Verity ‘Vez’ Hoper is a woman on a mission – and that is to charm us with music she knows we’ll love, but just don’t know yet.

She’s right. Through her acclaimed Irregular Folks shows and festivals she confronts us with remarkable artists who deserve to be huge, but who are still, at best, bubbling under.

Tomorrow her mission takes on the tinsel-clad trappings of Christmas as she presents her winter concert, with two astounding musicians playing, appropriately enough, in the hushed surroundings of one of Oxford’s more unusual spaces – St Barnabas Church, in Jericho.

Violinist Gaelynn Lea and viola player Emma Hooper – who performs under the moniker Waitress for the Bees – are exceptional and unusual artists. Gaelynn plays a blend of classical, traditional and Celtic folk and atmospheric, and indie rock, using a looping pedal to build up a layered soundscape, over which she sings.

Emma describes her music as “viola-based art-pop about dinosaurs and insects that will make your heart hurt”.

While loosely folk artists, they are far more than you might expect from a traditional roots musician.

“Irregular Folks is in the first instance a specialist music night,” says Vez, who is staging the night in conjunction with Oxford Contemporary Music.

“It’s not about the folk genre as is often assumed, the ‘folk’ in the name actually stands for people – brave creative people who follow their own path.”

“It comes from many years working at an independent record label that refused to follow any rules. It was so exciting and truly inspiring and really taught me to rely very much on my own intuition.

“As part of that you’ll see that in the past and at our summer sessions it also doesn’t stick to just music."

The event follows the Irregular Folks summer party – a one day festival which this year took place at the Victoria Arms in Marston, and a series of suitably irregular gigs.

“The club happens roughly three times a year,” she says. “It happens only when the right line-up comes together.”

And, as at all her events both artists have equal billing.

“We don’t do headliners,” she says. “Each performer is chosen because they are incredible. Equally the right venue has to be there too. The thing about this event is that after years of working in the music business and touring, I got sick of the ‘one size fits all’ gig production sausage machine.

“So much incredible music can get crushed by inferior production, or the vibe of the performance can change so much depending on how you experience it. For me, if a band or artist is exceptional I want to create an environment for them to play in that’s equally exceptional.

“I also want the artist to have a great time as well as our awesome audiences, and I hope that this comes across too in feel of these nights.”

And she can’t wait to return to St Barnabas.

“I adore looking about for the right kind of venues that are ripe for getting the Irregular Folks set design treatment,” she laughs.

“I also love discovering places like St Barnabas Church. It’s such a beauty and they have always been so welcoming.

“At places like that, I only have to put the set design cherry on top, but never underestimate the power of detail.

“I seem to have a terrible passion for extreme detail and choosing venues that aren’t usually used for live music. Transforming them into a gig venue for the night presents quite a big production challenge, though I’ve always loved a challenge which seems insurmountable at the time, but which then somehow happens.”

She laughs: “Just ask my ex-pottery teacher!

“It’s so very worth it when you see the results. A place comes alive and you can feel the buzz in the room because it’s become a whole experience for everyone rather than just the standard ‘turn up, stand, watch, go home’.

“I can’t pretend it’s a good business model though, especially as I’m keen to keep ticket prices down so people can take a chance on seeing people they’ve never heard of before. “However that’s where the passion kicks in, and the reward is in the experience. But it does mean it can’t happen very often.”

For Vez, the most enjoyable part, is finding the artists. She says: “There’s nothing quite like the buzz of discovering new artists to book.

“Again this has come from lessons learned at that wonderful trust-your-instincts creatively-driven label background I was so fortunate to have.

“You could come up with ideas or spot new artists and make them happen. But if they didn’t prove to be exceptional, you’d have egg on your face – and by that I mean personal embarrassment rather than financial ‘egg’, because we didn’t have big budgets anyway.

“You learn to rely on your gut feeling. I just know when something is super special and then there’s that unmistakeable buzz again. It’s almost tangible.

“I got exactly that when I came across Gaelynn Lea’s incredible work. Her words, unique sound and brilliant delivery floored me.”

The American artist was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic condition that causes complications in the development of bones and limbs. As well as an acclaimed musician she is also a strong advocate of disability rights.

“I had no idea who she was,” Vez admits. “I just knew I was listening to something very exceptional indeed.

“I had to do all I could to bring her to Oxford so can everyone else can get that buzz.

“Since then, I’ve learned she’s been getting some serious recognition, and too right too.

“She also started working with Alan Sparhawk who’s in one of my favourite bands, Low. They’ve formed a duo together called Murder of Crows. She’s also been working with an incredible drummer called Martin Dosh who I met years ago with the North American Anticon label. Some will know him as the solo artist Dosh.

Gaelynn will duet with Dave Mehling on guitar.

“I’m so excited,” says Vez. “It’s a rare visit to the UK and like most of my bookings, it started out as a pipe dream, and then came true!”

She is equally thrilled to be welcoming back Waitress for the Bees, who played her 2016 summer session.

“She’s an incredible multi-instrumentalist,” she says. “I love that feeling that you can’t apply a genre to a musician, that you can’t say what they sound like.

“You just have to come and try them out for yourself. If you do get what all the fuss is about then your outlook on music may never been the same again – and will always be all the better for it.”

We are certainly in for a special evening.

“I like it to feel like a very creative warm and friendly music club that anyone can join,” she says.

“It’s about being open minded and keen to try out something new, something probably never heard of before. Yes it is quiet but that’s just so we can all just kick back and soak in a whole new adventure. The only requirement is that no one should take themselves too seriously, growing up is overrated.”

* Irregular Folks and OCM Christmas Special with Gaelynn Lea & Waitress for the Bees at St Barnabas Church, Oxford. Tomorrow, Friday, December 8.

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