A Good Night for Singing




“You don’t expect competence in a folk club, but you do expect sincerity. It should be a requirement” - Bill Leader, talking a performer at Ramsbottom Folk Club whose name I shan’t mention chiefly because Bill forgot to tell me, even if he knew himself. 
  
It was a good night for singing at Oddfellows. It was the crowd rather than any individual who shone on Monday last. When the spirit hits, the Oddfellows audience sound like one voice, raising fragile, loveable Ian Sidebotham to new heights, and reflecting his steadiness and sincerity. As a group, they can sing quietly, which the lone Donal Maguire can do very well, but is a rare accomplishment for a crowd. The combination sounds very rich, ranging from the deep-felt clean-cut articulation of the WAGs to the semi-spoken whispering of the lovely old man beside me. 

Sensing the way it was heading, the performers pitched towards the universal side of things. Ian Reynolds sang ‘Me and Bobbie McGee’, and Sidebotham offered  ‘The Circle Game’, which manages to condense all human experience in a catchy chorus (a youthful Joni Mitchell wrote it). Donal offered ‘How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times’ and struck an empathetic chord, of course. John Howarth (pictured) responded with his two fail-proof singalongs, ‘Ee, When I Were A Lad’ and ‘They Don’t Write 'Em Like That Anymore’. The former is wryly nostalgic whilst assuming that life gets better for every successive generation (so funny and optimistic). The second mourns the passing of the singsong with its own singsong. 

At the end of the evening - you’re not going to believe this - Howarth replaced Oddfellows’ traditional leave-taking song ‘The Parting Glass’ with ‘Toddlin’ Whoam’. Beautiful bucolic Lancashire, for one week at least, superseded bitter-sweet tragic Ireland. Beautiful laconic John Howarth never wanders far from his roots and makes a virtue out of modesty. 

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