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Retune #10 Sunday 3rd February 2019: WardnParker + Ben Sommers + Majelen

We were delighted to be back for our first show of 2019. It had been two months since the last event instead of the usual one month, and this was the first time we had attempted to put on a gig during a time as dark, gloomy and miserable as February! Fortunately we had another outstanding evening where WardnParker, Ben Sommers and Majelen substantially lifted all of our spirits.

A new aspect of our shows this year is that they are free entry - pay what you can. We are encouraging our audiences to contribute what they feel the night was worth to them, leaving this at their discretion while encouraging accessibility and enabling more people to access the project.

Roisin O’Hagan was due to perform but despite trying her hardest to fight off a cough and bad throat, Tom Ryder had to step in at short notice as Roisin was struggling to speak, never mind sing. We hope to be able to book Roisin for later on in the year.

Tom played original tracks Strings Attached, Here We Go Again and Partners In Crime, joined by fellow Retune director Greg Camburn for the last of these. Greg’s whistle playing is something special, particularly when accompanied by copious amounts of reverb!

Majelen (Helen Ashworth) contacted Retune late in 2018 to say that she would be in the UK for a short spell. Originally from Brisbane, Australia, her percussive acoustic style pricked up the ears of Tom and he managed to squeeze her on to an already full bill. We certainly didn’t regret it. She has a jazz guitar background and this comes across in her very technical and very beautiful playing. She also makes full us of the instrument, using it as half guitar, half drum. Majelen has a strong sense of melody and her manner in between songs is very endearing, clearly explaining the message behind each song and connecting powerfully with the crowd.

Ben Sommers is something of an icon in the Bishop’s Stortford music scene. Well-known for his work with Mozzy Green, he is an utterly captivating and intense live performer with arresting lyrics and a voice reminiscent of Peter Gabriel. He was joined on stage by Theo Howarth. Theo’s main project these days is jazz/funk duo Vertaal, where he plays keyboard expertly. At February Retune he demonstrated his prowess on the electric guitar, adding atmospheric swells to Ben’s powerful material. This was Ben’s first full solo gig for around two years and we were absolutely honoured that he decided to share his talents with us.

Headlining Retune #10 were WardnParker, comprising Cliff Ward (founding member of The Willows) and John Parker (formerly of Nizlopi). The pair of them arrived at The Half Moon with plenty of musical credentials and experience, and wasted no time in launching into a frantic and well-crafted set. John is passionate about running in his spare time and definitely puts this cardiovascular work to good use on stage, singing, beatboxing and playing double bass simultaneously! Cliff’s songwriting is poetic and poignant, and accompanied by some lovely folk-style licks on acoustic guitar. The WardnParker set was so polished and dynamic that it all seemed to be done and dusted in a flash. It was undoubtedly over too soon for the enthusiastic audience, who demanded an encore and duly received one. WardnParker are a duo that will always have you craving more.

Here’s to the next 10 shows. Here’s to the next 100 shows! The musical quality of a Retune gig is exceptional, paired with an important message about mindfulness and emotional wellbeing. We are here to normalise but not glamourise the conversation around mental health, and 2019 is looking like it could be a huge year for us as we develop our presence in schools and our online resources. Watch this space.


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