FolkWales Online Magazine

Review: Jocelyn Pettit & Ellen Gira at Llantrisant Folk Club, 15.02.2023

Top-flight musicians: Jocelyn Pettit and Ellen Gira. Photo: Ann Parsons

Fiddler and step-dancer Jocelyn is from the Canadian West Coast and ‘cellist Ellen is based in Washington DC on the American East Coast; those awe-inspiring logistics and the thousands of miles seem to have conspired to keep these two musicians apart. More to the point, Ellen has even moved to Glasgow and is currently pursuing a PhD in Scottish Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; her ‘cello can be heard in recording sessions with a number of Scottish traditional artists.

However, Jocelyn and Ellen absolutely charmed the socks and stockings off the packed audience at Llantrisant Folk Club, which was the only venue in Wales to have booked them first. You might argue that Cardiff’s Second Tuesday Folk Club was the first to hear them, the night before; Llantrisant Folk Club organisers Pat Smith and Ned Clamp took them to the session at Whitchurch Rugby, Sports and Social Club, where they did a floor spot and sold an impressive six CDs – and Second Tuesday compere Aidan Sheehan, when he had finished teaching in his mouth-organ class, travelled to Pontyclun to hear them again!

Jocelyn and Ellen are not only stunning musicians; their entire show is delicate and sweetly feminine, but they can shock and delight the crowd with their sheer musicianship as well. They started off with ‘Fleur Reels’, a brace of gay reels from ex-La Bottine Souriante player Michel Bordeleau, followed up by ‘Gillian Head’, written by Cape Breton’s late, great fiddler Jerry Holland. Jocelyn firmly stamped her step-dancing talent on the opener; a medley of Scottish jigs followed up, and then Jocelyn and Ellen applied sublime harmonies on the shanty ‘Across The Western Ocean’. Ellen’s relatives hail from the Appalachian Mountains, and the fiddle tune ‘Cumberland Gap’ resonated deeply; Jocelyn sang the Kate McGarrigle and Philippe Tatartcheff song ‘Cheminant á la Ville’, and the descriptive ‘Last Train To Glasgow’ closed the first half perfectly.

Ellen is a great and respected composer; her cheeky tune ‘Invasion Of The Houseplants’ contrasted with Jocelyn’s bleak and beautiful song, Dougie MacLean’s well-loved anthem ‘Ready For The Storm’; her gentle fingerstyle guitar was exquisite. A welter of Irish reels and Scottish strathspeys followed on, peppered with Jocelyn’s eye-popping step-dancing – and the highlight was Jocelyn’s album-title composition ‘All It Brings’. They ended the show with ‘Athol Road’, with Jocelyn’s dancing staccato feet as a triumphant finisher – and the audience shouted for more.

The fabulous interplay between Jocelyn’s fiddle and Ellen’s ‘cello is unique; the music runs rich with French Canadian, Cape Breton, old-time American and Celtic folk styles, and those lovely harmonies just cannot be beat. More power to their elbows!

Mick Tems

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