Liverpool Socialist Singers and Friends Concert

St Bride’s Church
Wednesday 27th April, 2011

Reviewed by John Owen

As soon as the building came alive with the Italian anti-fascist song ‘Bandiera Rossa’ (red banner), any preconception that this was to be a sermon of happy clappy types was immediately dispelled. I soon spotted friends in the building and my atheistic forebodings all but completely vanished.

The performance given by the Socialist Singers and Friends was set against the backdrop of an exhibition by Helen Jones entitled The Juliet letters; large drapes depicting letters, or rather the most painful phrases and heartfelt sections of such letters, sent to ‘The Juliet Club’ a group of agony aunts in Verona promoting the legend of Romeo and Juliet.

But I digress, as we enter a period of sudden change we become nostalgic and, as others look towards the royal wedding for their moral comfort blanket, we in the movement have a vast reserve of songs concerning struggle, hope, inspiration, humour and common humanity to fall back on to take us forward.

Supporting the Working Class Life and Music Festival was a collection of fine singers and musicians, all gathered to enlighten and spread the word. Activism needn’t be dull lectures and boring crud, in fact, as the evening proved, it could be passionate and powerful and help raise the spirit and give people the determination to embrace the challenges and battles to come. Odes to Joy indeed.

With the intro over, local dance group Catalyst performed Black Lamp, a collection of rustic but rebellious tunes named after a mythical secret organisation of Yorkshire miners. Brenda Haddon, a local artist and writer, got us thinking; Acoustica, another trio, kept us bouncing along; Vinny Spencer, who performed at the Nerve residency at FACT, was in fine fettle with deep lyrics of struggle; Clare Mooney, a boisterous woman who has kept the flame of 80s resistance to Thatcher alive and well in song, with easily the best quirky song sung in a church “You’re not properly dressed without a fleece” and Morag, a good old ditty, rhyme and poetry with a sharp political edge.

To round off, the Socialist Choir reinforced the notion of the international struggles we are all united by and the performers sang from the heart. A special mention must be made here regarding Leo, a young pianist who, at just 14 years old, is a future talent to listen out for.

All in all, it lifted my devout atheist soul to the heavens and thank god I saw the light. ‘Praise Be’ as Joe Hill, the Wobblies itinerant songwriter, would say, pass it on and we’ll be bound for glory wherever we go. Even if he himself didn’t make an appearance, his ideas were certainly resurrected and about time too!

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