The last time we visited the opulent surroundings of Staying Cool at the Rotunda, it was late July and the incomparable view from the penthouse wrap-around balcony was of a broken sun-rayed, British summer Birmingham. Flash forward to early November and the vista had changed to a horizon-reaching canvas of flickering lights in the post-halloween darkness, equally as enthralling as the summertime scene and enhanced by periodic blooms of distant fireworks. A relaxed and informal atmosphere, sparkling with a sense of occasion and a welcome glass of chilled prosecco, awaited the music explorers supporting this unique event and, after introductions, conversation and the obligatory photos of the breathtaking view, Songs in the Sky was ready to begin.
Songwall’s founder Brendan Poynton, warmly and poignantly welcomed the audience with an insight into the mission of Songwall and the aim behind Songs in the Sky – to support artists to share their music with a wider population of eager music-lovers and to provide unique opportunities in stark contrast to the “plastic” industry standard. Brendan performed two of his own songs, “Eyes of Change” and “Dead Seas” – his confident and connection-making performance as engaging as his thought-provoking lyrics and indelible melodies. Representing Sleuth, the Songs in the Sky runner-up, Chris Taylor-Ashcroft was next to perform. The stripped-back performance and intimate setting provided the perfect opportunity to appreciate Chris’ warm, lilting voice aided and enhanced by a sensitively controlled keyboard accompaniment. Lyrically thoughtful and musically enticing, the songs of Sleuth evoked an easy, jolly melancholy – like a consoling chat with a reassuring friend. Unavoidably relatable, “Together Everyone” induced a gentle, wistful longing for absent friends while the pensive lyrics and contrasting lively rhythm of “Sometimes We Just Need a Break” had the listener willingly bopping along.
Download a song by Sleuth
An unexpected but wonderfully welcome change of pace came from a performance by Birmingham-based poet Rowan Leonard, performing her self-penned piece “Chrysanthemum”. Visceral yet beautiful, tender and utterly heartbreaking, Rowan’s intelligent, brave and deeply real performance left the audience with a palpable sense of being in the presence of a fractured but healing soul. The silence of the captivated audience was periodically broken only by Rowan’s intensely lingering words and the wind moving past the skyscraping, night-drenched balcony of the Rotunda.
Headlining the evening was Songs in the Sky winner Sean Snook. Emanating an endearing, and self-deprecating Bristolian charm, Sean thoughtfully introduced each song with humour and modesty. Despite his protestations of it being too miserable, “One Word” was a real highlight – an anthemic bolt of heartbreak straight through the music centre of the brain. With vocal tones flawlessly rough around the edges and rich with melodious depth, along with deft, delicately delivered guitar accompaniment, Sean took the listener on a journey from restful, comforting, food for the soul such as “Worth It” to smile-inducing, energetic numbers such as “Me Mind”. Summarising his Songs in the Sky experience, Sean equally summarised the spirit of Songwall by expressing “…the music industry isn’t dead – THIS is the music industry”.
Download a song by Sean Snook
We look forward to welcoming Bristol’s King of the break-up song back to Birmingham soon! The performances over, audience members lingered to meet and compliment the artists then headed out into the November cold of New Street – a stark contrast to the warm, inclusive and intimate atmosphere of this incredible evening of Songs in the Sky.
We can’t wait to see what innovative new artists this one-of-a-kind event will bring to the heart and hearts of Birmingham in the new year!
Review by Beccy Clark – Worth it
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