Reg Meuross gig at Sidmouth Parish Church was magical

Sidmouth Herald review by Paul Strange

This impromptu gig – arranged by singer-songwriter Reg Meuross and Sidmouth parish church – had a marvellous spirit to it, and offered a few surprises.

Not an official Sidmouth FolkWeek performance, the fringe event was a fundraiser for St Giles and St Nicholas.

Held in the splendid medieval church (rebuilt in Victorian times), the musicians gathered on a makeshift stage across the transept. The gig’s unique, intimate setting and the building’s natural ambience added greatly to the performance, quickly enthralling the packed house.

Church warden Gerry Shattock introduced the show, explaining that the “stellar line-up” had been pulled together at short notice by Reg, a respected stalwart of the acoustic scene since the late 1980s. There was also a loose theme to the show. My Jerusalem was a programme of original songs about England and the English people.

Occasionally solo, often accompanied by Beth Porter on cello, Reg took us through a number of his favourite self-penned compositions, old and new. His songs are carefully constructed, often short stories set to music, and his lengthy introductions helped to explain the pieces

Highpoints included the delicate and brooding opener A One-Way Ticket To Louise, the memorable My Name Is London Town and the delicate The Band Played Sweet Marie, inspired by the violin played by Wallace Hartley, the band leader of the Titanic, as the great liner sank.

Then came the first of the surprises. Multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer – one half of roots duo Show Of Hands – gave us a short and rewarding set. One of his more unusual choices was Graham Gouldman’s Bus Stop. The Hollies had a big hit with it in 1966, but shorn of its light pop arrangement, the song took on a plaintive direction, driven on by Phil’s insistent strumming.

The second big surprise came with the arrival of folk singer and fiddle player Jackie Oates. She also performed a short set – including an intricate Flower Of Northumberland – and was clearly enjoying the occasion, becoming more confident as the show progressed.

When all four musicians joined forces – including a splendid rendition of The Drovers Road – the sound was magical, but for me, the most memorable moment was in the second half. Jackie’s a capella version of The Nightingale was achingly beautiful, her pure, soaring voice perfectly suited to the occasion. Stunning stuff indeed.


Reg Meuross Singer Songwriter Storyteller