Ange Hardy at the Tree House – a review by Roy Spencer

Many thanks to Roy Spencer for this review of the wonderful Ange Hardy gig last month, and of the Tree House itself!

Ange Hardy – Tree House Bookshop, Kenilworth, Warwickshire 17 September 2015


Kenilworth’s Tree House Bookshop is a lovely little gem of a place, a short walk from the town’s historic clock tower.  The not-for-profit shop is run for the community by Victoria Mier and a small team of volunteers and stocks a wide range of donated books at low prices.  As well as its comfortable seating and nominally-priced hot drinks and cakes, the shop is a true community space, offering a growing range of out-of-hours activities from art history talks to craft fairs, classic film shows to silent reading sessions.  Among the popular events are regular music sessions, for which Victoria books well-known touring folk and acoustic acts and encourages up-and-coming local performers with open mic evenings.

A pleasant mid-September evening saw the welcome return of Ange Hardy, who was performing a handful of dates in the area before embarking on her Coleridge Way tour, near to her West Country home.  Just six days short of a year earlier, during September 2014, Ange had visited the shop in its previous premises and while browsing the shelves chanced upon a copy of Coleridge’s Poetry and Prose.  That book was the spark that ignited the inspiration behind recently released new album, Esteecee.

Ange started her set with the first public performance of The Daughters of Watchet, a song that she had completed only a day earlier while travelling to the gig.  While she sang the haunting song unaccompanied, Ange’s skilful use of an impressive array of looping pedals turned it into an enchanting exercise in three-part harmony.  The first of only two contemporary covers followed: a delicate guitar-led version of The Queen and the Soldier, which was first heard on Suzanne Vega’s self-titled debut.

Delving into her back catalogue, Ange filled the room with the beautiful vocals of Mother Willow Tree from the 2013 album Bare Foot Folk and a few from last year’s The Lament of the Black Sheep.  The Lost Soul became particularly poignant after she described her time spent as a teenager living on the streets of Dublin, while witty tribute to absentminded daydreaming The Woolgatherer even had the hesitant audience singing along.  An elderly gentleman’s sad story of hope had inspired The Sailor’s Farewell, during which Ange’s cleverly looped voice did a nice job of reproducing the sound of the released recording.

More multi-tracked harmonies introduced The Foster Mother’s Tale, the opening song from Esteesee, before the gentle Pantisocracy described Coleridge’s interest and failed involvement in an ideology of equality for all men.  Ange’s fascinating use of layered whistle and harp along with her voice made traditional eighteenth century song The Trees they do Grow High just about as compelling as it could be and was rightly lapped up by the enthusiastic crowd.

The music continued with another visit to Esteesee, taking in Friends of Three, the album’s title track with its softly plucked harp and a little later, Along the Coleridge Way with an intricate combination of live and looped harp.  A pair of sombre songs about separated love, the traditional The Waters of Tyne, perhaps best known in versions by Tynesiders Jimmy Nail and Sting, was coupled with Kate Rusby’s Let the Cold Wind Blow, so it was only fair that Ange chose to lighten the mood somewhat by ending with a rather light-hearted song about a dog.

An engaging orator as well as a talented singer and skilled musician, Ange Hardy kept the audience enthralled with interesting dialogue, sharing background information and revealing snippets of her personal history. Her remarkably clear singing voice, precise use of multiple loops and a varied programme of original, traditional and modern songs made a memorable evening of superbly performed and absorbing music.

Roy Spencer

[Rubbish photo is mine not Roy’s!]

Live music at the Tree House – magic!

 Ange Hardy at the old Tree House - another chance to hear her in Kenilworth this September!

Ange Hardy at the old Tree House – another chance to hear her in Kenilworth this September!

Live music is such a joy.  We are exposed to so much recorded music that the whole experience of listening to music has been devalued.  Don’t get me wrong – I am thrilled to be living in an age when I can listen to music whenever I want to, and have easy access to my favourite musicians on record and via digital means.

But we take music for granted – music, one of the most extraordinary achievements of the human race, taken for granted!  Music as both a participatory and a listening experience is beneficial – scientists have shown this time and again.  I remember Roger Bannister on Desert Island Discs – a doctor, a man of science, but also a violinist, and he said the power of music is what happens in the brain between the sound being made and our enjoyment of it.  Something that can’t be explained, physiologically or otherwise, but is nevertheless very real.

That’s what the Tree House is about – promoting those areas of human life that can’t be explained but are very real and hugely important to our welfare as individuals and as a society.  That’s why we call ourselves a community hub – we are here to draw people together through literature, music, film, crafts and art history, generally known as the Arts, which are not seen as crucial to our survival but without which we are less than human and survival is a bit pointless.  They are part of what we are.  We showed Werner Herzog’s amazing film Cave of Forgotten Dreams last year, about the cave paintings in the Ardeche that are 32000 years old and that show the importance of art as intrinsic to the experience of homo sapiens from the dawn of history and into the pre-historic era.

Blimey, this is getting lyrical.  It’s all meant as a preamble to promote our live events at the Tree House, and especially our music events, which are such a treat.  We focus on acoustic, unamplified music (sometimes a singer will bring their own PA equipment because it suits their style of music), as we are a small venue and that seems to work best.  We are building a wishlist, and have some wonderful people coming soon.

We want to support live music and pay the artists their stipulated fee or 100% of the ticket sales.  For us, it’s the chance to provide this community space through music, and hopefully sell a few books and bring in more customers!  We are not licensed but you are very welcome to bring a bottle to any of our gigs; we can provide wineglasses and bottle openers, and we charge £1 corkage.  We always offer tea and coffee (including herbal teas and decaffeinated versions of both) at £1 a cup.

So do consider coming along to our music events.  It’s disheartening for us and for the performers when only a handful turn up, though a small, appreciative audience is always a joy.  To have the people we are lining up performing in Kenilworth is a huge treat and the chance to hear stars and rising stars doesn’t come to town very often.

Take off your headphones and come and hear some fantastic music live! 

Here are our upcoming music events, more details soon on the Events tab (already on Facebook if you are that way inclined!).

4 July – Treehouse Sessions, our regular open mic event – £2, redeemable as a book voucher (no corkage charged at these evenings)

17 July – Daria Kulesh

20 July – Kirsty Bromley

17 September – Ange Hardy