As part of our occasional series looking at smaller scale local venues, let us tell you a little about the Huntingdon Hall in Worcester – which is a city worth visiting in its own right. The Hall itself is within spitting distance of the magnificent Cathedral. It will, of course, be shut now and it’s near enough to the river in Worcester to be at risk from what seems to be the annual Severn flood. Some venues have all the luck!
However, the night I went there to see Sam Baker, February 9th, it was all fine and dandy. If I had my wits about me I might have reviewed this concert but I believed (incorrectly as it turns out) that this was being taken care of elsewhere. I did come away thinking that I would like to see how such an idiosyncratic performance would, or could, be reviewed.
I would guess that most people are familiar with Baker’s story, about how he was on a train in Peru that was bombed by Shining Path guerillas. He survived, just, but others near him did not and he is understandably haunted by the young German boy who was sitting next to him. That story set the tone for the evening so not surprisingly it was an event with a great deal of emotional content. Baker’s voice, damaged in the explosion, is a curious instrument and he accompanied himself on barely audible guitar with a keyboard accomplice.
So that was the back story of my introduction to this venue. My friend Frank filled me in with these details:
“The Huntingdon Hall, along with Worcester’s Swan Theatre, is run by “Worcester Live” a charitable trust, which, I suspect, survives by the skin of its teeth, relying upon grants and the service of volunteers. The building itself is often described as a converted chapel but, the more I think about it, very little conversion took place, the original purpose of the premise is never in doubt. It’s a stunning venue and sitting in a pew for an hour and a half is not nearly so bad as you might think! The early 19th-century décor is still intact. Church builders seemed to know what they were about as visibility of the stage is fine from all areas of the 350 capacity seating. With its excellent acoustic qualities when full to capacity it’s a venue which can generate a wonderful atmosphere.
As a charitable trust for the benefit of the city, I guess Worcester Live has an obligation to cater for all tastes, which is reflected in their current programme, a healthy sprinkling of folk, Americana, Jazz and World Music. There is a bar upstairs and you can take your drinks in – all very civilised!”
As well as Sam Baker, Frank has seen Albert Lee, Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (probably not in our remit but they are a sight to see) and the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, who played before a packed house.
To be honest, what you might regard as typical Americana is not necessarily the focus of the bill and were the Hall open over the next few months you might be more likely to see some classic British folk acts, Kathryn Tickell, Phil Beer or Grace Petrie, so it depends where your tastes lie. Albert Lee is due again later in the year though.
However, as Andrew Combs put it in his AUK interview published on January the 21st:
“Bluegrass and Country came from the UK – I love old British Folk Music”
Whatever your reason for going, whoever you might eventually get to see, I am sure this charming venue won’t let you down