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Being ‘on brand’ with the Grace Smith Trio

A pink album, a pink guitar, so why not a pink church!

The nave at St Mary’s took on a distinctly rosy hue when the Grace Smith Trio came to Guildford. We enjoy making full use of the modern lighting system in Guildford’s oldest church to create the right atmosphere for our musicians, and the ‘Pink’ button on the lighting console shouted “press me”! Knowing that the Reverend Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) used to preach from St Mary’s pulpit may have something to do with this hallucinatory flash.

The afternoon’s folk ensemble workshop with Grace Smith, Sam Partridge and Bevan Morris opened up new possibilities for us to make music together. With the trio’s involvement in tutoring and mentoring the National Youth Folk Ensemble (Sam was artistic director from 2019 to 2023), our participants were soon put at ease and encouraged to be playful and fearless.

Within an hour, our workshop participants, Grace, Sam and Bevan were filling St Mary's with music. (video: JoAnne Hughes)

Workshop revelation!

You can dance a Hanter Dro* to 3/2 hornpipes. As we linked arms and danced in a circle, we started to feel the three-time pulse in our bodies. “The only mistake we can make is not to try.” Sam reminded us. We picked our instruments up again and soon, St Mary’s filled with multilayered music, played with a new groove, by connected musicians.

As night fell, so did the rain. St Mary’s Saxon tower glowed with candlelight as the house lights dimmed and the white stone blushed. Our audience’s hardiness was warmly rewarded by a delightful showcase of ensemble playing by Grace, Sam and Bevan on fiddle, concertina and double bass. The church’s acoustics came into its own with these instruments blending in perfect and natural balance.

The trio presented well known traditional tunes with a vibrant, contemporary approach that felt as crisp as freshly laundered sheets, and new compositions found familiar references in age-old dance traditions, including longsword. For the title track of the trio’s debut album, Overleaf, Sam swapped squeeze box for a deliciously pink electric guitar and brought us all back to the rose-tinted present!

We had wonderful help from our amazing volunteers Jeremy and Carole to make sure the afternoon and evening ran smoothly. Thanks to everyone who came to the workshop and filled the church with fearless, wonderful music, to our audience for coming to support young musicians and live music in Guildford, and above all to Grace, Sam and Bevan for sharing their knowledge and skills with such generosity, warmth and kindness.

*Hanter dro is a Breton dance from Pays Vannetais. View our Starter's Guide to Balfolk - Part 2 to find out more about this and other Breton dances.

Support the Grace Smith Trio!

Go to their website to join their mailing list, buy their music and lovely merch, and go see them live. Follow them on social media, like and share their posts.

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