A Show Of Hands Leads To A Night Of Great Music.

Show Of Hands
Theatre Severn

Around about eighteen months or so ago Shrewsbury Folk Festival Chairman Alan Surtees initiated what was to be one of the most resonating Folk Musical Arts projects of the decade. The project was namely The Cecil Sharpe Project. This project went on to great things and was toured all over England and America filmed and recorded. It threw together a number of British and North American folk musicians and from that has come many great things. None so greater than the coming together of Steve Knightly from Show Of Hands and  Appalachian Banjo picker Leonard Podolak. Their friendship and admiration of each other’s skill was clearly on show again tonight as luckily for Shrewsbury, they were back on the Stage of Theatre Severn one more time.

Leonard was now playing with a wonderful fiddler and Appalachian step dancer by the name of Matt Gordon. It was they that opened what to be a great night of fusion of British and of American music.

From the first note it was obvious you wouldn’t want to start your show any other way as Leonard and Matt virtually exploded onto the stage with some incredibly lifting stuff. This was definitely going to be a show of two very strong halves.

Appalachian music is an interesting blend, or fusion as the word now is, of British and American music; taken over into the Appalachians by the pioneers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century who went out to snatch a bit of fortune for their people. Some got lucky some not so, but one thing they all had was a joy and common bond in music. It was that sound that Leonard and Matt brought back to the stage tonight.

If you listened carefully to Matt Gordon’s playing you can hear the British counter beat complimenting the American syncopation of notes which gives this sort of music its very distinctive sound and leaves the listener in no doubt as to some of the music’s origins.  The adventurers took it over with them, Cecil Sharpe brought it back. The Victorian’s had it polished it for the parlour on Sharpe’s return but underneath you can still hear the more earthy and human strain that is the Irish migrant influence. The sound like Irish music is very fiddle based.

Folk musicians from all over the world now play with influences and styles from other countries. This all being a part of the Global Village that we have been creating of late. Well, we will have to have music for the Global Village Green.

After a quick break, Show of Hands took to the stage.  Comprising Steve Knightly and Phil Beer they were tonight joined by Miranda Sykes on Bass. Of late these guys have been the front leaders in sell out gigs, album sales and they have been topping festivals all over the UK and further afield for a long time now.

There is a strong Shrewsbury connection too. Steve Knightly along with Oyster Bands’ John Jones is the Patron of the Shrewsbury Folk Festival. It was no wonder there was such a busy house. Having compered one or two gigs with Show Of Hands I can say their following is a strong and mighty powerful one.

With a wander through some domestic issues, some global issues and some historical one’s too, Show of Hands  weaved their way through their set  the taking the listener on a evocative, thought provoking and  calming hour and a half or so. Dealing with things like Hurricane Katrina, Social Networking and the joy of being British and how that shan’t ever be taken away from us. Their subject was broad and varied.

It is very hard to pigeon hole the Show Of Hands music and that is their strength. If you go to a Billy Bragg concert you will get predominately a political show, go to see maybe The Tannahill Weavers or Battlefield Band and you will get show of predominately British Folk Music. A show of Hands gig is different. The songs are all very human but not only that their music provides beautiful soundscapes playing with notation and instrumentation. Phil Beer must have learnt to play a long time ago as he has mastered so well that his instruments can now actually talk.

Good lighting is important too in this recipe for creating the perfect gig. The subtle changes of light work beautifully and the lighting rigs quietly went about their business of bringing a real theatre feel to the show.

It was a treat for fans to see both Leonard and Matt on stage with Show of Hands for the finale. Folk Music, Jazz Music and Country Music the list is endless but they all have one word in common…music. It is indeed a broad church but its all music. It’s great to see them mixed up once in a while.

This is a four star review.



Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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