Newcastle-based ‘progressive folk’ band Pons Aelius are thrilled to be playing at this year’s Hexham Gathering.
The ambitious young instrumental sextet, who meld age-old folk traditions with contemporary folk music, have gone from strength to strength since forming in the middle of last year.
After ending 2014 with a headline performance in Hall Two of Sage Gateshead, Pons Aelius were crowned winners of the prestigious Danny Kyle Award at this year’s Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.
Along with the other five finalists, the band have been booked for a support slot at next year’s festival, as well as at the opening concert of the 2016 Danny Awards.
Having played together in various line-ups for some time, the six decided to consolidate all their projects in one easy-to-manage group after meeting on the folk and traditional music degree course at Newcastle University.
Double bassist Bevan Morris says: “Between the six of us we’ve played together in all sorts of groups for years, but we came together as Pons Aelius quite naturally just under a year ago and haven’t looked back since.
“We’re currently in the studio recording our debut EP, which we’ll be selling at Hexham Gathering on May 24, and we’re planning a launch night for some time in the following month.
“After that, we’ve got a string of gigs in the pipeline, including Green Fest on June 6, and big plans for September.”
Bevan, together with Tom Kimber (mandolin/tenor banjo/piano), Jordan Aikin (Highland bagpipes/whistle), Alasdair Paul (guitar/bouzouki), Sam Partridge (flute) and Callum Younger (bodhrán), have developed a bold and exciting sound that fuses their traditional music roots with a fresh and innovative attitude.
“Our music is instrumental tunes rooted in traditional music, but with a progressive approach to arrangement to create a big and lively sound,” Bevan tells me.
“We take influences from across the board and try and use that to make our music as fresh and as interesting as we can, whilst still keeping that link with the tradition.”
In February Pons Aelius made their first overseas appearance at the Rauland Internasjonale Vinterfestival in Norway where they played alongside folk acts from around the world. Since returning to the UK the six-piece have been busy working in the studio with folk musician and composer Ian Stephenson, recording their aforementioned debut EP. The band are really excited about people hearing their tracks and are aiming for an early summer release.
Pons Aelius are proud to be part of the local folk scene, which they feel is exciting and diverse due to the number of acts in the region, and with venues such as Bar Loco, the Cumberland, the Cluny and Sage Gateshead “there is always new folk music to hear.”
But this is not where the sextet’s unusual name derives from, as Bevan explains: “Pons Aelius is the Roman name for what is now Newcastle.
“Clever as it sounds, we saw it written on the wall in one of the city’s fine drinking establishments and it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Pons Aelius will be playing a Gig in the Park at Hexham Gathering, alongside 9Bach, on Sunday, May 24 at 2.30pm.
The event is free and takes place at the bandstand in Sele Park near to Hexham Abbey. The group will also be performing at Newcastle’s Community Green Festival on Saturday, June 6.
For more information about BevanMorris and his colleagues, visit www.ponsaeliusmusic.com