VETERAN troubadour Michael Chapman has recorded a special concert during Lockdown 2 at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, to be streamed online on Sunday (29/11/2020) at 7pm.
Filmed on November 12, the Ancient & Modern recording represents a look-back over the long and illustrious career of the 79-year-old Leeds singer, songwriter and guitarist, who combines classics and newer compositions in a concert also featuring a support slot and interview by close friend and mentee Katie Spencer.
Sunday’s event marks a first venture into streamed concerts by the York community venue The Crescent and promoters Please Please You and Ouroboros, alias Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai.
“This is new terrain for us, but we are big believers in Michael and his music, and it’s an honour to present him during these times and at this point in his career” says Boparai. “Michael is a unique musician with more than 50 years of experience, floating between Americana, blues and psychedelic folk.”
Boparai was delighted the recording could go ahead despite Lockdown 2 being imposed from November 5. “We were lucky, the lockdown nearly threw everything, but then it emerged under the Government guidance that streaming and rehearsal were permitted as long as everyone involved were ‘professionals’,” he says.
“They still want us to work! I also think, to be fair, they saw the value in allowing culture to continue in an online form.
“Merchant Adventurers’ Hall had a new clerk starting in the week of lockdown, and I remember anxiously waiting for their decision and interpretation of guidance…”.
Good news was forthcoming, whereupon Chapman could head to the hall. Explaining his choice of concert title, he says: “I wanted to call it Ancient & Modern in reference to the hymn books of days gone by and because it reflects the songs I selected to play for this show.”
The title also acknowledges Chapman’s approach and sound. While firmly rooted in traditional folk, blues and Americana, his constant pushing of the envelope has inspired a new generation of artists, such as instrumentalist-turned-singer Steve Gunn, who produced his last two albums for the Paradise Of Bachelors label, 50 and True North, featuring pedal-steel guitarist BJ Cole and singer-songwriter and guitarist Bridget St John.
Gunn says: ‘It’s been an honour to share a stage with Michael, or even just to be in the room when he’s playing. I know so many of his stories and songs by heart now. I cherish them.”’
This continuous evolution of style has garnered a cult following for Chapman, also making him virtually impossible to categorise. While this may sometimes infuriate reviewers and concert bookers alike, it is exactly what keeps his fervent supporters on board and has brought a whole raft of younger appreciators to his music over the past decade.
Chapman’s journey has taken him from the acoustic virtuoso of the early Cornish folk days, typified by his Fully Qualified Survivor album, through to Memphis Soul, courtesy of Stax producer Don Nix, and the album Savage Amusement, dipping into New Age music via Heartbeat, and onwards even to full-on improv for Thurston Moore’s label, Ecstatic Peace.
Moore says: “Michael Chapman, beyond the machinations of the record industry, became the great teacher for all of us guitar playing songwriters coming up in the late-20th century. With an organic mix of passion and remove, he showed that getting lost in the music was a way to find the truth of the heart. No better lesson learned, I’d say.”
After making the acoustic guitar his own, Chapman has been exploring the electric guitar in these latter, mellower years, while still retaining the intensity of his playing and song-writing.
Chapman may be approaching 80 – that landmark will fall on January 24 2021 – but it will not diminish his need to move the music forward, dip into the past and embrace the present with as much enthusiasm and fervour as a man at his stage in life can muster.
“Michael’s online concert will be available for ticket holders to watch as many times as they like for up to three days from the time of broadcast, and you can watch on computers, phones or through smart TVs and Chromecasts,” says Boparai.
Tickets cost £10 or you can choose to pay £15 to further support Michael Chapman and the freelance production crew during these difficult times.
For the last word on Chapman’s lasting impact, here is Rockford, Illinois guitarist, singer and songwriter Ryley Walker: “One of my greatest influences in life. Taught me to play guitar better, act like a professional, and always demand the cash at the end of the night. 80 years and just getting started. A true honour and privilege to call Michael a friend and mentor. MC shows love and truth in every tune. Guitar king and living legend Michael Chapman!”