Showing posts with label Newcastle Upon Tyne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Newcastle Upon Tyne. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The post on the Irma Thomas concert at the Sage in Newcastle Upon Tyne is in my head begging to come out, so I will write about the next-to-last big event of my trip first...well not quite first...I had to get the whine out of the way. People thought I was crazy to go to an Irma Thomas concert in Newcastle, when she performs in New Orleans upon Mississippi quite often, but I thought it would be cool to hear the Soul Queen of New Orleans in England and to see the audience reaction over there. MadPriest accompanied me, or rather he drove me in his car. And it was beyond cool. I made no mistake.

Before Irma took the stage, a 'Gospel choir' performed. As the choir came onto the stage, my first, shocked thought was, "They're WHITE!" All right, they were fronting for the Soul Queen, and I expected a black Gospel choir. Silly me. Still, the all-white choir seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves singing soul and blues music.

Next up was the Soul Rebels Brass Band out of New Orleans, and they were excellent. Now we're groovin'! I probably lost a good portion of the little hearing that I have left listening to them, but it was worth it.

Then comes the Divine Irma. I did not know her age at the time of the concert, but I thought she was at least 10 years younger than I, but Thomas is 70 years old! Only 6 years younger, and what energy! And she was off to London to perform at the Barbican Centre the very next day.

Irma and her band put their whole hearts and souls into their performances. She loves her audiences and spends herself for them, and the folks in Newcastle returned her love in abundance. She had her cheat sheets along, her binder with the lyrics of all the songs she's ever recorded, and she took requests from the audience and sang as many of the requests as could be fit into the time. To see the interactions amongst Irma and the members of her band is amazing. They're together as a team in a smooth flow that is a joy to witness.

When I hear soul music with a dancin' beat, it's really hard for me to sit still in a seat, so I was thrilled when the folks in front of me stood up, and I could stand and MOVE in time to the music. I passed a good time; I did.

Earlier in the day, I asked MadPriest if he had a white handkerchief I could borrow. I meant to bring one of Grandpère's with me, but I forgot. When MadPriest asked what I wanted with the handkerchief, I told him that around these parts, it is customary to stand up and wave a white handkerchief in time to a song with a fast beat when Irma performs. He said, "You won't; not with me." Heh, heh. I forgot all about the handkerchief, but I had white tissues. At some point, I got out my tissue and began to wave it. I didn't care if MP was embarrassed. I was gonna do it. I HAD to do it. MadPriest said the bass player gave me a thumbs-up, but I missed seeing it. :-( Later in the show, a member of the audience asked for the "handkerchief song", and Irma passed out tissues to the audience to wave as she sang, and I was no longer alone.

Irma's is a niche fan base, but the fans love her, and they are loyal. It's great to see performers give their best and to see the audience respond with love. To you folks who thought I was crazy, I knew what I was doing, and I received my reward. MadPriest, whose standards are high, said it was a wonderful show.

Below is a note to her fans from Irma's website, linked above, which shows that she never forgets them and their part in her success.
Hello to all my Fans,

This year started on a very good note and turned into a great one! Work has been steady, and the awards just keep on coming.

I received an Offbeat Award, A Blues Music Award, Big Easy Award, a Family Services Award (for my Husband and me), The Mo Jo Magazine of London England Legends Award, and the year is not over. I am so blessed.

You the fans have caused me to be in this position and I want to thank all of you for your dedication and loyalty. Without it I could not survive.

To know you have loyal fans all over the would is a humbling experience to say the least. One can not take for granted, not one of you, and I hope I never ever do that in this lifetime.

Just wanting to say thank you again and looking forward to seeing and singing for you in the coming months.

Look for my new CD, "50th Anniversary Collection" - all the greats!

Love Irma
Picture from Wikipedia.

UPDATE: A review of her performance in Newcastle may be found in JournalAlive.

Irma was in excellent form at the Barbican in London according to the review in The Independent.

Monday, April 13, 2009

MadPriest's Longest Day

On the day that MadPriest and I were to meet in Newcastle, I left Leeds on the 9:05 AM train. MadPriest told me that I had to be on that train. We'd had the near miss in our previous plan to meet at Thornaby, and neither of us wanted a repetition of that.

Before the alarm went off at 6:00 AM, I awoke at 4:00 AM, anxious about the train, I suppose, and there was no falling back to sleep. I had lots of time to get dressed and drink my tea in my room and eat my cereal bars and an apple in good time to get to the train station by 8:00 AM, which I thought would be enough time to buy my ticket and find the right platform. It was. Once I boarded the train, I dutifully called MP to tell him that I had caught the right train at the right time, and that I was on my way to Newcastle.

I'm not sure I remember the exact sequence of events after I arrived in Newcastle, but I believe we walked from the station to the River Tyne, along the river (a lovely walk!) to the pedestrian bridge to the Sage Music Centre. The picture at the head of the post shows the river, the Tyne Bridge, a graceful structure, and the arched roof of the Sage beyond the bridge.

We bummed around in the city center, saw one of the oldest buildings in the city, a timbered structure, and many handsome buildings in the classical style, which were built in the 19th century. Newcastle is a compact city, and I liked that. MadPriest is an excellent guide. You'd have thought he was a professional.

If memory serves, The Cathedral of St. Nicholas was the next stop. The cathedral calls for a post of its own. There's so much to see there that this would be the post without end if I described and linked to the highlights there. It's well worth a visit. All this before lunch.

We stopped for a cuppa, tea for me, coffee for MadPriest, and to rest the feet, and then we were off to meet Mrs MadPriest for lunch at the university.

After lunch, it was on the bus to MadPriest's shrine house, into the car, and on to Hexham Abbey, on the site of an ancient church built by St. Wilfrid (I know. Lotsa links, but it can't be helped.) in the 7th century, which is also the present Parish Church of St. Andrew. What a magnificent structure, part quite old, part not so old, but all-around wonderful.

At first, one of the guides took us around. She was pleasant enough except when it came time for us to go down into the crypt.

For visitors who come to Hexham Abbey in search of the past the greatest thrill of all is the Anglo-Saxon crypt. A steep stone stair descending from the nave takes you back thirteen hundred years, into rooms and passageways left intact from St Wilfrid’s original church. The only comparable crypt is beneath Wilfrid’s other great church at Ripon. Everything that he built above ground at Hexham has gone, except for carved fragments set in the walls of the nave. Only his crypt is essentially as it was first built.

She blocked the gate to the stairs down to the crypt until she recited her entire long-winded spiel. What an inspiration to watch MadPriest fight a valiant inner battle for restraint, as the lady droned on and on. In the end, he won the battle and did not shove the old lady out of the way. She did not even mention some of the coolest things we would see down in the crypt. Once again, MadPriest was an excellent guide, much better than the real guides.

Inside Hexham Abbey Crypt. Note the various stones in the wall... all reused from the Roman settlement at Corbridge, some 3 miles away.

Photo and quote from Sokabs at Flickr.

The decorative stones set in the midst of rough stones took my breath away. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it is not.

Below is the stone stairway in the abbey.

Thirty-five worn stone steps rise from the south transept of Hexham Abbey, leading to a broad gallery behind a stone parapet, with three doorways opening from it. People have used this Night Stair through eight centuries. It was probably built early in the 13th century by masons working for the team of canons who then lived and prayed in the Priory.

I won't say an unkind word about the other guide lady in the abbey, because when nature called rather insistently, she permitted me to use the church choir's private loo, which is through one of the doors at the top of the the worn, uneven stairs. She volunteered that the choir, along with the crucifer, processed down the stairs at the beginning of services. The stairs are quite a challenge without a cross in hand. Just sayin'.

I'm giving just a few of the highlights of the riches to be found in a visit to Hexham Abbey. What can I say? Read more about it, or go visit yourself.

The post is running long, so I will hurry through the visit to St. Oswald's Church, which I was quite pleased to see, although, to get there, I had to walk across a field in a gale wind which included a light rain on the way back to the car. My knees are bad, but I can still walk.

The Battle of Heavenfield, between Oswald, King of Northumbria, and his soldiers, against the Celtic king Cadwallon and his men in the 7th century was fought on the site of the church. Oswald prayed to God to win the battle, and he did, although he fought, it is believed, against superior forces. God was on his side.

The earliest church was built in 1140, with reconstructions over the years. At the time of the visit to the church, I couldn't keep the history straight, and I probably caused MadPriest a good bit of frustration, but after doing some homework, I believe that I have a better grasp of the sequence of events.

After our windy and wet walk across the field to the car, we returned to MadPriest's shrine house. Mrs MadPriest was home, and I had a glass of wine and a delicious Yorkshire cheddar and good brown bread sandwich, fixed by the hands of MadPriest. It was just what I wanted. I left a only small corner of the bread on the plate. I should have wrapped it and taken it home with me and bought a small reliquary for the bits of bread. MadPriest will be canonized one day, don't you think? Perhaps even by Rome if he decides to swim the Tiber like his mentor John Henry Newman. If he deserves sainthood for nothing else, he should have it for his kindness and graciousness in his long day with me. He and Mrs MadPriest are lovely people, and it was a great pleasure to meet them.

Before I left, I managed to break their towel bar, (or re-break it, for Mrs MadPriest told me that it had already been mended) and nearly forget my HANDBAG at their house, which would have meant that I'd have missed my train, which I caught with only minutes to spare, and stretched out the day even longer and caused further complications in the lives of MadPriest and his missus.

Thanks again for a lovely day, you old curmudgeon. I became a bit soppy there for a spell, and I know how you hate that.