Peacock Angell at St Martin’s Church
A Google search “How many churches are there on the Newtownards Road” is inconclusive. There are lots. All shapes, sizes, and varieties – but I’m looking for St Martin’s. It’s only little, and tucked away at the top.
I’m a little late – and so missed Peacock Angell’s opening. ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ – the well known traditional air. I’m in time for ‘Carrickfergus’, and to take in the setting, a place of worship no more. It’s almost dark now, but the altar/stage is lit peacock blue and dusky pink.
Sid Peacock is from about these parts, Bangor more precisely but once upon a time he worked beneath the cranes, with assorted relatives from the shadows of the shipyards, as they say.
Oddly, coincidentally, I noticed a plaque on the church wall to one John Peacocke (with an ‘e’) who was Head of Mission at this church from 1930-1933. A little piece of history and possibly a connection, who knows.
Ruth Angell is from Derbyshire. Place, landscape, and a sense of home feature throughout many of their songs – no more so than in the beautiful tune ‘Castle On The Hill’.
The programme blurb described their sound as “gentle yet powerful… their sound is lush, magical and multi-layered” which precisely describes the experience. These are accomplished, quality musicians on every level, quite humbling to witness.
Joining Peacock and Angell are Ryan Trebilcock on that great big velvety double bass, Steve Tromas on keyboards, Tymet Jozwiak on drums and Eimear McGeown, with her magic flute. James Galway would be proud.
Her composition is one of many highlights this evening – a melody that sprang to mind when she was at Clandeboye Estate for a festival. There was one tree – shaped like a mushroom – that captured the imagination and inspired the song that could evoke the faerie folk to rise up and dance around.
As far as I’m concerned, anecdotes that introduce a song and bring it to life are always welcome. I particularly liked Angell’s story, sitting at a Parisienne café as you do, when something surreal happened. There was a tea chest at the side of the street. Slowly it opened, and out crept a little old man. In his lap, a breadboard – and he proceeded to feed the birds – before curling back into the chest and shutting the door. That really happened, hence ‘The Bird Man’ immortalised in song.
It’s that type of evening – just offer your ears up, sit back and relax. Double bass, keyboards, drums, flute, violin, and guitar – filters from traditional Celtic lament to jazz-infused, flits from mellow to crescendo.
Poetry is a Peacock Angell feature – William Allingham’s famous poem ‘The Fairies’ brought to life with a mystical, Celtic vibe is a delight. Later, Angell’s sings her achingly beautiful version of Christina Rosetti’s ‘When I Am Dead, My Dearest’.
Another lament – for the little boy, washed up on the shore of a Greek Island last year, the image that shocked the world, then seemed to forget:
Every little boy is you. Laid out on the sand, all for the lack of an outstretched hand.
A haunting image laid bare.
Sid Peacock works closely with refugees as artistic director on a music project. The bereft feature in another, early song about vagabonds, written in the early 90s when he was influenced by the characters of Kerouac and Steinbeck, the vagabonds and lowest in society, often with beatific and angelic qualities – the type Jesus would hang out with.
The absolute highlight though is Peacock Angell’s spine-tingling version of ‘Tiny Sparrow’, once covered by Arethra Franklin and Dolly Parton. It’s the stuff that chills are made of. Outside, a siren sounds.