December 2020 : Gig of the Month : Ninebarrow

Fifteen years ago I saw a restrained yet ecstatic guitar recital in a Shropshire church, feeling a profound calm whilst listening, and have sought the same grace and stillness in acoustic music ever since.

The search became more acute in the tumult and tension of 2020.

Thankfully, over the last ten months, it has been satisfied by finding a disparate clutch of musicians who have the same precise, meditative emotional reach in their work that I first experienced sat in an oak pew a decade and a half ago - an uncommon musical communion showcased in the studio recordings of Mhairi Hall, Jenny Sturgeon, Douglas MacGregor, Mared Williams and Kirsty Merryn, and the live streamed performances of alchemic English folk acts Edgelarks and Ninebarrow.

The last artists on that soulful list are a Dorset-based duo, whose musical trademark is refined, rapturous harmonies (described by BBC Radio's Mark Radcliffe as sounding as, 'two halves of one voice') framed by delicately inventive contemporary folk music.

The pair revel in natural and nautical lyrical themes, celebrating a shared connection to the landscape where they live.

Ninebarrow's first pandemic online shows took place in their front room, with Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere wrapping the sculptural elegance of their sound with warmth and humour to create compelling performances for hard times.

Recently they have extended the series, travelling to outdoor locations, and then the stunning St Nicholas Church in Studland, which was atmospherically lit by hundreds of candles for the occasion.

For the next edition Jon and Jay have chosen Poole Lighthouse - the setting for a one-off, five piece, full-band show in 2019 - as the backdrop for a final live outing to close the year.

The pre-recorded gig, to be streamed at 7pm on Saturday, December 12, sees the duo joined by cellist and long-term collaborator, Lee MacKenzie, double bassist John Parker and in-demand Evan Carson on percussion.

The set-list on the night will include brand new songs from their much anticipated new album, A Pocket Full of Acorns, alongside lush, layered arrangements of old favourites from their past three studio releases.

The excerpt of the show we have been privileged to see, a flowing, expansive arrangement of The Sea, is mesmerising and magical.

As Jon has said,

"Along with the rest of the world, we began a strange journey back in March and had to create a completely new way of getting our music out there - a sharp learning curve!"

"We started small - in our dining room. We grew - into the living room! Then we expanded into a soggy field in North Dorset and then a beautiful candlelit church in the Purbeck hills."

"For our seventh online broadcast - we wanted to do something really special - push the boat out and film the band show we would have toured in March."

"We think it will be the perfect way for us and our audience to meet up one last time before the bizarre and challenging year that is 2020 comes to an end."

E-tickets, which will include a live Q and A with Ninebarrow afterwards, are available at https://www.ninebarrow.co.uk/live

Household tickets at £28 enable two or more people under one roof to tune in, or you can buy a single/concession ticket for just £14. Ticket holders will be able to watch the show not just on the night but any time up to midnight on December 19.