Big Help Music Showcase
What a bumper night the second Big Help Music showcase at the Boat Inn Birdingbury Wharf turned out to be. Matt and Sue were hosting the event at their lovely pub. Arfur the dog was on patrol all the time, I cannot believe how much he has grown in the last six months and he is only nine months old now!
A slightly nervous Rachel Cameron who helps with artist support at BHM was first on stage singing to the accompaniment of her dad, Ewen, on guitar. It was Rachel's first ever gig and having got her initial song, (Tears for Fears' "Mad World"), out of the way, she settled into her stride with Imagine Dragon's hit "Radioactive". I imagine it was all a bit of an ordeal for Rachel, but the audience warmed to her and as her confidence grew, she got stronger the further she got into her set. She finished with a very good version of the Jessie J/Ariana Grande hit, "Bang Bang". Having broken her duck so to speak, I am sure that Rachel will be encouraged by the response of her first audience.
Diminutive in stature but big in talent, Megan Carlyle was next to appear before us. Her long blonde hair flies as she demonstrates her extraordinary vocal range. From deep contralto to soaring soprano, this sixteen year old singer songwriter from Hinckley, performed three numbers for our entertainment. She has the look and stage presence of an up and coming star, however I don't know if it is her style of singing, or my seventy four and three quarter year old ears, but I felt her diction could do with some work. That view was not I think shared by other around me, maybe I am just getting cranky in my old age. Nonetheless, I would enjoy seeing her again.
Bethia Mitchel is a tall girl who works on PR at BHM who one might say is wasted driving a desk. She carries her guitar in an enormous padded case, which is just as well because Arfur knocked it over at one point. Out of it's case, Bethia uses it to demonstrate her Country Music influences, She has toured both the UK and USA (twice) honing her music to the level that she has attained. I almost cannot say how thoroughly I enjoyed her set. I was much taken by her second song, "Lighthouse Boy" a lively narrative tale. This is a young lady who would be an asset to any bill to which her name is appended. Dutch, organiser and CEO of BHM may not agree with my assertion that her place is not behind a desk, as he tells me that she is full of good PR and publicity ideas. Nonetheless, I want to hear more of her music, and I suspect I am not alone.
All of the preceding artists were new to me and the next, Jess Howard, whilst not a stranger, is a singer who I have seen and heard only a couple of times before. This beautiful, confident and strong performer opened her set with a song written by Coventry lad, Jimmy O'Neill. James O'Neill was once part of Jimmy Jimmy a busking duo who found short lived fame in the 1980's. The song Jess chose included the line, "Things are getting better every day", a sentiment which is upbeat as was her version of the lyrical Ariana Grande hit, "One last time". Jess seems to favour songs from the shows as numbers from both Dreamgirls and Hairspray featured in her set as did an Adele song. With a catalogue as extensive and of such quality to select from, it is no wonder that many contemporary singers delve into it for performance material. That said, some of the songs take some singing, one such is "When We Were Young". It needs a voice and power of real talent to do justice to this song, which Jess did in spades. She might want to consider pulling the key up half a tone or so to make it slightly more comfortable for her. I could sit, watch and listen to Jess Howard all night, does that convey how she came across? I hope so.
A phenomenon who has been picked up by a national TV broadcast organisation is Kelliemarie Willis. Thirteen years old, writes pretty much all her own stuff and is a truly gifted guitar player, who has already filmed an eight episode series, which will hit our TV screens in the new year, what is not to like? Kelliemarie opened her set with "Ho Hey!" from the Luminaires, (Just to prove that she doesn't write ALL her own songs.). However she is always outstanding and her own song "You're Not Mine" is typical of her ability to write exceptionally mature lyrics at her tender age. I love her original songs and "I've Got You" is probably my favourite although "Never Ever Know" runs it a close second. She sang a Sam Smith song, "Stay With Me" as well as a new song of which I didn't quite get the title, being one she learned for the TV show were also included in her set. Almost inevitably, being the girl that she is, she's changed it to suit her style. I always look forward to seeing Kelliemarie and will continue to do so.
Another stalwart of the BHM stable is Lorna Dea, not only is she a consummate performer, she has started helping out the younger singers by being a vocal coach. My only fear is that every one of them is going to start singing in a Yorkshire accent! By the way that IS a joke and Lorna being the lovely person that she is will get it. Her metier is Soul/Motown and as she says, If you don't like "Son of a preacher man" you cannot be her friend. Smokey Robinson and Mary Wells provided a couple of songs for her set, but her original song "My King" (which she wrote about her father,) always gets me, perhaps because I am a father (even a Great Granddad) myself. The title alone, once you know the concept is enough to have the emotions welling up. Her set ended in a bit of self justification from Joss Stone, "Right to be Wrong" which is something that at times, we all feel. Lorna is a true Yorkshire lass (living in exile in Tamworth) and the warmth of her personality reaches the very back of the audience.
The final act on the bill was Abz Winter. One of the youngest members of the BHM clan, but possibly one of the busiest. She was last on the bill by virtue of the fact that she had swimming practice before the gig. Not just any old swimming practice though, Abz is a member of a Synchronised Swimming Squad. Furthermore it was revealed that during said practice her shoulder "popped out", (in other words dislocated) That must have been very painful, but she still turned up to open with "I Can't Make you Love Me" a Bonnie Rait number written in partnership by Mike Reid and Alan Shamblin. Abz followed this with "Jealous" Which I think was a Labrynth composition. Abz displays a strong voice and admirable diction, in much the same way that Barbara Dixon exhibited at the peak of her career. She has a cheeky personality which allows her to get away with taking the mickey out of Dutch. Somewhat hilariously he was able to get his own back tonight, by telling us all that on one occasion, she was so tired from her all her exertions that she fell asleep in the studio! An up beat version of the Ella Henderson song, "Billie" brought Abz set and the concert to a close.
The Boat In has turned out to be a lovely setting for these showcases, and I look forward to return in the "First Thursday" of every month for sometime to come. In the cool night air outside, we were all appreciative of the solid fuel burner in the bar which made nice homely atmosphere which could be emulated elsewhere to the advantage of all.
Big Help Music take young people with raw talent then nurture, instruct and introduce them to public performance, giving them the skeleton of stage craft on which to build a future career in the entertainment industry. They hold regular showcases at the Boat Inn, the Bear pub in Rugby and the Fusilier in Leamington. Having their own up to the minute recording studio, and record label they are ideally placed to give budding artists a really good start.