Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Live music in a yurt

I don’t remember a time when music didn’t feature in my life. I recollect singing “hang down your head Tom Dooley, poor man you’re going to die”, or something very similar as a toddler, and giving solo renditions of Cliff Richard’s “Batchelor Boy” as a very young girl – is it something I should admit or keep secret that I still know the words? Unsurprisingly, then, one of my favourite discoveries at the narrow boat festival on the docks was a pair of bright green painted doors, about four feet in height. They were painted with a cheery, abstract design reminiscent of barge/caravan painting.

Why, I hear you ask, should such a pair of doors give me pleasure? Because they were the doors to a yurt, which housed Community Music, and promised “folky-type music”, due to commence in about a quarter of an hour! Naturally, we stooped and entered:-)

The yurt was quite spacious, and an assortment of plastic and wooden folding chairs formed two circles around a slightly rusty wood-burning stove in the centre. There were chopped logs ready to feed this tin dragon in close proximity to it – someone was well prepared for the vagaries of the British weather.

Talking of which, it was drizzling slightly outside, and also, as we noticed, slightly puzzled, inside. No, we hadn’t been drinking; it was raining inside the yurt. We gazed upwards, and noticed that a pane of glass was missing from the central boss, next to where a panel had been replaced so that the flue of the stove could exit safely. As the rate of rain flow increased, the yurt owner climbed up and replaced the wood-framed panel – the rain inside stopped, as if by magic.

Shortly afterwards, the music began. Four singers, whose names I didn’t catch, took turns to sing/play folk-type songs with, nominally, a watery theme in keeping with the water festival. It was a lovely discovery. Each performer delivered approximately a twenty minute slot, and this marked out the three hour performance.

As a free attraction you’d expect it to be really popular, especially in view of the rain, but I’m sad to say that at no point was the yurt full. It became warm and stuffy, so some juggling of the doors to admit fresh air but not rain was managed. The performers valiantly strove to be heard over the loudspeakers of the “plugged in” bands in the open air, and whilst we were there they didn’t use their own amplifiers, but remained acoustic.

It’s good to keep music live, and the warm, intimate atmosphere of the yurt really worked – we even joined in the odd chorus I’m pleased to say that some youngsters braved the sight of we oldies, and sat in with us, so great for the generations to share something pleasurable together.


  1. Hmm, traditionally there wouldn't be any glass at all - just a hole to let smoke out, which could be closed with a sheet of canvas (or, more likely, skin) if necessary.

  2. You certainly lead an interesting life in England.

  3. Hi Melissa,
    Yes, we do have an interesting time, don't we? You can see, sometimes, why the English are considered to be somewhat eccentric - not me, of course, just some of the others!!!
    Rachel - you'd have liked it, even though it wasn't strictly authentic, it was felted, just more adapted to what the owner wanted for his travelling music accommodation:-)


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