Maddy birthday to you

25 June 2009

by Paul Wilkinson



NOT MANY men, even a soon-to-retire country priest, can say that the folk-rock icon Maddy Prior gave them personal 65th birthday concert.

But on Friday, the Revd Chris­topher Cowper, Rector of St Michael and All Angels at Barningham, near Barnard Castle in Co. Durham, sat in the front pew of his own packed church to hear the singer perform for him.

“I used to think that when you got past the age of eight or nine, you just get socks or ties. So when your favourite folk singer makes the time and effort to sing for you in your own setting, it’s out of this world. I found it all very moving.”

The concert was the idea of his wife, Christine (pictured above with her husband and Ms Prior), who wrote to the former lead singer of Steeleye Span. “I apologised for being cheeky, and said we have both loved her music for the last 30 years, and how it would thrill my husband if she could perform for him.

“There was no reply at first, so I told Chris what I had tried to do. Then, out of the blue, she rang and said: ‘I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I think I can do it for you.’

“It was a very relaxed night, the first half was some local musicians. Then Maddy did a 70-minute set,” accompanied by the harpist Nick Hennessy. “It was really good,” said Mrs Cowper. “Some of the old tunes, a lot of new stuff, and two encores. Chris was absolutely delighted — and afterwards we took them down the pub.”

Ms Prior described the booking as “glorious serendipity”. She said: “I do get re­quests, and most of them just sit on my desk and get forgotten. But things just came together at the right moment.”

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