Type your text, and hit enter to search:
Close This site uses cookies. If you continue to use the site you agree to this. For more details please see our cookies policy.

Slide-guitar blues and gritty folk come to church

April 2018

Martin Simpson 1There is a phrase that musicians in the Southern States of America use to describe music that sends a chill down your spine and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. They call it ‘chicken-skin’ music. And that’s what we heard in St Andrew’s when Martin Simpson played to a capacity audience on 21 April 2018.
Simpson is regarded as one of the most skilled folk guitarists currently playing on the British and American folk scene. Now approaching 65 (retirement age, as he proudly announced on Saturday), he has been performing live since 1970. He has released 21 solo albums, countless collaborative albums with other well-known musicians, and has been nominated 23 times in various categories of the annual Radio 2 Folk Awards, winning Artist of the Year twice.
It was a real coup for St Andrew’s that he was persuaded to come and play here.
Pat CrillyThe gig kicked off with Hertford’s favourite folk entrepreneur Pat Crilly playing a short six-song set of original songs. Pat – who describes himself as an Irishman with a Scottish accent – is himself a talented guitarist and packs a vocal punch with a pure, strong voice. He set the tone for the evening by opening with a song about meeting a man from Senegal on a boat in the Congo. ‘Magical and Mystical’ went the refrain. That could have described what followed.
Dressed in working men’s jeans and boots and a silk shirt that he later admitted was borrowed from his neighbour in Sheffield, Richard Hawley (one-time guitarist with Jarvis Cocker’s 90s band Pulp), Simpson walked onto the dais where the altar normally stands and started tuning his guitar.
Fixing a temporary feedback problem, his tuning gradually emerged, like a coil of mist rising from the swamps of the Mississippi, as a slow slide-guitar blues. The vocals which followed were like English traditional folk lyrics, telling the tale of a soldier dying in hospital. And then, just as we thought we had located the song, it merged into a version of Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell. What intricate invention is that?
Martin Simpson 2-1
Over the following two hours, Simpson selected songs from the rich catalogue of English and American folk and blues numbers, each one introduced by amusing stories that often brought the songs up to date with interpretations that referenced modern political or environmental issues. Grenfell Tower, the chopping down of 17,000 trees in Sheffield, mass poaching in the 1850s, the Aberfan tragedy – they all got a mention. Simpson is not shy of making a stand against injustice.
Poignant lyrics and amusing anecdotes aside, it was his guitar and banjo playing that held the audience – many of them strangers to the church – in a silent trance. His version of Heartbreak Hotel or the Incredible String Band’s October Song were made his own by elaborate guitar playing made to look easy.
It was a great concert and a successful evening. According to Chris Seward, who organised the evening, over £1300 was raised for church funds.
After the concert, the down-to-earth Simpson, sat at the back of the church selling CDs and chatting to fans. He kept saying how the acoustics in the nave were ‘unbelievably clear and beautiful’.
Asked if he would play at the church again, Simpson replied ‘Oh yes, definitely’. We’d better watch this space, I’d say.

Forbes Mutch

You can find out more about Martin on his website


Hello and welcome to St Andrew's. If you are new, we have a page for you to get to know us and learn more about planning a visit.
Click here to see more.

Planning your Visit

A Warm Hello 

No one belongs here more than you.

We look forward to meeting you! Here's some information so that if you're planning a visit you know beforehand what to expect on a Sunday morning.  We have other pages telling you more About Us, our approach to Faith and our Online services.

Where and When

We meet at the Church Building (details below) for our main Sunday Service starting at 10.30am. For your first visit, we recommend arriving 10-15 minutes early to ensure you find a parking space and can settle in before the service begins. When you arrive, you should be greeted by someone on our Welcome Team.

Plan your journey:
While, unfortunately, St Andrew's does not have its own carpark, there is a council-run pay and display carpark a short distance along St Andrew Street, to the east of the church; there is no charge for parking in this carpark on Sundays, but please check for charges on other days.

This is a useful East Herts Council website page for full details of parking in Hertford.

There are single yellow lines outside the church with parking restrictions, but some 30-minute parking bays are situated on the opposite side of the road for short stays (longer on Sundays).

Open Google Maps

Accessibility: There is wheelchair access, and a sound loop for anyone who needs it. Please let one of the Welcome Team know on your arrival and they will help you to get set up. There is a disabled toilet towards the back of the church, behind the kitchen.

Our Service

The service will usually begin promptly at 10.30am and will last between 60 and 75 minutes. We enjoy the presence of an excellent choir who help us sing hymns (modern and traditional) as well as provide anthems and special songs through the period of communion. We have a traditional organ but also benefit from music played on the piano and by our band (eg on the Second Sunday of each month when we have an All-Age Service in which our children and young people are fully involved).

Each 10.30am service includes a sermon, prayers and eucharist.

After the service, everyone is invited for coffee and conversation - some like to stay for a quick chat while others remain in the church for a longer time.


Children and Young People

Children are never too young to come to church. You and your children are very welcome at St Andrew’s. 

We really value worshipping God together as a family, so children stay with their parent or grown-up at the start of the service before being invited to leave for the young people's activities after the first hymn. Junior Church meets in the St Andrew's Centre (our adjoining hall), accessed through the church on Sunday mornings. You will need to go with your children to their groups and register them as part of our child safety policy.

The children and young people then return to the main service in time to join the eucharist and, if confirmed, take Holy Communion or, if not, receive a blessing. We offer a grape or a little box of raisins to children being blessed at the altar.

There is a Children's Corner in church where you can go at any time. You will find books, toys and drawing materials there.

Toilet and baby-change facilities are located at the back of church, behind the kitchen.

There's lots more information here: Children and Young People at St Andrew's

Junior Church celebration

Getting Connected

Home Groups

While Sundays are a great way to meet new people, it is often in smaller gatherings that you can really get to know someone. Being part of one of our small groups allows you to make new friends, share together and support each other. We have a variety of groups that meet throughout the week. Check out Home Groups on our website and see if there’s one that you could join. Alternatively, speak to a member of the Welcome Team who will give you the information that you need.

Serving and Volunteering

If you want to get involved in the life of the church and help us make Sundays run smoothly, you can sign up to serve on a team. Please contact Phil in the Church Office.

What we describe above reflects our normal practice on Sunday mornings. However, since March 2020 we have had to adopt new ways of organising ourselves - here you'll find the most up-to-date guidance about Worshipping inside church.
Get in touch with us
If you have any questions, please do get in touch. You'll find our contact details here.

We hope that you will feel at home at our church.