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Legends of Folk and Rock!
A concert by two legends of 1960s and 70s progressive folk: Jacqui McShee(Pentangle) and Joe O’Donnell (East of Eden, Headstone) and their current bands.
Jacqui McShee is celebrated as the singer with Pentangle, the Folk group that helped to mould and inspire the 1960s British music scene. Originating within traditional Folk, and borrowing from Blues and Jazz, Pentangle had some of the most inventive players of the time: guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, Danny Thompson on double bass, and Terry Cox on drums. Their distinctive multi-layered acoustic textures and their finely crafted music influenced more than one generation, reflected in their BBC Lifetime Achievement Award (2007).
Jacqui’s new group, Circle, was formed in 2018. It features Coventry’s own Kevin Dempsey (guitar), Mike Piggott (violin) and Tom Chapman(percussion), all acknowledged performers in their own right. Kevin Dempsey has worked with musicians in many genres such as Percy Sledge and Alice Coltrane, while retaining his essential connection with folk music as a guitarist and songwriter. He and Jacqui have performed extensively and recorded together. Mike Piggott has a long engagement with Folk music (Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch), even joining Pentangle for a while in the 1980s. He also appears with prominent Jazz artists such as John Etheridge, Martin Taylor and Guy Barker. Tom Chapman is a founder member of the Urban Folk Quartet and his freelance activities have found him in company with such artists as Joss Stone, Cerys Matthews and Fairport Convention.
*Joe O’Donnell*’s pedigree spans Celtic folk, rock and music from North Africa and India. His album Gael’s Vision blends original orchestral composition, traditional Celtic music and contemporary rock. Born in Limerick, Ireland, Joe came to England in 1970, working with top musicians of the day including Rory Gallagher, Henry McCullough and Thin Lizzie. He made his acclaimed album Gaodhal’s Vision in 1976, and then toured widely with his band across Europe and the UK for several years.
After moving to the Channel Islands in the 1980s Joe returned to England in the 1990s, settling in Coventry, recording and performing. It was here that he began to develop Shkayla, first as an album, then as a band. Joe O’Donnell’s Shkayla has been in its current form for 10 years, performing and recording.
Besides playing at music venues and festivals Joe has developed several collaborative projects. In 2006 he performed Gaodhal’s Vision with band, orchestra and dancers, at Warwick International Folk Festival. In 2016 St. Patrick Goes To The Punjab, at the Albany Theatre, Coventry, spanned Irish, Celtic and Scottish music, Flamenco and Indian music, with Irish and Asian musicians and dancers. In 2017 Gael’s Vision (at the Belgrade), consisted of performing Gaodhal’s Vision complete with original orchestrations, dancers, images and narration, and new material. This led to appearances at the Godiva Festival (main stage) and Cork International Folk Festival.
There were a number of celebrated Folk musicians in Coventry from the late 1960s into the 1990s. For example Kevin Dempsey and the late Martin Jenkins worked together forming internationally known band Dando Shaft, then Whippersnapper with Dave Swarbrick (also late) and Chris Leslie, (both subsequently with Fairport Convention). Polly Bolton sang with Dando Shaft then with the Albion Band, appearing with artists like Alan Stivell and Show of Hands. Martin Jenkins also became a member of the Joe O’Donnell Band, (pre-Shkayla).
However this scene receded over time, and the arrival of 2-Tone music set a different direction. This event serves to remind us of the profile that Folk music used to enjoy in Coventry. An event with one of the UK’s top performers, combined with outstanding talent from Coventry, should help to put the City back on the Folk map. We hope that this will not be a one-off, especially as we move towards Coventry 2021.
Legends of Folk and Rock is supported by Arts Council England.