KATE Rusby At Christmas, the Barnsley folk nightingale’s alternative carol concert season with her folk band and The Brass Boys, is in York Barbican’s 2022 diary for December 18.
As ever, Kate will be rounding off her year with a Christmas tour full of warmth, sparkle, South Yorkshire carols, festive winter songs and the now obligatory fancy-dress finale.
Kate’s Christmas concerts draw on the 200-year-old tradition of carols being sung on Sunday lunchtimes in the crowded pubs of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire from late-November to New Year’s Day.
As a child, while her parents sang, Kate would sit in the corner, absorbing these songs as they were belted out, each one a variation on a familiar carol but frowned on by the church in Victorian times for being too happy.
Kate’s Christmas concerts are full of festive good cheer, humour and storytelling, each auditorium becoming the equivalent of her local pub or front room. Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk and ticketmaster.co.uk.
This week, Kate will be headlining the Saturday bill at Underneath The Stars, the folk, indie, Americana, ska, soul and world music festival she founded, at Cinderhill Farm, Cawthorne, near Barnsley.
The event runs from Friday to Sunday, featuring headliner Imelda May; This Is The Kit; Ripon singer-songwriter Billie Marten; Davina & The Vagabonds; Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys; The Trials Of Cato; N’famady Kouyaté and Stone Jets on the opening day.
Saturday’s acts will be Kate Rusby; The Big Moon; An Audience With Adrian Edmondson; Penguin Café; The Brighouse & Rastrick Band; The Haggis Horns; The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican; Will Varley; Kinnaris Quintet; Trousdale and Flatcap Carnival.
Sunday’s headline act, Suzanne Vega, will be preceded by An Audience With Jason Manford; The Young’uns; Lanterns On The Lake; Dustbowl Revival; Tankus The Henge; Hannah Williams & The Affirmations, Damien O’Kane & Ron Block; Intergalactic Brasstronauts; Azure Ryder and Iona Lane. For tickets, head to: underneaththestarsfest.co.uk/tickets/.
This year, 48-year-old Kate marked her 30th anniversary of performing concerts by releasing the album 30: Happy Returns in May on her own family-run Pure Records label.
It was in 1992 that she stood, “close to alimentary havoc”, at Holmfirth Festival clutching a red Guild guitar borrowed from family friend and playwright Willy Russell to play her first “proper gig” at 18.
Five minutes after she had finished that set and sworn “never again”, Alan Bearman booked her for Sidmouth Festival. Thank goodness for Alan!
She has since released 19 albums, netted a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 1999, received awards and two honorary doctorates and headlined at the Royal Albert Hall, Cambridge Folk Festival and internationally too.
Kate’s music has been used in Ricky Gervais’s Afterlife (series three, Netflix); Ruth Jones’s Stella (Sky 1); the 2002 film Heartlands, starring Michael Sheen (Miramax) and throughout series one and two of Jennifer Saunders’ Jam And Jerusalem (BBC).
“Music has taken me all over the world in those 30 years, where I’ve met the most incredible musicians and singers,” says Kate. “30: Happy Returns is a culmination of those years, the music, the singers, the laughs, the songs, the memories.
“Here I am joined by some of my all-time musical heroes, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Richard Hawley, KT Tunstall, Darlingside, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Sarah Jarosz, Damien O’Kane, Sam Kelly, not to mention the amazing lads in my band.
“I am in awe of their talent and generosity in sharing it and can safely say there are so many ‘dream come true’ moments on this album. By my very nature I’ve never been ambitious, so I am astounded, taking this retrospective look over the years, and feel so blessed to sing with these incredible artists. I am one very happy, happy girl!!”
The 15 songs on 30: Happy Returns span the eight studio albums from Sleepless in 1999 to Philosophers, Poets & Kings in 2019, newly re-crafted by Kate and producer, band leader and husband Damien O’Kane in the aforementioned multitude of guest collaborations, led off by the South Yorkshire/South Africa union with Ladysmith Black Mambazo for We Will Sing.
Richard Hawley rehearsed No Names in the dark in a power cut; Darlingside turn Cruel into a call-and-response song with Kate; K T Tunstall and Kate bring a sisterly strut to Let Me Be.
The sun and the moon go for a coffee together in Kate and Damien’s Hunter Moon, then Beth Nielsen Chapman takes on Damien’s original vocal about embarking on life’s journey hand-in-hand with the right person in Walk The Road.
The CD edition offers a bonus track in Secret Keeper, the commission Kate recorded with the Royal Northern Sinfonia for the Great Exhibition of the North, held in Newcastle and Gateshead in Summer 2018.