I love the name Wendy. J. M. Barrie popularised it with Peter Pan, drawing it from Margaret Henley’s baby-talk: ‘friendy-wendy’. Wendy Carle Taylor is one such ‘friendy-wendy’. For an hour or so, nothing else matters but her enchanting voice and encompassing warmth. The set consists of songs chosen for their connection to the search for life’s meaning. The first song is utterly joyous despite it being about finding love in a bleak council block stairwell. Taylor smiles throughout.
The tantalising intro into the next song starts on a harmonium. Then the guitar and clarsach join in, taking the audience to a far-off, mythical place. It is ‘She Moves Through The Fair’, but a version so vocally pure and so emotionally resonant that it strikes the very soul. I have never heard it sung with such other-worldly melancholy: it was ethereal and enchanting. The next song hailed from Ireland, a contemporary tune which again gained a melodic hum from the audience. However, it reminded me too much of Abba’s ‘Our Last Summer’ and the Mamma Mia scene with Colin Firth on the yacht. Maybe that’s why Taylor used the Firth analogy later on to share the story of a woman falling for a man who appears out of a lake à la Mr Darcy in Le Mariage Insolite de Marie La Bretonne. The audience seemed to understand.
Her first Burns song, ‘Dainty Davie’ had the audience singing along to the chorus and there is no doubt that she will gain new fans for Burns’ music with this and her other renditions. However, Taylor’s take on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ lacked the the regretful tone needed to convey the true sadness of the song and she seemed hesitant towards the end. During ‘Nicky Tams’ (straps around farmers’ trousers) her voice rang out to much laughter and applause, and the next song, a traditional Scots lullaby had the crowd singing the chorus: it was enough to soothe anyone’s woes.
Taylor’s congregation would not let her finish on time; they squeezed two more Burns songs from her in order to have their fill of her infectious happiness and each one was treated like a close friend.