On this particular weekend, The Bury Met is playing host to the annual Big Whistle Festival, which Scottish musician RACHEL SERMANNI seems absolutely tickled to be part of (Never have I seen quite so many whistles in one place…). Here, at her sold-out afternoon show at the Studio Theatre, we’re all nice and cosy, seated on something akin to plastic garden furniture, away from the chilly conditions outside the venue. Snuggled into the mood-lit room, and with an impromptu whistle jam session taking place in the bar outside, the setup makes me think that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have more folk festivals like this in the North during the winter months.
Thanks to the festival, we are treated to a reminder of the vocal versatility of this performer, from the husky depths all the way to the fragile heights, her lyrics satirical and layered with a mix of dreamlike wonderment and life’s harsh realities. Rachel Sermanni has the rare natural talent of projecting a warmth and sincerity from the stage, connecting with you, no matter who you are or what mood you are in. Her music and presence has a timeless quality, rare to find in any performer, or any individual for that matter. In short, she has a good energy, and we’re all the better for seeing her perform live.
Under the intense red glow of the lights, Rachel performs a stripped-down intimate show, her first for some time. She peppers a beautiful version of Robert Burns’ “Ae Fond Kiss” and “The Burger Van Song” (“my one funny song”) in amongst tracks from her stunning debut album “Under Mountains.” “The Fog” continues to be the one that makes people stop and realise that Rachel has a sizeable box of vocal and musical tricks up her sleeve, while “Waltz” is sweet enough to make you melt and forget where you are for a moment. To lighten the mood, her intermittent ramblings in between songs are priceless: this time, an account of her tram trip to the venue, passing through Crumpsall – not the most glamorous of journeys, but fitting in the context of her down-to-earth essence.
Though a little embarrassing to admit, every time I go to a Rachel Sermanni show, I am reduced to tears at some point, and this was no exception – I felt the emotions turn during the encore and I’m fairly certain that I was not alone in that. The tears are never from sadness, but from relief and joy at seeing someone genuinely loving their craft and feeling to her core every note sung and every string picked. She’s in her own world on the stage, but that is what we all love about Rachel – that she allows us the privilege for short periods at a time to join her in her reveries and playfulness.
Thank you for inviting us in again, Rachel.