THE LEWIS BARFOOT TRIO: THE GLENAPHUCA ALBUM TOUR - The Con Club, Lewes - 24 November 2021

It needs to be stated that things were stacked against it from the start. The name, Lewis Barfoot, was not widely known here. The COVID infection rate has been soaring in this part of Sussex and the age groups that normally make up the audience for such gigs in Lewes were the ones most likely to take notice of this. A fair proportion of the usual Con Club audiences come over from the much larger Brighton, only eight miles away, and on top this the following night of the tour was in Brighton and at a ‘free admission with collection’ venue.

MARTIN SIMPSON - The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh - 25 October 2021

As we tentatively come out of the restrictions that COVID has imposed upon us, the most eagerly anticipated thing for many is the return of live music, albeit still with significant protection measures. This occasion saw the welcome return of Martin Simpson to the capital. The support for the evening, admirably presented by Evie Waddell with Katie Allen, set the scene for a cracking night of entertainment.

BROMYARD FOLK FESTIVAL - 9-12 September 2021

Bromyard was back, and what a joyous occasion it was with friends old and new catching up with the festival experience that they had missed. A real sense of camaraderie and spirit was evident among all the various groups of people needed to run a festival of this size. The weather was kind, although I got the sense that whatever had happened, the various organising strands and teams would have coped. COVID precautions were in place throughout the site. It felt safe. The Food Court saw the return of most of the Bromyard regulars.

ALY BAIN & PHIL CUNNINGHAM - No Rush tour - Hitchin Folk Club - 3 October 2021

Tunes new and old, hardly any swearing, and fabulous musicianship filled the second night of Phil and Aly’s misleadingly-named No Rush tour of England and Wales. The good people of Hitchin had been waiting 18 months or more for this postponed concert, an early victim of COVID closures, and they weren’t disappointed when it finally arrived.

MORPETH NORTHUMBRIAN GATHERING - Online - 10 April 2021

Like many festivals in 2020, the pandemic cancelled planned bills of fayre, leaving no time to contemplate alternatives! One year on, at the end of the third lockdown, the weekend after Easter’s jamboree at Morpeth took place – virtually. The opening speech of welcome by gadgie Alex Swailes announced all would be “brought to you by the marvels of Zoom, YouTube and Facebook – way beyond the ken of a 14th-century bailiff!”... or words to that effect. And a fine day out it was.

CATHAL MCCONNELL TRIO - The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh - presented by Soundhouse, published on YouTube - 22 March 2021

Cathal McConnell from Fermanagh is a living legend in Irish music, a tradition bearer from his home place and a collector of songs and music across Ulster and beyond. He was a founder of the influential group, Boys Of The Lough, in the 1960s, and still performs with them, but in his own trio he is admirably supported by fiddler and violist Kathryn Nicoll and harper Karen Marshalsay. This pre-recorded 40-minute set features Cathal on flute and vocals, and on the humble tin whistle, with brief introductions to each piece.

WHITTLESEA STRAW BEAR ONLINE - 15-17 January 2021

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 caused the Whittlesea Straw Bear organisers to abandon plans as early as June for the following year’s mid-January festival, and aim for a ‘virtual’ route, using Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. Teams and performers were invited to send in videos of themselves to complement a thoughtfully put together programme – the trick being to replicate two hour-long concerts, one ceilidh, and the pageantry into a weekend’s presentation.

TOM KITCHING - Live From Bollington Folk Club via Zoom - 29 January 2021

This was the second Zoom event for Bollington Folk Club, more are planned, and the audience includes the club regulars as well as those attracted by advertising for the particular concert. I saw this one posted on Facebook, and as I had reviewed Tom's recent CD and book, Seasons Of Change, about his English busking project, I was interested to hear the man live and to see what this particular series of concerts was like.

GREENMATTHEWS: MIDWINTER REVELS - Swan Theatre, Worcester - 23 December 2020

This may indeed be a bleak midwinter for any number of reasons, but our musical journey down Christmases past was illuminated by the brightest of festive lanterns. The shining of that light came courtesy of Chris Green and Sophie Matthews, both experts in their respective instrumental fields. Performing under the name GreenMatthews, the duo plays traditional English folk music at concerts and festivals, all of which are tragically in short supply at the moment.