Albion Band Christmas * * * *
at Huntingdon Hall, Worcester
Review by John Philpott
Christmas at the Huntingdon wouldn’t be the same without the father of folk-rock dropping down the hall’s chimney – and this year’s visit by Ashley Hutchings and his musicians certainly didn’t disappoint.
The original 1970s idea behind plugging into amps, instead of just relying on the more acoustic finger in the ear, was to give traditional music a wider appeal without detracting from the integrity of the form.
The experiment worked – to an extent. People who wouldn’t have ordinarily listened to tales of poachers being sent to Van Diemen’s Land suddenly sat up and took notice.
Across Britain, Arran sweaters started to unravel. Thirty-plus years on, Hutchings still delivers the goods.
Ever mindful that English folk music – especially morris – is peculiarly suited to being powered along by the electric bass, he takes us on a trip down a snowbound memory lane of a lost England that now survives only in the recollections of a few.
Long before the consumer tyranny of the modern Yuletide, ordinary people made their own amusements.
Some of these would now offend modern sensibilities, such as the hunting of wren, a perverse and deadly form of homage to the king of the birds.
But apart from that, most of the pastimes so beloved of our ancestors were harmless affairs that provided welcome diversions to the harsh reality of survival.
Wassails, carols, customs and games: Hutchings and his compatriots never once lose the plot of their Christmas story, whether it concerns the Son of God’s arrival or the sight of frosted midnight fields glistening in the moonlight.
Simon Care performs the impossible with concertina and fancy footwork, Simon Nicol loves his suspended chord endings and Kelly While has the voice of an angel – Gabriel’s, obviously.
Like the season it welcomes, the Albions’ show comes but once a year – but never fails to leave us in good cheer.