Monday, 11 November 2013

Jim Moray - Union Chapel 10th Anniversary Party - 9/11/2013

Jim Moray described the event as a ‘Party’. This is certainly the first party I have attended that involved sitting on a pew for three hours. However, it was a truly special event. The Union Chapel is a beautiful building with spectacular architecture. Even with such a large audience, the event still felt intimate and friendly. The venue was very cold though, which is expected, given that it is November. 

During the first half of the concert Jim Moray performed songs from his debut album 'Sweet England’ in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its release. He seemed a little nervous as he took to the stage, though he needn't have been, given the enthusiastic and supportive nature of the audience. Throughout the set, there was a string quintet, ‘The Dorset Ensemble’, on stage adding beautiful accompaniments to Jim’s wonderful singing and guitar playing. Furthermore, the talented musicians Nick Malcolm (trumpet), Nick Cooke (melodeon) and Dave Burbridge (drums), normally called ‘the Skulk Ensemble', contributed to many of the songs giving them a much fuller sound.

Jim began by playing the song ‘Early One Morning’, a natural choice given it is the first track on ‘Sweet England’. This song included a beautiful accompaniment by the strings. Furthermore its upbeat melody and punchy vocals made it both enjoyable and exciting.

Jim Moray admitted that he had not performed some of the songs from 'Sweet England' since the first tour. However, it was particularly nice to hear these songs that are so often overlooked. One of the highlight was the performance of ‘April Morning'. The arrangement of this song is more simple compared to some of his new material; however it is also very beautiful. A heavy drum beat was not necessary to compel the audience to listen. The simple melody and delicate guitar accompaniment were very fitting to be played in such a striking building.

Jim utilised many pre-recorded backing tracks and aural embellishments during the first half in order to replicated the sound of the album ‘Sweet England’. Although it seemed a little strange initially, it was very effective. ‘Seeds of Love’ is an example where Jim used his intricate sound engineering skills to create a dark setting for the words. This really suits the song and makes it stand out as being very unusual compared to other versions.

Jim Moray seemed more confident for the second half. Furthermore, I think the sound quality had been improved during the interval, so there was not so much of an echo effect around the chapel. He appeared on stage with his talented sister, Jackie Oates, before playing the Folk Award winning Song ‘Lord Douglas’. Jackie Oates has a very pure voice that complements Jim’s perfectly, and is a lovely addition to this fantastic song. Jim’s brilliant guitar playing was also very noticeable, and although he does not make it look as effortless as some musicians, the sound he creates is lovely. He varied the volume and speed of his playing to fit the narrative of the song and this maintains interest as it is quite long and contains a rather complex plot.

This was followed by Jackie singing ‘the Death of Queen Jane’, which she claimed she sang in order to mark the birth of the royal baby.This is an incredibly slow and depressing song and a very strange choice for the ‘party’. However, Jackie has a beautiful and haunting voice that reverberated around the chapel.

Following this, Ben Walker and Josienne Clarke took to the stage to play a song from their latest album which Jim has contributed to massively. Josienne has a pleasant and relaxing voice and Ben Walker played guitar wonderfully whilst Jim Moray played piano. Jim and Josienne sang the broken-token ballad ‘Jenny of the Moor’ with Jim singing the part of ‘Denis’ and Josienne singing the part of ‘Jenny’. The idea of splitting the narrative of this song is very effective to convey the story. Additionally, they made a brilliant duet and Ben Walker played guitar on the track, although this was slightly overshadowed by Jim’s guitar playing.

Maz O’Connor’s appearance on stage was a slight surprise, although a very welcome one. Jim Moray has been producing her latest album, so it was pleasing that she contributed to the ‘party’. She played a very pretty song called ‘London lights’ which Jim Moray understandably described as his favourite. Jim admitted that they had only practised the performance three times previously. Maz played piano and Jim played guitar on the track and together the song was powerful and beautiful.
Bella Hardy was invited on to stage to sing ‘Three Black Feathers’, which she claimed she started writing during her GCSE maths exam. It is beautiful night visiting song that Jim Moray “stole” and recorded on his album ‘Low Culture’. The song has an incredibly traditional feel which suited the gentle accompaniment. Bella and Jim singing together was perfect; certainly another highlight.

Next came the Keston Cobbler Club bringing rhythm and harmonies. They were certainly the most energetic group of the evening. The addition of tuba and trumpet created a lively atmosphere.. They remained on stage to play the night visiting song ‘Seven Long Years’ and were joined by all the performers of that evening. This song is just perfect for such a large group of talented artists. Jim clearly enjoyed this moment enormously and so did the audience.  The vocal harmonies, lively instrumentation and rhythmic beat made it a brilliant finale. The song ended with a standing ovation and unbelievably enthusiastic round of applause from the audience. Jim seemed relieved that his music had gained such a great reaction from the audience. He raised his glass to the audience as a thank you before departing the stage.

But the audience would not let him off that lightly. Jim, Jackie and Nick Cooke returned to the stage for one final song – ‘Wishfulness Waltz’. This song was written by Jim for Jackie and it is recorded on her album ‘the Violet Hour’. However, Jim Moray recently “stole” it back and now regularly plays it at his concerts. The audience was invited to sing along to the chorus. It was incredibly affecting to hear it sung by Jackie and Jim together and was the perfect ending to the evening. I do not want to overuse the word 'beautiful', but this moment really was beautiful.

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