Music for grown-ups in a tiny town in deepest England

On Saturday I travelled 100 miles up the A5 to see a gig. The A5 used to be the major road linking London with Birmingham. The Romans built it, as Watling Street, but the opening of the M1 in the mid-‘60s made it redundant. So now it’s a lovely, empty, winding country road linking historic coaching towns like Towcester and Tamworth.

My journey was to see a performance in Lichfield by Jim Moray, nu-folk innovator oft lauded on musicforgrown-ups.com.

It was my first visit to Lichfield and I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be a delightful little place, an oasis from a bygone era – apart, that is, from welcome modern innovations like clusters of friendly skateboarders, handy fast food joints and the welcoming smoke-free pubs offering shelter from the persistent drizzle (and live football).

What made Lichfield particularly enjoyable was the sandstone medieval cathedral, surely one of the loveliest, if lowest profile, churches in Europe.

Inside, away from the rain, Saturday’s visitors were treated to a rehearsal by a Heavenly choir, preparing for an evening gig. I’d loved to have made the concert, but it clashed with the Moray show (review to follow).

But what an impressive cultural offering! In a tiny town in deepest England you never hear about, the locals had a choice of world-class music for grown-ups: Jim Moray at the Guildhall or Gaudeamus Omnes, a programme of celestial music by Taverner, Byrd and Palestrina, by the Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choir.

What riches!

Gerry Smith

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