Quercus at the Howard Assembly Rooms, Feb 7th


The Howard Rooms are a great place to hear live music. The hall is big enough for a sizeable crowd, but small enough to feel like you’re in a friendly pub, and the wood everywhere, including the amazing wooden ceiling, gives the place a warmth, even in a cool February. Quercus (meaning ‘oak’) are singer June Tabor, Iain Ballamy (playing saxophone) and Huw Warren (piano), and on Saturday they played a repertoire that ranged from traditional folk to experimental jazz, from extraordinarily gentle to wildly exuberant. June Tabor’s voice has a huge range of emotion and colour, and it worked well with the saxophone as a second voice – the human tones and the sax’s metallic hoarseness weaving together, backed by some really versatile piano playing that could be hauntingly delicate or sometimes cacophonous as it created the effect of a whole band behind the voice and solo instrument.

Some of the highlights for me were a Robbie Burns love song (you can hear the studio version of this at http://player.ecmrecords.com/quercus ), a moving lament for first world war fallen from Coope, Boyes and Simpson, and a great, sad, slow version of Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – a song that was so popular and well played in folk clubs of the 70s that it seemed to became a cliché and almost disappeared for many years. This version brought out the ache behind the deceptively simple chords and made you remember why it became so popular in the first place.

I first became aware of June Tabor through the album Silly Sisters that she recorded with Steeleye Span singer Maddy Prior in 1976, and then through albums like Anthology (1999), which has much the same jazz/folk span as Quercus. I’ve always loved the uniqueness of her voice and her defiance of being held within any one tradition. On Saturday I did impromptu interviews with members of the audience to test their reaction to the music:

“She still has a wonderful singing voice and a really easy comfortable rapport with the audience.” (Franz, harpist)


“I particularly like the pianist.” (Jean, jazz aficionado)


“Put it this way, I shan’t be asking for my money back”, (Pete, art critic)


“I just loved them. They’re so good at drawing you in, and although that can be quite intense they’ve got an openness you can really relax into. There’s something sea-shorey about the sound. She’s the rock at the centre that frees the other two ” (Gail, crime writer)


There’s  a lot going at the Howard Rooms over the next couple of months, from classical film like Metropolis (2nd April) to more musical feasts like the Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell (17th Feb) and the saxophone playing son of John Coltrane, Ravi Coltraine (11th March), as well as Opera North’s ‘Little Voices’ Saturday morning programme for under 4’s and a lot of other stuff worth checking out at http://www.operanorth.co.uk/whats-on







Festival additions: Singing and Resilience

I’m pleased to see that two additions to the Love Arts Festival accommodate the participation of people whose availability might be limited during the Festival, or if they can’t attend at all.

Giving Voice for Peace, October 17


The idea is to get you singing, using your voice

“learning to use song to promote peace in your home,  your life, and in the world”

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, The National Foundation or Giving Voice invites you to participate at a distance (wherever you are!) in Giving Voice for Peace:

You will need to have a phone conversation with Rachel before and after the session, and you will be sent a CD or tape to work with between 7.30 and 8.30pm on 17th October,….. hopefully there is still time to do this ahead of the event.

 Giving Voice say you don’t need to be able to sing – in fact if you think you can’t, you may be at an advantage.

RESILIENCE 21st – 27th October, Leeds Met Broadcasting Place

This week long event, on a subject close to my heart, because of it’s impact on emotional and mental  wellbeing, will explore the topic through art, discussion and food sharing, it is a collaboration with Leeds Met staff and students, the show will explore how we must all be resilient to face life’s challenges. But is it so simple? Go along if you can to one or all sessions, ..see what conclusion you reach and maybe blog a post for us?


Singing My Way Well

Voices of the Day choir, Leeds

Singing with Voices of the Day, photo by Chris Sharples

Do you like to sing?  I have always loved singing, but my voice got lost about the time my primary school music teacher wouldn’t let me join the choir.

It’s surprising how many people, like me, have been told not to sing.  What’s not surprising is the negative effect this can have on self-esteem or confidence. Continue reading

Free singing event for men – Saturday 22nd September

This event described as a ‘kick start’ for possible future sessions, will be at the Yorkshire College of Music and Drama, St. Marks Avenue, Woodhouse Lane, starts at 10.00am with the option to continue until 4pm after the lunch break.

An invitation for the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’! of all singing abilities.

Contact: 0113 2560450

emai:       itsasingleeds@gmail.com

There is much documented evidence that singing can help relieve some types of mental distress, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10732106.

Enjoy it guys if you get there!