28-Dec-2014 That Was The Year That Was

Yes… that time of year again! We hope you had a very merry Christmas and that 2015 will be a good year for you. We wish you all that we would wish for ourselves.

2014 was certainly a good year for us, full of busy, filled with music and friends… what more could anyone wish for?

There were no new instruments added to the jiva family this year, though we did take a brief look at a couple of Taylor T5 guitars (a 6 and a 12-string) at GuitarGuitar in Newcastle – we came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t really enhance the sound we already produce. So that saved a few pounds! (And some of those pounds were then promptly spent on related tech stuff (new computer, new and upgraded software, headphones, CD player… the usual stuff that keeps our world spinning).

Maurice Baker’s CD ‘Broken Biscuits’ was eventually completed and following this he commissioned us to build him a new website. All done. It’s been an interesting year on the web design front… in addition to the ongoing support and update work we do, we’ve been commissioned by a small local theatre company (Cloud Nine) to revamp their website which has resulted in a completely new design, we’ve also taken on the streamlining and further development of a band website (Devils Water), and we’re helping out American friends Steve & Kristi Nebel with website design and implementation with DreamWeaver and WordPress sites. Among all that we found time to create a new website (www.jivache.co.uk) specifically for our Care Home performances.

We’ve been doing some recording work with Anthony John Clarke and working on a DVD for him. This involved us going with all our video cameras (3 of them) to various locations filming him in concert, filming family, friends and fans, and we’re working through all the material… this hopefully should be out next year sometime.

We’ve had the usual cries for help from quite a few of our friends needing technical problems sorting out including purchase advice and setting up a new laptop for someone whose desktop had finally given up the ghost (after nearly 10 years)!

And so what of jiva, the gentle blend of acoustic guitars and vocal harmony?

2014 pic
Ready to play – the typical jiva setup

2 x 12-string guitars, 6-string guitar, 2 x tenor ukuleles, bass ukulele, glockenspiel and harmonica
with either Bose L1 Model 2 system (pictured) or AER acoustic amp.

We produced one video this year – our song ‘A Different Picture’ inspired by our 2013 trip to America (www.youtube.com/watch?v=55vwOimbK18)… unlike our previous video (‘Long Time Gone’ – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rj68ER_L4O8) we’re actually in it, except you can’t see our faces!

We’ve been out and about at all the usual places – folk clubs, care homes, garden centres, village halls, festivals… you name it, we’ve been there. By the end of the year we will have performed 163 times (that’s 3 times per week on average) and will have sung 1577 songs (not 1577 different ones of course!).

But of course, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Highlights for the year included:

January and February got off to a great start with a good number of performances. The first monthly meeting of 2014 of our songwriting group SWAP-NE was at the end of January, having found a new home for our meetings at The Comrades Club in Whitley Bay. Anthony John Clarke and his wife Julia came to stay in January and February and we also travelled to Poppleton to see him perform. We also caught up with Allan Taylor at Darlington Folk Club in February.

We were hosts for much of the month of March to our friends Steve & Kristi Nebel who were over from the USA for their UK tour of folk clubs. So, apart from our care home performances we also visited and played at some of the Folk Clubs they were playing.

There was no let up at all during April with care homes throughout the whole month, five days in the Liverpool area filming for Anthony John’s DVD project, a visit to The Davy Lamp Folk Club to see Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby, a meal out with a friend and to round it off a couple of days in Grimsby so we could attend a songwriting group run by Helen Bennett, and our initial meeting with the members of Cloud Nine to discuss what they wanted for their new website.

May found us doing some more filming for the DVD project, a trip to Middlesbrough to attend a Taylor Guitars Roadshow, more care home gigs, a performance at The Lantern Club (for the over 60s) in Hexham, two 1 hour slots at Clennell Hall Folk Festival, an interview on Radio Prudhoe as part of their Community Arts Festival Week and two performances in Prudhoe as part of the festival – one at the Tory Club and the other at The Fuse media centre. It was great to perform in our old home town. The month was rounded off with a performance at Woodhorn Colliery as part of their ‘Thank Folk It’s Friday’ afternoon concerts series.

Then it was time for a holiday break (in reality, a busman’s holiday!). In June we travelled to Ireland – our first visit there since 2003 when we had gone to Dingle Bay for Val’s 50th birthday, promising ourselves that we would return. We got the ferry over to Belfast and then drove down the east side to Waterford for a couple of nights before heading off to the south to stay in a cottage for the week in Ballymacrown (near Baltimore). This was in a very peaceful area and we managed to get in a good amount of walking around the area. BUT BUT BUT, being jiva, we also performed at some care homes and they all went very well. We then went back to the bed and breakfast in Dingle Bay where we had stayed in 2003, and on our arrival Maggie the proprietor announced she’d got us a gig at the local day centre! How lovely of her… and it was a lovely performance experience too. We then travelled northward and stayed a couple of nights with our singer/songwriter friend Marian Bradfield at her house in Donegal. All in all we had a great time and the weather was very good. We came home with a tan!

July was a very busy month… Anthony John stayed over a couple of times, Val did her first temping of the year, we had another meeting with Cloud Nine Theatre, performances at Dormans Festival in Middlesbrough and a return booking at the Ellington Darby & Joan club, a double-slot performance at the Newbiggin Community Sports Centre Craft Fayre as part of the festival week where we played two 60-minute sets… and, of course, more care home performances as well.

And soon we were into August with more care home performances, even one on Val’s birthday, a  little bit more temping for Val, a visit to the Iron Horse Folk Club in Newton Aycliffe to see Anthony John Clarke, and short performance in the café at Druridge Bay Country Park. (Our friend Jim Wigfield had been doing an activity for young children – making percussion instruments – and he’d asked us to come along at lunchtime and play some songs.) It was great fun. At the end of month we went to see USA husband and wife duo Hungrytown at Newbiggin Maritime Centre.

There was more temping in September and some care home performances. We also did a super night at a café near Redcar (2 hours of jiva). We were delighted to receive an email from people who’d been there thanking us for a wonderful evening, and promising to come back if we returned to do it again. We did another evening show for The Lantern Club and also an hour long performance in the café at the Witham Arts Centre in Bishop Auckland. Also, we each began an evening class at Newcastle College – Jimmy doing one on songwriting and Val on singing. Unfortunately after only the first session Val’s class was cancelled as the expected tutor had got herself a job somewhere else! So she joined Jimmy’s class, and we’ve both been kept busy with attendance and coursework – and, surprisingly, it has resulted in some songs that we plan on refining and adding to our performance repertoire. Watch this space…

And so to October and our feet had hardly hit the ground before Val was temping again, shortly followed with a few days away in the north west – 5 care home gigs, a trip to Gregson Lane Folk Club to see Anthony John Clarke, a trip to Ireleth to see Brian Willoughby and Cathryn Craig and then horrors! We had to cancel our final care home performance – Jimmy came down with the flu… real proper flu (not just the manful variant). And a few days later Val got it too. We were so poorly we had to cancel everything for the last two weeks of October – cancelling is not something we take lightly, and we hate having to let people down, but better that than spreading germs around (even more important in a care home environment).

But along came November – and we’ve hardly stopped. 15 care home performances and we even managed a meal out at our local Chinese Restaurant with Jimmy’s son, Lyndon.

December is upon us and it’s still busy busy busy – care homes a-plenty (19), and we’ll be driving down to Huntingdon to visit Val’s son Richard on Christmas Day… we won’t be staying over, we have a Boxing Day performance booked and also a couple more, our final concert of 2014 will be on New Year’s Eve (afternoon).

And then, maybe a rest? That’s looking doubtful. Next year is already taking shape with quite a few care home gigs already booked… a week away in Jedburgh with Border Region bookings sorted and a feature spot at Dunblane Folk Club and a guest night at Dunfermline Folk Club in July.

As we always say… we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. As we often say… life is good, very, very good. As we sometimes say… we’re exhausted!

If you’d like to check on what we’re up to, our blog site here at www.jivacoustic.co.uk has full details of all jiva happenings, so why not stop by occasionally, drop us a line, give us a call… or maybe pop in for a cuppa sometime?

Hopefully our paths will cross soon.

Till then…

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