With more instruments on stage than the average orchestra, the musically adventurous and experimental folk four-piece the Churchfitters entertained a near capacity audience with their own songs and well-chosen covers.
The band, led by brother and sister Rosie and Chris Short, and a strong rhythm section of New Model Army alumnus Nelson on drums and percussion, and bassist Boris Lebret on a further range of instruments, combined with all four members providing harmony and lead vocals, meant a night of musical invention that many bands could not manage.
The set ranged from their own spirited instrumentals, such as the fiddle led Hammer It Flat, to a funk-based piece that included a wah wah basszouki (a self-made instrument, that combined the deep bass sound of a traditional electric bass, and sympathetic strings which allowed it to be played as a chordal instrument) that included Booker T and the MG’s Soul Limbo.
Many of the songs contained story-telling narrative such as The Green Children, which told the tale of some strange foundlings on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.
They tackled the traditional The Little Drummer Boy with some vigour, and this song featured unison violin and saxophone motif’s and beat-box percussion.
The haunting folk songs continued with Bleeding Heart Yard, which was a murder ballad, while Amazing was a pure pop song with deeper sensibilities.
The first half closed with the wobble board, ukulele and audience participation of Turning of the Tide.
As well as the bass, ukuleles made from saucepans and the Basszouki made from the hubcaps of a Mercedez Benz, a further instrument invented by the group – the Bing Bong Machine – added a dance-like ambience to some of the songs, while the Musical Saw featured on The Silence Fell. The solemn mood created by this song was soon changed by the group’s reading of South Australia – another radically reworked sea shanty that allowed for spirited audience participation.
A number of other instrumentals were played, with each group member demonstrating their versatility.
An encore of Sing For Our Time On Earth was a further demonstration of the group’s talent.