Belshazzar’s Feast launch into their ninth successive year of festive touring with dates including a visit to The Tuppenny Barn, Southbourne on Friday, December 15 (01243 377780 or tuppennybarn.co.uk).
Now in their 22nd or 23rd year together, the band comprises Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson.
Paul Sartin was a member of the multi-BBC Radio 2 Award-winning big band Bellowhead and is currently in trio Faustus. Paul Hutchinson’s love of fusion music originates from his days in the Celtic jazzers Hoover the Dog. And together it just clicks.
Paul Sartin said: “I think we just understand each other. We are both natural accompanists rather than soloists, and I think we just blend. We also share the same sense of humour.”
The Christmas touring began a while ago, thanks to Arts Council funding: “We decided that we wanted to find Christmas stuff that was off the beaten track. There is a lot of stuff around at Christmas that everyone knows. You can hear it just by going out shopping. But we wanted to do something that was a bit different.
“We brought an album out to go with that first Christmas tour. We found some carols in manuscripts and we just delved into books and looked around. It is all quite eclectic.
“Some of the songs are not obviously doable in the form that we found them in, and you can see why they didn’t remain in the mainstream repertoire. In some cases, we needed to take the rough edges off. We are adding a new old carol this year that I found in another obscure manuscript. It has got a good verse, but the chorus is not particularly memorable. We have changed the chorus so that the audience can pick it up more easily.
“Also, sometimes there are words that are a bit fusty, and sometimes that old-world thing can be good at Christmas, but not when the words are fusty in a way that makes them quite naff. Old-world is not good when it detracts, so there again, sometimes we have to change things a bit.”
And Paul is confident that it is fine to do so: “We have got the manuscripts. These songs are preserved there in their original forms for anyone who wants to go back to those, so we can change them if we feel we need to. But what compounds that in a way is the fact that for a lot of songs, they turn up in various forms and there are lots of variants. People are singing songs that have changed from mouth to mouth. I have just been working on The 12 Days of Christmas, and obviously there is the standard version, but there are also lots of other versions that are rather different. I think it is like a stone on a beach really, a stone that gets worn and rounded by the waves over the centuries, and it’s a bit like that with the songs so that really the fittest ones survive.”