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Review: Coope, Simpson, Frazer and Freya @ Lichfield Guildhall

Folk Stalwarts Barry Coope and Lester Simpson bought their yuletide project to Lichfield Guildhall for a seasonal smorgasbord of festive delights.

With help from fellow singers and instrumentalists Fi Frazer and Jo Freya their two hour concert packed a lot in, from seasonal stories and poems, to four part harmony singing and instrumental tunes featuring instruments ranging from melodeon to Soprano Saxophone.

They play traditional Christmas songs, wassailing songs, comedy songs and songs from more modern times.

Starting with an extract from John Clare’s epic poem Christmas, the music began with a final polyphonic reading of Hark Good News, while the mood was lightened by Tom Lehrar’s A Christmas Carol – a wry look at the consumer at Christmas time. The well known wassailing song Past Three O’Clock was another display of the ensemble’s trademark vocal prowess.

The band showed some of their instrumental mettle with some strong arrangements of To Drive the Cold Winter Away/ Sussex Carol. They went back to more traditional forms with The Cherry Tree Carol and the tightly sung Down in you Forest by Amos Curtis, befpre they closed the first half with Robbie Robertson’s Christmas Must Be Tonight.

The four-piece started the second half with festive favourite While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks By Night with a less than familiar tune, but showed how the words could be adapted to practically any arrange of notes, with an impromptu rendering of Johnny Cash’s Riders in the Sky providing more than ample proof. A letter both to and from health and safety about the various issues raised by the song was read out, while A Song of Brotherly Love looked at how brothers, long separated, can be reconnected by the spirit of the season.

More instrumental music followed, with a medley of Christmas at Sea/He is Born/Ding Dong Merrily on High before Fifty Kilowatt Tree brought humour and technical polyphonic singing to the fore.

This was a pleasant evening, it was well put together and conceived and greatly enjoyed by the more mature audience.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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