Review: Camus at Cambridge Folk Club 2022

Between them, the four members of Camus, Andrew Burn, Greg Smith, Brian Cleary and David Somerville, play melodeon, Northumbrian small pipes, fiddle, keyboard, bouzouki and guitar, making their arrangements unfailingly interesting and varied. Their opening tune set established a high standard of musicianship, and we were treated to performances of an impressively wide range of songs and tunes, some toe-tapping, some reflective, taken from various Celtic and North American traditions. Interspersed in this Celtic mix were more recently composed instrumental pieces by Andrew Burn and Greg Smith, and songs by Brian Cleary and Andrew Burn.

A particularly thoughtful touch was to open the evening with an arrangement of the beautiful waltz Air Moving by the acclaimed exponent of the Northumbrian pipes, Kathryn Tickell; this hommage featured David Somerville and Andrew Burn on the pipes.

The first half took us on a musical journey from Northumberland to Galicia via North America, Ireland and Hartlepool, and the second half included the Fens for good measure. One particularly effective tune pairing was Boulavogue, an Irish ballad played as a slow air, and Andrew Burn’s award-winning hornpipe, Mr Somerville’s Fancy, proof of the empathy that this band has with the traditions within which they work. More evidence of this empathy came when Brian Cleary sang his self-penned song, Bright Groves, commemorating a poignant moment in the history of Irish immigrants who found themselves fighting on opposite sides in the American Civil War. Add to this Greg Smith’s evocative slow air Cold Fen which began the second half; the band’s unusual adaptation of the traditional English song The Keeper; and Andrew Burn’s song based on his grandfather’s experiences of hardship after the closure of Hartlepool’s steelworks,and you have some idea of just how varied this band’s material is.

Highly recommended!

Marion Treby, Cambridge Folk Club

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