Kate Rusby invites you to stay home for online Christmas concert Happy Holly Day

Kate Rusby At Christmas…now Kate Rusby At Christmas At Home for Saturday’s streamed concert, Happy Holly Day. Picture: David LIndsay

KATE Rusby At Christmas, her annual folk-spun South Yorkshire carol-singing service with fairy lights, Ruby the Reindeer, guest Brass Boys and a fancy-dress finale, will not be celebrated at York Barbican on December 20, ruled out by the Covid Grinch.

This rotten year, however, the Barnsley voice of Christmas past, present and yet to come is still determined to bring the joy of her usual Christmas tour to the comfort of tree-lit homes with the special delivery of a full-length concert, streamed worldwide on Saturday (12/12/2020) at 7.30pm GMT.

“Everyone will have a front row seat for Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day,” promises Kate, who has been counting down to her festive stream with a Who’s Behind The Window Today? teaser on a daily virtual Advent Calendar video with musician-husband Damien O’Kane since December 1. In a roasted chesnutshell, tickets are available now at katerusby.com.  

In August, Kate achieved her highest-charting album to date with Hand Me Down, her Lockdown 1-recorded recorded collection of cover versions, from Manic Monday and Friday I’m In Love to Shake It Off and Three Little Birds, all newly embossed with the Rusby folk alchemy.

Debuting in the Official Album Charts at number 12 – number three in the CD album chart and number four in the Independent release chart – Hand Me Down will have a second life on vinyl from January 15 2021. Pre-orders can be made at:  https://purerecords.net/collections/kate-rusby-vinyls

The suitably festive poster for Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day

Come Saturday night, this incurable Christmas reveller, Kate the Holly Head, will cherry pick from her five Yuletide albums, Sweet Bells, While Mortals Sleep, The Frost Is All Over, Angels And Men and last year’s Holly Head, with their double act of Victorian tut-tutted South Yorkshire carols and Rusby winter originals. 

For more than 200 years, from late-November to New Year’s Day, South Yorkshire and North Debyshire communities would congregate on Sunday lunchtimes, in their local public house, to belt out their own versions of familiar carols, an act of appropriation frowned upon by the church in Victorian times for being “too happy”.

Such happiness, nevertheless, will be encouraged to the brim this weekend on Kate’s night of virtual wassailing. For a video trailer of Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myM2ieabVlU

Looking ahead, Kate’s cancelled 2020 York carol concert must now do Covid-enforced cold turkey for a year, re-scheduled for Sunday, December 19 2021. Tickets already bought will transfer to the new date.

That’s Christmas stuffed. Kate Rusby’s carol concert at York Barbican barred by Covid

“The inevitable has happened,” says Kate Rusby, after the Covid Grinch ruled out her Christmas 2020 tour

THIS winter’s Kate Rusby At Christmas show at York Barbican on December 20 must now do Covid-enforced cold turkey for a year

Barnsley folk nightingale Kate’s South Yorkshire carol concert is re-scheduled for Sunday, December 19 2021 and tickets already bought will transfer to the new date.

A note on the Barbican website, not dissimilar to one posted by Kate with festive emojis galore on Twitter, states: “Well, the inevitable has happened, we have had to postpone our December tour until 2021. Stupid Coronavirus!! I hope you can join us then.

“In the meantime, Don’t Worry as we’re going to stream a full-length gig on Saturday 19th December this year, complete with sparkles, Sweet Bells, brass lads, daftness, dressing up, Ruby Reindeer and even an actual interval and everything! I’m looking forward to it sooooo much. Hope you can join us. Onwards and upwards.”

In August, Kate released her 14th album, Hand Me Down, a set of covers such as Manic Monday, Friday I’m In Love and Shake It Off,  completed at her home studio in lockdown with husband producer and musician Damien O’Kane.

Christmas? Yes, Christmas is on its way as Kate Rusby confirms York Barbican concert

Kate Rusby in her Holly Headwear. Picture: David Lindsay

WHAT a relief to be able to mention another C-word in these Coronavirus-clouded times.  Christmas. Kate Rusby at Christmas, to be precise.

Tickets for the Barnsley nightingale’s now traditional York Barbican Christmas concert on December 20 go on sale tomorrow morning (April 10) at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Kate’s sparkling Christmas shows draw on merry Christmas versions of carols, once banned from frowning Victorian churches for being too jolly, that instead found their home in the pubs of South Yorkshire (and North Derbyshire and Cornwall). 

“Christmas songs were seeping into our brains,” says Kate Rusby, recalling her childhood exposure to South Yorkshire ‘pub sings’. Picture: David Angel

For 200 years, those South Yorkshire communities have congregated on Sunday lunchtimes from late-November to belt out, for example, variations on While Shepherds Watched.

“The Christmas side of things began for me in the ‘pub sings’ around South Yorkshire,” Kate told CharlesHutchPress last winter ahead of her York Barbican concert with her regular folk band and “brass boys” quintet on December 18.

“We were taken along as kids; our parents would be in the main room singing away, while us kids were sat with the other kids in the tap room, colouring [pictures] and drinking pop, unaware that the carols and Christmas songs were seeping into our brains!

“I decided anyone who adores Christmas music is called a ‘Holly Head’, ” says Kate Rusby, explaining her album title

“They’re mostly songs thrown out of the churches by the Victorians as they were thought to be far too happy! Ha! Those who loved singing them took them to the pubs, where you could combine a good old sing with beer and a natter, and there the songs have remained and been kept alive, being passed down the generations.”

So much so, Kate has released five albums of carols and original winter songs on her own Pure Records label: 2008’s Sweet Bells, 2011’s While Mortals Sleep, 2015’s The Frost Is All Over, 2017’s Angels And Men and last year’s Holly Head

“Well, I decided anyone who adores Christmas music is called a ‘Holly Head’,” she said, explaining the title. “You know, like car fanatics are petrol heads. I thought it was the perfect title for such people, and I’m a fully paid-up member of the Holly Head club.”

The album artwork for Kate Rusby’s 2019 album, Holly Head

Songs on Holly Head ranged from the Rusby original The Holly King, to a cover of John Rox’s novelty Christmas number Hippo For Christmas, via the carol Salute The Morn, a brace of God’s Own Country variations, Yorkshire Three Ships and Bleak Midwinter (Yorkshire) and Kate’s sixth iteration of While Shepherds Watched.

“There’s over 30 different versions of While Shepherds Watched that get sung in the pubs here in South Yorkshire, so I’ve still got a lot to go at,” said Kate last December. “This one is actually to the tune of a different song that I also love, but I wasn’t that keen on the words, then realised it went with the While Shepherds words, so yey, another has now been invented.” 

Picking the song most significant to her on Holly Head, Kate chose her own composition The Holly King. “It celebrates the more pagan side of Christmas. I wrote it after reading about the winter king, The Holly King, and the summer king, The Ivy King,” she said.

Kate Rusby: Writing for her next Christmas record. Picture: David Angel

“Legend has it that the two met twice a year and had almighty battles. Going into winter, the Holly King would win and reign for the winter months. Then the Ivy King would wake and overthrow the Holly King and reign through the summer months, and on they went in a perfect cycle.

“I just loved the images that it conjured up and a song came flowing out. I gave him a wife, The Queen of Frost, who creeps across the land to be with him for his time. In fact, I’m now writing her song, so she will appear on the next Christmas album, I’m sure.”

May The Queen of Frost glide her icy path to York Barbican come December 20.