Thank you to everyone who supported the opening night of RASCALS! at The Mascall Centre, in Ludlow last Friday – the first of a series of music and comedy nights I’m hosting each month with Athena Greek Taverna. We had a full house for ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ with the James Hunt Quartet. All exceptional musicians in their own right; James played sax, clarinet, and flute, Geoff Ockenfold played the double bass, Tony the drums and Pete Beresford keyboard and Hammond organ. I enjoyed singing “Don’t Explain” and “God Bless the Child,” written by Billie Holiday, along with “Weary Blues” by Hank Williams, and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance me to the end of love” – inspired by his love of Greece, and time spent in Hydra, where he was influenced by the rhythm of the Hasapiko native folk dance.
I’ll be setting sail to the Isle of Wight for a concert on Saturday 3rd September and performing a solo show with guitar at the beautiful thatched 18th century church, St Agnes in West Wight. The church lies beneath Tennyson Down in the beautiful Freshwater Bay, a mile away from Farringford where Tennyson lived for 40 years and wrote his famous poem ‘Maud.’ Tennyson’s poems have inspired me more than once, with the setting of the ‘Lady of Shalott’ to music, and ‘Crossing the Bar’.
Ian Mann enjoys this “Transatlantic Folk” double bill featuring the contrasting but complementary talents of local vocalist and songwriter Deborah Rose and New York singer songwriter Kenny White.
I’m excited to announce that I will be opening a brand new music and comedy venue in my hometown Ludlow, in partnership with Athena Greek Taverna & Café on 22nd July 2022. I will be hosting monthly Friday nights in the beautiful, recently refurbished Victorian hall, at the Mascall Centre, formerly a school. The venue seats 70 people, and every month there will be a very special evening of entertainment, showcasing local, national and international artists in an intimate setting.
Easter was a deeply reflective time – more so than other years, as the aftermath of the pandemic leaves the diary emptier than before. There is resistance and discomfort to being alone with God at a time when the town is full of tourists and chocolate eggs and bunnies fill shop windows. I missed my Grandparents who immersed themselves in the Easter story – the sadness, the intensity and then the hope and joy of Resurrection Day. But there was presence in their absence. An Aunty (aunt Sally for those who know her!) sent me some rare writing from my Grandfather’s own newsletter on the diminishing value of the Hot Cross bun! I didn’t even know he wrote a newsletter.
For most of March I was unwell and missed out on a busy period of work. Yet what felt like a setback, has, on reflection, been a blessing; from slowing down, to budget management and new insights into where the body-mind-spirit needed to heal. My recovery luckily coincided with blissfully warm weather, and part of my recuperation was sitting under a great oak tree at Croft Castle, where I witnessed a large flock of sheep being herded into the field. What a sight to behold. I was reminded of the Psalm ‘The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want, He restores my soul” – a psalm of comfort and a testament to God’s goodness in the midst of every circumstance.
Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal, “I never saw Daffodils so beautiful, they grew among the mossy stones about and about them/ some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake.”
“The word love is most often defined as a noun, yet we would all love better if we used it as a verb.” writes Bell Hooks in her book ‘All about Love.’ Concerned not only with love as romance and desire, but also a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive and healing for our nation, Hooks talks about how our power to love is much greater than we think, and draws attention to the barriers to love and lovelessness that exists in our society. This book, along with Marianne Williamson’s ‘Return to Love’, which Hooks refers to, are beautiful bibles of love.
Thank you to everyone who kindly donated to Shelter for our Christmas song release. I’m grateful that I had a wonderful Christmas in Wales with my family, and I’m filled with hope, at the cusp of the New Year, for a happier, healthier year ahead for all.
I bring to you a new song, born of an experience a year ago today on Christmas night when I held my niece, Ffion, (welsh for foxglove!) and watched her sleep, with the profound feeling this moment was a gift from above. I felt so much love for her, I stayed awake the whole night and watched her sleep. The experience was intensified by the fact it was Christmas Night, and my mind cast to the nativity story.