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Review: Eliza Carthy and others gather for a folk celebration

Some of the graduates of the region's pioneering folk degree course served up an anniversary treat for Christmas

Eliza Carthy
Eliza Carthy

When Alistair Anderson and Ros Rigby set up Folkworks in 1988, they may not have imagined the impact it would have on the continuing life of the folk and traditional music world.

This year has marked the 25th anniversary of its iconic Youth Summer School, celebrated as part of Sage’s own 10th birthday party.

As well as being instrumental in setting up England’s first degree in folk and traditional music, which is still run out of Newcastle University, Folkworks has played an important role in developing the lives and careers of many who have passed through its doors.

Eliza Carthy assembled some who have gone on to become professional musicians for an evening of music and banter in Hall Two, following the annual Folkworks Family Christmas Ceilidh.

A cross-section of instruments included recorder, fiddles, melodeon and travel-friendly reed organ. There were cello, guitar, flute and concertina, not forgetting voice.

Laura Connolly’s clog dancing and washboard were the mainstay of the percussion but this music creates its own natural rhythms – along with the performers’ foot-tapping.

We heard some delightful sets of music with the instruments played in different combinations. Cello and concertina make a wonderful pairing, as do reed organ, violin and voice.

Folk music is all about storytelling and reflects the whole range of human emotions. The infectious rhythms and joie de vivre live long in the memory and these articulate performers were very much at ease.

All played a part but special mention must go to fiddler Peter Tickell, Dave Gray with his melodeon and multi-instrumentalist Ian Stephenson, alongside the golden voices and fiddles of Nancy Fagan and Eliza Carthy.

This was a happy and enthusiastic celebration which ended with all the performers singing the great farewell and togetherness song, Stand by the Shore.

Rob Barnes


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