*** Apologies for the earlier absence of the video of the concert. Now rectified
When it comes to the Irish singer Cara Dillon and her husband Sam Lakeman, I have interests to declare.
Sam is the middle of three sons of Geoff Lakeman, a good friend, fine reporter and talented musician I have known since meeting him and his wife, Joy, at the Herga folk club in Wealdstone, north-west London all of 47 years ago.
I have met, lunched with and interviewed Cara and Sam and found them lively and engaging company. And I have great respect and affection for their music, as I do for the efforts of Sam's gifted siblings Seth and Sean (not to mention Sean's wife Kathryn Roberts).
Like all in the performing arts, they have been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19 and what Odhran Mullan, the creative director for a special event involving the couple. rightly calls the "horrible vacuum of live music" it has inflicted.
To compensate a little for careers on hold, Cara and Sam hired Cooper Hall, a venue within the grounds of Selwood Manor not far from their own home in Frome, Somerset to recreate the concert experience with expert staging, sound and lighting. But, sadly, with no audience.
The concert, Live at Cooper Hall, described by Cara as a lockdown gift to fans, is also an opportunity to promote recordings, clothing and other items available at their website. It has been viewable from 8pm today at YouTube (see the embedded video below) and via their Facebook pages
It is an inspiring and intimate delight from start to finish, the purity of Cara's voice elegantly complemented by Sam on the venue’s Steinway grand piano and guitar, all enhanced by her warm spoken introductions between songs.
I missed one or two pieces they perform so well, but absent from this virtual gig. Tommy Sands's moving song of the Troubles There Were Roses and their stunning arrangement of the traditional Spencer the Rover (see this link). But there is much to savour in the collection of traditional, self-composed and borrowed work. The Winding River Roe, which Cara has been singing since childhood, is particularly impressive and I also greatly enjoyed Hill of Thieves, The Streets of Derry, Blackwaterside and The Parting Glass.
There is something unavoidably ghostly and melancholy about this film of two exceptional artists performing in an empty theatre. But it is a commendable initiative and a welcome reminder of the lost pleasure of live music.