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Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra - Direct from the Shire
 

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Top  Upcoming Gigs
DATE | TIME
VENUE | ADDRESS
December 1st Fri
8:00pm - 10:30pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Eyemouth Hippodrome, Eyemouth
December 2nd Sat
8:30pm - 10:30pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Craigdarroch Arms Hotel, High Street, Moniaive
December 3rd Sun
8:30pm - 11:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Hootananny, Inverness.
 

Top  A strange calm...

From the strange calm of my perch here in the front of the van, bathed in morning sunshine and sheltered from the whistling north wind, the relentless cavalry charge of white topped waves gallop towards the north Kent coast. Gulls hang, near motionless in the stiff breeze. A buzzard hovers below the cliff-top, feathers ruffled, body buffeted but gaze fixed, while the van shudders and rocks slightly under the enormous weight of the wind.

I’ve been laying low for a few days after three months of rushing around like the proverbial blue-arsed fly, promoting the run of concerts we just played. And what a joy it was to play them. My deepest thanks go out to all who came to hear us, all who fed, house and welcomed us, and to the fine musicians with whom I’m lucky enough to work, and indeed sing.

On the subject of singing, if anyone happens to have a shaky (or otherwise) phone video of our last song at The Old Queen’s Head, I’d love to hear whether it sounded as good from the outside as it felt from the inside. For a piece learned that lunchtime in a snatched hour in an overheating mobile classroom, it seemed to come off beautifully. Thanks immensely to Dominie Hooper for being a veritable Julie Andrews to these bristly and misshapen Von Trapps.

As with the juxtaposition of a warm calm perch in a howling gale, it can be hard to reconcile the warm glow of such a musical triumph with the juddering rattle of the accompanying financial disaster. I really shouldn’t be surprised by now, but hey ho, without an unhealthy dose of optimism, I wouldn’t have made it this far. The fact is that a predilection for playing ensemble music is an expensive game, however glorious it sounds. I must count my blessings. Just think of the 13 piece funk bands of this world.

Talking of ensemble music, James Patrick Gavin has composed and fashioned a beautiful debut album with an irresistible concept, featuring some of the finest musical exiles in London and beyond. Anyone who loves music should really have a copy in their collection.

Early bird tickets for the album launch at Union Chapel on February 5th finish on the 21st of November at 10am and they are only £10. This will be a one-time joining of forces by all those involved with making the album, playing together in one of the best venues across the UK. If you`ve never been to Union Chapel, it`ll take your breath away. If you have, you know just how many tickets we need to sell! Come and join us.


Anyway, we at The Djukella Orchestra have a chance to break-even by Christmas as we’re about to head up to Scotland for the second leg of the tour. We’ll be starting at the Eyemouth Hippodrome on December 1st and making our way around the country from the Borders to the Highlands and back again. If you’ve friends in Scotland, please help us to spread the word. We’re playing some fantastic venues and looking forward to catching up with all the friendly faces we know, but it’ll be delightful to see some new ones too. For those of you in Glasgow, no-one would book us, apart from our old mates at The Star who gave us a half-hour support slot, so if you can muster the spirit/train-fare to get to Kilbarchan or Edinburgh (calm down, now…) I’d really recommend it, as we’re playing a proper show in the coolest secret venue in Scotland, and you will love it, whatever your thoughts on Auld Reekie.

For the rest of you, I’m sure you’re aware that Christmas is coming and CDs (particularly our latest album, wrapped as it is in my mum’s finest jam, or James`, with his fat chewing lady) make the perfect presents for your relatives, friends, lovers, work colleagues, school-teachers and lollipop ladies, to name but a few. We’ll even do some irresistible discounts if you want to buy them in bulk, or send one to your favourite radio show, asking to hear it on the air.

For the new-fangled, phone-savvy and CD-free amongst you, all the albums are available to download digitally.

Now I must pluck up the courage to face the admin, find an internet connection, send out press-releases for our Scots tour and start trying to get some gigs rolling in for next year. If you’ve a favourite festival (folk or otherwise), venue or house-concert, why not ask them to book us? Word of mouth from bona-fide music-lovers is truly the only way we ever get through, and from now until Christmas is when they’re open to suggestions. I’ll send out a few hundred emails all the same and maybe even receive a couple of replies, but an out-of-the-blue recommendation goes a long way.

As I look up from my typing (such as it is) the cavalry have diminished to trotting ponies, and the vast salt-sands, strewn with seaweed and assorted flotsam are laid bare by the now retreating tide.

Posted: 14th Nov 2017 | Contact

 

Top  Hamburger Hurricane

Well a wild and windy October has blown by in what seems like the blink of an eye, and it’s nigh on time to hit the road for our Autumn tour.

After a truly delightful gig in a 16th century barn outside of Hamburg on Saturday night, we somehow managed to fly out in the beautiful, sunny calm before the hurricane, landing at Heathrow with not a hint of turbulence, to hear on the radio that Hamburg City centre was flooded, with homes and lives laid waste as far as Prague, and the storm, rolling ever eastward was bearing down on Moscow.

As someone who’s a little wary of flying (ever since a particular incident in a tropical storm over Brunei some years ago) I felt more than a little blessed to have been spared a roller coaster ride. Endless thanks to the Schmeling-Kludas clan for making it happen, and to the whole assembled company for such a warm welcome. Singing on an autumn evening in such a storied and mightily timbered structure is a rare treat. To think that sixteen generations of farmers have kept cattle and held feasts in that very space renews my faith in humanity almost as fast as the oratory of “The Donald” chips it away.

Since I last wrote, I’ve spent most of my days hurtling around the country and trudging the streets of those great metropolitan centres; London, Bristol and King’s Cliffe, putting up myriad posters and lingering outside every concert, folk club and venue, handing out flyers for our upcoming concerts. It’s generally a thankless task, but someone has to do it, and if I’ve learned anything in this game, it’s that delegating leads nowhere, and I can never see what there is to stop the professional flyerists from just dropping their stack in a bin on a quiet night and telling the boss they’ve all been given out.

It’s a fascinating business experiencing crowd psychology at close quarters. When an audience begin to poor out of a hall after a concert, if the first person takes a flyer with interest, a queue will form of those behind, all eager to get one themselves, but if at any point someone rushes past, brushing the flyer aside dismissively, the next ten people will do the same, turning their noses in the air and uttering almost imperceptible tuts and sighs of irritation at the very temerity of the offer. Fascinating and demoralising in equal parts on a windy night.

Tomorrow we set off for The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol and thence to Hatch Court in Devon, Priston Village Hall (near Bath) and then King’s Cliffe for a return to the very shire, and indeed the very room where we recorded the new album, before the official release concert at The Old Queen’s Head in Islington on Monday November 6th. We’re very much looking forward to seeing many of you along the way. for those of you in other countries, you’ll just have to close your eyes, listen to the live album online and pretend you’re there.

It seems that more than ever, in this world of antisocial media, people love to be spontaneous an hate to commit to a date, so selling tickets in advance (and therefore being confident the musicians and crew will be paid) is proving a wee bit slower than we would’ve liked, but be assured that there will be tickets on the door and you’re all welcome, should you not get a better offer at the last minute. If each of you can tell/bring one friend who lives within striking distance of one of the shows, we’ll sell out without a doubt. Anyone who calls their favourite radio show and asks for a shout-out will receive double karmic points and a free look at James’ knees.

If your reason for hesitation is financial, we’d hate money to be the thing which prevents you from hearing the music we’ve prepared for you. There will be a “musicians or otherwise impoverished” cheap list on the door of each show, so come with your best story and cut yourself a deal.

Now to rouse the Master of Space and time and head to London for one last night of canvassing folk clubs and perhaps even the odd song. See you all soon.

Here’s the list in full for you sticklers for detail…

November 1st - BRISTOL - The Wardrobe Theatre
Tickets: https://www.headfirstbristol.co.uk

2nd - DEVON - Hatch Court, Loddiswell, TQ7 4AJ
Tickets: email wheelwrightmark@gmail.com

3rd - BATH - Priston Village Hall BA2 9EE
Tickets - villagehallgigs.wordpress.com

4th - NORTHANTS - King`s Cliffe Village Hall,
PE8 6XD email thesofasessions@live.ie


6th - LONDON - Official Album Launch
The Old Queen’s Head, Islington, N1 8LN
Tickets - wegottickets.com/event/414343 www.theoldqueenshead.com

December 1st - EYEMOUTH - Hippodrome

2nd - MONIAIVE - Craigdarroch Arms Hotel

3rd - INVERNESS - Hootananny

4th - ABERDEEN - Blue Lamp

5th - GLASGOW - Star Folk Club

6th - KILBARCHAN - Centre for Peforming Arts

7th - FALKIRK Folk Club

8th - GLENBUCHAT Hall

9th - FIFE - Letham Nights

10th - EDINBURGH - Edinburgh House Concert*

Tickets: email contact@jezhellard.com for info

11th - HAWICK - String Theory

Posted: 31st Oct 2017 | Contact

 

Top  End of an Era...

Perched here, atop the cliffs by Margate’s Winter Garden on this damp and drizzly morning, it seems that Autumn has snuck up on us all of a sudden. Rarely have I seen such a pallet of greys. The lingering mists and driving rain have retreated slightly, gradually revealing the horizon with its hints of green as a Special Brew can rattles by, rolling wind-blown along the promenade.

It’s been a somewhat gruelling September, laced with toil, tragedy and touches of melancholy. The month started with news of the tragic death of Joshua Lambert-Price, one of the finest young guitarists |’ve encountered in a long while, and ended with that of Charles Roff, renowned photographer, gallerist, coast-guard, surfer, bon-vivant and father to accordion-maestro, Tommie. My heart goes out to their families, friends and all who’ve been struck by such brutal news.

Between these ominous bookends, my days (and nights) have mostly been spent digging through dusty corners extracting treasure from hoarded tat, trudging around town centres putting up posters, racing across the country on a tight schedule, and hanging around venues handing out flyers for our up-coming concerts.

After 34 years of the finest asparagus, tomatoes, apples, pears, jam, jelly, berries and horse-radish, weddings, ordinations, house-concerts and parties of every description, my folks have moved out of the home where we all grew up (to an extent) and on to pastures new.

I’ve always been aware that we Hellards are what our American cousins would call “pack-rats”, constantly squirrelling away bits and bobs which “will surely come in handy some day”, but it is only when you start to clear it out that the enormity of this folly is revealed. At one point, my Dad asked if I could “help me get a train-set down from the roof”, and after three hours, both bleeding slightly and picking spiders out of our ears we had assembled about half a ton of ocean-going trunks, and a motley assortment of junk, from dusty and battered kitchen gear to primary school homework, report cards to the aforementioned train-set.

After two skips, thirty-six visits to the tip and six to the charity shop (thanks to Mind for all your hard work), one council collection, one yard-sale and several parties, we somehow managed to get through it. With echoes of a less blood-thirsty Lady Macbeth, however many times we wash our hands, it feels like the dust is still there. It really is amazing how after six hours of sorting and shredding papers, boxing up treasures and throwing out piles of junk, rooms appear more full than they were in the first place.

Just as it’s possible to waste an infinite amount of time on so-called “social media” (surely antisocial is the more apt adjective), I now believe that without the strictest discipline it would be possible to spend an infinite amount of time clearing one room, without actually achieving anything.

Huge thanks to my brother for moral support, to Jo for said discipline, and to Jim, Jenny and Tim for finding a home for my books, records, CDs, cassettes and indeed drum-kit. There are some things which simply can’t be thrown in a skip.

Now that this laborious but deeply cathartic task is done, I am left with exactly a month to sell out our five album-launch concerts in England and get the publicity machine rolling for our subsequent tour of Scotland. That’s a lot of tickets to sell. We’re playing shows in Bristol, Devon, Priston and King’s Cliffe on the first four days of November, then officially releasing the record in London, at The Old Queen’s Head in Islington on Monday November 6th. If you’re anywhere near any of those places, or know any music-lovers who are, it will mean the world to us if you get yourself a ticket and help us get a full house for every show.

If you’ve been feeling a bit worn out and anxious with all the nuclear sabre-rattling, zero-hours contracts, moronic hairstyle-ranting and constant chatter of political monsters (NIetzche’s own blonde beasts), WE HAVE EXACTLY THE SELECTION OF INSPIRING SONGS YOU NEED to bring a charismatic sophistication to your step and a spark to your soul. A few early bird tickets are still available for the London and Bristol shows for the bargain price of £8. Get yours now while they’re still cheap.

Posted: 1st Oct 2017 | Contact