I’ve just returned home after a wonderful weekend in Glastonbury at the Pagan Federation’s Wessex conference. It was held at the Town Hall, a venue very familiar to me as that’s where I organise the two gatherings each year for members of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. I was playing in the evening, just before my mates The Dolmen took to the stage, and I was also asked to give a presentation in the morning about the modern Bardic tradition – The Creative Quest.
I don’t tend to do talks. Put me in front of a crowd of 1500 people with a guitar and I feel completely at home. 200 in a hall, minus the guitar, and I was very nervous – I thought I would feel naked, exposed, but I needn’t have worried at all. This is my passion, my life-quest, and when I sat down to write the talk, I discovered that I really had a lot to say! The challenge became more about how I fitted everything in!
In the end I got really excited about it, and the response from the audience has made me wonder whether I should organise a Bardic weekend workshop/retreat. Do get in touch if you’d be interested.
The evening concert approached, and The Dolmen arrived with their PA system. If you’ve ever seen these guys play, you’ll know that it is impossible to just sit still and listen – you just have to get up and dance. In preparation for this there was a massive gap between the stage and the audience. Now, people do occasionally get up and dance to my songs, but that is rare. More often I entertain the audience in the traditional folk concert style, with conversation, music, singalong choruses, stuff like that. I looked at that dance floor gap, and realised that I just wouldn’t be able to communicate from that far away. I took a gamble and made the decision to play the concert completely acoustically. So I set up my three instruments on the dance floor, right in front of the audience. It was the right decision.
The danger might have been that some people would talk, and I just wouldn’t have been able to compete with the noise, but I am so blessed to have such loyal audiences, and this was no exception. It was the audience themselves who asked the few remaining chatterers to quieten down, and soon I had their full attention, and the magic began.
What a night. It always feels so wonderful when you hear people singing along with the choruses of your songs. But when they also join in with the verses, you really know something is happening! At one point during Lady of the Silver Wheel I sang the wrong verse, but the audience sang the right one – so I just stopped singing, continued to strum the mandolin, and they carried on for a while singing without me! Absolute magic! It was like that throughout the whole set, the circle span with the audience feeding from my energy, I fed from theirs – the perfect night.
When I got my Ovation guitar 8 years ago, a musician friend of mine said, “You know what they say. If you can’t get an ovation, buy an Ovation!” Cheeky sod, I thought. Well, on Saturday night I got my very first standing ovation. It was a point in my musical life I will never forget. So if you are reading this, and you were there, thank you!