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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Folk Degree Performances at Sage Gateshead, May 26 – 29

(Review by Ann Alex).
Last week was one of my favourite weeks of the year, when the students from the Newcastle Uni Folk and Traditional Music degree give their assessed performances – we got 12 free 40-minute concerts, great value for no money.  The standard seems to rise year by year and the performers communicate well with the audiences.  You’ll be asking me what this has to do with a jazz blog, all this unaccompanied song, folk fiddles, flutes, bodhrans?  I always watch for jazz elements and other items which I think will be of interest. 
The most unusual thing I saw onstage was 2 people playing 1 fiddle, I kid you not, a woman played the fiddle in the usual way and a percussionist tapped the top of the fingerboard with what appeared to be 2 thin metal sticks, adding a pleasing percussive rhythm, making a satisfying tune.  The percussionist was Callum Younger, a grandson from the well known folk family, the Elliotts of Birtley. He was brilliant on his chosen instrument, the bodhran, a 1-sided Irish drum which is held on your lap.  This instrument can produce different tones and unbelievable rhythms, especially jigs and reels of course.  Then we had Bevan Morris, a second year student who was much in demand as a double bass player, so he appeared on stage with many different line-ups.  Another great musician, I’ll be watching for him appearing at jazz venues and I can’t wait for his final recital in 2 years time.  Folk music has developed well, you wouldn’t have seen a double bass on stage, even 20 years ago.
And I must mention The Backyard Rhythm Orchestra, led by Luke Phillips-Griffiths on flute, comprising trombone, clarinet, guitar, accordion, synth, drum kit, and also Katy Trigger on bass.  They did a dynamic set of Balkan music, reels, Macedonian tunes and Klezmer music, very exciting stuff.  You can hear them for yourself at Gateshead Old Town Hall on Sunday June 7, when they take part in a concert in memory of Keith Morris.  Proceeds go to the Musicians Union.
Be there!    
Ann Alex.

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