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REVIEW Reg Meuross new album ‘December’ PENNYBLACK MUSIC

“While comparisons to Cat Stevens, Paul Simon and others have been made in the past, Meuross has carved his own niche, partly because of his vocals – it’s impossible not to be drawn to him when he sings and he makes every word believable – and partly because few can set a whole story to music within the space of three minutes which Meuross does, seemingly with ease. Meuross, quite simply, is one of the best.” 

Malcolm Carter LINK

A new album from Somerset-based Reg Meuross is always more than welcome but when said album features ten new songs which are presented purely solo, just one voice, guitar and harmonica, shorn of any overdubs or studio tweaking you just know it’s going to be just a little more intimate and special than any of the nine Meuross albums that have gone before.

Having had his 1944 Martin guitar restored, Meuross set about writing a new set of songs on the instrument which resulted in two days recording at Roy Dodds’ Kitchen Floor Studio in White City, London. Having a warm, inviting vocal style, Meuross has always sounded like he was singing just to you on his albums and on ‘December’ this is particularly noticeable. Shorn of any embellishments apart from a touch of harmonica on some tracks, the sound of one man and his cherished acoustic has rarely been so affecting. Given that Meuross is one of our master storytellers, the sparse setting afforded to Meuross’ songs on ‘December’ just showcases his craft even more.

There’s always been a little distance between Meuross and other singer/songwriters. While comparisons to Cat Stevens, Paul Simon and others have been made in the past, Meuross has carved his own niche, partly because of his vocals – it’s impossible not to be drawn to him when he sings and he makes every word believable – and partly because few can set a whole story to music within the space of three minutes which Meuross does, seemingly with ease. Meuross, quite simply, is one of the best. Which makes the opening song on ‘December’, ‘When You Needed Me’, a little disappointing on first listen. Throughout nine albums there’s never been a time when the listener has the ‘where have I heard that before’ feeling. Although with some albums and artists it can be fun to play that game with Meuross it never arose; when you heard Reg Meuross sing you heard a song that bore no relation to anything you had heard previously and due to that voice and the lyrical content it could only be one person, Reg Meuross. It’s with some disappointment then that ‘When You Needed Me’ plays a sweeter-voiced Leonard Cohen crosses the mind. Thankfully, it’s the only time during ‘December’ that any artist other than Meuross makes an appearance. While that opening song is as good as any that Meuross has recorded, that one little section when Cohen creeps in relegates it to a good, solid song rather than a great one which is what we’ve come to expect from Meuross now. It’s catchy, lyrically smart and would be a welcome addition to any singer/songwriters canon but this is Meuross and we are now accustomed to his work sounding totally original.

‘I Want You’ follows and it’s pure Meuross. In this bare setting Meuross is in the room with you, his lyrics have even more power and his melodies are even sweeter. As for his vocals, they’ve never sounded so good; so close and with such honesty shown in every line this is what we expected and why we hold this artist in such high regard.

‘Man in a Boat’ conveys the maritime theme of the title perfectly. One of Meuross’ story songs, it’s still a surprise how Meuross can conjure up so many images within a three-minute song. That just one voice and one guitar can paint such a vivid picture is but another indication of how talented Meuross is.

‘The Hands of a Woman’ has been chosen as the lead-off single. While it’s the owner of one of Meuross’ most instantly catchy melodies and is blessed with astute lyrics which have become something of his trademark, there are other songs on ‘December’ that deserve the extra attention that being pulled as a single gains. In fact, it must have been a difficult task to pick a single out from this collection; every song deserves to be heard.

‘In My Heart’ has a melancholy feel. You can almost touch the sadness and longing in his vocals. The closing ‘Christmas Song’ is particularly strong, the harmonica-led ‘Smarter Than Me’ is, right now, the favourite. Meuross reflecting on his shortcomings is going to strike a chord with many of his listeners. The opening line, “The road runs like a ribbon to the sky/Red and silver lights go flashing by,” paints such a vivid picture as ‘The Night’ unfolds that for the next five minutes you’re part of the landscape Meuross is passing through. Classic Meuross.

By stripping things right back to basics, Meuross has put even more focus on just how talented a lyricist he is, how as a guitar player he is still underrated and how he has one of the most welcoming voices in music today. For all his past achievements and a few moments at the beginning of the set before he found his own voice again, ‘December’ could well prove to be the most rewarding set from Meuross yet.

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REVIEW Reg Meuross new album ‘December’ LOUDER THAN WAR

Finding inspiration in his newly refurbished Martin 1944, Reg Meuross comes up with a series of luminous songs that cement his place as one the UK’s best songwriters.”

Louder than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews  LINK

2016 sees Reg Meuross celebrate his 30th year as a professional musician and there is no better way to celebrate it than with a new album. This release sees the Somerset based musician go back to the basic approach of his first solo albums with just him and his guitar (a beautiful Martin 1944 that we have to thank for this new collection of songs). Recorded over two days on December the 3rd and 11th last year at Kitchen Floor Studio in White City, the record is a carefully crafted collection of tunes that if released 45 years ago would have placed Reg amongst the greatest of the singer-songwriter movement.

Alas in this day and age of crassness, his affecting tunes don’t get on the main airwaves but for all those that will be brave enough to brave the diktat of modern radio and investigate “December”, they will be treated to what could be considered as Britain’s answer to the legendary Townes Van Zandt. The record starts with “When You Needed Me” where Reg’s assured picking and gentle voice accompany a tale of lost love and regrets. The sea shanty “Man in a Boat” is an instant folk classic while “The Day She Never Cried” is refined songwriting at its best, probably the aural equivalent of drinking a 20 year single malt whisky.

Like his 1944’s Martin guitar, Reg’s song are carved out of fine wood, no fancy frills, just melodic tunes with finely written lyrics. “Smarter Than Me” with its harmonica intro sees a man reminisce about his shortcomings and his aspirations while “The Hands of a Woman” is Reg’s lover letter to the opposite sex. The force of a great singer songwriter is to be able to convey emotions through his songs even though he is singing about fictional characters and situations and Reg’s is definitely one of them.

Craig Chaligne

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REVIEW Reg Meuross new album ‘December’ THE GUARDIAN

“…sounds like a forgotten American 60s classic, with echoes of early Dylan, Tom Paxton and Leonard Cohen” LINK

FULL REVIEW by Robin Denselow

A very English Kind of Americana

Reg Meuross is one of the more versatile, under-sung survivors of the English acoustic scene. In the mid-1980s he formed the Panic Brothers with Richard Morton, mixing Americana with humour and slick harmonies. Then came the Flamingos, Hank Langford, and solo albums that included the quietly angry England Green & England Grey. Now, following a Panic Brothers Reunion (and rereleases of their 80s recordings) comes his first “completely solo album” of new songs. They are pained and personal rather than political. When You Needed Me sounds like a forgotten American 60s classic, with echoes of early Dylan, Tom Paxton and Leonard Cohen, and is followed by folk-country weepies such as Let Me Forget and Christmas Song. He is backed only by vintage guitar and harmonica, and despite the American influences there’s no hint of an accent in his no-nonsense, intimate vocals.

 

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REVIEW Reg Meuross new album ‘December’ FOLK RADIO UK

“Imagine John Prine’s Hello In There crossed with REM’s Losing My Religion. It’s that good. As is everything here” LINK

FULL REVIEW by Mike Davies

Knowingly channeling Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye on reflective opening lost love number When You Needed Me,Reg Meuross’ 11th album marks a return to the one man and a guitar format that initially inspired him and which is the template for his live shows. Having had his 1944 Martin guitar lovingly restored by master craftsman Stuart Palmer in San Jose, Meuross took himself off to London where, over the course of two days, he recorded the songs that make up this collection, straight to the mic, with longtime associate Roy Dodds behind the desk.

The opening track from December sets the pervasive musical and lyrical mood and, along with Cohen, you’ll hear such acknowledged influences as Paul Simon and Bob Dylan in the writing and delivery as the album unfolds. A simple intimate lost love song I Want You (“I want to tell you that I love you, but you don’t want to listen”) is next up, the theme extended through allegory of a doomed castaway (“does he long for the arms of a runaway lover or cannot accept that a great love is over?) in the slow shanty sway of Man In A Boat (which prompts a comparison with the young Harvey Andrews).

There’s a shift of perspective for the circling chords of the poignant The Day She Never Cried, a list of emotional highs and lows that could be seen as either finally overcoming the heartache or making the final surrender to escape love’s loss. Then it’s back to the first person for Let Me Forget, in which the protagonist automatically assumes the relationship will fail, and that life is what happens while you wait for it to do so.

Harmonica enters the mix for Smarter Than Me, a song that underscores those frequent Townes Van Zandt comparisons as he muses on his shortcomings and disappointments (“all my dreams left in a boat that sank before it left the docks”), but comes with a nice twist in that accepting failure seems to be better than “friends plagued with ambition and poisoned by success.”

One of my favourite tracks, The Night is the most obvious nod to Dylan, a series of snapshots of restlessness and disconnections, strum giving way to fingerpicking for   The Hands Of A Woman, a song that begins on an upbeat note (“the hands of a woman telling me everything will work out fine”), surrendering to love only to gradually give way to hurt and loss (“You forget about me and the love that slips through your hands”).

In My Heart also tells of romantic disappointment, except here there is no bitterness, no acrimony, just sweet memories of “The times we shared the way I cared. The tender way you cared for me.

In keeping with the title, the album ends with the year’s first reference to the festive season, Christmas Song, though, also in keeping with the prevailing mood, this isn’t one full of comfort, joy and glad tiding. Rather, in its images of cardboard boxes and soup vans, it’s about those fallen on hard times, a song veined with wearied regret and a warning not to make the same mistakes as the singer as it ends with the lines “Hold on to your sweetheart buy her ribbons. Strong may your children grow. Don’t ever be lonely take her dancing. Spare me some change before you go.” Imagine John Prine’s Hello In There crossed with REM’s Losing My Religion. It’s that good. As is everything here.

Review byMike Davies

 

 

 

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England Green & England Grey – a review from FolkWorld, Germany

Thank you Michael Moll LINK TO REVIEW

This is apparently already the 10th album of brilliant singer/songwriter Reg Meuross – and amazingly this is the first time I have heard of this Englishman. The self-penned songs on this album are about big topics – be it about the tragic nature of dementia, Tony Benn’s secretly erected plaque to commemorate the suffragette Emily Davison, the lifes of inmates of a mental asylum in the 1950s, an account of the only Englishwoman to engage in active combat in WW1, or, in the title track, an observation of traditional English values and today’s society and politics.
Despite focussed on difficult societal issues, Reg’s songs never sound dogmatic; they have a warmth in the way they observe the world, and Reg’s singing voice emphasises this warmth further. The lyrics are superb in the way that they tell stories that evoke emotions, yet the songs still can make enjoyable and light hearted listening. Backed by guitar/banjo, accordion, drums/percussion, dobro and fiddle, the music has a contemporary yet folky and definitely English feel to it. The press notes do not exaggerate with their statement that “Reg is one of this country’s greatest songwriters at the very top of his game”, and I feel glad that, after nine albums, I have finally discovered him.
© Michael Moll

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REVIEW England Green & England Grey – Malcolm Carter, Pennyblack Music

“it’s the lightness in Meuross’s voice that brings his tales to life and draws the listener into his songs…. He shows that there’s no need to shout to be heard”

“Eighteen months after the release of ‘Leaves and Feathers’, the last album from British singer/songwriter Reg Meuross, the track ‘I Saw a Woman’ which was a highlight of that collection, still sends shivers down the spine; it’s a chilling tale at odds with the gentle, inviting vocals that Meuross tells all his stories in. Meuross isn’t the only artist who, just when you think they’ve peaked, produces another set that can now be defined as their best yet, but with ‘England Green and England Grey’ Meuross leaves the listener in little doubt that there are few singer/songwriters who currently come close.

‘England Green and England Grey’ is an important album; as the title suggests it’s Meuross’s thoughts about his country, and, as usual, with his work Meuross articulates the feelings of many of his countrymen while never once making the listener feel that he is preaching. Those warm vocals often belie the sharpness of the lyrics which make Meuross’s work that much more attractive than that of his contempories. Often labeled as folk music Meuross is so much more than that; with each passing album his work can be compared to that of other artists who are grouped into that genre but really don’t belong. While the pair are miles apart in their vocal style, the work of Billy Bragg comes to mind time and again while listening to ‘England Green and England Grey’. Although Bragg’s foghorn of a voice has matured nicely through the years and developed into that of a gruff but kindly, wise old uncle, it’s the lightness in Meuross’s voice that brings his tales to life and draws the listener into his songs.

England’s decline is the subject of the opening ‘What Would William Morris Say?’, an unexpected lively start to the album with Mike Cosgrave’s accordion somehow adding to the Englishness of the song. The pub sing-a-long chorus is irresistible, you’ll be singing along by the end of the song while recognising that lyrically Meuross has yet again summed up the feeling of the nation perfectly – “We used to go out in our town/We’d go to the pub ‘till the pubs shut down/They smashed the piano/No money for bands/Karaoke led the way/The bland leading the bland” before getting more serious and raising the issue of replacing farming communities with industrial complexes. It’s a strong opening shot that leaves the listener in little doubt that while lyrically thought provoking Meuross hasn’t lost his talent for flowing melodies to dress his acute observations in, and that ‘England Green and England Grey’ is going to be a intriguing journey.

‘Tony Benn’s Tribute To Emily Davison’ follows, another jaunty cut, this time dominated by rolling piano as Meuross fascinates us by singing about suffragette Davison who died after throwing herself under the king’s horse in June 1913. Tony Benn erected a plaque to Davison on the broom cupboard where she hid on the eve on the national Census in 1911, and it was this act that inspired Meuross to write the song. The song throws up another repercussion of listening to Meuross; those without any knowledge of Meuross’s subjects will spend not a little time researching the topics and characters in his stories eager to learn more. Such is the power of this artist’s work.

The title track is classic Meuross; without preaching he paints a vivid picture of what England meant to him and how it is slowing slipping out of grasp. Set to yet another irresistible melody lines like “Shut the factories/Shut the mines/Punish those fell on hard times?While they honour them who do the crimes/The greedy men of England” display the talent Meuross has in articulating the feelings of the everyman. Meuross does, however, conclude that “there is none so sweet as England” again reflecting how many of us feel. With heavenly vocals from Jess Vincent, not only on this song but spread throughout the album, it’s the song to go for if Meuross is a new name to you and you’d like a taster of this exceptional storyteller’s work.

Elsewhere Meuross turns his attention to a sufferer of dementia in ‘Counting My Footsteps to You’, while Meuross’s outstanding guitar playing is given a chance to shine on this track it’s the heartbreaking tale that touches the listener the most. It’s pointless to take a few lines of the lyrics and reproduce them here; they are available on the Reg Meuross web site and really deserve to be read even if the album doesn’t make it into your player, Meuross captures the awfulness of this illness so well; the way he sings “I can’t find my way home” will have anyone who has been in contact with those suffering from dementia reaching for the tissues.

‘They Changed Her Mind’ covers the reopening of a mental asylum that had remained unused since the early 60s and the discovery of suitcases containing the personal effects and details of some of the inmates. Again Meuross delivers a chilling tale, Phil Henry’s dobro adding much to the atmosphere and Vincent’s backing vocals once more embellishing the overall sound. It’s another breathtaking piece of music.

But for all the sensitive performances and subject matter Meuross and his band show they can still inject the urge to dance in the listener on songs such as ‘Sing To Me a Working Week’ with accordion and banjo adding to the party atmosphere.

There is much to be digested on ‘England Green and England Grey’, we haven’t even touched upon songs such as ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie’ a waltz based around the discovery of the violin given by Marie Robinson to her fiancé Wallace Hartley who was the bandleader of the Titanic, or ‘The Ballad Of Flora Sandes’, the only British woman to officially serve as a World War 1 soldier; again you’ll be thankful for the invention of the internet.

Meuross delivers his stories with so much conviction and passion yet still his vocals never lose their gentleness. He shows that there’s no need to shout to be heard and with a first class bunch of musicians fleshing out those unforgettable melodies which compliment his astute lyrical talent ‘England Green and England Grey’ should be heard by all music lovers, not just those interested in the folk and singer/songwriter genres Meuross is often grouped in with. ”

Malcolm Carter
Pennyblack Music

www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Review.aspx?id=9752

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REVIEW by Tim Carroll FolkWords: England Green & England Grey, Reg Meuross

For many, the songs of Reg Meuross are the hinges upon which swing the doors of perceptive English folk. We have accompanied him along paths less travelled exploring echoes of society, politics, history, people and places. Now with ‘England Green & England Grey’ his deft lyrical touch and moving vocals lead us through more opening doors to show what lies behind. There remains the accustomed perception and unnerving fearlessness to examine the minutiae and bring it to the surface. There are no obscure touch-line observations but out-on-the-pitch, down and dirty in the mud empathy. It’s easy to identify with these songs because they strike where we live, some with acid-sharp observations that hit harder than expected.

The intense poignancy of social and historical observation flowing through ‘What Would William Morris Say?’ evokes a feeling of irreplaceable loss, especially with the inclusion of quotes from ‘The Message of the March Wind’. The sense of laying waste is palpable – combine a melody to die for, evocative vocals and the undiluted power of the lyrics ‘… they smashed the piano, no money for bands, karaoke led the way, bland leading the bland’ and you have a true folk milestone. The theme repeats through the title track ‘England Green and England Grey’ – an eternally English folk song, and a sad indictment of a nation losing or forgetting its cultural heritage, but laced with a tinge of faith. If ever there was a song to make us want to fight for ‘what’s right’ then this is the one.

With a precise poetic touch and a rich vein of storytelling, his songs form imageries to be remembered. ‘Tony Benn’s Tribute to Emily Davison’ is a perfect example, telling the tale of a secretly-erected plaque respecting the memory of a dedicated suffragette. ‘The Band Played Sweet Marie’ is no less powerful, were the loss of the Titanic not sad enough, permeating down to the personal narrative of bandleader Wallace Hartley tears at your heart. Meuross also espouses narratives of personal tragedy, from ‘They Changed Her Mind’, an incredibly sad tale of individuals confined in institutions by a society that refused to understand and ‘Counting My Footsteps To You’ reflectingthe overwhelming desperation of dementia.These narratives carry characters and relate experiences that create such powerful visual impressions they make this album theatre for your ears. Writing of this calibre demands a deep understanding of a myriad facets within the human condition.

Meuross doesn’t simply write songs raging against the powers that be, he doesn’t adopt injured political ire or preach pointless platitudes. He recalls sacrifice forgotten, rights lost, the rule of injustice, personal pain and resolute hope. And if we don’t listen, the erosion might continue unabated. Aside from being a stunning album, ‘England Green & England Grey’ prompts us to save what’s going before it’s gone forever.

Find ‘England Green & England Grey’ here: www.regmeuross.com

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

LINK TO REVIEW ON FOLKWORDS WEBSITE

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Review – England Green & England Grey FATEA Magazine John Knighton

http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/2014/RegMeuross.html

Reg MeurossReg Meuross
Album: England Green & England Grey
Label: Hatsongs
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.regmeuross.com/
“It was only last year when I had the pleasure of hosting a concert in Bedale, North Yorkshire featuring as quietly spoken singer-songwriter called Reg Meuross.

And what a concert. Sublime songs from start to finish. A consummate storyteller who held the audience in raptures. So it was with a tinge of excitement (quite a rare thing these days…) I received Reg’s latest offering.

It has been said that Reg Meuross is one of England’s finest songwriters who deserves wider exposure. I have to agree.

This album is packed with gems. From the jaunty opener What Would William Morris Say we are taken on a journey that introduces us to Tony Benn, John Bull, Cecil Sharp, political comment, dementia, the Titanic and the wonderful story of Flora Sandes – the only British woman to officially fight in the first world war.

The title track, a modern anthem for these times, packs a punch with its spiky commentary accompanied by a lilting tune:

“How can a man respect a man who steals his house and sells his land,
And takes the wages from his hand to pay his own expenses,
The NHS our England’s jewel is bartered by Westminster’s fool,
To justify his public school and military defences”

Throughout Reg is ably assisted by a wonderful supporting cast. Jess Vincent’s backing vocals and Phil Henry’s dobro shine through.

I particularly enjoyed Counting My Footsteps to You – a song which tries to make sense of dementia – a subject close to mine and many other’s hearts – a simple DADGAD arrangement allows the poignant words to resonate.

The closing track tells the story of Flora Sandes, a St John’s Ambulance volunteer who travelled to Serbia and was enlisted in the Serbian Army.

It is great credit to Reg that he had me surfing the Net to find out more about Flora. A truly inspirational story.

It’s a shame the wonderful lyrics are not included with the CD. The packaging is minimal. But they are available on Reg’s website – www.regmeuross.com – and I heartily recommend you check them out. Here you will also find tips on how to play the songs.

A wonderful collection of songs that deserve to be heard across the land.

Most definitely recommended.”

John Knighton

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England Green & England Grey – album review Telegraph – Martin Chilton

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“In What Would William Morris Say?, the opening track of Reg Meuross’ tenth album, the singer-songwriter quotes from the Victorian writer and campaigner’s poem The Message of the March Wind:

‘Join hope to our hope and blend sorrow with sorrow,
And seek for men’s love in the short days of life.’

What makes England Green & England Grey such an interesting album is the way Meuross blends hope and sorrow. There is optimism and pride about England’s sweeter things (such as the music of Cecil Sharp), and anger and laments over modern-day corruption, inequality and greed (the MPs expenses scandal gets a mention).

Musically, the album stands up – which is no surprise given the quality of performers involved. Meuross, who sings and plays dulcimer, banjo and harmonica, is joined by Philip Henry (dobro); Roy Dodds (drums); Simon Edwards (bass guitar); Mike Cosgrove (keyboards, accordion); Jess Vincent (backing vocals, shruti box); and Chris Haigh. They create a special melodic treat in the six-minutes-long River Rail & Road, and you can sense the vibrant atmosphere there must have been during the recording on The Grand Cru Barge in London’s St Katherine’s Dock.

The song are not all political, though, and the duet love song Lovesick Johnny brings out the tenderness in Meuross’s voice. My favourite track was The Band Played Sweet Marie, about the violin given by Maria Robinson to her fiancé, Wallace Hartley, the bandleader on the doomed Titanic.

Meuross, incidentally, also runs songwriting workshops, including one in France in October and his native Somerset in November.

LINK TO FULL REVIEW HERE

 

 

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Review ENGLAND GREEN & ENGLAND GREY by Tamsin Rosewell Radio Warwickshire

The first review of England Green & England Grey and it’s a beauty:

“This collection of songs is beautiful; fascinatingly lovely and utterly captivating.

….music that explodes into a thousand pretty flowers to seduce you, and then pricks you all over with tiny thorns to remind you that where there is beauty there is also pain.

This album is an important one; for his careful political expression alone, we should hold this artist in high esteem. 

…. this is social philosophy as it should be: politics expressed with love and emotion

……the lyrics are so well chosen that, even when you’ve listened a dozen times and begin to think that you know this song now, they continue to unfurl themselves, petal by petal, to reveal nuances of narrative and depths of colour that keep on surprising you. The storytelling is superb……

It has a pastoral quality too; ( but for me it) [that] evokes the jewel-coloured, shadowy and torn landscapes of William Blake and Samuel Palmer, full of religious dread and political turbulence.”

FULL REVIEW by Tamsin Rosewell:

http://radiowarwickshire.com/reg-meuross/

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  • Upcoming Gigs

    1. Imagine This – Songwriting Retreat with Reg Meuross at Halsway Manor, Somerset

      October 26 @ 4:00 pm - October 28 @ 4:00 pm
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      November 2 @ 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm
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