On Thursday we welcomed the extraordinarily versatile ‘Hoolet’ to the Nitten stage, featuring traditional balladeer Maggie Dewar, classically trained violinist Helen Ross and guitar virtuoso Ronnie Miller (all three, incidentally are club members). Although they all come for very different musical backgrounds they have forged a distinct musical identity, combining traditional folk with classical compositions and Ronnie’s stunning original songs.
You simply never know what you’re going to get at a Hoolet show, indeed they opened the show with a fairly unfamiliar Violet Jacob poem ‘Faur Ye Weel’ which Ronnie had only recently set to music. This was the first public performance of this piece but the crowd adored its jaunty and upbeat feel. From then on the variety this wonderfully talented trio gave us was absolutely mind-boggling: classical violin (17th century baroque composer J.B Senaille, no less), a truly haunting interpretation of Steve Palmer’s ‘Black is the Sun’, one of the highlights of Ian McCalman’s ‘Far, Far from Ypres’ show, plus songs by such greats as Ralph McTell, Janis Ian and Randy Newman. There were also some mysterious ‘invisible bells’ in the wryly witty ‘In a Little French Town’. You don’t get that very often in a folk club.
Then there were original songs by Ronnie, a couple from his recently released solo album ‘Two Hands’. The genuinely moving ‘Ballad of Bobby Melville’ was one of the many high spots of the evening. There were also plenty of opportunities for the enthusiastic Nitten audience to ‘Jine in the choruses’ with more familiar folk songs like Michael Marra’s ‘Neil Gow’s Apprentice’ and Lionel McLelland’s ballad ‘The Earl o’ March’s Daughter’, and they did so with full-throated gusto.
Helen’s glorious interpretation of the traditional ‘Dear Irish Boy’ brought tears to the eyes and lumps to the throats of many of the enthralled audience. The second set was closed with another great singalong, from the repertoire of the Border shepherd Willie Scott; ‘In Freedship’s Name’. A really fitting end to the night. It’s a song with a true sentiment but no sentimentality. After all, what is more valuable than friendship- especially when further enhanced by the sense of community we have at Nitten Folk Club?
An encore was inevitable and, in a wee surprise for one of our members, Maggie served up a tender rendition of Gretchen Peters’ ‘When You are Old’. Then, sadly, it was time to go.
Floor spots were provided by the irrepressible Paul Ashcroft, former Chairman Ian Duncan and the excellent Jim Weatherston, who also managed the sound for the evening. (Ronnie usually does the sound but he couldn’t be in two places at once). The raffle at the interval was, as ever, a resounding success and provided much needed funds to keep the club going.
Next month we welcome back to Nitten the excellent Belfast born Anthony John Clark; recognised as one of the top songwriters on the acoustic/ folk scene, with 12 albums and 3 singles to his credit, including the beautiful “Seven in Ireland” and “Irish Eyes”. Anthony John enjoys an enormous following in UK, Europe, Australasia and USA. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to catch a master of his craft in his return to the Nitten stage