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Visitors to St Bride's Church in Fleet Street enjoyed a rare treat when a talented group of musicians and singers paid tribute to the life and work of singer-songwriter Judee Sill. The memorial concert - on the thirtieth anniversary of her passing - was organised by Bob Bryan who should be commended for his efforts and also for the wry and illuminating vignettes from Judee's life that he wove into the evening.
Judee Sill was born in 1944 in California and died at the age of 35 on November 23rd 1979. Her short life was tragically marred by drug dependency and petty crime but her talent for writing exuberant melodies and uplifting lyrics was ably captured and demonstrated to an appreciative congregation at St Bride's. She produced two albums for David Geffen's Asylum label in the 1970s where she sat alongside more recognised talents like the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. Her Bach and blues influenced music has been favourably compared to that of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. Her lack of recognition was not due to lack of talent and she was held in high esteem by her peers, including Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) who emailed Bob Bryan before the concert. Other messages of support came from Paul Gambaccini and Sir Tim Rice.
All of the songs from Judee's albums, 'Judee Sill' and 'Heart Food' were delivered, almost in sequence, with a short interval between albums. Arrangers painstakingly transcribed music from recordings as no song books are available. Six singers shared lead vocal duties, ably supported by sympathetic instrumentalists. Whilst it is unfair to single anyone out for special commendation, the combined keyboard and vocal skills of Rachel Weston were particularly inspiring and her ensemble backed rendition of 'Soldier of the Heart' concluded the evening with a flourish.