Friday, 30 August 2013

Jeanie Barton and the BoHop Trio - Music in the Square - 24 Aug 2013

Jazz singer Jeanie Barton closed this years` batch of Music in the Square events with an inspiring set of jazz standards, including Fly Me to the Moon, The Sunny Side of the Street and Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

 Jeanie is not someone intent on combining different influences or particularly putting forward her own interpretation of songs. She lets the songs speak for themselves and the strength of her set lay in her voice and phrasing, her choice of songs, and in the arrangements.

I tend to favour something a bit more eclectic myself, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the two sets she played and indeed self and family considered re-arranging our weekend to see her perform in Nottingham the following day.

Sadly, that was not to be, but I gather there will be a number of other opportunities to see her locally in the near future.

Credit for the excellence of the performance has, of course, to be shared with her backing group for the occasion, The BoHop Trio (sometimes known as the BoHop Rhythm Section) who performed splendidly throughout.

If there was one moment that stood out for me, it was the soaring notes at the end of Fly Me to the Moon. It was a surprise to me that anyone can sing like that before 11.00 in the morning ! 

That will do for now I think, but here are a few links you might like ;

Friday, 16 August 2013

Rock Around the Clock - Music in the Square - 10 August 2013

Rock Around the Clock were something of a contrast with the days` other act, The World Groove Orchestra.

RATC, as we shall call them, play rock `n` roll. Often when musicians make this claim, what they actually deliver is pub rock, punk rock, heavy rock or some other variety of rock, but not often actual rock `n` roll. To their great credit, RATC do exactly what they claim to do, they play rock `n` roll.

Their set opened with a cover of Shake, Rattle and Roll, presumably inspired by the Bill Haley and the Comets version as it had different lyrics to the Big Joe Turner original. Still, it was a pretty creditable introduction to the band, though it faded into insignificance compared to their next tune, which I think was called Everybody Rock.

That pretty much set the tone for their set, which mostly comprised of covers of `50s r `n` r tunes. A purist might bemoan the inclusion of lightweight numbers like See You Later, Alligator or the fact that more obscure `50s tunes were noticeable by their absence. I myself was not concerned by those things at all (though I wouldn`t have minded a couple of Johnny Carroll tunes !).

At the end of the day, there`s not too much to say. They do not perform slavish copies of the tunes they cover, but they do perform them with an authentic feel and maybe that`s more important. They don`t mind taking on a challenge, as illustrated by their version of Mystery Train, a song which often defeats bands who give it a whirl. I`m not suggesting the RATC version was comparable with either Junior Parkers` original or Elvis` cover, but it was pretty solid.

There came a point where the bassist swapped his stand-up bass for an electric one and they did four sixties tunes. For me personally, I wasn`t wild about their choices, but there again I am probably the only person in the whole world who dislikes Please, Mr Postman, so my opinion in these matters may not be all that important.  I did like their version of Twist and Shout, but not as much as I liked their version of a `60s surf guitar tune (Wipe Out if I remember correctly) which came later in the set.

Most of the members of this band are young (one has only just left school), but to my mind they could appear on a bill with more seasoned local rock `n` rollers like The Memphis Riders without any problem at all.

On the web ;

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

World Groove Orchestra - Music in the Square - Saturday 10 August 2013

Most bands in Beestons` annual `Music in the Square` season go on stage at 10.30, so I was surprised on arriving late to find WGO were still doing their soundcheck.

The band are a studious-looking bunch, probably more familiar with Penguin paperbacks than with the lifestyle of the late Johnny Thunders, but as they plinked, plonked, plugged and unplugged, I wondered if any of them had within them an inner rock star, seething with impatience and filled with an unquenchable desire to strike an impressive power chord and shout "Kick out the jams, brothers and sisters !" *

Apparently this was not the case, but eventually our grooving internationalists began their set and I have to say it was well worth the wait.

Starting with an impressive version of  `Summertime`, they moved on to an equally fine `Feeling Good` before changing tack altogether and performing an instrumental combining an anthemic keyboard part with fast, light drumming and percussion of a style that I believe is popular with the young folk at present.

You might think that this would be inaccessible to the average passer-by, but idle curiosity impelled me to watch peoples` reactions, and in fact it was this third tune that stopped the shoppers in their tracks and by my reckoning held the admiring attention of an audience ranging in age from under 5 to over 70.

Following on from this was a version of `Take Five`  which made effective use of Indian-style drumming, more instrumentals and, ending the first set, a cover of `Valerie`.

The second set was broadly similar except that the band displayed a penchant for covering familar songs (`I Got You, I Feel Good`  and `Johnnny B Goode`) in an unfamiliar fashion. This can be a high-risk strategy - a friend of mine once attempted something of the sort with a particular song only to have at least one member of his audience assume he didn`t know how to play it right ! However, it seemed to work OK for the WGO.

It`s not always wise to go in for too many comparisons, but I would say the singer reminded me at times of Hugh Laurie, particularly on the first two numbers. Many of the instrumentals reminded me of bands associated with Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman - whether they are in fact they are an influence on the WGO or it just happened that way is unknown to me.

In my personal opinion,  when bands attempt to combine disparate influences it`s usually a  waste of time and only rarely does it work particularly well. WGO, I`m happy to say, are the exception rather than the rule - they engage the head and the heart, set the toes tapping and what they might do to other parts of your anatomy one hardly likes to imagine !

Seriously, they are great, and if I wasn`t already married I would consider having a wedding just so that I could book them to play at the party. If you`re at all musically adventurous in your tastes, go and see them, you won`t regret it.

On the web ;

*A phrase once used by a member of  `60s band the MC5 if memory serves me right.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

This Month`s Good Cause - The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Time to turn our attention to my ongoing `This Month`s Good Cause` project.

As seasoned followers of this blog will know, the idea is that each month I highlight something I personally regard as being a good cause that others may wish to support.

My plan is that over a period of time I will strike a balance between local, national and international initiatives, though it remains to be seen how practical that is !

Anyway, this month, I want to highlight the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The CWGC, which exists to commemorate the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars, was the brainchild of Major General (later Sir) Fabian Ware (1869 - 1949).

During World War One, Ware was Commander of a Red Cross ambulance unit. He was disturbed by the level of casualties and was troubled by the fact that there was no system in place for marking and recording the graves of those killed (in those days, there was no facility for the bodies of the fallen to be brought home*).

His unit began the work of recording the location of graves and it was decided that they should be transferred to the Army and be given a new title, the Graves Registration Commission (later to become the Imperial War Graves Commission and then the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). The CWGC is now part of the Commonwealth Secretariat

Ware was keen to foster a spirit of co-operation between the nations of what was then the Empire and in that respect we should remember that there was no conscription in the Commonwealth - the Empire/Commonwealth forces were all volunteers (this holds true for both World Wars).

That`s enough history, so lets` turn our attention to the CWGCs` current activities. Their current newsletter is so comprehensive that I can`t possibly do justice to it in its` entirety, but I will just highlight a few items ;

* As we approach 2014, preparations are underway to mark to Centenary of World War One. I will return to that subject in due course.

* Last month, the CWGC erected headstones to mark the graves of five newly identified Australian soldiers. The graves were rededicated in the presence of their families at Fromelles Military Cemetery on 19 July.

* An interesting feature highlights the fact that 7,900 Commonwealth War Dead from WW2 are buried in Bangladesh and looks at Chittagong 1939 - 1945 War Memorial which commemorates almost 6,500 Indian sailors lost at sea during those years.

Rather than bang on too much, I`ll close by referring you to the CWGC web site for more info - 

* Nick Osmond - `War Memorials` - , 13 June 2012

And also...

If this article was of interest to you, you may also like to see these ;

All Party Parliamentary War Graves Heritage Group -

War Graves Photographic Project -

The Memorial Gates Trust - ( This organisation commemorates "the five million men and women from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to serve with the Armed Forces during the First and second World Wars" and "the contribution that these men and women, and their descendants. members of the Commonwealth family, continue to make to the rich diversity of British society."

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Humanists and Non-Conformists

I once came across someone* who described himself as "a Christian atheist". I was unfamiliar with the term and asked what it meant. He replied that he himself was an atheist but could not deny that (I`ll have to paraphrase from memory) Christian beliefs were at the root of all that is progressive.

At the time I was a bit stumped by this. To take an area I`m familar with, it`s certainly true that many anti-slavery campaigners and others involved in social uplift of one sort or another were motivated by religious beliefs, but it`s equally  true that reactionary elements such as supporters of slavery have a also claimed a Biblical sanction for their actvities.

I suspect my `Christian atheist` acquaintance was actually referring to a more sophisticated argument, whereby it is the values shared by Christians that underlie much that is progressive. That is the view expressed by one Church of England bishop ; 

"The dignity of all human beings is clearly drawn from the Biblical idea that human beings are made in God`s image Or it might be the question of equality, or it might be liberty, freedom of expression."**

Moving on to something more concrete, I thought it might be interesting now to turn to the role of Non-Conformists and other `religious radicals` in British history.

Fortunately, I can be quite lazy about this and simply give you some links to click on ;

After that exhaustive research, it`s time for me to have a cup of tea, but I will close with a couple of general observations.

Human progress is a pernickity pelican and I have little sympathy either for atheists who claim all that is good and progressive comes from the secular tradition or for their religious counterparts who claim the opposite. No creed or doctrine has a monopoly on wisdom and it`s foolish to pretend otherwise.

My own feeling is that Humanists would do well to emulate atheist Robert G Ingersoll, who, I`m told,  was noted for respecting those whose views he did not share, and for advocating alliances with people of faith on matters that were important to him.

* It was horror movie buff Matthew Coniam, who was good enough to send a friendly message after I mentioned an article of his ( see `Vampires Visit Yorkshire Coast`, this blog, 17 May 2012).

** Bishop Michael Nazir Ali - Radio 4 Today programme 6 Nov 2006, as quouted in BHA publication `The Case for Secularism : A Neutral State in an Open Society`.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Summer in Amber Valley

Those nice people at Amber Valley Info have produced a guide to summer holiday activities and events in the area ;

Raphael Achache - Music in the Square 2013 - Sat 3 August 2013

Earlier today I had the great good fortune to catch an appearance by Raphael `Raph` Achache, the first of this years` Music in the Square events.

A talented guitarist with a strong voice and an engaging manner, Raph began his set with jazz standard Ain`t Misbehaving, an excellent song performed excellently, then proceeded to work his way through a set comprised mainly of blues and rock `n` roll tunes. Johnny B Goode, Be Bop A Lula, I Got a Woman, Why Don`t You Do Right, Kansas City (renamed `Beeston City` for the occasion !), Hey Hey, Hit the Road, Jack  and many others were all performed convincingly, as were one or two less well-known to me such as a Lynyrd Skynyrd number which seemed to be called They Call Me the Priest and another by `I don`t know who`  which might be called I`m Gonna Get Arrested.

In case all this bluesiness prove off-putting to those less familiar with the genre, we were also treated to an assortment of  other covers, including Ob La Di Ob La Da, No Woman No Cry, I`m a Believer and Stuck in the Middle With You. Some of these were performed more convincingly than others, I have to say.

There were no displays of virtuosity, but clearly he is a more than capable guitarist and his singing is top notch. I have a suspicion that he may be less engaged with some of the non-blues material he covers, and he might want to watch that audiences don`t pick up on that.

As a purveyor of classic blues, jazz and r `n` r he is on very solid ground and I think he is sensible to reach out to a wider audience as well.

The Music in the Square format does present certain hazards to an unaccompanied acoustic performer. Not far from the stage a stall holder was selling plants and flowers. Part way through Raph`s first set, another man arrived, set up stall nearby and started selling jacket potatoes, and shortly after that, the men came to empty the bins. None of this phased our young bluesologist who swung and strummed in an admirably unconcerned fashion.

I don`t know his musical past or likely future plans. It might be that he would be wise to consider either penning original numbers or collaborating with others. In the meantime, if he only helps to keep this music alive and/or introduce it to a wider audience, that would be a fine thing.

On the web ;