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John Beresford Ralph

Photo copyright Dan Holle

I loved reading everyone's comments via FB on the RAH show, and especially the photos. Here are my thoughts:


John B A H

Photo reproduced with permission from Carol Gullick

Ralph McTell’s concert audiences have for many years been characterized as largely comprising people ‘of a certain age’, an epithet that suggests an enduring fan base of folk who have followed McTell since the 1970s. It should therefore not have come as a surprise that, when asked to nominate songs for this concert’s set list, the majority chose songs from those early days: 16 of the ‘top 20’ were 40 years old or more, two were from 30 years ago, with the newest of the people’s choices having been premiered at McTell’s 60th birthday concert as ‘recently’ as 2004.

This is not to say the people chose badly. On the contrary, their selections made a wonderful set, which McTell delivered with all the clarity and charm that has kept his audiences coming back for more over the decades. Despite having sung them so often, he treated each one as though it were freshly wrought, revealing nuances of meaning and melody that were probably not in his original intention.

The quality of McTell’s early albums is emphasised by the titles that did not make this cut. There were three songs from You Well-Meaning, but no ‘Old Brown Dog’; four from Not Till Tomorrow but no ‘Birdman’ or ‘Gypsy’; three from Easy but no room for ‘Maddy Dances' or ‘Run Johnny Run’. Nevertheless much of what we did get was sublime – exemplary performances of ‘Michael in the Garden’, ‘The Ferryman’ and ‘First Song’; and McTell’s own choice of encore, ‘West 4th Street and Jones’, a ‘new’ song that will be high on my list when next he invites the faithful to choose the songs.

Another aspect of being ‘of a certain age’ and having followed McTell since the 1970s (in my case since 1969), is the friendships that develop with like-minded folk who one meets at the concerts, sometimes by arrangement but often by chance. On this occasion I met Ruth off the tube and Lesley, John and Chris in the pub, along with Bjorn from Norway and his three friends, and two Burnley fans from Scunthorpe. Then Mags and Linda on the way into the Hall, where Ken and Maggie were in the corridor. On the way out I met Carl and Naomi with Jenny and Diane, then Tony and Margot, and finally Karen who was looking for friends outside when everyone else seemed to have gone. My thanks to you all for your friendships - and most of all to Ralph for making them possible.

Here is a link to an article I wrote about Ralph's 70th Birthday Concert.

By John Beresford.

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