Bella Hardy Trio, Nottingham Playhouse Studio, Thursday December 2.
Undeterred by the adverse weather conditions, Derbyshire folk singer Bella Hardy and her cheerful guitarist Anna Massie spent most of yesterday travelling down from Edinburgh, arriving just in time to grab a quick mug of tea before the show. They were joined by Chris Sherburn, an amusingly self-deprecating concertina player from Goole. During the second half, while Chris’s services were not required for a couple of songs, he duly shuffled off the stage to brew another mug. It was that kind of show: informal, light-hearted, the songs interspersed with chat and banter, the performers humbly down-playing their considerable talents.
Billed as “an evening of seasonal treats”, the show was almost entirely Christmas themed, and performed on a stage that had been tastefully sprinkled with baubles and fairy lights. (Bella gamely offered to autograph some of the baubles during the interval, but there were no takers.) Some unlikely standards were given the folk treatment, from Brenda Lee’s Rocking Around The Christmas Tree to a surprisingly effective version of Shakin’Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone. As Bella hails from Edale, some carols from the nearby village of Castleton were given an airing. Audience participation was sought, and happily supplied, for Oh Come All Ye Faithful and We Wish You A Merry Christmas. An adaptation of Silver And Gold, taken from a US TV special in 1964, transformed into a rousing jig.
But for all the “seasonal treats” on offer, the artistic highlight of the evening came when Bella momentarily stepped away from the theme, in order to perform an as yet unrecorded new composition from her forthcoming album. Full Moon Over Amsterdam was a reflective, atmospheric piece, written during a stopover at Schiphol airport, which perfectly captured the romance of long distance travel. Then it was back to the carols, the standards, the sing-alongs and the fun, delightfully sung and played with rare skill and precision.