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Shake The Chains

Venue: Guild Hall
Town: Derby
Date: 26/02/17

Shake The Chains, a project put together to examine the role that music holds in assisting in change of social history. A commission from those fine people at Folk by the Oak with support from the Arts Council England, Help Musicians and Folk Alliance.

Shake The Chains tell of stories of resistance, they impart a feeling of community, they reflect an ability to protest. They do that not with dirges but rather with an engaging warmth that carries the audience through two full sets.

From the opening "If I Had I Hammer", their version closer to that of Peter, Paul and Mary rather than Pete Seeger's original, the scene is set, justice and freedom are the goals and harmonies are the keys to break the shackles.

It's also clear that this collaboration of talented musicians are joined in one aim and you immediately feel this is a group not a collection of individuals thrown together for the sake of promoting an idea.

And similarly, although the songs chosen may have been written by individuals the performance is one of togetherness and comradery.

Whether its Hannah Martin (violin, banjo, guitar, vocals) who tells about the Yarl's Wood Detention Centre in a mournful, moving and heartfelt song about refugees. Or perhaps Nancy Kerr (violin, vocals) who explains the gay persecution of Alan Turing, a national hero who was hounded for his sexual preferences cumulating in his sad death by "Poisoned apple". We are informed, we are educated, we the audience are made to feel a part of the proceedings. We are not left behind, this is all inclusive protest.

We are engaged and charmed with the stage presence of Findlay Napier (guitar, vocals), as he speaks of his father and how a casual phrase "There's more to building ships" was turned it into a song, if only Scotland's Shipbuilding extended beyond that of military vessels.

Greg Russell (guitar, vocals) reflects on neighbours and Nigel Farage (could you image living next door to Nigel? Alice yes, Nigel no) before teaching us about Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, a suffragette who became the first female Mayor in Britain and the first woman to be accepted as a physician and surgeon.

Tim Yates (double bass) is superb throughout, none more so than on Nancy's Mum Sandra Kerr's song about Anti-Apartheid and employees of Dunne's Stores in 1984 refusing to handle oranges and other fruit from South Africa. Little voices often speak the loudest, sometimes small steps bring about big change.

As if to prove that, special guest at Derby, Boff Whalley from Chumbawamba sang "Voices, that's all" and the audience joined in with some of the most restrained yet beautiful singing heard for a long time at a folk concert.

Boff's ability to inject humour into protest came with the "Jeremy Hunt Rhyming Song" before Shake The Chains joined in with a shanty "Citizens Of The World".

More thoughtful and beautiful songs followed such as Hannah's tale of the Jay's who hold funerals for other birds and Nancy's poignant portrait of Victor Jara, a musician from Chile who was killed under the regime of Pinochet for singing of love, freedom and social justice.

All too soon we reach the close of the show.

Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" is the first of a well-deserved encore before we end with an accepella finish of "We Shall Overcome" as you might expect from any night of protest songs.

Tonight's gig at the warm and welcoming Guildhall in Derby was recorded as indeed were the other four venues for inclusion in a "Live" cd release later in the year (September 2017). It would be incredible if there was the option of a bonus disc of all five special guests' contributions. Having thoroughly enjoyed the gig at Derby my one regret is that I missed the other four.

Still there is a one-off concert in July at Folk By The Oak it's really not that long to wait!

Shake The Chains you won't regret it.

Words & Pictures: Ian Cripps

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