Reviews 2018

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

Les Jones 09 November 2018

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It is always a pleasure to be entertained by the artists who appear at The Woodman, but tonight went far beyond that. We were privileged not only to enjoy the music of Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer but to be educated by them as well.

Having never seen them before I had not come across the nyckelharpa. Neither had my spellchecker until now. Vicki is so enthusiastic about this instrument of Swedish derivation that she used gaps in the performance – usually so Jonny could tune either his Fylde Guitar or his “It’s a bouzouki neck on a guitar body, I don’t know what you call it really” – to deliver a well-practiced chat on the instrument and its history. She even took time during the break to demonstrate how it works to myself and a couple of others.

To clarify, they are both extremely talented and knowledgeable musicians who are ready and willingly to impart that knowledge to their audience. It is done in an amusing and light-hearted way such that by the end of the evening you have retained far more that you realised.

During the evening Jonny played a Guitar, an accordion, and the aforementioned bouzouki/guitar thing. Vicki by contrast played the same instrument four times; in that she used four different nyckelharpas that give a feeling of; a violin, viola, cello and one I’m not sure of but it is a reconstruction of a type of nyckelharpa depicted in a painting in Sienna Cathedral. Between them they play various instruments some normal such as the double bass some I have forgotten the names of. I did note the Carnyx which is a horn played in ancient Rome.

They have a wonderful repartee between themselves and the audience that makes the whole evening flow beautifully.

I have to admit that I was so engrossed in the whole thing that I neglected to write down the titles of many of their songs and tunes and have spent some while on the internet trying to find them. My apologies to them if I have them wrong.

Their act is to my mind music based rather than song based as is the case with most artists. This gives the whole evening a different feel.

They opened with a set of tunes which Vicki said may have entitled Polska Cups, The Bow street(?) and a Japonica Jig. It would seem that their tunes are named by what seems to be on their minds at the time rather than the usual traditional titles. Hence the above. There was a set comprising an Aire by Henry Purcell from his Double Dealer work and a piece by John Playford entitled Red House. Carnival in Venice was a renaissance version of the children’s song “My Hat It Has Three Corners” played beautifully by Vicki on a flute. There was a wonderful piece of “business”, as they say in the theatrical world, involving a sheet of music several feet long which Vicki attempted to fix on a standard music stand. The whole piece ended with the audience singing the song with actions. What a way to end the first set. There were other pieces in the second half but by this time I had stopped writing the titles.

They did sing as well of course some with and some without choruses. Paper of Pins is from the eponymous cd, The Blantyre Explosion about a mining disaster in 1887, The Legend of Stanton Drew, Friends, an American Civil War song about going to war, The Golden Glove in which a woman “fixes it” so that she marries a farmer instead of the squire. Throughout the night we were singing choruses, which were pleasantly easy to learn, including Dance All Night and the encore about Grandad Joe who had “Holes everywhere”.

An excellent duo who I would recommend to anyone.

Support tonight was supplied by Velvet Green – Please Don’t Fear the Night and Margarita; Dick Woodhouse – Sally Wheatley and The Band Played Waltzing Matilda and Bryn Phillips – The Telegram and Share If You Agree. Each, as you can see, sang songs to commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War and touched us all with their performance.

In the light of this it seems inappropriate for to end in my usual fashion by saying:

A Wonderful Night Was Had by All.
Here’s to The Next One.