I couldn’t sleep last night.
Mary and I had been to see my favourite band, Guillemots, at Nunnington Hall. When I saw the concert announced in the Local Events leaflet that came with our National Trust magazine I thought they’d sell about a dozen tickets. Guillemots are no pop sensation and Nunnington Hall is one of the less well-known visitor attractions round here. How wrong can you be? There must have been at least 100 people there, packed tightly into the main hall of the house – a venue so intimate that to add another row of seats you’d have to put them on the stage itself.
The event had been advertised as an acoustic gig but there must have been a change of plan because amplifiers and electronic instruments were set up ready. When the band came on Fyfe joked that Grieg was originally going to do a 90 minute drum solo with a full kit, but they thought that wouldn’t work very well in this small historic hall. Then, without further ado, Fyfe, Arista, Grieg and Magrao kicked off the set with four songs from their latest album, Walk the River.
The tunes were all familiar to me; the sound was unmistakably Guillemots. But the live performance gave those songs a new freshness. It was as if the band were playing for their own enjoyment in my front room. Exquisite.
Pausing only to change instruments the band carried on with tracks from their other two albums. Fyfe supposed the audience had all come to this rather out of the way spot by car. “Or helicopter”, Grieg suggested. “That’s how I came”, he said. But no-one believed him, least of all the other members of the band.
When Arista swapped her bass guitar for an electric double bass and stood up to play it I pointed my camera between the heads of the people in front and fired the shutter. The flash bounced off the blonde hair of the woman in front of me and the camera’s LCD panel confirmed that Arista had all but vanished in the gloom. Sadly I put the camera away.
Fyfe wondered how many of us had never heard of Guillemots and were “taking a punt” on the concert. Either way, he thanked us for being there and they played a few more songs taken from their Through the Window Pane and Walk the River albums. Then, all too soon, the band left the stage; the concert had come to an end.
The warm and enthusiastic applause brought Fyfe back to sing We’re Here as an encore. He said he’d written it about ten years ago, so he would have been about six at the time. There was a gentle chuckle from the audience and his knowing smile confirmed he was joking. As he picked up his acoustic guitar and settled down to play I got the camera out again, waited for him to look up and took a shot. This time I managed to avoid the heads and get a reasonably decent photo. His solo rendition of We’re Here was, I thought, even better than the version on the album – full of feeling and a real treat to listen to.
Then Fyfe was gone, the lights went up, background music started playing and the audience filed out. It was not yet nine o’clock. Mary and I loitered for a minute or two by the merchandise table and wandered out into the evening sun. We took a stroll in the gardens not wanting the day to end. Finally, with Guillemots songs still ringing in our heads we walked back to the car and drove home. To our right the sun was setting; a nearly full moon hung bright in the sky ahead. There was warmth in our hearts and light in our eyes.
Eventually we went to bed, but my soul was still in Nunnington listening to Guillemots songs and I couldn’t sleep.