Scotland’s renowned The Bookshop Band is touring some of the finest bookstores and libraries across the USA with its repertoire of songs inspired by literature.
Folk duo Ben Please and Beth Porter perform across the UK and Europe – and have frequently appeared on stage with the famous writers whose work they sing about.
Living up to their name, the folk duo have performed with authors of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Chocolat and Tales of the City
The three-week US tour comes after literary critic Dwight Garner issued a challenge in The New York Timeswhere he wrote: ‘The Bookshop Band is not just good but achingly good … If America’s independent booksellers can’t figure a way to get these two … to tour America, they’re doing something wrong.’
The American Booksellers’ Association (ABA) responded in style by inviting the band to perform for its members at its Winter Institute this month in Albuquerque.
They will also play at 15 independent bookshops and two public libraries in New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Colorado.
Among the highlights will be appearances at the New York Public Library and the Tattered Cover book store in Denver.
Based in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, Porter and Please have collaborated with celebrated authors such as Ben Fountain (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – which became a major feature film), Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City).
Some even feature as musicians on the band’s 13 albums, like Man Booker winners Yann Martel (Life of Pi) and Ben Okri (The Famished Road), and best-selling authors Joanne Harris (Chocolat) and Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin).
Beth said: ‘The USA has always been a powerhouse of great literature. It’s hugely exciting to come across from Scotland and perform songs inspired by books and authors we love in some of America’s best bookstores.’
The award-winning folk singers have highly distinctive voices and appear with a variety of their favourite books and a variety of instruments from cello and harmonium to glockenspiel, guitars and ukuleles.
Ben said: ‘We love performing intimate gigs in unexpected locations, like bookshops and libraries. It creates such a great atmosphere to be singing about books, surrounded by them on the shelves.’
Audiences can expect to hear songs about everything from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare’s Richard II to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies. There’s also a good chance that they will perform one of the songs they were commissioned to write for the launch of Philip Pullman’s work The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage.
The band’s origins go back to 2010 when they were based near the English city of Bath and theirlocal indie bookshop Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights asked them to perform at book evenings.
Since then The Bookshop Band have entertained in over 200 bookshops around the UK, Ireland and France, writing songs inspired by over 100 books curated by Mr B’s.
The US tour is supported by UK-based wholesaler Gardners and its US counterpart AMS.
Nic Bottomley, of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, said: ‘Many of our peers in America have been itching to host The Bookshop Bandand we at Mr B’s are so proud and excited to see them finally heading stateside.
‘On a personal level I am as excited as ever to see a genuinely creative industry collaboration come to fruition, thanks to the efforts of a very forward-thinking transatlantic wholesaler in Gardners who have sponsored the tour, many American booksellers, a trade association, two musicians and, never forget, their two-year-old daughter Molly who is in for a memorable first road trip!’
Nigel Wyman, at Gardners, added: ‘We at Gardners, alongside our US sister company All Media Supply (AMS), are very happy to be supporting The Bookshop Band’s US tour.
‘We feel a close kinship to this band with their close ties to the book selling community. They offer something truly unique and entertaining, playing music and singing about the things we all love – books!’
The Bookshop Band has received commissions from the BBC, The V&A Museum and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. They are regularly featured on 6Music by Tom Robinson, and have been championed by Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2, describing their ‘fabulous new music.’
They are also mainstays of the annual Wigtown Book Festival – which attracts visitors from all round the world to the 10-day event in Scotland’s National Book Town, situated in the rural region of Dumfries and Galloway.