So the idea was to run a Children’s Festival and simultaneously do something for the adults next door. As a trial we thought we’d stay in house and then discovered enough talent to could fill a programme at any small festival around. Wednesday saw David Thompson setting us sail with a little humorous but not without stealthy social commentary; Louden Wainwright eat your heart out. Gary Bradley shared new songs, complex in melody and arrangement with spiritual truths abundant; looking forward to hearing them produced. Fairfield County were accomplished. Jackie’s songs and choice of covers was spot on and Peter Greer genuinely is a guitar hero. Their Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah had me jot in the dairy a Leonard Cohen night for the autumn. Our poetry for the evening saw Brett and Keith Lockhart back in Fitzroy to read the poems of their late father. Brian was a stalwart of Fitzroy and his ability to capture the ordinary moments of life with a transcendent wonder came through in the readings. Top class!
Could Thursday match it? Well, of course it could! I remember thinking during the night that our Church piano had particular fun that night. David Livingstone playing with his near music hall buddy Richard Guthrie got the keys loosened up, Roger Cooke who came to accompany Caroline Orr kept them loose and Chris Blake interlude Jonee Hicks’ poetry with the deft touch we are used to. Livingstone and Guthrie juxtapositioned Rachmaninoff and Richard Stilgoe with consummate ease and not a little humour! Highlight might have been Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness et al sorting out our troubles in the bath! Caroline Orr was known to us as the voice of the Johnny Cash evening but it was not even a hint at the utter fabulousness of her voice on Thursday. With the aforementioned Roger and Helen Killock adding the fiddle, the three harmonized to hairs standing on back of neck standard. Karine Polwart’s Follow The Heron, Cockburn’s Mystery and Martyn Joseph’s Can’t Breathe were just a few highlights. Hick’s poetry was playful and provocative showing a literary flair and redeemed world view.
And so to Friday. We needed a bit of rock and a volume raiser so Mud Sunfish with our own boys, Matty Fitch and Joel Auterson as the tightest rhythm section in town, nearly blew the speakers and probably had a couple of the older members of the audience with fingers in ears. These boys are good and their tightness on The Beatles’ Come Together suggest with a bit of match practice they can follow Duke Special, Iain Archer and members of Snow Patrol from the Church to the world’s concert venues. Post “the Fish” we quietened it all down and looked at the different musical backgrounds of Fr. Clem McMannis who grew up out west and discovered the seanós singing style in seminary which he later showed a real vocal penchant for. Frank Ferguson chatted about how Presbyterians had been the maintainers of the arts in Protestantism in the past and sang songs about Glen Taize and the Albert Bridge as well as a beautiful song I Came Here For Beauty. The poetry tonight came from Philip Orr who took us on a literarily crafted journey through the laments and life experiences of the clergy priests Herbert, Hopkins and Thomas. With the sound effects and visuals from Nigel Henderson it became poetry for an MTV generation and what for many was a chore at school became an obvious companion amongst Frank and Clem’s music.
A fine start to the Fitzroy Arts programming. Watch closely this autumn and winter for exciting things are already planned!