Church to host musical war tribute

Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey
Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey

WIGAN will play host to a moving tribute to the soldiers of World War One when two leading folk musicians perform an ambitious project in the town.

Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey will play their double album Gentle Men at Wigan Parish Church for the latest Acoustic Roots concert.

The 105-minute suite tells the story of Robb’s two grandfathers Ernest Johnson and Harry Jenner, describing their lives before serving in the war, their time on active service and what happened to them after returning from the front line to civilian life.

The parish church gig on May 29 is the only North West performance of Gentle Men and promoter David Cartlidge says he hopes it will make a fitting contribution to the centenary commemorations of the conflict.

David, from Swinley, said: “We wanted to do something that did justice to the centenary. It’s very easy to misread or misrepresent an issue like World War One.

“What comes across from the album is these people went to do what they believed was their job and did the best they could. They were both brave and heroic.

“I think the album is something really special and it’s been hailed as a folk classic. One of the things Robb manages to achieve is to avoid it being too unremittingly grim and merely being about how horrible the war was and what it did to his grandparents.

“He manages to make it more subtle than that. It’s moving, it’s slightly sad and occasionally it’s very, very funny.

“You can hear folk music on the two CDs but there’s also tinges of jazz and definitely a touch of music hall.

“It’s a fully realised piece. Robb told me he was very proud of it and I can see why.

“They’re not doing many performances of it so it’s quite a treat and I’m incredibly pleased to get them to Wigan.”

The duo will be the only act performing on the night, but David says the evening will probably be split into two halves with the musicians taking a break after the songs on the first CD.

Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey will perform Gentle Men at Wigan Parish Church on May 29, with doors opening at 7pm.

Tickets are £14 in advance, available from Symphony Music on Market Street, from David by ringing 01942 824291 or online by visiting www.wegottickets.com