Saturday review: Cromer Folk on the Pier festival

Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman.

Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman. - Credit: Archant

The magical, life-enriching powers of music raised the spirits of listeners during what was a dull, overcast, blustery second day of this year's festival.

The enchanting strains of Irish harp music, mixed with some 1930s swing jazz, and some classics from the 1960s American Tamla Motown and soul era proved just the remedy for the unseasonal weather outside.

Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman appeared in concert at Cromer Parish Church for a second time in what was their fourth festival appearance in recent years.

Undeterred by a towering bank of scaffolding, reaching to the roof in preparation for windows restoration, the masterly duo wove a magic spell with harp and acoustic guitar over their very appreciative audience.

As always for me, it was the slow and gentle Irish tunes – mostly composed by 17th/18th century blind harpist Turlough O'Carolan – which made the most impression.


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Close behind came Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes by James Scott Skinner, James Hill and James Morrison – nicely tempered by original material by guitarist Newman, also a member of Boys of the Lough, inspired by his love of 1930s swing jazz.

Harp and guitar arrangements of a couple of American banjo tunes, including the ever-popular Old Joe Clark, added to the variety but sadly a throat problem deprived the audience from hearing any of Maire's usually superb Irish ballads.

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By contrast, an hour later, just around the corner in The Cottage, American singer-guitarist Freddie Hall enchanted his festival fringe audience with an uplifting selection of pure pop including Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine, the Temptations' My Girl and Otis Redding's Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay.

The Creedence Clearwater Revival hit Proud Mary was given a soulful treatment and Freddie further impressed his audience with a sensitive rendition of José Feliciano's Once There Was Love.

On the pier theatre stage Rainbow Chasers, led by English folk-rock 'Guv'nor' Ashley Hutchings, turned in a high quality acoustic set of fine songs and close harmony singing.

Their closing number, The Weather, was excellent but presaged a torrential rainstorm over the festival at the end of the afternoon.

Beware the power of folk!

Brian Gaudet

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