What a privilege to be a few feet away from Judy Collins as she performed in St Ann’s Church in Manchester yesterday. There were no more than 130 people arranged on the pews to see this legendary (I use the word advisedly) artist perform. Blimey, I’ve given lectures to more people. Maybe more people would have been there if they could have got through the roadblocks around the Conservative party conference…
Anyway, a lovely intimate setting for Judy to perform. The thing is – she is still a magnificent singer. That crystalline voice that startled the folk world over half a century ago is as brilliant as ever, and it was truly spell-binding when she went for, and held, those top notes.
She looks as beautiful as ever, those enormous eyes still holding the attention beneath what is now an impressively lustrous mane of white hair. She strummed a twelve-string guitar for the most part, with her musical director Russell Walden adding depth from the piano. She also took over on piano for a few tunes, showing that she has lost none of the technique she learned as a budding concert pianist. She was charming, and funny, getting the name of the church wrong, and launching into anecdotes about her early days in New York, often including snatches of song acapella along the way. What a range she has, and she gave it full rein here. She sang Rodgers and Hart, she sang Lennon and McCartney; she sang Stephen Sondheim, she sang Stephen Stills; she sang Brel and Baez; she sang ancient ballads and poignant new songs about her parents; and she finished, as she had to, with “Amazing Grace”, to which we were all invited to sing along.
A wonderful, uplifting evening, which occasionally brought a tear to the eye. Judy Collins is 74…

CC BY-SA 4.0 Judy Collins by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.