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Current page: Ripley concert 2020

Current page: Ripley concert 2020


On this page you can read all reviews on the Ripley concert on January 25, 2020.


Superb 'farewell' gig at Ripley by Britain's answer to Paul Simon

Review: Magna Carta's 50th Anniversary Show, Ripley Town Hall.
Written by Graham Chalmers in the Harrogate Advertiser

If this does turn out to be his last-ever appearance on a British stage, Magna Carta fans filling up the historic venue of Ripley Town Hall to bursting point learnt at least one thing. Founding member Chris Simpson has still got it.

At the age of 77, this veteran Harrogate-born musician who was once up there with the likes of Elton John and the Incredible String Band scoring six gold and three silver albums in the process, is nearly, but not quite, as old as the hills he has written about with such skill and spirit from prog-pop-folk band Magna Carta's earliest days in the late 1960s to the present day. Still, there is no denying that time has finally taken its toll a little. Simpson may be remarkably boyish looking but he is a little wobbly on his feet in this wonderfully eccentric 'hotel du ville'.

After playing through thick and thin for more than half a century, Chris's physical strength has, unsurprisingly, turned against him. His left arm, in particular, is become less mobile with each passing year. So much so, the great man is clearly struggling for his past dexterity on the fretboard of his trademark acoustic guitar.

Sadly, at this sold out 50th anniversary gig-meets-farewell show, his once effortlessly rippling and melodic Johnny Marr-does-folk guitar lines can no longer ring out. To balance that, the songwriter once hailed as "Britain's answer to Paul Simon" is surrounded on the wooden stage of this packed out village venue, which Chris first visited as a five-year-old boy, by an impressive band of accomplished musicians.

Most of Magna Carta's current line-up hail from the more recent past rather than the glory days of the 1970s, which, perhaps, tells a story of its own. But Ken Nicol (guitar/mandolin/vocals), John Shepherd (drums), Will Stock (bass), Wendy Ross (violin), Will Jackson (keyboards) and Iain Stewart (mouth harp) bring both warmth and swing to the ever-green Simpson and a setlist to die for.

Perhaps for the first time in his entire career of hits and decline and survival which has taken him halfway round the world while remaining anchored in Yorkshire, Chris even lets someone else act as de facto band leader, well, a bit. But what a band leader Ken Nicol is. Versatile, experienced, multi-talented, the only thing the Steeleye Span stalwart lacks, apart from the songs, is Chris's personality.

Despite his physical frailties, Chris being Chris can still sway the mood of the whole band with a cheeky smile, a beam of happiness at the sheer glory of great musicianship or the occasional, though not unusual, bloody-minded wind-up to test his colleagues' patience. A master storyteller in every way, Simpson even manages to pull off the world's longest, shaggiest dog story of a joke, such is his charisma and skills as a raconteur.

After the stage lights have faded on this rapturously-received show at a venue built in 1854, Chris confesses that the weakness in his arms had forced him for the first time, in a life which began in a broken down stone cottage not far from Ripley, to concentrate utterly on his vocals. The results are stunning.

Whether tackling early favourites such as Airport Song (Seasons, 1970), Wish It Was (off 1973 album Lord of the Ages), Highway to Spain (Midnight Blue, 1981) or more recent classics such as Hungerford Bridge (Seasons in the Tide, 2001) or a brace of numbers of 2015's return to form with the Fields of Eden album - Long Time Running, Greenhow Hill and Walking Away From Heaven - Simpson's voice is as clear, warm and strong as it was in the band's golden days in the early 1970s when future Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone was a member of Magna Carta. Better, in fact.

After allowing his great friend, Andrew Jackson to perform his own wonderfully evocative and bone dry beat poem Jazz Cafe, Chris ends the show with a more recent classic, Fields of Eden. Set in the natural wonders and hardships of the Dales where he grew up before heading for London and a life in music, this epic number combines poetry with music, flinty Yorkshire honesty with a deeply philosophical viewpoint of life, the universe and everything.

After a final bow to adoring fans and the occasional old friend, Chris Simpson is last to leave the stage, a man whose talent remains as timeless as the rocks and hills he sprung from. "This is the last show," he'd told the crowd earlier.

"I've played in a few of those before," one of his band members chips in.



Greg Birkett wrote a review about the Ripley concert on January 25th:

Ripley, January 2020

Well what can I say, if this really is to be the final concert (as if we believe that!) then what a way to do it, you all performed superbly! And you all looked like you were so enjoying it, Wendy’s ghost story was a bit spooky though!


Chris Simpson

For me and Sue it was really nice to hear you play some of the old stuff, which of course we have heard but to hear you play them live was amazing, thank you! And I know it’s rude but I’ve forgotten the mouth harp players name but what a great addition he was on the night, brilliant!


We took some friends with us, Doreen and Mike who were seeing you play for the very first time and they were massively impressed, they commented on what a shame it was that this was your last gig as they would love to see you play again... I said ‘last gig’ hehe, not after that gig there’ll be anarchy if they tried that!


Ken Nicol

The reason that it was nice to hear some of the old stuff is because we are really quite new to Magna Carta live, having said that we have been to quite a few, the first being at the Grassington festival a few years ago, we’ve even been to the up close and cosy gig at Hetties Cafe at Skipton a few years ago too and another outstanding gig that we went to was The Visitor gig at the Octagon theatre in Grassington, for me this really did show the skills and versatility of the players and the amazing voice of Dr Andrew Jackson!


For those of you that don’t know, this gig was based around Andrew reciting sections of the book ‘The Visitor’ which of course is a book that Chris has written, how the players played around the reading was superb, I’ve never heard anything like it and if they don’t do this again I will be truly shocked. If you haven’t already read 'The Visitor' then I would encourage you to do so as it really is a lovely little story and should be a film.

Dr Andrew Jackson

Dr. Andrew Jackson and Ken Nicol

I’m sorry for going on a bit. Having read this back it sounds like I am a little biased, we’ll I could well be a bit as we are lucky enough to have become friends of Chris and Cathy as we are fellow narrowboaters. They really are the best company and we think the world of them, but they have on many occasion lead us astray with the wine and banter but we wouldn’t want it any other way.


Wendy Ross, Ian 'Stewie' Stewart and Will Stock


For the last time: John Shepard

But truthfully I do believe Magna Carta is a truly superb group of players who are a true progressive rock/folk band, if you go all the way back to 1970 and listen to the Seasons album and on their journey making albums like Lord of the Ages and then to the current The Fields of Eden album, then that’s progressive! For me I think The Fields of Eden is their finest work, but hey who am I...

Chris and Ken

Chris Simpson and Ken Nicol

Fantastic concert, thank you! Looking forward to the DVD now! Greg & Sue XX

Photos: Algy Kazlauciunas



A half year ago we heard about the concert in Ripley on January 25 2020. It was announced as the final final final (really) concert and we decided to go there. Not the easiest place to reach from Sauwerd, a very small village in the upper north of the Netherlands, but we traveled more than 10 hours to reach our Hotel in Harrogate. And now, after the concert, we can say that it was worth doing so.


The last time we saw the band was in Amen (The Netherlands) and although it was a very good concert, you could see that time was doing its work. So, with no other expectations than to see Chris and Cathy and his new band again we travelled to Ripley – Harrogate. It became one big surprise.

The venue itself is very nice, the audio system and audio engineers were great and the band was fabulous. OK, Chris’ guitar playing did not get better over the years but his voice still hits you in any song.

He brought a band with a wonderful sound. Ken Nichol played beautiful on all his guitars. and Wendy Ross played the stars from heaven on her violin. The drums, the bass, the mouth harp and the organ made the sound complete.


But as Wendy said on stage, non of us would be here playing as it was not for Chris Simpson. And so it is. Chris still is one of a kind. His songs and his voice still do something magical to you. From the first song to the last he created a magical evening. Magna Carta played 20 songs during this concert and we enjoyed every minute of it.


And then, the end of the evening was there. We did not want to leave because we always find it hard to say goodbye to the one you love, but around midnight we did say goodbye to Chris and Cathy. To our huge pleasure Chris invited us for a tour through the Yorkshire Dales.


So instead of saying goodbye, the next day we drove in his Land Rover trough that beautiful part of Yorkshire and we could listen to all the stories that Chris can tell. We went to Pateley Bridge & Nidderdale, we saw Greenhow Hill and enjoyed the views of The Fields of Eden.


To us it became a memory forever and we will never forget this final concert and this tour.


So thank you so much Chris and Cathy!

Ed Fisscher & Anneke Reinke



Chris Simpson writes:

Hi, Everyone,

The date has been coming down the line since its conception way back in the Summer. I figured that one of the very best venues we played down the last years was in Ripley, an ancient village north-east of Harrogate... my roots went back many years...

I figured that, standing outside the Town Hall to go in for the first rehearsal, last week, and realising that just opposite was a house in which ,it seems like aeons ago, my mother and my beloved Uncle (later immortalised in 'Song for John' which Nigel Schofield of Pennine Radio and Telegraph and Argus called 'one of the greatest songs ever written’) lived.

This village is an anachronism. The landed title going back to the 14th Century (or thereabouts) it was an eccentric Lord, Ingelby, who had done 'the tour' of Europe, in the Nineteenth Century, and decided Ripley should be built on a French prototype. Which is why is does not look like a Dales village. None the worse for that, it has weathered the test of time.

I waited for the superb musicians and friends, to roll up in fine style, not least Will Stock, (who had passed his driving test) coming down from Richmond... The people who run concerts here, Andy and Robin, could teach the 'live' music world a thing or two. Nothing is ever a problem. They are generous, and kind and truly care for the artist, which is more than can be said for a lot of venues and promoters.

In we went. Given I have an ongoing muscle problem, helped by Will, we set up and just played. We had my old friend, and one of the finest musicians ever (who has toured with Magna Carta and recorded and toured songs without, it seems, number) Will Jackson, Ken Nichol - the superb ex-Steeleye Span guitar player, John Shephard (drums), Wendy Ross (violin, vocals), Will Stock (bass), Stewy Stewart (mouth harp and humorous asides) and Andrew Jackson... he of the voice to melt the ice cap and a superb raconteur... it all hung together. That was the rehearsal.

On the day of the show, in came the audience, some familiar, some strangers who soon melted into the music... and off it all went. You never know, you fly by the seat of your pants, but we did and that audience picked us up and took it out to wherever. It hit the stars and stayed up there with stunning playing from all of them and Andrew gave the shade of Richard Burton a good run for his money... It took time to say goodbye… I don't think I have yet. It will indeed take time.

On the day after, and we all pulled out respective heads together, we took a lovely Dutch couple, Anneke and Ed up into the Fields of Eden, and to Middlesmoor... they went back to Holland blown away.

It was the last one (it says here)... we'll see.

With love,