In the words of the old song, what a difference a day makes. On Saturday night I was in Howard Assembly Room with blood trickling from my ears due to the megadecibels of I Like Trains and here I am on Sunday listening to the plaintive sounds of the acclaimed Scottish folk singer Siobhan Miller with just a fiddler and an acoustic guitarist.
Not only was the music totally different and the volume level even more so, but at one point Ms Miller and her guitarist stepped to the front of the stage, leaving the microphones on their stands and sang a beautiful song with no electronic amplification whatsoever. She said that she wanted to try this as she, like all the other artists I have seen, even the aforementioned band, was so impressed by the venue she wanted to find out if it would work, and work it certainly did.
Not only was the band a lot quieter but the audience, all seated this time, were rapt to such an extent that you could have heard the proverbial pin hit the deck. I must admit that the make up of those in attendance was more used to sitting, listening and politely applauding at the end, rather than whooping and shouting both during and after the songs.
As you would expect there were plenty of traditional songs, including one about a horse race common at weddings, where the contestants would ride from the groom’s house to that of the bride, the winner being rewarded with the first dance and the first kiss. I couldn’t help thinking about the stigma attached to the bride if no one entered, but that is just my own lack of self-esteem coming to the fore. Her more modern material was mainly taken from her albums Bloom and All Is Not Forgotten.
A mix of serious, amusing, upbeat and quiet gave a great variety to the performance. My favourites were All Is Not Forgotten, I’m A Rover and Wild Mountain Thyme along with the more humorous Open All Night. Ms Miller was also very generous in ceding time to her accompanists; Innes White on guitar and Charlie Stewart on fiddle, who gave us a mash up of two tunes which brought the house down. OK, resulted in a little more enthusiastic clapping than normal.
It is hardly surprising that she was awarded BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards’ Scots Singer of the Year on four occasions as well as winning BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Traditional Track. She has also worked with Eddi Reader on several collaborations, something which she said was quite overwhelming.
I have consulted her website but sadly there are no further concerts in the pipeline but there is a link to click on should you want to hear about any forthcoming dates or check out the online shop etc. https://www.siobhanmiller.com/ She did promise to return to Leeds in order to play some more gigs as, before tonight, she had only used the city as a stop off point after she discovered Trinity Kitchen. It is good to see that she supports independent businesses.
For further events coming to Howard Assembly Room please go to https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/
Feature image from Opera North. Photographs by Stan Graham.