After the achingly long period of lockdown, the time had finally arrived. We were going back out to headline a full gig at a real folk club with real people in it. We’d had a couple of festival appearances in the interim but this was our first folk club gig since late 2019. So, it was a great comfort to know we were playing the Watford Folk Club. Watford was one of the first folk clubs to welcome Na-Mara as a headline guest and it has been unstinting in its support of our music for over a decade.
We’ve always been pretty disciplined with rehearsal and that is never going to change. So, over and above rehearsing on our own, Rob and I had managed to get together a reasonable number of times once restrictions had eased, to work up some new material as well as polish up some of our old favourites.
Perhaps traffic levels are still a little reduced post-lockdown, but we seemed to travel the dozen or so miles to Watford’s home venue, The Pump House, in very quick time, without encountering much by the way of the usual mayhem that is the Watford inner ring road. Indeed, so much so that we arrived at the club a few minutes ahead of even the organisers.
A few minutes later Pete Nutkin pulled into the car park and it was great to see him again after such a long hiatus. He welcomed us very warmly back to the club, which was greatly appreciated. So, together, with help from our great friend and supporter, Dave Berry, we carried the gear in and began setting up. A few minutes later we were delighted to see fellow organiser Carrie Wright arrive. We hadn’t seen Carrie for many years and it was lovely to catch up with all her news.
In the following hour up to the start of the evening, more friends began to arrive, some closely linked to the club like Dave Artus and Nigel Moorcroft and some newcomers to the club like Rob’s friends from Phoenix Mandolins, the mandolin orchestra he is now enjoying performing with.
Pete Nutkin kicked the musical part of evening off and we were treated to some great music from him, Dave, Nigel, Carrie and a regular performer at Redbourn Folk Club, Simon.
We then took to the stage. Our new set is pretty upbeat and we started with Irish favourite ‘P Stands for Paddy’. The audience immediately showed their willingness to sing along. Other introductions into the first set were a couple of new songs with me on the tenor guitar (a tenor built by luthier Paul Hathaway, tuned ADAD). The first is a song about the role of London in global money laundering called ‘Pirates Dressed in Pinstripes’, the second a Canadian version of the traditional English song ‘Nancy from London’. Rob has composed great accompaniments for both of them.
I’m pleased to say that a lot of people came up at half time to introduce themselves and talk about the songs. CD sales were encouragingly brisk.
The second half followed a similar format to the first except with the floor singers performing in reverse order. Again, we were treated to a further excellent array of self penned and traditional songs.
Again, we opened with a new song for Na-Mara, the Irish traditional classic , ‘When I was a Fair Maid’. I’ve been spending some time over lockdown following the excellent DADGAD Course and You Tube videos of Aodán Coyne (check them out!) and this was my chance to put some left hand development learning into action – and it went well. It allowed Rob and me to do a nice instrumental duet together . Later in the set, we did something similar with the beautiful Irish song, ‘Verdant Braes of Screen’ – essentially a kissing cousin to ‘P Stands for Paddy’ in terms of its story but with a vastly different take and feel.
The evening drew to a close around 11.00pm and we were thrilled to receive kind words from Pete Nutkin as he wrapped the evening up before asking us for an encore, which we were obviously happy to provide. After that, a goodly number of audience members were kind enough to come up and thank us for a lovely evening. If we had had any concerns about being potentially rusty after a near two year gap, this feedback (and the absence of any unintended jazz intrusions into our performance) dispelled them.
After that, it was time to pack up. Ever willing, Dave helped Carrie and Pete tidy away. After saying our goodbyes, the trip home was uneventful – what no road closures! – and we were home before midnight. It had been a truly cracking evening.
Many thanks to Pete, Carrie, Cynthia and others for all their hard work in getting the Watford Folk Club back up on its feet. Also for their invitation to Na-Mara to perform, their continuing support for our music and for their warm welcome last night. All were very much appreciated.