Once I heard Little Sparrow was playing in Sacred Trinity Church I knew I had to be there. A building such as a church tends to be so much more than four walls, and the musicians playing tonight were so much more than people playing instruments and singing. So much more! The last time I visited this very special place it was January and the frost was following in my footsteps. This time there was more of a harvest feel - mid-September - where the first hints of autumnal magic kiss goodbye to the dying dance of summer as she bows out for another year. The general feeling of tonight is just that....the start of a new season and I feel blessed to witness such emotional performances and be part of this transition.

Churches are often hushed places, and some may say not the right venue for music other than hymns or perhaps Gregorian chant. I would beg to disagree. Firstly, when you hear artistes such as these perform you’d be hushed even if you were standing in the middle of Times Square, so intimate and powerful the delivery is (and I’m talking about all three here). Secondly, the performances weren’t all about being hushed and reverential. There was a sizeable amount of rocking out, just letting the soul unfurl its song, letting rip, letting go, letting the light in. And that is surely what true spirituality is all about. I’m sure I mentioned this last time I sat on a pew in this wonderful space, but it’s worth saying again because the mingling of sacredness, soulfulness, sensitivity and sensuality are part of what makes this such an extraordinary place to experience music.

I was here primarily to review Little Sparrow but this was one of those nights where the acts complemented each other so nicely that I need to comment on the whole of the proceedings as well as the exhilarating finale that was Katie Ware and her band (Little Sparrow). Local singer/songwriter Stefan Melbourne stood up, and startled us with a raw and potent onslaught of songs that had the audience sitting delicately in the palm of his hand. It is Impossible not to draw comparisons with Ben Howard here and apologies to Stefan if he finds this wearisome, but there were echoes of Mr Howard and pleasant echoes they were too. Stefan actually recorded an EP ‘The Way We Fall’ within these hallowed walls which acoustically makes so much sense.

Liverpool chanteuse Natalie McCool’s stunning performance began with a slightly eerie cover of Billy Fury’s ‘Wondrous Place ‘, which was a brilliant choice as her feet were undoubtedly standing in a place I may have already described as wondrous, and I get the sense she was also paying tribute to the rich musical heritage of the place she comes from. I hadn’t heard Natalie’s work before and I was hugely impressed. I’ve described her as a chanteuse, but she’s also an inspired guitarist treating us to some beautiful finger-picking and extraordinary rhythms and sunshine-filled sequences. She has a third talent worthy of comment – poetic lyrics that cling to those marvellous riffs like roses to a vine.

Both Natalie and Katie (when she steps up next) apologized over and over for time spent tuning up, neither feeling they had adequate banter to fill the silences. There was truly no need! They were both endearingly entertaining mid-song and in the spaces in between, and strangely enough from their interesting inter-song ramblings it emerged that they had both recently shot videos in forests featuring masked characters/creatures! This strange synchronicity linking these two performers somehow doesn’t surprise me when I consider how magical and delightfully whimsical they both are.

With Little Sparrow in particular, there is that sense of fairy tale mystique so evident on the ‘Wishing Tree’ album which was completely animated here tonight. I was so thrilled to finally hear Katie play with the full band. Stripped down with just an acoustic guitar she has the power to lure you far, far away and I would be happy to listen to her with no instruments at all, so captivating is her voice, but this was a real treat to get the tempo and tempest that can perhaps only be fully achieved with all these musicians on stage together.

What a joy to hear those spine-tingling harmonies between Katie and Sarah Dale (who also played cello magnificently) - these two were scarily in tune, Sarah seeming to intuitively know exactly where Katie was going even in the midst of what seemed like spontaneous improvisations. And that was part of the beauty of this set – even though the band were note perfect and everything was finely tuned (despite technical issues which were overcome with good humour and persistence) there was still a freshness to the sound, as though Katie was delivering these songs for the first time. I don’t know how much rehearsal went into this set, but I feel it was exactly the right balance. The songs felt brand new whilst at the same time being drenched in that ancient, earthy, almost druidic quality that seeps through the album.

Recent single ‘Polly’ tears off through the meadow without looking back...this song always kicks me in the gut as well as tickling my heart and making me want to cry. I can’t get away from it. It’s an absolutely perfect melody, so evocative, so nostalgic, so heartbreakingly beautiful. The audience were drawn in immediately and every song had us on the edge of our pews, praying for this night not to end.

Katie Ware is like a burst of sunshine breaking through a scurry of clouds. Despite the sadness in some of these tracks, she exhibits a tremendous strength and conviction in the power of love and the possibilities for healing and happiness. There’s so much going on here on this altar/stage that I have no desire to pick it apart or over analyse it. It was a triumphant tour de force – a beat that couldn’t fail to move you and on some level encourage you to tie your own wishes to your own enchanted tree. Catch Little Sparrow now if you have the chance. These kind of musical moments just don’t happen every day.

Photos by Melanie Smith
www.mudkissphotography.co.uk

















Related Links:

http://www.littlesparrow.org/
http://www.mudkissphotography.co.uk
https://twitter.com/uklittlesparrow
https://www.facebook.com/singinglittlesparrow


Commenting On: Sacred Trinity Church, Salford, 12/9/2014 - Little Sparrow








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