Celebration birthday concert for Sidmouth patron

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick join forces for a 70th birthday celebration at Sidmouth FolkWeek

BILLED as a 70th birthday celebration - Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick both turned 70 this year - this concert was also, in a sense, a celebration of their long career together as musicians, and Dave’s spirit and love of music and performing after many years of ill-health (he received a double lung transplant in 2004).

In the first half, The Old Dance School played a dazzling set of traditional, contemporary and self-penned tunes and songs.

They are neither old or teachers; they all recently graduated from the Birmingham Conservatoire and have been playing together for 18 months, and sadly there was no room to dance, as their music called for.

Two brilliant fiddle players gave a taste of things to come from Swarbrick, and a trumpet added an original note to their playing.

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Martin and Dave’s set began in a slightly subdued mood, but gathered pace and humour: lots of jokes about the time they spend tuning their instruments, with Dave explaining that his fiddle doesn’t like playing in tents and that he wasn’t built for camping.

The audience was soon compelled by the ease with which they play together, their musical and personal rapport and the power of their songs and tunes.

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Highlights for me were Dave’s story of how the tunes of Carolan came to be transcribed and his inspired playing of three of those beautiful tunes, with Martin’s unobtrusive guitar accompaniment, and Martin’s voice and playing on old standards such as Sovay and Byker Hill.

The evening ended with cake and champagne for Dave and Martin, and another standing ovation.

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