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Louise Jordan

Venue: St Thomas
Town: Newport
Date: 9/10/16

No Petticoats Here is the intriguing title of Louise Jordan’s latest project and the title of her album about a selection of extraordinary women who lived through WW1 and their stories. The title comes from a quote that women were not wanted or encouraged to join in the war work.I was instantly interested after coming across a flyer for the concert after attending a singing workshop, as it combined not only a singer that I was interested in hearing more from but also the subject matter as I love history and in particular social history that is often hidden.

The venue was the Medieval church of St Thomas’s in Redwick,a village on the outskirts of Newport in S. Wales. It seemed to be the perfect venue for such a concert, walking through the graveyard into the church gave one the feeling of memento mori also inside indeed someone had put on display their aunt’s nursing uniform, complete with blood stains, her nursing certificate and Red Cross handbook from this period which added extra intensity and air of realism to the atmosphere especially as Louise Jordan featured the story of one such nurse of renown in her set.

Louise herself also gave a hint of what was to come as she was dressed in clothing comprised of what appeared to be army jodhpurs, and peaked cap combined with a white feminine high necked blouse reminiscent of the era which beautifully displayed the juxtaposition of what a woman was supposed to aspire to contrasted with the harsh men’s world of war these remarkable women embarked on.

The Acoustics of the venue were wonderful and Louise has a very clear and distinctive voice which seemed to fit perfectly to the period she was singing about. The accompaniment of the set alternated between the guitar and keyboards being played. In one particular song Toil Women Toil a drum was used which fitted the monotony and rigidity of women working hard in munitions factories to aid the war effort whilst reminding the audience of the military and ongoing war for which their products would be used in. This was one of my favourites from the performance in which the audience was invited to participate in the chorus, another such song in which the audience participated was Shoulder to shoulder which told the story of the rise of Women's football teams, such as Dick Kerr Ladies FC, and how they came to prominence during the war as men were away fighting, they were semi professional and earned expenses to cover a day's work and travel but also raised funds to help feed the hungry or homeless, prisoners and sick soldiers, even coming out to support the miners. Often drawing crowds in excess of 20000 to their games.

Interspersed between the music Louise eloquently revealed the backstories behind the songs and even pointers to look out for phrases or words in the songs along with explanations as to why bits of information had been included which enhanced the enjoyment of the songs. Louise Jordan's beautiful voice combined with very interesting stories really brought these amazing women to life. It was evident that Louise was extremely passionate about this subject matter and had done extensive research but the thing I personally will take away from the concert was her desire for these stories to be shared so that these women and their contribution to the war and their extraordinary lives and achievements would not be forgotten as history tends to gloss over their involvement. Louise mentioned that she was continuing to try to gain funding to extend this project.

Louise’s encore was the only song she performed on the night that does not appear on the album No Petticoats Here. Home lads Home from Warhorse was a fitting end to the evening and Louise gave her rendition of this wonderful song after discussing Warhorse with my son in the interval and deciding to do this as the encore. Once again the audience were encouraged to join in the chorus.

Another lovely touch was sheets giving information on these stories of the women and the chorus’s of the songs for the audience to participate in apart from the encore, this ensured that there was some beautiful singing despite the low numbers attending and the wonderful acoustics of the building. I have included a picture of this sheet for reference. As Louise stated it is hard not to get carried away on the topic once you start which, alas, has been the case with me here !

It was a wonderful concert which brought to life these amazing women with such warmth and tenderness in Louise Jordan's songs, her lyrical voice was a joy to listen to and the refrains of some of the rousing choruses remained with me long after the concert. We even played the cd featuring all the songs bar the encore on our homeward journey. The concert not only left me with an appetite to hear more about this project but to also explore her back catalogue. It may have been a small select crowd that gathered to hear her sing but very well worth the effort of discovering not only a singer I had heard little of but the gem of the village also.

Sian Northey - Words, David Chamberlain - Pictures

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