BBC Radio Shropshire and Music at St Leonard’s, Yarpole, Friday 5th May 2017

Following Na-Mara’s successful participation in the Bromyard Folk Festival last year, we were approached by a friend of a friend, the organiser of a series of concerts in the village of Yarpole (Music at St Leonard’s), to perform one of the concerts in the current series. This is something we were naturally delighted to do.

Knowing that we were going to be in Herefordshire in early May, we then contacted Genevieve Tudor who had invited us to perform at last year’s Festival at the Edge in Much Wenlock and who broadcasts the excellent Sunday folk programme on BBC Radio Shropshire to see if she was interested in us participating in her show given that we would be in the vicinity. To our delight, she said she was interested.

So, last Friday, we set out on a bright sunny morning to get ourselves over to BBC Radio Shropshire studio in Shrewsbury to perform for, and be interviewed by, Genevieve, before moving on south to Yarpole for our evening concert in Yarpole.

The journey west was mercifully uneventful and we arrived in good time at the BBC studio in Shrewsbury where Genevieve was working on aspects of her forthcoming Sunday broadcast. We were warmly welcomed by her and a number of her very friendly colleagues at the station and soon had a much needed cuppa in our hands.

Pretty immediately we were then invited to perform an impromptu number for the current ‘drive-time’ programme and moved quickly into the relevant studio and within a minute or so were performing live – great fun!. I hope the late afternoon commuters enjoyed our newly translated song , If I Had But One True Love, and it wasn’t too much of a shock following on as it did from Gladys Knight and the Pips. Certainly, the very friendly producers of the drive-time programme seemed delighted with what we did.

We then sat down with Genevieve in her studio and talked with her about our music, interspersing chat with live versions of our songs Only For Three Months and Black Widows. With this May being the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of the Basque Children from Bilbao, Only For Three Months was an obvious song for us to perform.

Stopping then only for a few photos with the great lady, we got back in the car and set off on the short journey to Yarpole for the evening concert.

We arrived in Yarpole in good time and our first question was whether or not to use the p.a. system for the gig. As we arrived, the concert organiser Rose Jenkins also arrived and between us we decided that the acoustics in the truly gorgeous church of St Leonard’s were such that a p.a. system was surplus to requirements and that it would be a far more intimate evening if we performed without it.

This made the evening set up a lot easier. We knew from ticket pre-sales that we had a guaranteed good attendance coming along for the show and, with that in mind, we set the stage up and did some preliminary tuning of the instruments before going off to have some food.

Rob and I are blessed with great friends in the village of Yarpole, Adam and Hetty. This is a friendship rooted in my days at university. Knowing that we were performing that evening, they had organised for another half dozen friends from the old days to come along to the concert and stay for the weekend. To facilitate this they had rented a nearby converted barn that slept ten or more people and furbished it with food and drinks for the weekend. So, it was a delight for Rob and I and my wife Gill who was travelling with us to be reunited with such longstanding friends.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat before returning to the church for final preparations for the concert. When we got there, the venue was already filling up rapidly. By the appointed time, the seats were all filled.

There was no support act for the evening so, after some kind words from Rose, we went onto the stage to perform our first set.

This was an ideal audience for us. They were attentive to and appreciative of the songs and, although most were not regular followers of folk, seemed more than willing to get into the swing of the choruses. It was also lovely to see so many of my old university pals sitting in the audience - most of whom hadn’t heard me play since hearing my ‘moon-in-June’ love songs at a student’s union ball decades before.

If I say so myself, the concert went wonderfully well. We enjoyed ourselves and it was clear from the comments afterwards and the excellent CD sales, that the audience had enjoyed it too. We were invited to talk about the instruments we play and we finished with robust calls for an encore and we willingly obliged. Rose then finished off the evening with some more kind words.

With no p.a. and lots of willing helpers, we were able to pack up quite quickly after spending some time chatting with audience members. Poor Rob had to get back to St Albans that night but my wife and I were able to stay on for that and the following night. We had great walks, great weather, great food, great accommodation and a chance to catch up with close friends – the weekend could not have been better. It was also nice to meet villagers again the following day and to receive their continuing excellent feedback about the Friday night event.

Many thanks to Rose Jenkins for the invitation to participate in the Music at St Leonard’s concert series, and to Hetty and Adam for their unbounded hospitality. It was truly a weekend to remember.
Many thanks also to Genevieve Tudor for the invitation to join her on her show. If you haven’t listened to Genevieve’s Sunday Folk programme, check it out. She has both an encyclopaedic knowledge of, and excellent taste, in folk music and this is evident every week in what she puts on her playlist. We are not yet sure when exactly our interview will be broadcast but expect it to be in the next few weeks. Have a listen!