4:20 p.m. August 8, 2022
09:11 9 August 2022
Friday August 5: last day of the Sidmouth Folk Festival. A day of tidying up, of fond farewells to friends old and new, and of making plans for next year. But first, one last celebration…
At the Ham Marquee, the Large workshop window was an opportunity for workshop participants to show off their newly acquired skills, and we were excited to see what they had learned over the past week. The first was John Kirkpatrick Festival Concert Band, an eclectic mix of wind, string and percussion instruments. After a hesitant start, the players gained confidence, rocking into two of Kirkpatrick’s arrangements, “Freda Chucked A Sock” and “A Mitreful of Ale”.
Next on was Norma Mills Folk Orchestra. Again, a little hesitant at first, they quickly began strumming happily and weaving their way through ‘Banks Of The Ohio’, before leading a unique rendition of ‘New York Girls’. They were followed by Choir Paul Sartin, who had learned horse-related songs at his “Horses For Courses” workshops. ‘The Country Carrier’, a Victorian music hall song, was followed by a confident staging of the First World War poem ‘Home, Lads, Home’ and a driving ‘Romany Rye’.
Then it was time to hear from the members of Ilse PedlerPoetry workshops. The individual poems were followed by the collaborative work ‘A Sidmouth Ballad’, its ironic and humorous references to festival life eliciting knowing laughter from the audience. Finally, we were treated to the joyful harmonies of Sandra Kerr Festival Chorus performing a varied program that included the traditional ‘Brigg Fair’, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ and one of Kerr’s own compositions, post-lockdown ‘The Big Gear Change’.
After lunch at the Ham – a difficult choice with so many tempting options – we took a final stroll along the Esplanade to enjoy the lively atmosphere of the stalls, impromptu musical performances and Morris dancing accessible to all .
Along the way, we encountered pirates and a piper before stopping to enjoy the glorious sounds of musicians and singers from the West Gallery Music Association. The group – which performed daily in the bus shelter – was formed to study, preserve, perform, teach and appreciate sacred and secular music and song of the 18th and 19th centuries, as performed in the West Galleries of the churches before the Presentation of Church Organs. When we arrived they were delighting passersby with a (slightly out of season) selection of familiar Christmas carols in unfamiliar settings.
Our last show of the festival – the The men of the slum of Exmouth‘Tall Ships And Tavern Tales’ at the Manor Pavilion – did not disappoint. Indeed, with new members invigorating the crew, they sounded better than ever. They cast off with a rousing version of ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, played aboard the ship. Then we were treated to more familiar chants, including a roaring ‘Hog’s Eye Man’ and a richly harmonized ‘Santiano’. The second half, which takes place in a tavern, opened with the pensive “Heaven’s A Bar”, followed by a varied program including the music hall song “Every Inch A Sailor”, the humorous ” The Handsome Cabin Boy’, the poignant ‘Brave Wolfe’ and a soulful ‘Shenandoah’, before ending with a catchy encore of ‘Roseabella’.
But was it really the end? No, there was a little more to come… leaving the Shanty Men, we descended into the Arts Center just in time to catch the end of The traditional farewellwhere the Irish fiddler Jackie Daly and accordionist Matt Cranitch followed by a slow waltz with a driving set of impeccably played polkas.
And there was still the Torchlight Procession along the Esplanade, featuring many of the dance teams from the shows of the week, as well as beautiful lanterns produced in the children’s workshops. Finally, the colorful fireworks marked the official end of this year’s Sidmouth Folk Festival. But as we headed home, the music from the impromptu sessions was still pouring through the open windows of the Bedford Hotel…onward to 2023!