and were so impressed with the space.

“We dress the space beautifully and it will make you re-imagine what libraries can offer.”

What does a library setting bring to live music, David? After all, libraries are associated with hush, contemplation, study and solo concentration!

“I definitely think that when you walk in, the beautiful main entrance to the library instils a certain focus, ideal for listening events. I think we’re going for communication and attentiveness, rather than heads bowed in reverence.”

When curating the acts for these performances, how and why did you choose each one and what have they each brought to Live In Libraries York, David?

“When I was first asked for acts, Edwina Hayes was an instant choice. She’s incredible, a world-class act and a big favourite in York, and I’m so pleased she started the series.

“I also wanted to get two local organisations involved – Dan Webster of Green Chili Promotions and Dave Greenbrown from Young Thugs Records – and they put forward two fantastic up-and-coming York artists, Bella Gaffney and Bonneville And The Wailers.

David Ward Maclean: Curator of the Live In Libraries York season

“I’d always wanted to hear Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize as a duo again after they bowled me over with a set some years back. It’s an extraordinary sound, they truly complement each other and I’m so happy to finish the season on a high with them, on Winter Solstice no less!”

As a musician yourself, David, what makes for your perfect gig setting? 

“This one.”

What sort of contrasting places have you played in your long career? 

“Pretty much everything, from Sheffield City Hall to playing for a couple in their home while they had dinner. Probably the strangest was back in 1984, hitchhiking to Bremen, playing for some German policemen in a motorway service station to prove I was on my way to play some concerts. I passed the audition.”

Would you like to see a further season of such shows taking place in the Marrott Room, David? Or is this a special one-off?

“I would love to see more concerts here in the future.”

What would be your ideal song for a library setting, David?

“(What A) Wonderful World by Sam Cooke.”

How about yours, Dave?

“My word, this is a tricky one to answer! Struggling to think of one because there are so many. So, I’m going to say one of David Ward Maclean’s original songs as he is such a brilliant songwriter and local legend. Oh, and he sounds incredible in the Marriott Room!”

Charles Hutchinson