Review: Magnificent show by Magna Carta at Grassington Festival

(Picture by Jan Robinson)
(Picture by Jan Robinson)

Review & picture by Jan Robinson

Magna Carta, Grassington Festival, Burnsall

In the relaxed, informal setting of Burnsall village hall, Magna Carta was introduced by MC Robert Fort as “one of the Dale’s greatest exports.”

Since 1969, the group has toured 60 countries, rubbed shoulders with many famous musicians and sold eight million records worldwide, so the chance to see them in the Yorkshire Dales was, indeed, a real treat.

After being given a very warm welcome, the six-piece band comprising Chris Simpson (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Doug Morter (guitar and jokes!), Wendy Ross (violinist), Laurens Joensen (slide/acoustic/classical guitar, mandolin), John Sheppard (drums) and Will Stockbridge (bass guitar), launched into their concert, masterfully executing an entertaining collection of songs, both old and new.

Simpson, the band’s veteran lesder, spoke of being rejuvenated by the recently discovered tapes from the group’s Seasons album (1971) live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, now released on CD.

Whether this discovery gave Chris the impetus to finish writing the long-awaited album, the Fields of Eden, remains unclear but its release is now imminent, based on the central theme of what is happening to his beloved Yorkshire Dale.

A strong set of songs was topped off with the piece de resistance, the final number, an extended version of the Fields of Eden with its Middlesmoor overture, with a beautifully delivered soliloquy by Andrew Jackson.

It was an emotionally charged performance which confirmed Chris Simpson not only as a true Dalesman, but a perennially dynamic song-writer.

Magna Carta may have been on the road for 45 years, but its clear to see the band has taken on a new lease of life by returning to their roots.