Type your text, and hit enter to search:
Close This site uses cookies. If you continue to use the site you agree to this. For more details please see our cookies policy.

Fairport Convention at St Andrew's

Forbes Mutch reviews the performance of Fairport Convention on 6 May 2022

The stained glass is glowing in the evening sun. The audience is murmuring expectantly in the pews. The makeshift bar by the font is serving beer with the wine. This is a church but a different communion is about to be served. The lights go down. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the altar, Fairport Convention.

Fairport performing 060522If there are any lingering doubts about the growing reputation of Hertford St Andrew’s as a sought-after venue for folk music, Fairport blow away the non-believers tonight with a varied, engaging, often amusing and sometimes moving evening which references the band’s folk rock years but mostly showcases their remarkable virtuosity and command of English folk music.

‘The acoustics in this church are fantastic,’ says the sound engineer, Paul Smith, before the show. Founder band member and guitarist Simon Nicol agrees. Nicol is joined on stage by long-serving bassist Dave Pegg, violinist Ric Sanders, multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie and drummer Gerry Conway.

There must be something about playing live music that is good for the soul and keeps performers young-at-heart. Look at the Rolling Stones. Look at countless blues and jazz artists in their 70s. Look at Fairport Convention.

The first incarnation of this celebrated band began performing over 50 years ago. The line-up has changed over the years but tonight’s five musicians bring together a combined accumulation of nearly 280 years of tuneful pedigree. Nicol quotes one of his erstwhile colleagues, guitarist Richard Thompson, who still plays with the band occasionally: ‘Fairport Convention is like Hotel California, you can check out but you can’t leave’.

The longevity doesn’t show, however. No croaky voices for these boys; no creaky chord changes, no fumbling fingers on the frets. There’s no irony that this gig is part of the band’s ‘Spring Tour’.

With no warm-up or tuning (that had been taken care of before the start and, frankly, the band have had those 50 years to warm up), the set starts without introduction, going straight into Walk Awhile, a track first released on the bestselling album Full House back in 1970. Good songs will always stand the test of time.

A mixture of new and old songs, drawing on a back catalogue of nearly 30 albums, follows either side of a short interval.

In the first half, there are stand-out versions of Cider Rain and the stirring Sloth, with its currently poignant refrain ‘And the war has begun’.

The second half is musically more complex, with Nicol demonstrating his skill on guitar with a perfectly-paced solo to introduce the song Bankruptured, andFairport audience 060522 the other musicians highlighting their own mastery in a tour de force of English folk playing.

The performance is relaxed and highly professional, comfortable and subtly disciplined. There are plenty of smiles and self-deprecating banter between songs and the easy comradeship of the group spreads all the way to the shadows at the back of the church. It is a joy to be part of the joy.

The evening ends with Fairport’s traditional closing song Meet Me on the Ledge, which has the audience singing along. There is a reference to the band’s annual festival in Oxfordshire, with Nicol’s closing remark ‘see you at Cropredy’.

I first heard Fairport through an open college window in Oxford during the hot summer of 1976. I remember it well. The sound was pure and confident. It’s no different 46 years later. And I, for one, will be rolling up my tent and joining the festival-goers in August. A church full of fans in May; a field of over 20,000 followers in August - who says St Andrew’s isn’t established as a one of the best folk venues this side of Banbury?

Fairport Chris+Band 060522Thanks go to Chris Seward (pictured left with members of the band) for arranging a memorable evening which, with the considerable help of the bar and raffle, raised over £1,300 for church funds.

Bring on the next folk concert, St Andrew’s.


Fairport ConventionTrailblazers

Fairport Convention were trailblazers on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 1960s and 70s and still maintain a large following, not least from those who regularly adjourn to the Cropredy Festival in Oxfordshire every August. The band’s personality, singing and musicianship are 'sans pareil' and audiences can look forward to a great evening of music.

Among the many highlights of Fairport’s work was the ground-breaking album Liege & Lief, which brought together the traditions of English folk music with the best of modern, electric instrumentation. Their personnel has included Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick and the current line-up is Simon Nicol (founder member) as well as Dave Pegg, Gerry Conway, Chris Leslie and Rick Sanders.

More information

You can look up the band on their website:
Hello and welcome to St Andrew's. If you are new, we have a page for you to get to know us and learn more about planning a visit.
Click here to see more.

Planning your Visit

A Warm Hello 

No one belongs here more than you.

We look forward to meeting you! Here's some information so that if you're planning a visit you know beforehand what to expect on a Sunday morning.  We have other pages telling you more About Us, our approach to Faith and our Online services.

Where and When

We meet at the Church Building (details below) for our main Sunday Service starting at 10.30am. For your first visit, we recommend arriving 10-15 minutes early to ensure you find a parking space and can settle in before the service begins. When you arrive, you should be greeted by someone on our Welcome Team.

Plan your journey:
While, unfortunately, St Andrew's does not have its own carpark, there is a council-run pay and display carpark a short distance along St Andrew Street, to the east of the church; there is no charge for parking in this carpark on Sundays, but please check for charges on other days.

This is a useful East Herts Council website page for full details of parking in Hertford.

There are single yellow lines outside the church with parking restrictions, but some 30-minute parking bays are situated on the opposite side of the road for short stays (longer on Sundays).

Open Google Maps

Accessibility: There is wheelchair access, and a sound loop for anyone who needs it. Please let one of the Welcome Team know on your arrival and they will help you to get set up. There is a disabled toilet towards the back of the church, behind the kitchen.

Our Service

The service will usually begin promptly at 10.30am and will last between 60 and 75 minutes. We enjoy the presence of an excellent choir who help us sing hymns (modern and traditional) as well as provide anthems and special songs through the period of communion. We have a traditional organ but also benefit from music played on the piano and by our band (eg on the Second Sunday of each month when we have an All-Age Service in which our children and young people are fully involved).

Each 10.30am service includes a sermon, prayers and eucharist.

After the service, everyone is invited for coffee and conversation - some like to stay for a quick chat while others remain in the church for a longer time.


Children and Young People

Children are never too young to come to church. You and your children are very welcome at St Andrew’s. 

We really value worshipping God together as a family, so children stay with their parent or grown-up at the start of the service before being invited to leave for the young people's activities after the first hymn. Junior Church meets in the St Andrew's Centre (our adjoining hall), accessed through the church on Sunday mornings. You will need to go with your children to their groups and register them as part of our child safety policy.

The children and young people then return to the main service in time to join the eucharist and, if confirmed, take Holy Communion or, if not, receive a blessing. We offer a grape or a little box of raisins to children being blessed at the altar.

There is a Children's Corner in church where you can go at any time. You will find books, toys and drawing materials there.

Toilet and baby-change facilities are located at the back of church, behind the kitchen.

There's lots more information here: Children and Young People at St Andrew's

Junior Church celebration

Getting Connected

Home Groups

While Sundays are a great way to meet new people, it is often in smaller gatherings that you can really get to know someone. Being part of one of our small groups allows you to make new friends, share together and support each other. We have a variety of groups that meet throughout the week. Check out Home Groups on our website and see if there’s one that you could join. Alternatively, speak to a member of the Welcome Team who will give you the information that you need.

Serving and Volunteering

If you want to get involved in the life of the church and help us make Sundays run smoothly, you can sign up to serve on a team. Please contact Phil in the Church Office.

What we describe above reflects our normal practice on Sunday mornings. However, since March 2020 we have had to adopt new ways of organising ourselves - here you'll find the most up-to-date guidance about Worshipping inside church.
Get in touch with us
If you have any questions, please do get in touch. You'll find our contact details here.

We hope that you will feel at home at our church.