Surreal humour with a meaningful message from the Spooky Men's Chorale at Sidmouth Folk Festival

PUBLISHED: 16:13 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:23 07 August 2019

The Spooky Men’s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

The Spooky Men's Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

Paul Strange

There was a full house in The Ham for The Spooky Men, always one of Sidmouth's most popular acts.

The Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul StrangeThe Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

And they go from strength to strength, with their spine-chilling harmonies, surreal humour aimed at deflating their own masculinity, and, increasingly, political commentary.

Their set included old favourites such as Stephen Taberner's haunting love-song Sweetest Kick in the Heart, and the 'Sufi hymn' Ba'hari Gibb - a spoof on the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive which praises Barry Gibb as a great prophet and has a couple of the Spooky Men whirling like dervishes amongst the audience.

The set introduced some of the tracks from their new album, Welcome to the Second Half. Spookmeister Stephen Tabener introduced one of the new songs as an example of 'The Tragedy of the Commons' - what makes complete sense for one person (standing as near as possible to the conveyor belt in the airport arrivals lounge) becomes impossible and destructive if everyone tries to do it. It is a gift of The Spooky Men to be able to make this serious point with deadpan humour - involving one member being gradually edged and pushed out of their circle. Another song new to their repertoire is Joni Mitchell's anti-war song The Fiddle and the Drum - their harmonies here really did make the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end, as did their version of Tom Waits' Picture in a Frame and Tennyson's Crossing the Bar. The set included two Georgian songs with their extraordinary harmonies and a spine-chilling Icelandic hymn. We were also treated to a yodelling version of Bohemian Rhapsody which involved the Spookies stripping off to their variously tattered vests. Their encore was James' Taylor's Shower the People You Love With Love: as Stephen said, empathy and compassion are, crucially, missing 'at the top' and it is up to us to foster them. He led the whole audience to join in with the various parts and harmonies of this song, and a very powerful and moving moment was created. As Stephen reminded us: "You have been you, we have been us, and this has been an evening" ... and what an evening.

NICOLA KING

The Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul StrangeThe Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

The Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul StrangeThe Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

The Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul StrangeThe Spooky Men�s Chorale at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

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