A feast of fiddles at first music festival

Northumbrian Ranters and Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddle.
Northumbrian Ranters and Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddle.

LOVERS of traditional Northumbrian music are in for a treat this autumn.

Both the Northumbrian Ranters and local duo Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddle have confirmed they will take part in the first Northumberland Music Festival.

Both groups will be performing their own unique take on traditional Northumbrian music in the magnificent setting of Guyzance Hall, one of the county’s finest Georgian homes.

The Northumbrian Ranters will perform at 6.30pm on Monday, October 31, and Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddle on Thursday, November 3, at 6.30pm.

Formed in 2006, The Northumbrian Ranters are a group of enthusiastic musicians, aged 10 to 18, who come from schools across the region.

Dedicated to promoting the culture and tradition of the region, the talent which belies their years means they are fast acquiring a growing reputation.

They now perform regularly across the North East and overseas and their unique sound comes from combining these home influences with sounds gleaned from their international performances in America, Scandinavia and Ireland.

At Guyzance, they will play a programme of Irish reels, Scottish marches and a selection of traditional arrangements on fiddles, Northumbrian pipes, harps, flutes, guitars and keyboards. They will also perform a piece especially written for them by well-known fiddle player Roddy Matthews.

Roddy originally met the Ranters when they attended the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival last October to fly the flag for Northumbrian music.

During the students’ musical tour of Shetland, Roddy was a staunch supporter and on the return ferry crossing from Shetland to Aberdeen, he played his fiddle with the students during an impromptu session in the restaurant of the boat.

Upon his return Roddy contacted them to say how impressed he had been with the students, both in the playing and performing, but also with their behaviour during the festival.

He said that they had been great ambassadors for the youth of Northumberland and so had written a hornpipe for them called The Northumbrian Ranters, which will be included in the programme.

Tickets for what is guaranteed to be a lively and enjoyable performance are £10 and include wine and a selection of local cheeses.

Popular duo Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddle are also keen ambassadors for the music of Northumberland.

Husband and wife team Andrew and Margaret Watchorn have been performing for more than 20 years, honing a sound which combines dance tunes and slow airs with stunning harmonies and lively rhythms.

Andrew first became inspired to learn the small pipes after hearing recordings of Joe Hutton, George Atkinson and Billy Pigg, and also Anthony Robb playing at Newcastleton Festival in the mid 1970s.

Margaret grew up in Northumberland steeped in its heritage of tunes, songs and stories. She learned to play the smallpipes with Joe Hutton, and took a degree in music at the University of York, where she studied piano and singing. Both now play a variety of instruments and have won numerous competitions for their performances and compositions.

Their repertoire is extensive and includes tunes from Northumberland, Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia and North America.

At Guyzance Hall they will be performing their concert of Northern Airs which combines music from the 17th Century through to the present day taking in rants, jigs, slow airs and waltzes, hornpipes and reels and traditional Northumbrian songs.

Andrew and Margaret are more than happy to talk about their music and during the 20 minute interval they will be available to chat to concert goers about their music.

Tickets cost £12.50 including a canapé reception.

To book tickets, visit www.nmfestival.com or telephone 01668 283100.

The festival is being sponsored by the Morpeth Herald.

A donation from ticket sales will be made to the Great North Air Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Support and HospiceCare North Northumberland.