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So far Chris Birchall has created 272 blog entries.

Second Singers’ Night of the Year

By |January 15th, 2019|0 Comments

Robin the Busker with Tom Degney

What a great turn-out for our second music night of 2019. Despite the bitter chill outside, no fewer than twenty-one performers played to a room of almost double that number.

There were three making their Ruthin AllStyles debut, namely Deborah Jackson, Mark Holdsworth, and young Helen who duetted with the mandolin-wielding Robin Spreckley. And it was good to see last week’s two ‘new faces’ Victor Pennington and Rachael Stanley returning – maybe to become regulars, who knows?

Mark Holdsworth

Mark, of course, is no stranger to the club although this was his first time at the business end of our microphones.

He is known to many as the man responsible for the Narrowboat Sessions, where musicians board his floating studio to perform songs that are videoed for broadcast via his website and Facebook Group, some of which make their way onto an annual double CD that is sold to raise funds for cancer charities.

Deborah Jackson

He was in good company tonight, with three other canal faring musicians in our midst, namely Neil Martin, Deborah Jackson and Robin the Busker who kicked-off both halves of the evening in typical rousing Robin style.

And there was music aplenty throughout the evening from our merry band of regulars, taking us up to a rather late finish this week with a finale spot by our old friend Canada Phil who, I am pleased to say, we have seen more of this year due to an extended visit to his homeland of North Wales.

Roll Call
Geoff Durno, Bob Neale, Glyn Hudson, Victor Pennington , Joe Lyon, Bob Hall, Robin Spreckley and Helen, Steve Bailey, Jim Cole, Alan Thompson, Robin the Busker, Neil Martin, Deborah Jackson, Chris Birchall, Rachael Stanley, Mark Holdsworth, Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin and Canada Phil.

A Great Start to the New Year

By |January 8th, 2019|0 Comments

Victor Pennington

Sixteen singers sought to secure a super start to 2019.

And with a total attendance of almost double that number, the room provided a warm and welcoming atmosphere for our first Singers’ Night of the year.

In fact, it was a lively atmosphere all round as the big screens in the far bar were showing the Liverpool vs Manchester City match. Our resident football aficionado Joe Lyon kept an eye on the scoreline for us and, being a staunch Evertonian, delighted in reporting that City was one up against Liverpool FC as he came to the mic for his floor spot. He had intended singing the Manchester team’s signature tune “Blue Moon” but Cath Bryan had already sung “Once in a very Blue Moon” and Richard Ruthin’s set had included “Blue Moon Turns to Gold”. Joe concluded that those two song titles summed up the situation nicely and so treated us to a couple of rather tasty John Denver numbers instead.

English Folk, Americana and Welsh Arias
We had some Welsh a cappella from Rhodri Hampson Jones, some tuneful folkiness from Glyn Hudson and a helping of Americana from Tom and Lynda Degney.

Tom’s mandolin and dobro skills were very much in demand during the evening. Amongst others, he had accompanied Penni Neale on “The Green Green Grass of Home” and the beautiful ballad “Hickory Wind”, but not before she, in turn, had provided guitar accompaniment for Bob Hall on “You’ll Never be the Sun” (right).

I dished out some Lennon and some Dylan, then Geoff Durno went all Donovan on us with that legendary Scottish songwriter’s lovely ballad “Colours”.

Wendy and Richard Eastwood got all loved-up, she singing “Only Want to be With You” and he replying with “Can’t Stop Loving You”.

New Faces
The night also played host to two new faces at The Feathers. Rachael Stanley (left) gave us a lovely a cappella version of the Joan Baez song “Lady Mary”, and Victor Pennington accompanied himself on guitar for two folk songs from his Brazilian homeland in the country’s native Portuguese language. We hope these will both come and see us again soon.

Birthday Boy
The finale spot this week fell to birthday boy Neil Martin, (right) who reached his ‘three score years and ten’ on Sunday.

Having earlier treated us to the Don McLean song “And I Love You So” and Paul Simon’s “Duncan”, Neil chose is own beautiful composition “Nothing Stays The Same” to bring what had been a fabulous evening of music to a close. (Click the ► below to hear it)

Nothing Stays The Same – Neil Martin

 

Sea of Heartache – Richard Davies & Tom Degney

 

A Happy and Melodic New Year to you all

By |January 1st, 2019|0 Comments

That was the year that was

Yes, another year is behind us and one that has left the stone walls of The Feathers’ function room reverberating with some mighty fine sounds.

It was Gary Edward Jones who kicked off the first of the year’s six concerts in January with a selection of his beautifully crafted home-grown songs plus a little hint of the Paul Simon material that would form the basis of his highly successful “Something About Simon” show that was launched over two nights to sell-out audiences at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre later in the year.

This was followed in March by the multi-talented Jon Brindley; in April by the exceptionally entertaining Flossie Malavialle and in June by Jimmy Rae and the lovely Sarah Lou who as Tennessee Waltz gave us a fabulous evening of Country and R&B goodness.

In October we played host to Chester singer/songwriter Jon Coley whose mesmerising guitar style wowed us through his own material interspersed with covers of songs by the likes of Guthrie, Paxton and Jansch.

For the final concert of the year, we saw the return of Ruthin AllStyles favourites Welcomme, Finnan and Chrimes who always go down well — even when we don’t have cake! This time though, we had cake aplenty, as the day of the concert coincided with John Finnan’s 80th birthday. Great music from talented multi-instrumentalists who also happen to be three of the nicest blokes in the business.

Showcase
In Addition to the concerts, we enjoyed a number of mini showcase evenings featuring Raphael Callaghan; Fuchsia Jones; Alan Thompson, Linda Thompson and John Evans; and to celebrate Ruthin Festival Week, an evening with The Tom, Dick & Harry Band, Chester & John Bass, Fuchsia, and the S4C Song For Wales winners Ceidwad y Gán.

Singers’ Nights
As good as those ten nights were, there were forty other nights, our regular Singers’ Nights, which serve to demonstrate how much talent there is on the acoustic music scene locally and throughout the region.

For a start, we are so lucky to have an enthusiastic core of regulars and semi-regulars; I’m not even going to begin naming names; you all know who you are and how much your support is appreciated.

These are augmented by a goodly number of occasional and first-time visitors, some of whom travel a fair distance to get to us from all corners of the UK as well as some from the other side of the globe.

There have been several Singer’s Nights where the room has been described as ‘comfortably full’, creating a fabulous atmosphere for audience and performers alike.

On a Sad Note

At The Cross Keys January 2013

Back in October, we were all shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of long-time music club member Neil Wilkinson, who died suddenly following a short illness.

One of his last performances was at the end of July, with fellow band members Llinos Finnie and John Rowell as part of their recently formed band ‘Breeze’. John and Llinos intend to continue as a duo under the same band name and during our November 15th music night, they performed half a dozen of Neil’s favourite songs in his honour.

Looking Forward
We are in the process of finalising the dates for (probably four) 2019 Concert Nights. See the press cutting below, and keep an eye on our What’s On Page. There will no doubt, be a sprinkling of Mini Showcase Nights thrown into the mix as the year progresses.

Meanwhile, the first of our Singers’ Nights is this coming Thursday, January 3rd. We look forward to seeing you from 8.00pm onwards.

The 2018 Christmas Knees-up

By |December 17th, 2018|3 Comments

Is it me, or are the club’s Christmas parties really getting closer together? It hardly seems a year since we were doing this last time!

And what a great evening it was. A full house, touching on the room’s maximum capacity, and with no fewer than twenty-two performers. There were some great covers, some excellent originals and plenty of Christmassy songs during an evening that began with some fine blues from Brian Peters and was brought to a close by the Tom, Dick & Harry band, on stage with a six-strong choir and pretty much the entire room joining in on the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me”.

The Thank-yous…
A huge thank you to Jayne for all her behind-the-scenes work, decorating the room and sourcing and wrapping the mountain of raffle prizes. Also to the owners of The Feathers for donating wine for the raffle and to the bar staff for looking after us. Thanks to Joe Lyon for helping set out the room. A special thank you to Glyn for making that delicious Christmas cake, to Ayşe Aydın for catering a fine selection of sandwiches and to everybody who brought contributions to the buffet table. And finally, to the twenty-two performers who gave it their all and provided a wonderful evening of music and mirth. We’ll see you back at The Feathers for more fabulous music nights, starting on Thursday, January 3rd.

Meanwhile…
A Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to you all.

 

Christmas Roll Call:
Bob Neale, Geoff Hollis, Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard and Wendy Eastwood, Geoff Durno, Joe Lyon, Richard Davies, Harry Robertson, John Bass, Enid Toft, Brian Peters, Rhodri Hampson Jones, Chris Birchall, Canada Phil, Mamma G & Bebop Girls, Glyn Hudson, Penni Neale, and John Williams.

Full Program/Full House

By |December 11th, 2018|1 Comment

Tom, Dick and Harry

I think it would be fair to say we were packed to the rafters on Thursday, being just five short of the function room’s maximum capacity of fifty. No fewer than nineteen of the gathered throng got up to sing or play for us, providing an entertaining an varied evening of music.

Four of those banded together to open the evening in fine style, in the form of the Tom, Dick and Harry band – plus John Bass. “First You Lose Your Rhyming”, they didn’t of course, as they sang the Harvey Andrews song of that name, before going on to sing the Elvis classic “Blue Christmas”.

Skeet Williams

Next up, making a rare appearance at the club was Skeet Williams, demonstrating his superb finger-style on a fine instrumental version of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” followed by an even rarer phenomenon – Skeet singing. He chose the lovely Jeffrey Foucault song “Northbound 35”.

We had a fine selection from the usual suspects: Lynda Degney, Richard Eastwood, Joe Lyon, Glyn Hudson, Penni Neale, Geoff Hollis, Rhodri Hampson Jones and Yours Truly.

No new faces this week but a few that we see only once in a while.

Linda Bostock was the first of these and she sang two Fairport Convention numbers. She and husband Mike hail from Reading and make a point of visiting Ruthin AllStyles during their annual North Wales walking holiday. For Mike’s spot, he chose a couple of Irish folk songs.

Phil Jones, AKA Canada Phil

Canada Phil is another annual visitor, although he’s in the UK for a bit longer this year, so hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of him this time around. Phil sang “Where have all the Flowers Gone” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”.

Robin Spreckley posed the question: “Who Shot the Sheriff”. Then he roped in Brian Peters to accompany him on a lively bluegrass number “Old Jo Clarke”.

And then Brian remained on stage for the finale spot to send us home with mighty fine blues numbers echoing around our heads.

Next Week…
It’s the Christmas Knees-up. Basically, a Singers’ Night with food and silly hats. We have caterers providing sandwiches and mince pies.  It’s just the usual £1.50 admittance. All we ask is that everybody brings a small contribution to the cold finger-buffet table. Nothing that requires heating as there are no cooking facilities.

 

A bit of BeBop down at The Feathers

By |December 4th, 2018|0 Comments

It started with the BeBop. Or to be precise, another fine evening of music started off with a spot of lovely a cappella harmonies from Mamma G and the BeBop Brunettes.

In fact, Angharad, Lyn and Laura opened both halves of an evening in which saw eleven acts, involving fourteen performers, doing two spots each.

Joe Lyon sang about the wind and the rain. The Degneys went all Christmasy with “Mary Did You Know” and Glyn Hudson sang about Time and Donna Donna.

Penni Neal sang an Irish Lullaby and Richard Davies sang about the Hobo’s Lullaby.

I sang some Paul Simon before accompanying Bob Hall on the Shirelles classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”.

Making his debut at Ruthin AllStyles was Chester songster, Keith Pemberton, who served up some pretty fine blues numbers.

Before we knew it, finale time was with us, and it was Peter Hodgson and John Helm who rounded things off with Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl”.

More of the same next Thursday, folks.

A Warm Welcome

By |November 26th, 2018|1 Comment

Because Ruthin AllStyles is a club with hugely popular Singers’ Nights, we tend to limit the number of Guest Nights to just four or five concerts a year, plus a sprinkling of Showcase Spots.

On this basis, we try to ring the changes and will often book new artists who have previously turned up to do a floor spot that resulted in a good reception from our audiences.

On the other hand, there are one or two acts that we are always pleased to welcome back every couple of years or so. One such is the Chester based trio, Welcomme, Finnan and Chrimes.

Thumbs-up from birthday boy John Finnan

And we weren’t disappointed. As always, Frank, Andy and John treated us to a fabulous evening of uplifting entertainment, with musicianship and energy that belies their years. People talk about The Stones being brilliant in the autumn of their music careers. Well, I can tell you, these guys can give them a run for their money …and they look several decades younger than Jagger and co 😉

The most senior member of the band is John Finnan and it turned out that he was celebrating his 80th birthday on the very day of the gig. Pre-warned of this, we had commissioned our in-house pâtissier,  Glynis Hudson, to bake a cake. In the event, John’s wife Margaret had managed to smuggle in a cake too, so our audience on the night were very well catered for, both musically and gastronomically.

John Finnan and Andy Chrimes

The musical side of the menu was diverse and varied, with the three alternating between various guitars, banjos, accordions and the double bass.

They gave us songs from the British and American folk scene, and from the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, with John recounting the time he was at a Chester folk club in the sixties when a young American singer by the name of Paul Simon borrowed John’s guitar for a floor spot and breaking it in the process.

There was even a Merry Hell song in the set as the lads sang Virginia Kettle’s beautiful ballad “Arundale”.

And no Welcomme, Finnan and Chrimes gig would be complete without a bit of Procol Harlum. Andy Chrimes took lead vocals and with both he and Frank Welcomme playing their respective accordions, this version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” really did skip the light fandango and was something to behold.

As is always the case on our concert nights, the support act came in the form of floor spots from some of our regular members.

It was Robin the Busker who got the evening underway, followed by ten others, each contributing a two-song set.

Following a WFC finale comprising a medley of old favourites which saw pretty much everyone in the room joining in, when I hear comments like “wonderful” and “best night ever”, it makes me feel proud of our little club and its enthusiastic members. And it makes all the behind-the-scenes work well worthwhile.

The Floor Singers:
Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin, Geoff Hollis, Geoff Durno, Chris Birchall, Robin the Busker,  Glyn Hudson, Joe Lyon, Peter Leslie and Neil Martin.

 

Seventeen Singers

By |November 20th, 2018|0 Comments

With seventeen performers and more than double that number in the room, it was another fine night of music in the function room at The Feathers.

Joe Lyon got things off to a flying start with a helping of The Searchers and Ray Davies songs. Next up were Richard Eastwood and Alan Thompson, followed by Geoff Durno who demonstrated some interesting ‘half capo’ techniques for alternative tunings for his set that included the Alan Taylor song “Going Home”.

After accompanying Linda, Tom Degney treated us to a tune or two on the new banjo he’d recently finished building.

Robin Spreckley gave a lively and animated performance on his mandolin, in a collaboration with Brian Peters on blues guitar.

Bob Dylan and Steve Earl songs made up Chris Birchall’s set. Then Wendy Eastwood enlisted Richard’s help for some harmonies on the Amy Macdonald song “This Is the Life” (below).

 

Taking us up to the break, John Bass and Llinos Finnie played a set in tribute to their dear friend and fellow band member Neil Wilkinson who sadly passed away earlier this month. They played three of Neil’s favourite songs: “Fields of Gold”, “Love Song” and the John Lennon classic “Imagine”.

Joe opened the second half with Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Dansette Dreams” and Gerry Marsden’s “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”.

Next up was a gentleman who was holidaying in the area, by the name of Kelly (above). He’d come unarmed, so Joe graciously lent him his guitar which he put to good use to perform “The Crow on the Cradle” and “My Old Man’s a Dustman”.

Glyn Hudson sang Donovan’s “Yellow is the Colour”, John Williams gave us an Alan Taylor song “Colour to the Moon”, and Robin the Busker told the tale or “Willie McBride”.

Our own ‘Mr Blues’, Brian Peters, sang the Eric Bibb number, “Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down” followed by “Big Road Blues”.

Penni Neal amused us with “The Same Thing Twice”, and took us right up to finale time with the lovely “Can’t Remember if I Said Goodbye”.

And it was indeed almost time to say goodbye and it was over to Llinos and John Bass who brought the evening to a close with another couple of songs from their ‘Breeze’ repertoire, Mary Black’s “Katy” and the Carpenters classic, “Yesterday Once More”.

Yesterday Once More – Breeze

 

Reminder: Neil Wilkinson’s funeral will take place next Wednesday, November 21st, 110.30am at Pentrebychan Crematorium. His widow, Mary, has asked me to say that any of Neil’s musical friends are welcome to attend the funeral and afterwards at the wake in The Dudley Arms in Llandrillo.

 

Red Hill Revisited

By |November 14th, 2018|2 Comments

We have been enjoying Alan Thompson’s music here at the club for going on four months now. Since he and his sister Linda discovered Ruthin AllStyles, their floor spots have become one of the highlights of our Thursday evening gatherings.

So this week we had a special treat as the pair not only performed a showcase but also brought in John Evans, the third member of their former band Red Hill, to join them on a few of the numbers.

It was a balanced and well thought-out set, comprising covers (did someone mention Ryan Adams? 😉 ) and some of Alan’s beautiful self-penned songs, all graced with some absolutely beautiful harmonies. Their voices really do work well together and their relaxed style makes it look so natural and so easy.

The former Red Hill line-up, Alan Thompson, Linda Thompson and John Evans

It was the second time we have used the new ‘split showcase’ format which seems to be going down well.  Alan and Linda opened the evening with two songs, opened the second half with four, and then did a couple of numbers in the finale, allowing plenty of opportunity for floor spots (in this case from twelve other performers). The overall result was a varied and balanced musical program.

One of those floor singers was their friend and colleague John Evans and it was their turn to back him as he performed one of his own songs just before the finale.

The rest of the Floor Spot singers were: Chris Birchall, Steve Bailey, Penni Neale, Lynda and Tom Degney, Glyn Hudson, Joe Lyon, Richard and Wendy Eastwood, John Williams and Richard Ruthin.

Altogether making for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Cirrus, Stratus and Cumulus

By |November 5th, 2018|0 Comments

Amazing as these three cloud types are, I usually associate them with landscape photography.

It was far too dark for such an activity on Thursday evening, of course, so it was just as well they manifested themselves in the shape of Pete, Di & Dom, aka ‘The Amazing Clouds’.

Tash Allcock

This three-piece band from Corwen paid us a visit ahead of a gig they are playing at The Centre, in Ruthin on the 24th November, alongside the equally amazing John Williams.

They opened up the evening by taking us to a place not normally associated with having any clouds at all, with sounds of the Arabian Desert in “The Sandstorm Set”. Later they deposited us in foggy old London with Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile”.

Lynda Degney took us to the “Northern Plains” as Tom went “Clickedy Clack” down the railway track, whilst all the time Richard Davies was “Living on Tusla Time”.

The tale of the “Ballymore Fiddler” was retold by Glyn Hudson in nya nya nya fashion, and Joe Lyon was dreaming “Dansette Dreams” and yearning for “A Place in the Sun”.

My own contributions came courtesy of Willy Nelson and Bread.

“One More Cup of Coffee for the Road” was on Robin Spreckley’s mind, for which he was joined by Penni Neale.

Young Tash Allcock made a welcome return to the club, juggling her musical endeavours with her academic studies. Alternating between guitar and ukulele she treated us to three lovely songs including Elton John’s “Yellowbrick Road”.

Denbigh musician John Evans sang two of his fabulous self-penned numbers, roping in his former band buddies Linda Thompson and Alan Thompson.

Linda also provided some beautiful backing vocals for her brother Alan’s own sets which included the Tears for Fears hit “Mad World”.

It was Penni Neale took us up to chucking out time with Richard Shindell’s beautiful, “Ballad Of Mary Magdalen”.