Salt and Light #4
After over a year of the absence of live music I’m thrilled to be able to invite you to a concert in real life, real time – on Friday July 2nd at the beautiful St Laurence’s Church, Ludlow. Rehearsals are underway and I’m really looking forward to sharing my new music with you. Ben Walsh, producer of my latest album, ‘The Shining Pathway‘ will be playing violin, guitar and mandolin – as well as Steve Dunachie, a well renowned pianist and music therapist, and Martin Riley, a wonderful composer from Birmingham Conservatoire.
Rehearsing in the church with string players Anne, Julia, Georgia, and Hilary was a truly lovely day. Steve’s gorgeous string arrangements for the new material soared in the majestic surroundings of St Laurence’s Church. The cellist wore a ‘Black Lives Matter’ mask, almost a year on from the death of George Floyd – and it was the first time since 2019 sitting with a group of musicians and making music together. This made me feel like myself again, refreshed in my purpose. The church was open to the public and people stopped by to listen, said thank you, and even bought my albums from the gift shop. While it often felt that time stood still this last year, seeds have been planted, and we are now beginning to see the bearing of new fruit.
This bank holiday there has not only been sunshine, but a feel of generosity in the air. Asking the local coffee and charity shops in town to display a poster to advertise the concert, people seem more willing than before. “Anything to help after the year we’ve had,” said one store-owner. I offered one poster, and they took two A3 in size. Two young sales assistants stopped to chat, and asked questions about the music. The local music store exclaimed “Really? A concert! How exciting.” This level of interest and appreciation gave me a renewed sense of encouragement about bringing people together to enjoy live music once again.
There’s been a lot of love from Germany and Berlin this month, having received letters and vinyl orders from people there. I was grateful to be reviewed in the German folk magazine ‘folker‘ by music journalist Mike Kamp. Sadly, the magazine has suffered due to Covid, but is fortunately still continuing online. Anyone who can translate it, wins a copy of The Shining Pathway! (I’ll pick one winning entry if lots of you translate!)
In 2018 I attended a Global Happiness Conference, where school children from more than 20 countries came together to share songs and cultural dance at a centre in Hartlebury, just outside Kidderminster. As well as reuniting with friends from Uganda, Africa, I met two young women from India who told me their dreams of becoming a doctor and a space engineer. I recently received an email from them telling me of the desperate conditions they are facing in India, due to the pandemic, and how sad they are to not be able to sit their exams.
My heart goes out to all those suffering in India, particularly those in rural villages, where food shops are closed, and public transport is limited. Before the pandemic hit I was made aware of a UK based charity endorsed by actor Jeremy Irons called ‘Salt of the Earth’ who are now running an emergency appeal, providing food aid and medical supplies to the most vulnerable. You can subscribe to their newsletter: Saltseller, and donate if you wish, to the emergency relief appeal at www.sote.org.uk
John Lennon’s quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” has never been more relevant. My return ticket to the USA still sits in my desk drawer and I’m beginning to think about what season I might travel. Last year I had planned a six week tour in America, including a gig at the House of Blues in New Orleans, a house concert in New England, and a workshop in Louisiana at Southern University. I’m keen to get to the States, but mindful more than ever of living in the present and not planning too far ahead. Meanwhile, I have some lovely memories to reflect upon.
On that note, my friend and collaborator, Christina Nichols had an article published online about the artist, Patti Smith. It features a story about the time we spent together in New York during my last visit in 2019. We both hid in the bookshelves of Barnes and Nobles, off Union Square to hear Patti talk about her new book ‘Year of the Monkey.’ The article was published in The Heroine Collective, an extensive online resource celebrating the lives and impact of women throughout history. Kate Kerrow, founding editor of the Heroine Collective, was my best friend in Sixth Form College in Worcester. It’s been lovely to bring together two of my closest friends from both sides of the Atlantic to support each other as writers. Kate will have her first novel published this year, and Christina is currently writing her first West End Musical. I’m in awe of their writing and creativity, and I feel sure you will be seeing their names a lot more in the future. In the Heroine Collective you’ll find articles on a wide range of brave, wise women ranging from the author Toni Morrison, to artist Julia Margaret Cameron, the first woman to make photography an art form, using lavender oil and gunpowder!
Here’s an extract of Christina’s blog:
Poet, rocker, writer, traveller, author, photographer, and performer. She was reborn in the 70’s art scene in New York City, where she arrived with one purpose: to become an artist. As always she has kept her word, giving the world the fruits of her promises, and of her defiance. “I was like that as a child,” she says. “I’m a punk rocker who loves Maria Callas.“
Read the full article here:
This month I read the New York best seller “The Prodigal God“ — new in at St Laurence’s church, Ludlow. The author, Timothy Keller developed several churches in Manhattan, one of which Christina, mentioned above, used to attend. It is a challenging book that explores the most well known parable of the Prodigal Son: two brothers — one elder and judgemental and one younger and wayward, both lost and alienated from God for differing reasons. At the heart of the story is a loving father. The core of the message of this book is that people of faith who do everything the Bible requires still have the potential to be as spiritually lost as someone who is living a life without God, if attitudes lead to narrowness and self-righteousness. This book shines a light on the gospel of grace, hope and salvation. Keller says this parable, once fully understood, wakes people up to the truth of the Christian heart. “Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people. It’s more like smelling salts.”
The best film I’ve seen this month on Film 4 was the critically acclaimed ‘Manchester by the Sea‘ – Manchester, as in Boston, New England. Slow to start, and it’s definitely not Bridget Jones, but wow, a stunning film, tragic and poignant. It’s about a young father/janitor, who becomes the guardian of his nephew following two family tragedies, and the forgiveness and healing that ensues.
Seeing the cape style houses in the film, and the ocean, made me remember my last visit there. I flew into Manchester airport before singing for Marianne Williamson in Warner, New Hampshire. I travelled on to Ipswich, and visited Crane beach, and the Clam house at Farnham. This film reminded me of how cold it can get in Boston too – never forget to pack a jumper, or as they say in the US, a sweater!
Living on the Welsh borders I’ve now started to venture out in my car beyond my hometown. I spent the day in Hereford, to meet with the Firstlight Veterans hub – I ate a delicious lunch at Bill’s Kitchen at the All Saints Church, and visited the cathedral where I’ll be getting confirmed in June. I’ve also crossed the border (!) and been to Mid Wales to work on a new documentary with Culture Colony, at their brand new studios in Machynlleth – with a whistle stop tour of Aberystwyth and Aberdovey. There’s lovely!
Stay well, and hope to see you on July 2nd.
This is a song written in response to the death of George Floyd, a year ago. ‘George Floyd. Say his name.‘
Fancy a real life concert?
What a welcome change from Zoom! Book your tickets for my concert on Friday July 2nd at St Laurence’s Church, Ludlow.
“Let your conversation be always seasoned with salt”
— Colossians 4:6