Folk-rockin' onThirty-five years and 25 musicians later, Fairport Convention is still making music

April 11, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

Simon Nicol is proud of Fairport Convention's history.

That history is being celebrated by the release of the English folk-rock band's 35th Anniversary Album and the tour supporting it.

But Fairport Convention is not about looking back.

"It's about live performance," says Nicol, guitarist, vocalist and the only remaining original member of the band.

And that live performance is being brought to the community by the Mountain Green Concerts series Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m. on the stage of Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College.

Fairport Convention was born in 1967 - after the "summer of love" explosion, in the days of "flowers in your hair," he explains. It was a time of new lifestyles and music, Nicol says. The lineup has included as many as 25 musicians and singers over the years, among them Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick and Sandy Denny, who wrote Judy Collins' hit "Who Knows Where the Time Goes."


The current Fairport configuration includes Dave Pegg on bass, a 16-year veteran of Jethro Tull who's been with the band since 1969; Chris Leslie, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, with Fairport Convention since 1996; fiddler Ric Sanders on board since 1985; and percussionist Gerry Conway, with the band for about three years. This tour is the first time Fairport Convention has brought a drummer to North America, Nicol says.

The roster has changed through the years, allowing players freedom for individual musical pursuits.

Dirty Linen, the folk music magazine, has called Fairport Convention "the band that invented English folk-rock."

In the all-things-are-related category, "Dirty Linen" is the title of a four-tune medley sung by the band, and Nicol says the publication evolved from a Fairport Convention fanzine.

In February, Fairport Convention was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio Two Folk Awards. "It was a surprise, really," Nicol says.

Their popularity has never been of the superstar Michael Jackson variety. "Our homes are not decorated with gold albums," Nicol says.

Instead, Nicol says, "It's been about performance." The band has always been doing the "working thing," and even the anniversary album is about the band moving forward, Nicol insists.

Is touring in the 21st century different from touring 35 years ago?

The difference is it takes longer to check into hotels and arrange cars, Nicol chuckles. He's speaking from recent experience: The band will have only a couple of performance-free days in April, and the current tour has already taken them through the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and Germany.

Fairport Convention will return to the United Kingdom after the U.S. performances.

What does Nicol have to say to prospective Mountain Green concertgoers?

If you've been to a Fairport Convention performance, you'll know what to expect, he says. If you haven't - "Take a chance," he suggests.

"Don't be put off by the fact that we're an elderly organization," he jokes. The show will be fun, he promises.

"Bring open ears."

If you go ...

Fairport Convention

Saturday, April 13, 8 p.m.

Kepler Theater

Hagerstown Community College

11400 Robinwood Drive


Tickets cost $15 for adults, $5 for children/students and are available in advance at the Washington County Arts Council Gallery, 41 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown. For information, call 301-791-3132. Admission is free for HCC students and staff.

What's next for Mountain Green? Sign up to be on the mailing list at the Fairport Convention concert Saturday, or write to Mountain Green at P.O. Box 1115, Hagerstown, MD 21741-1115.

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