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Revitalising Shrewsbury's Historic Spaces with Musical Magic
03 Jan 2024

A second series of alternative music gigs in unusual spaces comes to Shrewsbury in 2024 - Organiser Chris Taylor of SY.GIGS explains how music helps overcome his struggles with mental health. Pictured: Sam Wilkes & Sam Amidon in concert. 

After a 40-year career in local government, gig promoter Chris Taylor from Shrewsbury is embarking on a new chapter, dedicated to curating distinctive music events in the heart of his hometown's historic churches.

SY Gigs delivered a series of engaging alternative music gigs during its inaugural season in Shrewsbury last year and organiser Chris is proud to present the second edition 'Series 2.0' for 2024. 

A diverse array of artists curated from multiple sources and genres are set to perform. Ranging from ambient lo-fi electronic to jazz, post-classical, experimental, and indie folk, Chris' selections are tailored to suit the unique ambiance of Shrewsbury churches while respecting their custodians. Some artists, like Miles Spilbury and Bex Burch, reflect Chris's personal listening tastes, while others have been recommended by attendees or have approached the promoter themselves.

SY Gigs Piano Day in March 2022

'Piano Day' at St Alkmund's Church in March 2022, with Tiny Leaves, Andy Lowe, James C Taylor, Alex Kozobolis (pictured) and Frances Shelley

Drawing from his experience managing large scale digital infrastructure projects, Chris says he spotted an opportunity to bring something different to Shrewsbury by creating memorable and harmonious musical experiences in unique and atmospheric locations.

"I have always been a gig goer and have particularly loved going to watch live music in historic and atmospheric spaces," he says. "The offer in Shrewsbury for these experiences, and particularly to see quality artists. remained limited. "I was tired of travelling to gigs outside of Shropshire and thought why not try and fill the market gap in Shrewsbury? SY Gigs also utilises the fabulous church spaces that are at the heart of community that many people never see."

Chris adds that the 'profound impact' of music on his own well-being was another motivation for organising the gigs: "I have always had bouts of what I call the 'black dog' arriving where I had been prone to melancholy, but I noticed a clear change in my anxiety levels - Undertaking yoga, meditative breathing exercises and cold water therapy all helped in addition to psychotherapy, but nothing helped more for me personally than immersing myself into musical experiences."

Cerys harpist pictured on the beach

Harpist Cerys Hafana is set to perform in Shrewsbury on January 31st as part of Sy Gigs' 2.0 Series

The '2.0 Series' opening event features Cerys Hafana, known for her contemporary harp performances and interpretations of traditional folk songs, who is set to captivate audiences at Shrewsbury's Unitarian Church on the High Street (January 31st).

Chris says: "Cerys is a musical shapeshifter, and explores resonances from the past that connect with the modern day in a contemporary, creative way using her harp as a percussive, jagged-toothed tool. I’m hoping we can persuade her to incorporate the Unitarian organ in her performance which would be special!"

The subsequent lineup includes Berlin-based composer Bex Burch (February 24th, The Unitarian Church, Shrewsbury) revered for her innovative approach to percussive instruments and her critically acclaimed solo album 'There is only Love and Fear', released in October 2023, named as The Guardian's Contemporary Album of the Month. Joining her is electronic sound explorer, jazz saxophonist and composer John Biddulph, who has been exploring electronic sound for nearly 50 years.

Also coming to Shrewsbury in 2024 is the Miles Spilsbury Quartet on March 20th, showcasing a blend of jazz, new age, and improvisation and playing music from Miles' debut album ‘Light Manoeuvres’. They will be followed by Parisian electronic musician Audrey Carmes on April 18th and local musician and collaborator Roberto Biffarini on April 18th.

Then comes The Tara Clerkin Trio at St Alkmund's Church on May 23rd - this triangle formation from Bristol are inspired by and borrow from jazz, trip hop, electronica, psychedelia & minimalism. Their latest EP, ‘On The Turning Ground’, was released on World of Echo in November and is receiving lots of attention in the media.

Five further events are still in the planning stages, but commitments from international acts underscore the growing reputation and appeal of SY Gigs. 

SY Gigs' Event 1.0 will see Cerys Hafana perform at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church on Wednesday, January 31 from 6.45pm. To book tickets to this gig and all future Sy.gigs events visit SY.Gigs