On 26th November 2018, in my FATEA review of the Reg Meuross CD 12 Silk Handkerchiefs, I concluded with a reference to its performance to over 400 people packed into Hull Minster thus - "Standing ovations and tears were the order of the night, and there are plans for the show to tour in 2019. I think that it can be safely predicted that these events will be amongst the highlights of the year too."
Tonight, having attended one of those shows, I can happily confirm, that, at last, one my predictions has been unerringly accurate. This was indeed a musical highlight- not only of this year, but any year.
For the uninitiated, and there are still some unaware of the story, 12 Silk Handkerchiefs is a song cycle written by Reg Meuross inspired by The Headscarf Revolutionaries, written by Dr Brian W Lavery, the book recounting the true story of the Hull Triple Trawler Disaster in which fity-eight trawlermen lost their lives when three ships sank in as many weeks, with only one man, Harry Edom, surviving. The disaster sparked an uprising by the Hessle Road fishwives, led by Mrs. Lillian Bilocca, leading to changes being made in safety practices in the most dangerous industry on earth, albeit at immense personal cost.
As on the recording, tonight's concert featured narration from Dr Lavery, accompanied by Reg Meuross on guitar and vocals, Hull folk singer Sam Martyn, harmonium and voice, together with legend of the Hull music scene Mick McGarry also providing vocals.
In terms of the audio experience, the live show is a pretty faithful replication of what appears on the CD. Dr Lavery's spoken extracts from his book delivered in a wonderfully warm Glaswegian accent, with the musical elements performed also a close reproduction of the recording - minor differences being a lack of dulcimer from Reg and high whistle from Sam, rather than flute.
The most noticeable difference, somewhat obviously, is the visual one. The multi-media aspect of the show, utilising as it does slides presenting a plethora of contemporaneous images of, to give just a few examples - key figures in the story, Hessle Road, trawlers, newspaper headlines and funeral wreaths, alongside snippets from radio and tv interviews and broadcasts, enhances the narrative immensely, I would suggest equally for those cogniscent with the history as those not.
I will not dwell on the musical quality of the songs delivered tonight, suffice to say that they remain a product of one of Britain's finest modern singer-songwriters and that the vocals provided by Mick, Reg and Sam were superlative. As Brian quipped in the informative Q&A session which followed the performance, if Ken Loach ever wrote songs he'd have wanted to be Reg Meuross.
The whole experience was a revelation, covering the complete range of emotions. I felt honoured and privileged to be able to attend such a moving presentation, even if from just the other side of the river to Hull. Gratifying, therefore to hear Brian confirm that there are no local stories, only good or bad stories. It is to be hoped that the show may tour again, although this is funding dependent, not least in order that more people' s lives might be enriched through the experience that it will certainly provide.
The final words must also belong to Dr Lavery, "Their courage will never be forgotten"
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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