Ranters try a bite of the Big Apple

The Northumbrian Ranters group, many of whom are going on a tour in the USA later this month.
The Northumbrian Ranters group, many of whom are going on a tour in the USA later this month.

TALENTED musicians from across the county are going Stateside for their latest tour after a major fund-raising effort.

More than 35 members of the Northumbrian Ranters were told to ‘make their pound grow’ and they have done a range of activities, from baking cakes to washing cars, to help pay for their flights and accommodation.

They have also performed concerts, done singing collections in Morpeth and Newcastle and released a Ranting and Reeling CD to bring in money and have managed to get support from businesses and organisations.

The group has 47 members, aged ten to 18, and the instruments include fiddles, flutes, cellos, guitars, Northumbrian pipes, concertina, harp and keyboard, as well as vocals.

They have been on tour to Ireland, Scotland and Shetland.

The USA trip, from March 28 to April 7, will involve performances with their American peers in the Rhinebeck area of New York State and Burlington in Vermont, as well as spending a day in New York City.

Traditional Music Co-ordinator Richard Johnstone, who directs the band, said: “We developed a link with the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers group, based in Rhinebeck, and they came over to visit and play in Northumberland in 2007 before we went out there a year later.

“We kept in touch and they returned to the county last year and we wanted our current students to get the chance to go to the USA and have a fantastic experience.

“They have done an excellent job with their own fund-raising and the group activities.

“Now we’re all looking forward to the tour.

“The students will perform with the Fiddleheads group in Vermont and in both places they will go into local schools and lead workshops and ceilidhs.

“First and foremost, we create traditional Northumbrian sounds, but we will play some well-known English compositions and tunes from the USA as well.

“Everyone is also excited about seeing some of the sights in New York City and another highlight will be a tour of the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Vermont.

“We’re very grateful to the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society, Morpeth Rotary Club, Ponteland Town Council, Alnwick Lions Club, Covance and the Rothbury Music Festival for giving us donations for the trip.”

The band was formed when 15 students were invited to Ayr to perform.

They didn’t even have a name so as they were playing the Morpeth Rant, the title Northumbrian Ranters was born.

The group now comes under the newly-established Music Partnership North, consisting of Northumberland County Council, Newcastle Music Service, Newcastle College and The Sage Gateshead.

Members had a residential at Ridley Hall near Bardon Mill last weekend to help them get ready for the tour and their other performances this year.

Mr Johnstone said: “It’s great to see them develop during their time as a Northumbrian Ranter.

“Some of them will go on to be professional musicians and others will continue to play, even if they have another job.

“The important thing is to keep the Northumbrian music traditions going and encourage young people to pass them onto the next generation when they become adults.”