This event was part of the Chapel Sessions held regularly in the church. Initially my partner thought I meant it was in the church hall but I pointed out that Sarah and Jenn had been here before & from the photos it definitely looked like it was held in the church. There was a bar, now that WAS in the church hall! Apparently the vicar is fine with alcohol being consumed in the church, but he isn’t happy for it to be paid for in the church! Bit odd, but I can work with it!! I was quite pleased to see that the audience was a mixture of ages from pensioners to people in their 20’s, I was expecting an older crowd, so was pleased to see the range. A party of 3 were obviously there for Sarah as they had cocktail umbrellas in their hair (& 1 of them was a fella!!).
The compere started off with a rollcall for nine people not yet arrived. He then spoke about the atrocity in Manchester on Monday and how targeting mainly women and children at a live music event was particularly heinous. He asked if everybody who was able to could please stand and we had a minutes silence as a mark of respect. This felt especially fitting in a church, I am not religious at all in any way shape or form, but I am respectful of others and their beliefs I also believe a church is a place of sanctuary.
The artists were then announced and received a very enthusiastic welcome from the audience. They stood just at the front of the nave. Sarah and Michael had guitars and Jenn was on a keyboard. Sarah said that tonight was the closing night of their UK tour and that they were really happy that it was at this venue, as it is one of their favourites! She asked if we were familiar with the round format that the session was going to be in tonight, there seemed to be a few people who are not used to this type of format but most people did appear familiar with it. She started with a song saying if she could write a song to her younger self, this is the song – Starry Eyes. Got to say at this point, Sarah has a beautiful guitar, the hole is heart shaped and surrounded by sparkles!
Michael was next he attached a harmonica to himself. (I Googled this to see if it had a special name the answers were actually quite funny – Hill Billy harness, Imaloser strap (which took me a moment!!) Theapparatusyouweararoundyourneckthatholdstheharmonicainfrontofyourmouth and a harmonica holder. That made me giggle for about 10 minutes!!) He said the tour was called Nashville In The Round, however he thought of it more as the Thorn Between Two Roses Tour!! He asked if any of us watched Nashville, more people than I was expecting cheered in consent. It normally annoys me when I go to a Country gig and we are asked that, but in this setting I wasn’t sure how many people in the audience were Country fans or how many were just out for a night of live music as the church is close to them! The first song that he was going to sing was a song that has featured in Nashville with Gunnar and Scarlett singing. He wrote it with Maren Morris and he said that Sarah would be singing Scarlet’s lines. The song was Wake Up When It Is Over.
Jenn was next. She started by saying it was a real treat to be back in this venue and the first song she was going to sing was a song that she wrote with Kyshona Armstrong, who toured with them last time they were over in the U.K. Jenn said they both sing this song very differently, Kyshona calls it Exorcist, whilst Jenn calls it Haunting Me. It amused me singing a song called Haunting Me or Exorcist in a church!! She sure does have a very powerful voice, it sounded wonderful.
Back to Sarah, she told us that the next song was very special to her. She wrote it with Zach Rungquist after she had performed at a rodeo in Wyoming. She found the state of Wyoming to be so beautiful that she wanted to write a song about it. That song is Where Cowboys Ride and you do get a sense of wide open spaces and rolling hills from it!
Michael told us that co-writing is very common in Nashville, there is so much talent in such a small space that people just team up to write. He saw a guy in the gym one time wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ‘We should write sometime’ on it. He said in Nashville rather than people saying “We should go for a beer”, they say “We should write sometime”!! He played a new song Mystery. By now it was beginning to bug me why he looked familiar, but I just couldn’t bring it to mind!
Jenn said they have spent a lot of time in the car, travelling around the U.K. They have spent the time listening to (a lot of) music or audiobooks and talking. She spoke about her album Jealous and how when she wrote it she was frustrated that she was not getting anywhere. As a result this particular song she feels became an anthem for her and especially the fact that life is too short – Not Yet, again this song was very poignant in light of Monday in Manchester.
Sarah again said she couldn’t believe this was their last stop on their UK tour, “We love it here we are always made so very welcome!” She then asked if we were ready to sing. A resounding cheer was her answer!! Her next song she said had been debuted at C2C and she asked if anyone had been. Again I thought this highly amusing as a friend of mine was sat in the second row wearing a C2C T-shirt and I was wearing my C2C Hoody!! There were also another two people from the C2C Attendees page in the audience who have obviously also been to C2C, however I heard a couple of cheers that seemed to come from a direction where people I didn’t know were sitting! Sara said that she was wearing a little frilly dress and sparkly shoes and she said that she always dresses like this and it does sometimes mean that being on stage can get a little bit tricky, she did look gorgeous though, so it is worth it! More Issues Than Vogue has a chorus with the complicated lyrics of Oh oh oh oh oh, which of course we could all sing along with and the crowd were in good voice.
For his next song Michael chose one he wrote with Will Hoge. Again he asked if anybody had heard of him, this time there was only a quiet murmur from the audience it would appear only a few of us have heard of him. Apparently it is the saddest song he has ever been involved in, he then laughed and said “In fact it’s a real party starter!! It is a well-known fact that sad songs are good for you it releases certain endorphins look at Adele!!” The song was Goodnight / Goodbye.
Jenn continued with the sad theme. She wanted to share a really personal song with us. It was written for her dad who was killed in a car accident when she was just 10 years old. He was always the main person encouraging her and her brother to play an instrument and learn to sing. She wrote the song many years later but had never played it or recorded it. Then one day she was in the Bluebird doing a session very much like the session this evening and she just suddenly knew she had to play it. She only just managed to keep herself together whilst singing it & afterwards a lady in the audience came up to her and spoke to her and said that she had written that song for this lady who had lost a husband only two days previously. After that comment Jenn knew she had to do something with this song so she recorded it and put it up on YouTube. It received a very good response and came to the attention of Simon Bates in the U.K. From there Radio 2 Play listed it and this was the start of her journey to the U.K. Jealous of the Angels, had the tears flowing down my cheeks, especially as I lost my father suddenly at a very similar age (I was 11) and also following in the aftermath of Manchester. It starts with the line – I didn’t know today would be our last. It was stunningly beautiful and Jenn went seamlessly from it into Amazing Grace which Sarah and Michael joined in with. The crowd were really respectful (and in my case a bit shell-shocked) and as a result it took quite a bit of encouragement to get the crowd to actually join in and sing with them and when they did it was a very muted version.
Sarah’s next song was one which was very healing for her, she wrote it with two of her friends at a period when she was doubting herself. Halley’ Comet, it is a song about chasing your dreams and finding a place to shine. It is a very uplifting song!
Michael decided we were in need of a sing a long and told us our part was to sing “You’re going to find it”. Looking for Love has quite a few ‘You’re going to find its’!
Jenn said she wanted to keep the singing going. For this she swapped with Michael, playing the guitar and him playing the keys. Hollywood doesn’t just involve the audience singing, it also involves arm waving/raising. The latter became more enthusiastic the longer the song went on with three members of the audience (the ones with the cocktail umbrellas in their hair!) actually rising out of their seats as well as just waving their arms!
This was a good place for us to take a break get a drink, a breath of fresh air, relieve ourselves and have a chat. The audience were a really good audience and there was very little if any chatting going on while the acts were performing, so very refreshing!
Sarah started the second half of the evening by telling us that as a girl she dreamt of going to Paris, then she met an Englishman and for their first date he took her to Paris! She found it to be the very magical experience that she had been hoping and dreaming about and as a result she wrote a song Montmarte about it. The song actually sounds very French, you can feel yourself walking down a Parisian boulevard on a warm sunny day, stopping at a little street café for a carafe (or 2) of wine!
Michael’s next offering was a song he wrote with Paul Carrack. He spoke about the difference in the languages between America and England and he said he is aware that in England an elevator is a lift however elevator has four syllables whereas lift only has one and therefore does not fit in to this song properly! I Can Hear Ray was another song whereby we could join in with the chorus. By now the crowd were joining in wherever possible, quite enthusiastically. Also, my friend sat next to be whispered to me “Don’t you think he looks like Luke Wheeler from Nashville?” THAT WAS IT!! He does, he looks very much like a young Luke Wheeler!
Jenn said her next song had been requested during the break. It isn’t one that she has sung for a while, but as someone had requested it, she was going to dust it off, try & remember how to play it! She wrote it a long time ago, it is about her husband who she has known since she was two years old. Their relationship was never romantic until they started dating when she was 24 years old. At this time she had her life plan in place whereby she was going to get married when she was 35. When she started dating her now husband she was really very nervous about the first kiss because she just knew she was going to fall madly in love with him. She was right she did and they got married a year later so she got married 10 years earlier than her life plan. Lips on Mine had us all clicking our fingers along with her.
Sarah wrote the next song with another C2C favourite, Shane McAnally. She said she played it last night for the first time so tonight was only the second time she has played it live. The song is called Wasted and was very clever play on words with regards to getting wasted on alcohol and also wasting your life.
Michael declared “Whoever created rounds is a genius! Every night I get to stand up here and see two thirds of the show!” He wrote the next song with Sierra Noble, a Canadian artist. They were writing in a house and they were telling each other stories, but they kept feeling a draw towards the house and they ended up writing a love song Human After All.
Jenn said “I would love to say the songs just fall out of us, however there are times when I am sat at my piano for eight hours and nothing comes to me at all. Faint of Heart was written at a period like this when I was doubting myself”. From this evening I think the girls should doubt themselves more often as they sure do write some beautiful songs when they are doubting themselves!
Sarah announced that the next song was to be her last song, which received a groan from the audience, obviously not ready for the evening to start being wound up! She said that to her it is a perfect song there is so much of herself in it and she feels that the lyrics are perfect – Stargazer.
Michael thanked us for having him. His last song was Cannonball Embrace. Once again the chorus holds a series of hey hey heys, he said if we wanted a lyric sheet he was sure he could sort one out for us!!
For Jenn’s last song she said she recorded it with some gospel friends and as a reward she paid them with pizza! What Love Feels Like.
Something incredibly special then happened. All three of the artists moved forward away from their microphones and instruments, apart from Michael who kept his guitar. They then sang the most spectacular version of Jolene I have ever heard. Once again I feel this was further enhanced due to being in a church. When they finished the song the applause was deafening!
They left the stage but the crowd were on their feet and were not happy being left, the noise really was tremendous. They came back on and Jenn said that they had a friend of theirs in the audience and he was going to come up and play the keys for them. They sang Ain’t No Sunshine. Their friend really is a very good keyboard player, he even had a little bit of a solo in it!
Sarah said that they had really enjoyed their last evening of their tour. A member of the audience called out when are you coming back? Sarah responded that herself and Jenn are playing at the Buckles and Boots festival next month. Fairly certain I wasn’t the only person who cheered at this!
They sang one last song which to me sounded a bit as if it was a medley of songs from all three of them. Again when they finished the majority of the crowd were on their feet cheering!
The compere came back and said that that had to have been one of the best chapel sessions ever. He again thanked us for coming and said that in light of what had happened in Manchester some of us probably deliberated not coming tonight. He said that in memory of the 22 people who lost their lives 22 candles had been lit just outside of the entrance of the church. A very fitting end to an absolutely superb evening of music.
I had been a bit dubious about this night, I wasn’t sure how a concert would work in a church, but it was a very, very special evening. As it is a church the acoustics were wonderful and the sound was just magical! I will definitely be attending another Chapel Session!
Photo credit – Christopher Nash (thank you!)
Footnote – This is the 1st review I have written since the horrific events in Manchester. As a regular gig goer I found that the members of Ariana’s audience, both those who survived as well as those who did not, were on my mind a lot and again as we were in a church it felt even more poignant. I make no apology for the amount of times it has been mentioned in this review!