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.
But this Christmas season we were fortunate enough to welcome them to the Swan. And if ever an audience needed cheering up in these virus-hit times it was on a night when the rain came down in stair rods and the Severn seemed to be rising by the minute. But right from the start of this concert, all our cares were swept away by a warm tide of good cheer that spanned centuries of human celebration.
Green and Matthews make for a formidable team, the former stunningly adept on the mandocello and guitar, the latter at ease on any number of wind instruments. These range from the French bagpipes to the mediaeval shawm, which from the first note memorably evoked the sentiments of the season.
Our sojourn ranged far and near. We were treated not only to German, French and English carols, but also to several music hall flavoured items such as Christmas Goose and the slightly ribald, Mistletoe, both of which featured Green on keyboards. Like many a wandering minstrel before him, he is a fine songwriter. His Winter Fair, written after a boozy night at The Fleece, Bretforton, near Evesham, was testimony to skills that prevailed despite suffering the hangover from hell. Unsurprisingly, the consumption of copious amounts of ale features quite a lot in the songs, so it’s fortunate that the word neatly rhymes with ‘wassail’, another frequently used term.
The work of GreenMatthews confirms all our suspicions that the English folk scene is alive and bursting with talent, a fact that was not lost on a small, but appreciative socially-distanced audience. For we had all been treated to the ages-old spirit of Christmas, manifesting in the form of music that not only warmed our hearts, but also provided an all-too-brief respite from a troubled world.