Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fleece Jazz, Crazy Coqs, Easter, The Verb and April's end

The month began with a gig at Fleece Jazz which was recorded for BBC Radio Suffolk, so Hard Rain was rendered live with Dudley Phillips on bass and Simon on the upright joanna there in Stoke by Nayland Golf and Spa hotel which is where the gig is held. We were in a sort of ballroom with a view across a paved patio over the links. Is it only me thats amused by people driving around an area that even my mum with a sore foot could walk around? I thought the entire purpose of golf was the walking and so on. Clearly I know nothing about golf. And everything I do know I know from Larry David, so obviously, its not much at all. The gig was magic, however, and the drive there its usual vile friday afternoon Dartford Crossing Tunnel nightmare. Nightmare at Dartford Tunnel. Its right there. Driving back under a waxing moon was beautiful, with the scent of blossom in the night air. No owls though. Always a disappointment.

Then there was a slight sojourn in Stockport which involved driving across The Forest of Bowland, which is a high moor to the right of the M6 as you drive north with the Lake District to your left. Few people bother with this bit of the country and it really came to some sort of notice through the first series of The Trip, as Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden talked and ate their way across it, on camera. Its a beautiful and curiously remote spot and we managed to cross the moor on the single track road meeting maybe 6 other cars in the entire journey. From the top you can see the North Yorkshire Dales and the mountains of the Lake District and out over to Morecambe Bay and Lancashire. Devastatingly beautiful if, like me, your thing is barren treeless places with a lot of wind and space and not much else.

from the top of the Forest of Bowland looking north to Yorkshire

Mum took this, I'm in my element on the moors. 

On arriving back in London I went to Crazy Coqs to see Ann Hampton Calloway with my mate Claire Martin. Ann was backstage and we popped in to do "darling have a fab show" and she said "shall I get you two up for the improvised song?" and we said "uh oh" and went out to watch the show.

Ann Hampton Calloway and I being lovies.

Ann was brilliant, she played A Case of You and had both of us blubbing within minutes. Seconds, actually. So with tear streaked faces we took to the stage when she called us up and together we improvised a song made up from stuff our lovely audience chucked at us. Ann's a dab hand at this, Claire acquitted herself well, and someone kindly filmed the entire thing from the perspective of my backside. Its here….

We were Divas and I sand possibly the highest notes I've managed for many a moon. I may be turning into an opera diva………I'd be perfectly happy to do the Opera House Covent Garden - there's a hint out there - right there……

Then it was Easter and I walked out all over Kingston and Richmond Park with Sue Hart and Jane Pettingell, in a blustery sunshiny day. Isabella Plantation was packed with blossoming azaleas and lilac and wisteria and camellias - extraordinarily beautiful, it was like being in Japan - those glorious Japanese gardens - peaceful and contemplative.

flowers a go go at Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

The Still Pond at Isabella Plantation

Blossom reflected in the Still Pond at Isabella Plantation

And from there to the cinema with Ernest to see We Are The Best and Locke. Both were worth the afternoon and the tenner in the Gate at Notting Hill, on a cold, wet Easter Sunday.

And then to Manchester to record The Verb with Ian McMillan at the helm and John Carey, Maria Hyland and Ross Sutherland as the other guests. Ross cracked us up with his poem, and I sang Who By Fire and tiny bots of Blowing in the Wind and Sara. Its on inlayer for a week, maybe more, here -

So we come to the end of April, and the first third of the year is gone, and I don't know where or how. The Making of Hard Rain video is picking up hits and I'm hoping Matt Lynch and I can make another this coming month - watch this space……meanwhile, in case you haven't seen it yet -

Till we speak again, gather ye blossoms where ye may……happy spring!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Hard Rain hard road Chester Corby Totnes and more…..

Its been a wild time of travel, workshops and travel, joy and reviews and blog writing and all sorts. I don't mind any of it as the blossom's coming and spring is here and I mediate on life and the universe as my birthday - gasp - approaches - and so much is happening and so many wonderful people pop in and out. Tonight as a for example, the fabulous Gary Williams dropped by for wine and chat and catchup and as always, he was inspiring. Last night I was with Sally my old friend from Stockport and her husband Massimo in South Brent, eating toast at midnight on the edge of the moor and hearing about Simon's annual vegan egg eating departure, last weekend it was Corby…..but lets start at the end with blossom from South Brent this morning.
South Brent on a soft rainy morning

Two pinks together, magnolia and something else. Note to self - listen to Gardener's Question Time more often.  I parked just opposite them last night without even noticing they were there under that sliver of a moon after the show in South Devon Arts Centre. We had all eaten at the Riverside Bistro in Totnes. Here's Sally, Massimo and Simon, just before the dinner arrived.
Sally, Massimo and Simon Wallace
Beside the Riverside Bistro at dusk…...
Last weekend saw the first stage of our big Made in Corby session of Deep Roots Tall Trees with the Royal Philharmonic musicians and team with James Redwood. We worked on songs we've been crafting for the last two years and also, very recently, with musicians from Corby and the orchestra, and tried new structures and choral parts. Gareth Fuller was with us, too. We had a total ball, and lunchtimes were a treat with home made soup from Kate Dyer and cakes made by Anne in the breaks. Good food and new music. Couldn't be/have been, better. (Thanks to Lola, Carol and Deep Roots for the photos)
working in Corby

I had, in between all of that, written a blog of High Fifty, about my trip to Blackpool to see Bob Dylan last November with my mum. That's here -

There have been a ton of recent reviews which are all on the website or on the Facebook pages - here

and now its time to catch up on some sleep before the show in North London tomorrow. Chester, Corby, Devon and North London……we get around……The Beach Boys - always joy……….till next week…….lets get around……..

Sheila on the keyboard James conveying harmony