The Great Eastern Presents Milly Hirst, Echoes in the Well, Jacob Solstice for the first live Musical Keys fundraiser at Jurnets Bar, Norwich, 3 July 2014
One of my favourite gigs of the year in one of my favourite venues, it was apt that it was a charity fundraiser for a lovely cause, The Musical Keys, presented by The Great Eastern, and hosted by Jacob Solstice.
Jacob it was who opened the music for the evening with a set of jazzy numbers performed beautifully. His introductions were endearingly shy, a musician far happier playing than talking about himself he modestly put himself first on the bill. Also known as one of Discharge Lounge (who play the Stanford Arms with Moxy Gerbanzo soon, that should be interesting! ) he is affable, polite, likeable and clearly passionate about the cause of Musical Keys, and it must be mentioned that so too was everyone involved. It was heartwarming to see people buying loads of copies of the CD and donating generously. I bought a download of the album in the week of its release and know well what a lovely and great album it is, so I had no hesitation in buying a physical copy too … some things one just wants to ‘own’ (plus the artwork is lovely too!)
By the way, also featured on the 15 track album are songs from the likes of Mari Joyce, Dr Clyde, Jess Morgan, Wooden Arms, and Birds of Hell, as well as all tonight’s performers … and all tracks have been generously donated.
I’ve been having Milly Hirst withdrawal symptoms of late, and on the last train back from London earlier in the week the journey reached that halfway, restless stage where it seemed interminable and nothing I was listening too on my headphones seemed to be making it any better … until I decided to listen to Milly. She took me to another world and hearing her voice through headphones is a very beautiful thing. Before I knew it the train was pulling into Norwich station but in my ears “Rose” was just starting. I was actually a little bit irritable to have the song disturbed, that I was pulled from my reverie by having to get off the train and back into reality. Tonight she closed her exquisite set with this song … it sends shivers down the spine, and her voice (which she uses with beautiful restraint) had moments where it truly soars with passionate expression. It is a magnificent piece. She mentioned that she has not played it for a while so it was especially meaningful and special to hear it again here tonight … undisturbed by trains!
Also included in her set were I Still, Book or a Film, a stunning Gentle Sailor, and movingly, the new song which is another personal favourite of mine – “Mary” performed tonight for the first time in front of her parents. It must have been a very emotional experience for them, I know it is for me every time I hear it. In fact there were several emotional “goose bumps” moments, (“Though the Devil took your soul, he left me with half a whole, I still forgive you”) and the chord changes which hit straight into the solar plexus. Amazing power in the combination of her voice, lyrics, and playing.
I was pleased to bump into some friends of mine at Jurnets tonight, one of whom said he was hearing all the acts for the first time here, I was talking to him about Milly, her voice, her songs, her stories, and the subtlety of her work. It was extremely pleasing to see him visibly get drawn into this world that I am so captivated by and to hear his enthusiasm afterwards. Another very beautiful set by the wonderfully talented but also modest and humble Milly.
I could have gone home after this very happy, but of course we were blessed with more music to come, from the recently renamed Echoes in the Well. I was quite puzzled by the name change at first, although Koi Paraga is not an obvious name something about it to me was memorable (and I have a famously dodgy memory in recent years) unique and pleasing. Tonight however I felt that I totally “got it” with the new name. They are somewhat reinvented and tonight’s set was the most magical and mesmerising I have seen them, under any moniker. Will Wright on double bass in one corner of Jurnets, Dom Jarvis on drums and mandolin in another, Tom Conway on guitar in the centre of the room, and singer/guitarist Danny Whitehouse wandering around the whole of the room telling lyrical tales in Irish griot style. It was superb stuff, flawlessly performed. The effect was like a full on surround storytelling but as if echoes from the past, even the walls, or recited passages from books that happened to be in the room. Without wishing to sound too hippy about this, that was how it felt, like books and ghostly ingrained memories seeping out of the walls, unified by harmonic choruses. There is a lot of subtle and delicate stuff here, very wordy and poetic lyrics but totally unpretentious, in fact it felt more like a privileged musical late night lock in or an impromptu festival jam around a campfire but played to absolute perfection. As you can probably tell, I loved every magical moment of it. The format of the gig made it feel very inclusive for the audience but without any wincey forced participation, it just felt very organic, engaged, natural and beautiful. There was something wonderfully other-worldly about it. There was a poetic Irishness about the performance too but it would be impossible to pigeonhole but I would neither wish to nor attempt to do that. My only regret was not bringing along a wider lens to try and capture the whole scene. It’s not all about recording things though. Much as I love capturing moments I also make sure I am also in the moment enjoying it too. Tonight there was much to enjoy.
A superb night with brilliantly selected and complimentary acts. Diverse and yet cohesive, it worked a treat.
Many thanks to all the performers, all involved and everyone who contributed – over £250 was raised on the night.
More photos to follow …
The first of a series of monthly gigs to raise money for Musical Keys, with:
Echoes in the Well – a unique acoustic four-some of wooden objects, strings, wit, and irony, they were
finalists in Next Big Thing 2013 and have been developing a new mode of interactive performance, which Stacked Promotions has coined ‘passive audience participation’, involving the creation of inclusive environments in which their fans can integrate and become a part of their performances.
Milly Hirst – “a prominent figure in the thriving and Norwich folk scene, Milly Hirst’s music has enchanted wherever she has plied her trade. Her voice alone has regularly proven capable of transforming “drunken chatter” into “rapt attention”. An inheritor of a musical tradition that includes Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and, more latterly, the likes of Alelia Diane and Dawn Landes, Milly’s pastoral songs of love, vulnerability, femininity and longing betray a soul and maturity far beyond her years.”
Jacob Solstice – best known locally as principal composer and leader of jazz/klezmer/other costumed misfits Discharge Lounge, Jacob will be playing a rare solo set consisting of solo jazz guitar with folk, gypsy and classical influences and a mix of covers and original material.
There will be CDs of the Great Eastern (Featuring Echoes in the Well and Milly) available and the whole shindig will take place in the beautiful medieval undercroft of Jurnets Bar.
Entry is by donation and set times will be:
8:30-9:00 Jacob Solstice
9:15-10:00 Milly Hirst
10:15-11:00 Echoes in the Well
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014