Saturday, 25 April 2015

Steve Howe Bristol Colston Hall

Smile its Steve Howe on Guitar

Whenever I sit waiting for Steve to come on I do wonder how one man and his guitar can make for a special night.

He began with the Martin M38 which gives a bright sound and in that first phase played a couple of Trio pieces including the Holly's cover. The Trio album is apparently now finished.

"Diary of A Man Who Disappeared" and then he brought this section to a conclusion with "To Be Over" I thought a good deal about Malcolm during this piece. The music making was fantastic and being able to sit and listen to this timeless piece of music in its naked form works perfectly. He switches to the Kohno for my favourite part of the concert. The sound is so warm and musical and pieces from the Steve Howe Album and Grand Scheme of Things and the re imagined piece Corkscrew sounded superb. Intersection Blues with that constant return to the rotating central motife was proceeded by Little Gilliard. I do love all of his music in concert including his country picking pieces but I adore the more formal European pieces. This wonderful segment ended with "Mood For A Day".

The crowd were great, quiet always listening, and then full of applause when pieces ended and it was the biggest audience I have been in for a Steve Howe solo concert. Steve continues to build on his more open and relaxed manner and was full of fun and down to earth humour and genuinely appreciative of our attendence.

The second set flew by "Sketches In The Sun", "Dorothy" but it began with Charlie Chaplins "Smile" a brilliant reinterpretation eking out, through different tempos and finger work, every last little bit of reinvention of the main melody.

Cactus Boogie on Electric and then we moved to the four Yes pieces on the Portuguese Guitar, `"Hour of Need" and "Nine Voices" only remind you how silly it is not to throw a couple of deep cuts in to the band sets.

All The Good People of Bristol gave him a robust thank you at the end and he was back for "Clap"  

It truly is a Wondrous Story to return to the Colston Hall 40 years after my first ever Yes concert there for the Relayer Tour and sit down and experience a couple of hours of consummate music making from one of the architects of that amazing tour all those years ago. Thank you Malcolm for reminding me of the very real privilege it is.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Malcolm Birkett 19th December 1950 - 21st March 2015

There is a light halestone shower as we drive up out of Todmordon, birth place of Keith Emerson and move in to Lancashire 20 miles North is Accrington birth place of Jon Anderson and 20 miles south is St John The Divine Church Sale.

No sign of spring on this grey overcast day as we all converge to say our good byes and come to understand a little more of the remarkable life of Malcolm Birkett.

Sale is an attractive leafy superb of Manchester and the church a wonderful piece of architecture built in the hey day of the first economic miracle to sweep the dales and valleys of the North of England.

Isn't life strange, I have a life long interest in an unorthodox rock band from the sixties and seventies and I am sat in a church listening to the bands music surrounded by some of the nicest people you could wish to meet with one of the great success stories of the current lineup immediately behind with his lovely wife come to pay tribute to a fellow traveller, surreal really.  

All of us are all Intertwined 

Malcolm's life stood for many things, but a common thread that runs through his personal and professional life is the desire to bring people together, to share precious joys, professional challenges and family. So his friends from his career as a teacher, his friends that shared the same musical passions and his family were all present. From Scotland, Wales the far South of England, Mancunians all where there, and whilst not physically present his great swathe of friends from around the world were all bending their thoughts toward this place and the special person we were about to say goodbye to. In honour of those unable to attend Yes's adaption of the Simon and Garfunkel tune "America" was played before the service.  

The church doors swing open, you knew because the cool air passes into the church and "In the morning when you rise, do you open up your eyes …  from a more innocent age is played as the funeral procession enters. The Reverend Bryan Hackett welcomes us to the funeral and the service begins with Jerusalem a quintessentially British Hymn, which curiously had been covered by Keith Emerson and his buddies in the seventies. 

A reading of scripture which dealt with the promise in which faith is invested and the hymn "The Lord is My Shepherd". 

Remember A long the way 

Peter a friend who came into Malcolm's life at college then steered us from 1969 to 2015.         
What struck me forcibly was that Malcolm the dapper, fun loving, music appreciating talented and successful individual set his stall out all those years ago and very little changed. He clearly knew whom he was from a very early age, was comfortable in his own skin and went with it. He made relationships and stuck with them taking people along with him through out his life. 

He decided Lyn was going to marry him and eventually she agreed that she was going to and that central relationship stayed with him through out his life. Not the couple with nothing left to say after all the years of their life but still friends still chatting and sharing and he never stopped being proud of his "Lads". Malcolm gathered people unto him and there they stayed always feeling they were special to him and made to feel unique and appreciated. The tributes on Facebook the emails from Scotty and Brian Chatton read out by Peter testify to this unique gathering up of a larger and larger extended family of friends beyond his precious core family as the years went on.  

Tributes were read out by his teaching colleagues from his pupils who felt he turned them round and much emphasis was made of his skill at drawing various elements of the local education system together to work as one. The constant recurring theme of bringing people and ideas together.

After many amusing anecdotes in this loving, thoughtful and considerate address Peter took us through the final months weeks and days. Malcolm positive, determined, hospitable, to the end, making jokes of the awkwardness of his hoist and determined to get his hair immaculate and be neat in the most unglamorous of circumstances.

Peter received applause for his wonderful address, the Lords Prayer the Blessing and achingly appropriate "Soon" as we processed out.

The family left for the interment we chatted and moved off to the hotel for a convivial afternoon Lyn with great composure and dignity moving graciously between the guests, and she looked after us royally. Whilst not an uber fan herself she knew they had played "Time and A Word" rather than "Wondrous Stories" as indicated in the programme.           

It is of no help to those whom have to come to terms in the weeks and years ahead with the loss of a husband and father but there is energy in death. You can take it and live your own life with more gratitude and joy. You can be more positive in adversity and you can  strive to be a greater enthusiast of your hobbies and completely grounded in your home life and professional life. We have been given the very best example of those qualities in one human being. We can pick up the baton and run with it just a little bit or a lot, that is the gift Malcolm has bestowed on us in life and death.

God's Speed Malcolm 

PS "All Intertwined" and "Remember Along The Way" are included on the Circa's second CD led by another musician Malcolm idolised Prof Billy Sherwood. It was the first CD Malcolm introduced to me.