Perched in the hills high above Hebden Bridge in an area known as Old Town sits Wainsgate Chapel. With views across Wadsworth Moor this building constructed in 1860 and classically designed in local stone, although much in need of it's impending restoration, still cuts a handsome figure nestling as it does amongst the surrounding trees with the combination of its attached workshops occupied by local artists & craftsmen, the spacious upper function room and the Chapel itself where the paint peeled walls do little to detract from its looks in particular the colourfully ornate altar complete with its octagonal pulpit and marble staircase. Above, to the left of the curved gallery a pair of brightly painted and slightly sinister carved fish peer over and keep a watchful eye on today's proceedings.
"Girls Allowed" - the final event of Hebden Bridge Festival - today gathers together some of the finest local female performers for a musical afternoon of true quality. Amongst the many fine musicians on show today is Katie Ware who performs under the name of Little Sparrow - a young lady who, already with several years of performing experience, has begun to perfect her own distinct sound and develop a clear vision for the direction in which she wants her exceptional talent to take her. An initial chance encounter with her music about eighteen months ago was enough to tell me that this was a performer that I wanted to see again at the next available opportunity and thankfully of late there has been an increasing regularity in her live appearances as she continues to prove her versatility as a performer varying from a recent solo set for the opening Manchester event staged by Sofar Sounds to prestigious supports for the likes of James Levy & the Blood Red Rose and Gideon Conn plus headlining a growing number of her own shows where she has gathered around her a number of her friends and musical collaborators to further enhance her unique sound. Having had the pleasure of watching Little Sparrow perform on many occasions I know that whichever way she choose to play, those gathered today are in for a treat, especially as she is due to play not one but two individual sets.She takes to the stage in Wainsgate’s upper room for her first set framed by the large picture windows bathing her flowing blue dress in the afternoon sunshine and illuminating a smile as bright as Summer itself. To either side she is joined by Sarah Dale and Graham Clark, two hugely talented multi-instrumentalists who today will provide a delicate and atmospheric string accompaniment of cello and violin respectively. In addition Sarah – an extremely talented vocalist in her own right – will add harmonies of the most perfect quality to much of the Little Sparrow songbook – and what a wonderful collection of work this is growing into.
Anyone who purchases the EP available at Katie’s shows will find three of her most stunning compositions which serve as a perfect taste of what makes this songwriter so special and all will be performed today. A blend of styles are woven into the colourful tapestry of her music from the dark and mysterious fairy tale quality of “Hunted (A Bear’s Tale)” with her beautifully emotive voice taking the listener on an uncertain journey through misty woodlands followed by the gentle and poetic “By My Side” – expressing both the aching pain of separation from a loved one and the joyful anticipation surrounding thoughts of their return.
“Heart” – an open love letter with its tender melody and breathy vocal is filled with lyrics so touching that it is the type of song that surely everybody secretly wishes one day would be written just for them. Live, these are delivered by a vocalist capable of summoning from a deep well of emotions and a group of fellow musicians - who as they transfer to the Chapel for their second set adding the considerable talents of percussionist Mitch Oldham – have such a natural chemistry that the eye flits between one and the other constantly to marvel as the individual skills merge as one to create something quite magical. This is never more apparent than on one of the undoubted highlights of the performance – “Sending the Message” – a wonderfully constructed piece of music which allows a breathtaking interaction between the two girls as one moment Katie’s voice soars unaccompanied, the next is joined in stunning harmony by Sarah and positioned as they are before the decorative marble backdrop of the altar of Wainsgate Chapel it feels almost spiritual. This is a performance the kind of which leaves you wanting for more but all too soon the second set draws to a close. Not, however, before leaving an appreciative audience with memories to savour long after they descend from these leafy hills and as they depart that special smile is still lighting up Katie Ware’s face as this was a performance of which she enjoyed every minute. Songs filled with images of morning sunshine and the evenings fading light, songs at once filled with both heart breaking sadness and life affirming joy and delivered by a singer whose voice is as welcoming as a warm embrace on a cold winters night.
This is music to make the heart sing – This is Little Sparrow.
Review & photos by Shay Rowan