Redbourn Folk Club has always provided great support for Na-Mara and its music and it is a real pleasure to perform there. The venue - a former school room behind a pleasant pub in a small village between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead – somehow lends itself to intimacy. The seats are closely packed together, with full bookshelves and neat little fireplace with mirror above forming the backcloth to the performance area.
Of course, another great advantage for us of Redbourn Folk Club is its proximity, being located on the same side of St Albans as we are. This means we can leave a little later and arrive home a little earlier than any other of our gigs.
So, with rush hour fading, we set off to Redbourn and arrived with ease at the venue around 7.15pm. Club organiser Jenny was just finishing re-arranging the room and it was very nice to catch up with all her news. Soon afterwards fellow club organiser, old friend and MC for the night Malcolm Hobbs arrived. As always, Jenny and Malcolm were wonderfully welcoming and, as we set up and the clock ticked towards 8.00pm, the venue filled pretty much to capacity.
Malcolm kicked the evening off with a couple of songs robustly delivered as always with his powerful voice and bouzouki playing. Malcolm was then followed, first, by an excellent guitar-flute duo (profuse apologies for not catching the performers’ names) and, finally, for the first round of floor singing, we had two lovely songs from Linda Birmingham.
Our first set went very well and, with the help of the floor singers, the audience was well primed to sing along - which they did with gusto.
At the first break, we had both kind words regarding our first set and, for me, two lovely surprises. First, a man of a similar age to me approached and asked if I remembered him childhood days in Middlesbrough (my hometown). As I attempted to roll back the years, he kindly prompted me, informing me that he was the brother of my first ever girlfriend nearly fifty (did I just type that…) years ago. I was absolutely delighted to see him again and to find out what he and his sister were now doing and to know they were enjoying life. Girlfriends’ brothers can be a bit prickly towards their sister’s boyfriends, but that was not my experience. I had the fondest memories of him and, like his sister, knew him also to be an excellent musician and singer.
Then, as we talked, another man around my age approached and introduced himself in much the same way, ‘did I remember him?’ - and it was someone I had worked with around ten years earlier and, yes, I remembered him well. We’d always had a good working relationship dealing with some common issues and it was lovely to see him again, too.
And then it was back to the music.
The second half was kicked off with a great couple of thought-provoking self-compositions about the attractions and dangers of the new online technologies from Kimpton-based singer, Steve Warner, whom I had first seen as a very good tenor guitar player at Watford Folk Club. Steve was then encouraged to do a third song and, albeit on a lighter subject note, it proved yet another excellent toe-tapper. The guitar-flute duo then performed a very funny song about the inhabitants of Whipsnade Zoo and, finally, to my utter delight, Malcolm Hobbs returned to the stage to perform what I consider to be the best rendition I’ve ever heard of Graham Moore’s great song, ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’.
I’m pleased to say the second set went equally well as the first for us and we finished with ‘Maid of Culmore’ as our requested encore. I guess when someone then comes up and buys five CDs in one go, you must be doing something right. Doubly so when you find out that the buyer had been recommended to come along by someone who’d seen us perform in September in Glossop on our little northern mini-tour.
As we packed up the gear as we chatted to club members and organisers, the club room slowly emptied. It had been a cracking evening all ways round. In time, we said our goodbyes to Malcolm and Jenny and, fifteen minutes later, I’m home lifting a beer out of the fridge.
Many thanks to Jenny and Malcolm for the invitation to perform again at Redbourn and we very much look forward to making our return to the club in the not too distant future.