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Friday, 23 November 2012

Caroline Iandoli: Filmmaker

I have known Caroline Iandoli for a long time as my daughter's best mate. I am coming to know her also as a wonderful filmmaker and producer of music videos.

Most of what you see on my youtube channel ( was filmed by her. Below is one of the films she shot of my trio in action in September in the Shaft at the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, London. How it sounds you can decide, but it certainly looks great.

Good on you, C.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Playing Solo

Well. So that was Some Dark Hollow.

It was lovely. A small room (lots of wood), me, my lovely Moon Guitar (0003), Fender Acoustic Amp (for voice and guitar) and a dozen solo songs. As I pointed out in my last post, solo gigs are not commonplace and it's a treat to have the opportunity to engage with a slightly different set of my songs.

There was a lovely feel to the evening and since I know through experience that the vibe of the room owes a lot to the organiser, congratulations go to Ewan, the host.

He played some blues, a song in yiddish and some old-time bluegrass, Neil Johnson sang us some Americana, including the revered (in these parts anyway) Steve Earl and Laura Ward made us a gift of her lovely voice by singing a beautiful traditional song - Irish, I'd guess, but maybe not. It was all as sweet as a nut.

Thanks again to Ewan, thanks to the people of Brighton (funky alt home of funky alt stuff) who filled the small room and thanks to Caroline Iandoli, film-maker, friend and supporter - who was there last night.

(I sang Orange Room last night. Here's Caroline's film of me singing that song in the Shaft at the Brunel Museum in September. Other songs from last eve included Songwriting: A Philosophy, Warp and Weft, This Empty House, Trevor Square, A Land for the Many, Long Time Gone, Resolute Love, Lord Mancroft's Reply, Another Clue, A Shirt and Fireworks.)

Music's great: music people are, too.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Solo Gig

I have a solo gig coming up. Rare as hen's teeth, these. It'll test my instrumental technique - perhaps to destruction.

It's in Brighton, funky alternative home of funky alternative stuff. Monday 19th November.

It's at  Some Dark Hollow, The Duke Inn, 6 Duke Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1AH

I'll be there. Will you?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Once upon a time there was an unhappy student...

Let me tell you how Trow and I came to play a set of retro Hopper songs at a charity fund-raiser in a church hall in Newcastle last Saturday week.

In 1974 I was an undiagnosed dyslexic student studying for a degree in teaching at St Mary's College of the Sacred Heart in Fenham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (NE4 9YH, as I still, oddly, recall). Education had always been grinding and unrewarding for me, but I pursued it on the grounds that everyone else seemed to think it was good for me and because I had no idea what else I would do.

My conviction that formal learning would never yield a positive outcome for me was once more confirmed when I failed my end-of-first-year exams. This was a double-whammy because, as I belatedly discovered, there was no re-sit procedure and I would have to leave the college if I wanted to obtain a degree. I was really down. I'd made friends there and had settled in (the prospect of leaving home in the first place had been daunting for a shy, young-for-his-age, 19 year-old) and the thought of having to move on caused me dismay.

However, my phonetics tutor, a pretty, young, flute-playing Malaysian who we knew as Dr. Killingly, saw me moping along the corridor and took me to her tutorial room to ask what was causing me to look so miserable. I explained, she offered me consolation, told me stories of her own difficulties as a student to help put mine in perspective and promised to see what she could do to help.

You'd have to know how unhappy I was at that time to appreciate how much of a friend in need she was. And she was the only friend I had in that respect just then. No one else was batting for me and I was very grateful that she went well beyond her remit in order to support me in my time of need. Someone had faith in me and that mattered to me then.

A couple of days later she told me that she'd looked into things, that there was a new course starting the following year that might suit me and that, if I wanted to, she had cleared it with the authorities for me to re-start on this course. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

I went on to graduate, meeting my wife-to-be and mother of my three offspring on the way. The small favour done to me by Siew-Yue Killingly was profoundly significant to the trajectory of my life.

A year or so ago I found a letter she had written to my dad at the time, telling him of what had happened and reassuring him all would be OK. Those were different times. Curiosity piqued, I searched her name to find, sadly, that she had died not so long ago, but that a charity had been set up in her name with the objective, fittingly, of helping students.

I had to make contact. I found myself corresponding with Dermot Killingly, Siew-Yue's widower, and offered my services (gratis, of course) to play a fund-raising concert. And last Saturday, Leigh and I went up there to play for them.

It was a long way to go, but the event was lovely. We celebrated Siew-Yue's life, her kindness to her students and we celebrated community and we celebrated music and song. Leigh and I chose a set of the material we first began to play together 10 or so years ago when we first became a duo and loved every minute of it.

So, thanks to Dermot and the charity committee, thanks to the very sympathetic audience and thanks, of course, to Siew-Yue Killingly, for her kindness to a sad student all those years ago.

(As a post-script, I think Dr Killingly, as I still feel I should refer to her, would approve of the fact that my day-job is now as a dyslexia support tutor working with dyslexic under and post-graduates on their study skills. My experiences as a student inform my approach to the job.)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Poor Songwriter Tour#7 (Last)

Bloomin' heck, it's finished.

Home now and tired. Travelling (lots of) and gigging is great to do - and the last clutch of gigs was splendid - but it's tiring (and not just physically, but emotionally, too) so here's a truncated report on the final phase of summer '12.

We left cousin Ian's behind (see below) on Saturday and drove to Lauder (a pretty Borders town) our base for a couple of days while we played...

Wee Folk Club
It's the smallest folk club with the biggest heart. Paddy (Eberhart) Bort, a displaced German with fine folk instincts, creates a feeling in the room that makes paying there a pleasure. (He's also my gateway into Germany, having booked the Trio into the Phoenix Folk Club in Lauffen, near Stuttgart and subsequently into their festival.) Acoustic, lovely.

Brecon Folk Club
How a club in Houghton-le-Spring in the north-east of England came to be called The Brecon Folk Club, I dont know, but it has some of the finest floor singers. Garth, the booker, is a fine musician himself. They appreciate good songwriting there, too, which is good for a songwriter.

A long drive home after this gig (and a longer one for Andee!) means, however, that we're no longer on the road - although there are three dates still to do. Nice to sleep in my own bed. Being away, being 'the musician' has its joys, but eventually there's no substitute for your own bed and bath.

White Horse Folk Club
We had the Brecon FC in the north-east, now we have the White Horse FC in the Fox Inn. Another acoustic gig, this time with a different Simon Hopper Duo - with Leigh rather than Andee. No double-bass, but a guitar - and a different harmony, sometimes on different lines of the same song. But, more significantly, a different set of songs. It's interesting playing with a shifting array of accompanists. The playing is fresh and it keeps me on my toes.

A small room with a big crowd made us feel welcome and responded well to our songs, joining in where appropriate. And they were patient with what seemed afterwards to be a more than usually garrulous performer. I'm sure the intros were longer than the songs sometimes. That side of the performance - if it isn't to be stilted and flat - seems to have a life of its own. Thanks for your patience, Derrick and all.

Brunel Museum Shaft
Our most unusual venue with its own series of acoustic challenges. We had a lovely evening here after Andee had exercised her sound-engineer's skills to make us work sonically in an interesting space. Yet one more different - less folk-oriented - set was a further refresher and we played well. The audience gave off a special energy here. Thanks to Judith, Joe and Angelika for their crowd-boosting activities - you made the evening. And thanks to Eleanor and Robert at the Museum for the opportunity to play in their shaft

The Song Loft
So to our final gig of the summer. Fitting that it was in Trio form. The traffic was dreadful on the way up to Stoney Stratford from London and I was aware that Andee had an hour or more further to travel than I but still had to negotiate the same stretch of M1. We decided to play acoustically to save setting up time and it turned out to be a great idea.

I've played at the Loft four times now and never managed to pull a big crowd for them - I guess people turn out for artists they know well. But it's always a good gig. Matt Armour, the club's founder and inspiration, died three years ago, but his spirit lives on in the club, fostered by his widow, the splendid Jane, and a bevvy of helpers including Maurice and Colin. And they appreciate contemporary writing.

We were all tired. The emotional 'let down' reflex resulting from this being our last gig of the tour/summer contributed to a feeling of uncertainty about how the gig would go. In the event I think we played our best concert of the year - perhaps ever. Andee and Leigh were on great form and I felt the vibe and seemed to float throgh the concert buoyed by their energy. I sang well, made Trowbridge giggle so much that he had to sit down for a moment, and we had a great gig. Andee's soloing during the coda to Two Virgins was sublime.

No more touring for the moment. Watch this space, though - there are ideas brewing and at least one new CD in the offing. Thanks for reading.

(I want to say thank you to Pete & Mary Smith and Ian & Fiora MacFarlane, friends who accommodated us on our travels. The practical assistance is one thing, but it's heartening to know that there are those who will contribute to the quixotic enterprise which is my music. Ta all.)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Poor Songwriter Tour#6

(It occurred to me that, unless you have been to one of the gigs on the tour, you will have no clue as to the significance of the tour title: it refers to one of the (self-penned) 'folk' songs we're performing on the trip. For the lyrics see Pity The Poor Songwriter below. It's my plea on behalf the sometimes-derided contemporary songwriter who writes 'in the tradition' as I sometimes do.)

Dunfermline Folk Club
Wednesday 12th: Off to Dunfermline for a 'paid by collection' gig at a folk club which, interestingly, combines paid gigs (presumably for those artists they know and are confident of pulling an audience for) and those who are new to them. No probs with that - it's hard for the clubs to make ends meet and this is a way of offering new artists a gig without too much risk. It's a bit disheartening, though, to be greeted with the news that several of the regular attendees are on holiday and the group of TEFL teachers who come fortnightly came last week.

As predicted, the numbers were modest and, oddly and a little disconcertingly, one chap who'd had a little more to drink than he could manage sat at the rear of the room chatting and doing some kind of paperwork for the duration of the gig. Nowt so queer, eh...

Gifford (who sang some wry self-penned songs) and Jeanie, the organisers, were genial hosts - Gifford acknowledged the shortage of audience members but insisted that this shouldn't impair the quality of the evening - quite right, too. Andee wasn't well this evening, though, and I wasn't 100% either. She was a trouper, the show must, indeed go on, and we both dug in and gave a performance.

They're a good bunch of singers at Dunfermline. Despite the sparse crowd, the joining in was admirable. The club's regulars included an accomplished Jew's Harp player who accepted my invitation to join us on our last song, A Body Needs A Body To Hold. That was jolly.

Re the collection: under the circumstances, the pint glass full of money I was handed at the end was most generous. It was equivalent to the fees we have been paid ay other clubs - and more than at some. That's why I'll play for a collection - people are generous. And we sold a modest amount of CDs. Thanks folks.

Falkirk Folk Club
Thurday 13th: having played at Falkirk previously (in 2010), we knew more about what to expect. Stuart is a lively compere and organiser and the room reflected his persona.

The new venue is a smallish room above a pub (The Tolbooth Tavern) which was well-filled by the time the evening began. Great floor-singers opened and we had a good evening. There's a critical mass of audience that gives an evening energy and tonight it was achieved. We were both feeling better than the previous night - seemingly getting over our viruses - and didn't have to dig in to perform. I wonder to what extent the performance reflected it.

We had a good time at Falkirk - as we had the last time we played there - and drove home feeling buoyed. Good room, good host, good vibe...

Friday, 14 September 2012

Pity The Poor Songwriter

Every song one day was new
Listen what we sing to you

There is something wrong I'm told
With a song that isn't old
Why should those who wrote today
Feel they've somehow gone astray?
Every folk song once was written
Often in a part of Britan
Well that's where I come from too
Even though my songs are new

Every song...

I must write for there's no doubt
There is much to write about
Older song are fine but they
Don't deal with issues of today
Like Blair and Bush and oil and ozone
And the Parliament square no-go zone
In which we're denied free speech
Of such as this a song may teach

Every song...

Thompson writes and so does Knightly
Oft sedately, sometimes sprightly
They sell CDs by the shed-load
They're not writers who are dead though
Maybe there's something we are missing
Let's all take another listen
Could it be perchance, mayhap
It's just that people don't like crap?

Every song...

So if you think my songs are boring
So bad they deserve ignoring
Do what you think you should do
But don't ignore them 'cause they're new
For they may have something to tell
Importance and germane as well
So, sympathy, please, for my plight
Have pity on the poor songwriter

Every song...

Brunel Museum Gig

Simon Hopper Trio
Brunel Museum Tunnel Shaft
Thursday 20th Sept

Here are the links to the info re the gig:

Brunel Museum Info
Facebook Event Page

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A portrait of the artist

A drawing by my son Thom from a photograph of me performing in Germany recently.

The Poor Songwriter Tour#5

Ah ha!

I remembered why I'm doing this last night at

They apologised for the size of the audience - we thought there was a good crowd (at least in the context of this trip).

The people at Glenfarg are properly nice people, make you feel welcome and valued and know about songs, ideas set to music and singing. I played well, Andee played well, and together we had our best night of the tour so far. (Of course, the fact that we hadn't had to drive loads of mile to get to the gig and were relaxed and rested helped. I must think more about that aspect of planning tours in future. But the financial imperative does push you towards accepting what is available.)

One thing worth saying about the club is the way in which it typifies something that I think is particularly Scottish: it is run co-operatively. Several people play a part in organising it and you can feel the group ethic at work in the way it all comes together on the night, It's warming to the heart.

Andee's playing gets better and better and I was particularly pleased with Rope Ladder and The Compass - pieces that require several factors (my playing and singing and a listening, sympathetic audience) to come together for them to work well.

And Stan Ginter, gentle banjo-playing stalwart of Glenfarg, has gone completist on Simon Hopper CDs. Good on you, Stan. And we love your playing.

And I got a large single malt at the gig's end. :)

(Then home to watch Andee Murray win his first Grand Slam event at Flushing Meadows - fitting that we were in Scotland at the time.)

Now a day off...

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Poor Songwriter Tour#4

I'd fitted the MacSorley's gig in at very short notice to make up for a lost gig. As I mentioned earlier, sitting around for too many free days takes the energy out of the tour and removes the possibility of re-bookings, CD sales and other serendipitous gig-arisings. And I had to meet Andee's fee for the missing gig given that I wasn't able to give decent notice.

So I was happy that we had a late afternoon opportunity in a dedicated music bar - even though we were receiving no fee and relying on a collection from whatever audience might show up on a wet Sunday afternoon in Glasgow.

It's a good room, MacSorley's, and it has a great character. We played well, but there weren't many in. It was cousin Ian's party that made the difference between us having a meaningful number to play to and not. (Having come up with the goods on Thursday at The Star Folk Club (see below), he and his lovely wife, Fiora, brought a possee to watch his older relative - as he likes to point out - live in downtown Glasgae.)

We made a little money - more than if we'd been sitting at home, anyway.

And I had a giggly moment - 'corpsing' in the language of the stage - that meant I had to re-start a song. Don't make up spoof lyrics to your own songs in rehearsal lest they come back to bite you in performance is the message of that particular moment.

Glenfarg tonight.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Poor Songwriter Tour#3

Cripes, ten minutes doesn't seem to have passed and we're already five gigs into the tour. I'm falling behind with my reporting, so here's a summary of the last four gigs:

Monday 2nd / Aycliffe Folk Club: in the spirit of this blog I have to be straight with you - it's not often I feel that an audience is out of sympathy with what I'm doing, but that's how it felt here. That's not something that I hold them responsible for, though. It's always the performer's job to win the listeners over. I didn't feel I did this here.

John Snowball, the ever-enthusiastic club organiser insisted that the crowd is merely one that listens more intently than others. Thanks for the thought, John. And thanks, too, to Janet and John for their kindness and hospitality in putting us up afterwards.

As an aside - and an unrelated point - I'm selling no CDs on this trip. In Germany they accounted for almost half of revenue. Hmmm.

Tuesday 3rd / Acoustic Collective, Stalybridge: the AC has some of the best floor-singers I've com across - worth the trip themselves. The room is a nice one with a wooden (dance-) floor and we played acoustically again (haven't done a PA gig yet), and, I think played well to a sympathetic audience which included my sis, Brigid who had turned up unannounced - a nice surprise.

By way of an insight into the financing of a trip like this, an anecdote: I offered Paul, the co-host of the club, a freebie gig (they don't book many guests) if we could could make a collection. Enquiries were made about accommodation. After some shilly-shallying, I arranged to stay with my chums, Pete and Mary Smith (with whom we stayed the following night and were treated to a multi-meat BBQ - tasty). Paul then contacted me to say that he'd booked us into rooms in the pub we were staying in, but that the club would pay. What I hadn't appreciated was that this was in lieu of the collection. We did sell some CDs, but the trip's financing is not looking great.

Lovely night, though

Thursday 6th / The Star Folk Club, Glasgow: a lovely venue with high standards, the right attitude to the music, great people and a very interesting echo. Leigh flew up from London to make us a trio. Always good to have him on stage with his extra instrument, harmony and general presence. Leigh's shirts are always worth the entrance price; he sported a charming pink one this evening.

(The experience of the evening was made more special by the arrival of my lady, Angelika who had gone to no ends of trouble to get to the gig.)

An intimidatingly large space was conspicuously empty just a few minutes before the support act (a splendid trad fiddler whose name, I'm embarrassed to say, escapes me) played. Cousin Ian's friendly group of supporters filled a gap in the centre of the room, though, providing the extra bodies that was needed to make an audience.

We didn't play perfectly - the echo providing a timing challenge - but, judging by the audience response, we seem to have played to good effect. Cousin Ian's later comment that he liked Two Virgins and that it seemed especially sophisticated was a nice thing to hear.

We repaired to Ian's for post-gig red wine, cheese and whisky. It's not sensible, but it makes you happy. How Trowbridge managed to get up for a 7.30 flight back to London the next day, I don't know.

Friday 7th / The Loft, Forres. Because I couldn't book another gig in the area, this booking entailed a seven and three-quarter hour round trip all for itself. This was a long way to go for a gig the second set of which was to five people. They were nice people, song-writingly itelligent and appreciative - and a joy to play to, as it happens, but a reminder that I must be more careful about where I book myself and that I try harder to group the gigs together to make sense of the travelling.

We were well looked after and fed - and we played and sang well - and the drive up there, through the Cairngorms and up into the Highlands, was stunning on a lovely late summer's day.

As has happened before, people asked to buy the CD that contained this or that unrecorded song - this time, in particular, The Compass. Al least I know that the songs on the soon-to-be-recorded CD already have the audience seal of approval.

New Gig Sunday 9th. We're playing in MacSorley's tomorrow at 4.30 - see gig list to the right. Glasgow's premier music bar restaurant, cousin Ian says. I booked it fill a space that had developed - let's see how it goes...


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Poor Songwriter Tour#2

First gig was at Robin Hood's Bay folk club.

It's an interesting place in that the club takes place in the restaurant room of the Dolphin Pub immediately after the pub stops serving food. Many - maybe most - of the diners are not expecting live music as they finish their meals. It's an unusual arrangement, but one that works because of the charm and charisma of Jim, the club's founder and organiser.

It was rammed when we arrived. Rammed-like-there's-no-room-to-leave-the-instruments-never-mind-set-up rammed. 40 minutes later, with Jim's intervention, we were playing to an audience, largely of folk-club virgins, who had finished their meals and were open-minded enough to listen to some original, sometimes challenging, songs. The Simon Hopper gig song-sheets were well used with the audience joining in with songs as diverse as Bell The Cat, Travelling People, Two In The Margins and A Body Needs A Body To Hold.

It was a great evening with CDs sold and a healthy take from the raffle (our only source of gig-fee-revenue for that evening).

My usual lack of marketing nous (playing songs I can't yet sell on CD) lead to several promises to buy the next CD - the one that contains the songs we played that have not yet been recorded - especially Going and Rope Ladder.

Back to Ugthorp Lodge, our home for the weekend, No more gigs 'till Monday.

It robs the tour of its energy to have a two-day break so early, but that's how it is. Just have to take advantage of the opportunity to rest, read, write and pop down the road to visit with the Wilkinson family at their twice-yearly folk singaround held in their barn at Tranmire on the lovely North Yorks moors. There are worse things. And I heard the Wilkinson family ensemble sing. Magic.

The Poor Songwriter Tour#1

So, off we are again, Andee Price and me in her Nissan Almera. How we get all that gear into a small hatchback is a wonder. We have:

Double Bass
Jumbo Guitar
Non-Jumbo Guitar
Music Stands x 2
Guitar Stand (Double)
Mandola Stand
Mandolin Stand
CD Box
T-Shirts/T-Shirt Bag
Leads Bag/Leads x 2
Compact PA System
Mic Stands x 3
Mics x 3
Mixing Unit
4-Way Extension Lead
Bass Amp
Guitar Amp
Andee's Clothing Bag
Simon's Clothing Bag
Squash Racquet (don't ask!)
Andee's Gig Clothes Carrier
Simon's Gig Clothes Carrier

We must be breaking at least one of Newton's laws.

But we manage it...


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Two New Gigs

There are two new concerts on the list to your right:

The Trio will play an acoustic gig in the splendid and unusual setting of the Grand Entrance Hall in the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe.

After having been to see Alice Bird in her Shakespeare pastiche If This Be Love, I was introduced to the museum's manager and its concert promoter and this interesting concert was the outcome.

See the Shaft:

Thursday, Sept 20th (Trio)
BRUNEL MUSEUM SHAFT, Rotherhithe, 7.30 pm

For tickets:

And in October I'm back up in the north-east for a fundraiser in Byker. Siew-Yue Killingley was a tutor of mine when I was a student. She was particularly supportive to me when I needed it most. When I discovered there was a charitable trust in her memory raising money to help students, I volunteered.

Saturday, Oct 13th (Duo/Leigh)
FUNDRAISER, St Silas' Church, Byker, 7.30 pm

Hope to see you!

Friday, 3 August 2012

And I Have

I mentioned that a lovely couple in Backnang requested a song that they'd come to know from a CD of mine (The Beautiful and Cruel) they had bought on our previous visit. I have to admit to being proud of some of the lines.

Here are the lyrics:

And I have...

And I have been made abject by the beautiful and cruel
And I have been struck down by love and I've been made a fool
And I have felt the knife plunged in then twisted when removed
And I have been made vulnerable by ego and by need
But smiled with wry amusement as I watched her watch me bleed
As the blood seeped through my fingers confounding my belief

And I have...

And I have seen the same eyes fill with tears at my name
Then render me transparent as I tried to stake my claim
And I have been dismissed with scorn and I have done the same
And I have been made welcome in the sanctum of a queen
Who told me of her ecstasy when I was in her dream
And I have been kissed tenderly, misconstruing what It means

And I have...

And I have heard the siren call that I could not resist
Without a mast or ropes to hand and longing for that kiss
But found no lips awaiting, but only cupid's fist
And have stared into the face of one I could not read
Adaptive and chameleon in speaking and in deed
And I have turned and walked away with insufficient speed

And I know that I've been lied to and I've known it for itself
Embracing that dissembling although I never fell
And I have pondered honesty and trickery as well
And I've feared for my safety in the places I have been
And though I should have turned and run, my wanderlust was keen
And I have gone there willingly and I'm glad for what I've seen

And I have...

And I've sought for greater wisdom but I have had my fill
And I have found a harvest of grist unto my quill
And I've mused on the battle between the intellect and will
And I have been made abject by the beautiful and cruel
And I have been struck down by love and I've been made a fool
And I have felt the knife plunged in then twisted when removed

And I have...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


The Stuttgart weekend was a fine one.

Leigh flew out to make the duo three, meeting us at the An Sibin Irish pub (run by a Greek, Thanassi, and his lovely, local lady, Claudi), the scene of our first Germany gig in September last year. The welcome from our hosts was heart-warming (Claudi had gone to the trouble of cooking a fabulous chicken curry for us and she and Thanassi gave us beds to use for the compulsory pre-gig afternoon snooze) and the evening was as lively and successful as last year's had been.


This is far from being a 'concert' gig. There were few of the quieter songs in the set as the situation demands full-on, attention-grabbing material to compete with the friendly hubbub of the bar*. (Though we did give Two Virgins its début run-out to knock off its edges in preparation for the festival gig the following day.) We managed to keep the drinkers in the situ, though. We finished, as last year, with an informal sing-song sitting at the bar. Drinks were liberally supplied and it was only the thought of a four-o-clock afternoon gig the following day that stopped the carousing at 2.00 am. I'm a lightweight - as Leigh likes to remind me.

*(Friends Suzi and Bernhardt, who'd seen us in the Lauffen concert in 2011, were unprepared for the robust nature of the bar gig, expecting the polite attention they'd experienced there. I tried to explain that this was a different contract and required a different performance. I'm not sure they preferred it, though. It was cheering that they made the effort, though. It just goes to show that it's different strokes for different folks.)

Bar regulars who had seen us play last year were there. Two, who I wish I could name-check but can't due to my inability to remember a name for more than three minutes 35 seconds, were very charming with the explanation of their disappointment at our not having played And I Have from The Beautiful and Cruel that they bought at our gig in 2011. We played an acoustic impromptu version of it for them with Leigh on shaky egg and me on guitar and shaky lyrics.

I took the collection hat around after set two of three and the audience were generous. They didn't have much option, though, with a sweaty singer in their face mumbling about children's medical bills and refusing to walk away. And we made good CD sales, too. Very often the merchandising is the difference between profit and loss on a tour, so this was good. The CD box was getting sparse. Perhaps I'd underestimated the demand?

The next day we left Claudi and Thanassi after a fine breakfast (and with Claudi chauffeuring Leigh since we didn't have room for him in the tour car) for the festival gig in Lauffen. Our sound-check, I understood, was at 2.30 and our on-stage time 4.30. I was wondering how I'd fare given the late night we'd had and the prospect of no afternoon-snooze time. In the event, I had the times wrong. We weren't due to sound check until 4.15 and weren't playing until 6.15. So off to snooze.

LAUFFEN: Phoenix Festival

The atmosphere at the festival was great Situated on a rocky promontory over the river Neckar (the Neckartal is a major wine-growing area and produces great wines that we never see here because they drink them themselves!), the site has real charisma. The big question of the moment was whether the forecasted storms would arrive. Whatever spirit that presides over that place must like folk music. It poured everywhere in Germany that day, but the weather stayed elsewhere. By the time we went on at 6.15, the sun was out and the 550 ticket-holders were in place for what I think I can claim was a fine set. We enjoyed it anyway. Klaus Ruesenberg, who runs the Phoenix Pub we played in last year and who is co-organiser of the festival along with Paddy Bort, congratulated us for a 'perfect' opening set. (Paddy - more properly, Eberhart, is a local chap who now lives in Edinburgh and runs the Wee Folk Club there - he was our route to Lauffen - he booked us at the Wee then at the Phoenix.)

Hanging out with the other musos and seeing the different ways they handle being in a social situation with others like them is interesting. Some like it, some seem not to. Every man to his (or her) own.

Didn't sell many CDs. Funny, that. But the audience didn't appear so ready to buy as in the pubs, clubs and smaller concerts.

We enjoyed the rest of the acts and savoured some fine whisky from the specialist bar. I've never seen so many single malts in one place.

Well done Klaus, well done Paddy and well done everyone else who contributed.

WINNENDEN-BIRKMANNSWEILER: House Concert - hosted by Norma Huss

I woke early the following morning suddenly aware that I hadn't arranged for Leigh to get to our next venue. (Car full of gear, two passengers already...) I lay there considering the options. A cab? Expensive. Public transport? Not sure of the practicalities - and it was Sunday. Then the thought occurred: if I drove to Norma's immediately and dropped off the equipment, I could get back in time for breakfast and to collect Andee and Leigh. The only possible problem was whether Norma would be awake at 8.30 on a Sunday morning.
She was, just. And two hours after leaving the hotel I was back in Lauffen having breakfast with A&L.

Norma was the angel who booked us the gig in Backnang last year the day before our concert in Lauffen. Her reward for this kindness was to have us descend on her to play a concert in her living-room to an audience of her chums. She's a muso herself and set the room up brilliantly. We made our stage in the corner, had the prerequisite snooze and bang on 4.00 (they're punctual in Baden-Württemberg) we played set one to a full room.

Lovely people listened intelligently to sometimes demanding material. We discussed the songs: Rope Ladder; Chocolate; Joke; Jeffrey and Robert and I; the tour song No Going Back...

What is it about audiences that listen to this lyric-heavy stuff delivered in a foreign language seemingly more intently and attentively than audiences at home? I thought I found this in Sweden, too, but wondered if I imagined it. But it often seemed to be the case in Germany, as well. Are we less interested in the 'story' here than listeners in other parts of Europe? Andee suggested that in England (not Scotland, though) concert-goers pay more attention to the music, rhythm, harmony, etc, but that in other places we've played in Europe, they are keen to absorb the 'tale', the lyrical content,  the narrative. If it's so, it's grist to my mill.

The whole house-concert was a lovely experience and a success on all the levels I'd hope for it. (Yes, the audience dug deep when the hat (well, basket this time) was passed around and by the end of the evening, we'd sold out of three of the seven CDs I've made. Just as well it was the last concert.

A post-gig relaxed musical free-for-all ensued and went into the late evening with Andee and Norma joining me in taking the lead with an array of material covering pop, blues, rockabilly and conventional folk.

A lovely afternoon with lovely people hosted by a special lady. Only a few can run a successful house concert which depends entirely on the persona of the central figure. Well done Norma and thanks for your hospitality.


The next day saw Leigh on the train to Stuttgart airport and Andee and I driving eight hours back to Calais and our ferry. We cut it fine, falling into the we-have-loads-of-time-and-don't-need-to-rush trap. This was probably at least partly because the tour was over and we had relaxed.

We made it though, arriving home tired. But pleased. The trip had paid for itself with a little over that might contribute to the next recording. We've been playing a number of unrecorded songs on the trip and people have been asking for the CD that contains them. They've asked for songs such as Rope Ladder, No Going Back, Chocolate and In Bruges. It's always rewarding when people name-check a particular song, so it's time for another visit to the studio.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


The gig on 10th July was organised by m'lady's sister Christine at her tennis club in Deisenhofen, just south of Munich.

Her efforts on behalf of the arts (well, the work of yours truly) was well above and beyond the call of duty. It was a kind of house concert away from home, with Christine organising the venue, publicity and all else besides.

I was shown the room the night before and immediately created a reputation for myself as a <künstler>, or artist - in the sense of 'you must excuse him, he's an artist' - by immediately making a list of demands (reasonable suggestions in my eyes) regarding the layout of the room and its decoration if it were to be rendered fit for accommodating a concert. The result, I think, justified my suggestions.

In the event it was a fabulous evening. The tables were arranged around the 'stage' and decorated with candles and flowers (well done Christine, Angelika and the members of the Deisenhofen tennis club!) and the improvised lighting picked out the stage, creating the neccessary distinction between it and the 'audience zone'. The room was filled with the most attentive audience I can remember who voiced their appreciation of the music on offer and were generous in their purchasing of the wares on offer in the mobile cd and t-shirt emporium.

The tour finances strengthen gig by gig.

On the 11th, the following evening's gig, 45 minutes drive from home (Deisenhofen, in the form of m'lady's mum, the magnificant Hilde, is home for these few days), was in the Pirate bar in nearby Rosenheim.

Here I discovered a particularity of German law: you can recieve a parking ticket for parking in a legitimate parking space but facing the wrong way. Ho hum.

The crowd was sparse but enthusiastic and Petra an efficient hostess who surely knows her stuff after 28 years running the bar. Some evenings energy seems to be at a premium and this was one such. On these occasions the performer has to dig deep and I think Andee and I did what we had to do. Shortage of audience numbers (it was a wet Mittwoch during the holiday season) were compensated for by the words of enthusiasm for my work from those who stopped to talk and buy CDs. (CD sales were encouraging and hugely disproportionate to crowd numbers.) It is always welcome when fans take the time to offer encouragement. It's the audience response that is the reason for doing this, after all.

So, one more night with the Bavarian hostess with the mostest (Hilde is Austrian, really, but naturalised Bayerisch by now I think) then off north-west to Stuttgart.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Well, we got the gear in the car and, despite a satnav malfunction (or perhaps the user was at fault), arrived at the first gig in Hattingen to find that the host had not prepared for our arrival. The evening was predictably not great. We did our stuff to a small audience, choosing to look on it as a warm-up for the later gigs.

On to Luett Mattens in Garding - five hours north and beyond Hamburg. Rainer runs a great musikantenkneipe (musician's bar) with a great p.a. system (a Bose column system that Andee covets). The evening was great, the audience responding to their host's infectious enthusiasm. Having not made any money the night before, the generous collection was welcome as were the CD and T-Shirt sales.

The following evening we played at the Cafe Instinkt in St Peter-Ording, the social centre in an oncology clinic. It's a lovely place and we found the audience engaged with the flurry of songs of romance and philosophy we threw at them with intelligence and enthusiasm. One volunteered to manage the 'shop' in the break and took a record amount. The tour may fund itself yet.

(St Peter-Ording is a lovely seaside holiday town with the biggest, flattest beach you've ever seen and we happened upon it during the world cup of kite-surfing competition. No action though, due to insufficient wind.)

The following day we turned up in Kappeln. St P. is on the western, North Sea side of the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany that leads to Denmark: Kappeln in on the eastern, Baltic side. It's a river port and our venue, Pallette, is just off the riverfront. It's an art and music bar run by the magnificently cool Hans-Peter. He gave us his bar to play in, his audience to play to, the tastiest food you could ask for and his bed to sleep in. Great bloke, great vibe, great food and a fine gig. (Andee's improvising during Bell the Cat is growing gig by gig and is worth the entrance money by itself - in Palette it was a piece of genius.)

Now we were faced with a ten-hour drive to Deisenhofen just south of Munich and set off at 6.30. This was a trial for Andee whose metabolism refuses to recognise a time earlier than 9.30. But stalwart we were and determined (thanks J.R.R. Tolkien) and we rolled up just 11 hours after we set off.

Half-way through the tour and, after a dodgy start, it's picked up with three great gigs that have all paid well and with merch selling well the portents for the finances are looking good.

More to follow...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Germany 2012: #nogoingbacktour1

Well, here we go.

Will all the gear fit in the car? Will we have to (leave behind and then) borrow guitar amps in Stuttgart when Leigh joins us for the 'Trio Weekend'? Will the newly-loaded Garmin sat-nav maps of our host country work when we get there or will we be reduced to using what (in the old days) used to be quaintly known as 'road maps'? Will our audiences be wowed by our playing of my songs? Will they turn up? Will we turn a profit? Will we make enough money to cover the expenses of the trip?

All this and more will be revealed as the 'Germany 2012: The 'No Going Back' Tour' unfolds.

Watch this space!

Tonight: ...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Gigging Tonight

I know it's short notice...

'Mandolin-driven folk-punk: Simon Hopper and Leigh Trowbridge live at the Duke - Thursday, 28th June, Deptford, 8.30 pm.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Travelling People

I've just been reading a piece in the Guardian entitled Space tourism: to infinity and beyond?. It's about the soon-to-be-launched service from Richard Branson's Virgin company which will offer those who can afford it (£125K for the round trip) a jaunt into space. It made me think of my song Travelling People.

I don't know what's right and wrong here. But it's a rum do.

The 99% of the Occupy movement might have a view on such parading of wealth at this particular moment in history.

Should we travel where we can just because we can?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Rehearsing with Andee P

Rehearsed with Andee yesterday for duo gig this Sunday (see below right). Had one of my occasional 'This is pretty good!' moments. Good on you AP.

Set list from (some new some old faves):

Black Birds
Coffee and Tea
A Body Needs a Body to Hold
Travelling People
In Sympathy
Skill and Chance
The Cherry Blossom Song
Bell The Cat
Jeffrey and Robert and I
Lonely Lady
Long Time Gone

No Going Back
In Bruges
Move Gracefully
What You Do
Dandelion Seeds
Solid Ground
I Fell by the River
The Grain is in the Wood
Flat Shoes
Two In The Margins
Resolute Love

Oh Sally Ann

Monday, 21 May 2012

A change is as good...


I'm off with m'lady to all day/night Midsummer Party on an island outside Gothenburg soon to celebrate the longest day with them. I've been co-opted into a scratch band to do a one-off covers gig for the occasion.

Having been immersed in planning for the two tours in Germany and Scotland and the north (and getting close to having had enough of it) this has proved to be a fun, refreshing change. Here's a list I've sent to the guys with suggestions for the set.

What great songs; what great memories.

I think it's Mavis Staples who takes the second verse in The Weight - whoever it is, she's stunning. Fantastic harmonies in the chorus of The Band's rendition of Forever Young.

There's early solo McCartney, The Kinks, CCR, The Beatles (of course), some fave pop songs... well, you can see below.

Paul McCartney: Every Night

Beach Boys: And Then I Kissed Her

Manfred Mann: Pretty Flamingo

The Beatles: If I Needed Someone
The Beatles: Norwegian Wood
The Beatles: You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bad Moon Rising

Crowded House: Private Universe
Crowded House: Four Seasons in One Day

The Kinks: Days

Unit 4+2: Concrete and Clay

The Band (Dylan): Forever Young
The Band: The Weight
The Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Friday, 4 May 2012



It's been a while since I've had time to tend to the blog. Part of the reason is that I've been working on the two tours that are coming up either side of the summer: Germany in July and Scotland and the north of England in September. I'll post details of these at the head of the blog page soon (actually on right; see -> ).

Come back and have a look - see if you can join us for a gig or two - we'd like if you could!

S. x

Saturday, 11 February 2012


A year or so ago an incident in a bar I frequent involving a couple of friends provoked the writing of a song called Joke. It's my explanation of why I object to racist humour.

I recently came across this video on YouTube of Stephen Fry expounding on the same subject. I'm not sure if his explanation is 'better' than mine, but it's worth listening to.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Working On Your Behalf

Just wanted you to know that I've been working on the material - new and old - prior to the Fans' gig on 25th February (see last post).

This is song central at my place. I love being here.

Hope you can make it.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


Dear All,

An update for you:

FANS’ GIG 2012
Please join us for:

Simon Hopper Trio Annual Fans' Gig
Saturday, February 25th
Sundridge Park Lawn Tennis & Squash Rackets Club Lawn Close, off Garden Road, Bromley, Kent BR1 3NA / 020 8464 9106
Entry free with collection
British Rail to Sundridge Park or Bromley South / Buses 261, 314

You can see some of what’s on offer on my new YouTube channel at:

As for gigs in general, I’m currently working on two short tours, one to Germany in July and one to the north of England in September. In Germany I’ll be playing in duo form with Andee for a few gigs, then Leigh will be joining us for the last weekend. The UK tour will be duo only.

I’ll post details when the dates have been finalised.

We’re looking forward to playing – and hope you can join us for one or more of the dates.