York singer-songwriter Izzy Isgate played at the historic Bedern Hall in Bartle Garth last week, launching her new live E.P., Making Ground As We Go. Izzy is generally very good at what she does, but in this venue, her music truly came alive. Support came from Paul Sparks.
By Andrew Bogie
Photos by Izzy-Isgate-studio-pic and Andrew Bogie
Izzy Isgate’s folk originals found their natural home in Bedern Hall, which was once the former dining room to the vicars choral of York Minster. The singer-songwriter’s contemporary melodies of heartbreak and resolve swept over her chords and Paul Sparks’ plucked arpeggios, with each song given time to reverberate before the captive audience.
The concert also provided fans the opportunity to hear the duo play (in the words of Izzy herself) a ‘menagerie of stringed instruments’, including a lute, a Bulgarian tambura, and an electric bass guitar. The strings rang out clearly, thanks both to the hall’s natural acoustics, and Lynette Quek’s sensitive sound engineering. Each instrument, all of which Izzy lovingly introduced as she would old friends, lent new colour to the songs, with the players clearly energised by the music they were playing.
The epic Hummingbird, which appeared close to the end of the evening’s second set, showed off Isgate’s new creativity, and also included Paul Sparks’ most ambitious playing, coaxing out harmonics that called to mind the beauty of the instruments themselves. Running with Lone Wolves, played early in the first set, showcased Izzy’s gift for extended metaphor and her interest in exploring the possibilities of the many stringed instruments played throughout the evening.
As with the best folk music, the meaning of each song stretched beyond the surface, and it was a joy just to hear the playing and composition involved. The song-writing was never swamped with self-seriousness; shown by the delightful instrumental, Syncopated Suite 2. No Alarms & No Reprisals Please, and the encore Sea Shanty Shanti Shanti (Or, the Polyamorous Lesbian Sailor).
In the latter, Isgate wove contemporary gender themes in with an accessible form and melody, while Sparks’ mandolin played up the feeling of the sea (wo)man’s tale. The venue also gave the song a rather ironic meaning; following its occupation by the (supposedly) celibate sacred choral, Bedern Hall stood in the centre of Victorian York’s slums and red light district, an area recently renovated, yet still with a slightly haunting atmosphere that made the walk home from such a gig very memorable indeed.
Paul Sparks and Izzy Isgate played at Bedern Hall on Friday 27 May 2016