Earlier this year we attended the first pop concert in 800 years, at St. Peter’s church, Tandridge village. It was an unseasonably cold night in March, and late snow lay on the ground. Tonight, we returned, in mid-October, on what was another unseasonable night. This time, however, the weather was very warm. To be able to walk around on a mid-October night in shirt-sleeves is most unusual.
This event, like it’s predecessor, was a benefit gig aimed at raising money for the fabric of this wonderful and ancient church. In this case, money is sought to install a much-needed loo: prosaic, but a vital human need. And this evening was both human and prosaic, warm and uplifting, but friendly and community-oriented. The Rector, Andrew Rumsey, introduced the evening with a warm-up act of a brace of autumnal songs that might have even been written for the occasion.
The actual support act for Emily Barker were two gents called Roy Hill and Ty Watling. These gents looked and sounded like characters from Mark Knopfler’s “Sultans of Swing”
…Check out guitar George
He knows all the chords…
Mind, Ty Watling did indeed know how to make his guitar cry and sing, and that he went on to do. Roy Hill was of indeterminate age, and was in good voice, and made banter with the audience about how much better this was than their usual pub gig. They started dark, with a song about pain beginning, and finished with a deeply moving number about failing mental health, yet, they were always somehow encouraging, humane, and uplifting.
Emily Barker came on and immediately impressed everyone with her beautiful clear voice and her guitar playing. This evening has seen a series of guitarists bringing great joy and beauty into the world through their playing, song-writing and singing, like Chet Atkins:
…Money don’t matter as long as I scatter a little bit of happiness around
If people keep a grinnin’ I figure I’m a winnin’…
In between the numbers she told us stories of her early life with a discernable Aussie twang. It is always engaging when pop stars do that – you want to know that they do go to the shops, that they were once kids in the back of a car going on holiday, singing along to cassettes. She performed an old Bruce Springsteen number – “Tunnel of love” – to illustrate this story.
Somehow, the fact that she is a supremely skilled professional guitarist and pianist, a powerful and gifted singer and a talented songwriter did not discourage or demotivate. After the concert I was speaking to a lady in the audience who has Downs Syndrome. She wants to write songs – and she was saying, by no means demotivated, how high the bar has been set by Emily Barker. The lesson is, everything is possible; anyone can do anything if they set themselves to it. A lady you might pass in the street, wearing blue jeans and a cardigan, has a voice like Aretha Franklin, a solo voice so beautiful, so powerful, as to carry an entire church in stunned silence.
“To one, he gave five bags of gold, to another, two, to another, one bag, each according to his ability” – Matthew 25:15. It’s what you do with what you’ve got that matters, not how much you’ve got.
There’s a pattern emerging here with these concerts: Not so much inspiring, as inspirational. Do new things. Dare to create, dare to do something new with your bag of gold.