Published on 10th September 2022
The Blackheart Orchestra
Masham Town Hall, North Yorkshire
Tuesday, 6th September 2022
This eveningâ€™s venue is Masham Town Hall, an imposing Grade II listed building just off the Little Market Place in the historic town of Masham, famous for its Theakston and Black Sheep breweries. We arrived after forging our way through very wet and stormy conditions just in time to have a brief chat with Rick Pilkington and Chrissy Mostyn, the multi-talented and multi-instrumental duo of the worldâ€™s smallest orchestra.
Between them they manage to play over thirteen instruments ranging from vintage synthesisers, electric bass, lead guitars, acoustic guitars and, of course, Chrissyâ€™s omnichord.
Rick explained that tonight we would be treated to quite a few tracks from their new album, Hotel Utopia, but unfortunately the release date has been postponed due to pressing problems in Poland and hopefully we will see a new release date of 7th October. He explained that the title refers to a possible afterlife, and this is the main theme of the album.
The band started promptly at 7.30pm and it turned out to be quite an intimate performance, as despite the size of the hall, only a battle-hard few braved the elements, which was disappointing for such a talented performance.
Chrissyâ€™s vocals soar to give a haunting and ethereal atmosphere whilst the employment of artful electronica blends with her vocals, building up the dream-like quality of the songs so that the opening song The Tide, from the new album, leaves you feeling like you are floating in the sea with â€śwaves crashing over, like storms in my brain… on our backs in the darknessâ€ť.
The nearest comparison of Chrissyâ€™s voice is Kate Bush with the added sensuality of Tori Amos, but she has her own style and I use these comparisons only to accentuate the range and quality of her singing. Another new song, Under the Headlights, which was the first single from the new album, is quite beautifully layered with strings, keyboards and guitars forming a strong soundscape whilst Chrissy breathily quotes from the British philosopher Alan Watts: â€śOh God, can you see me? No one can see me because Iâ€™m all gone.â€ť
On Safe and Raise the duo interplay on the same keyboard, showing their dexterity, and this gives rise to a comical moment when Chrissy is so rapt in concentration that she momentarily loses her place by â€śthinking about what she is doing.â€ť
After a brief 15-minute interlude the performance recommences, and we go through the emotional ringer from contemplative melancholy to inspirational joy on Safe.
Some old favourites now feature, like Ennikur and Sebastian, and for me the standout performance of the night is Wolves. On Dust, that Kate Bush comparison again raises its head, and the intro reminds me of Cloudbusting.
Rick introduces Darling Africa as a tribute to the many years he spent working there, while Chrissy quips â€śhang on, you told me you were only 30!â€ť
The small but attentive audience do not want to leave, and we are asked if we want a happy or sad song for the encore and end up with both on Hey Pluto.
We need to support home-grown talent such as this and Chrissy ends the night by asking the audience to come again and maybe bring a friend? With a twinkle in his eye Rick ripostes â€śbring all of them!â€ť
Drown Me Out
Under The Headlights
A Dangerous Thing
Raise Your Heart
~ Interval ~
Chrissy Mostyn â€“ Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars, Omnichord
Rick Pilkington â€“ Keyboards, Guitars, Bass, Percussion, Backing Vocals
[All photos by Chris Simmons]