Get ready for a cultural feast for the senses

Alnwick Music Festival 2015
Nkrabea Dance from Ghana
Picture by Jane Coltman
Alnwick Music Festival 2015 Nkrabea Dance from Ghana Picture by Jane Coltman

The curtain comes up on the much-loved Alnwick International Music Festival today, with a cultural feast of song and dance from around the world.

The popular event – now in its 41st year – will showcase the musical traditions and heritage of countries such as Ukraine, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, Africa, and the USA.

Alnwick International Music Festival 2014
Gergent Ensemble from Sicily

Alnwick International Music Festival 2014 Gergent Ensemble from Sicily

Artists from closer to home, including Northumberland, will also perform during the eight-day extravaganza, as organisers look to balance the programme between an international flavour and the home-grown variety.

There are also a number of festival firsts this time round, including a jazz and blues night with star Scottish singer Lorna Reid.

There will be the usual array of adult and children’s workshops and evening performances in Alnwick Playhouse and other venues. The festival starts today and runs until Saturday, August 6.

Chairman Alan Symmonds said: “Once again Alnwick will resonate to eight days of creative musical talent reflecting the colourful diversity of the UK and wider world.

“The 41st festival is a response to audience voice by aiming to provide an ever-changing daily line-up of artistes on the main stage in the Market Place.

“This year the music is very varied with a number of new ventures. The aim is to create more opportunities for community involvement and offer local and more international groups a share of the limelight.

“There are lots of artists performing their own original compositions and creating new traditions from firmly-based existing styles. The festival is all about involvement and each day will be different.

“We have got some fantastic people coming to the music festival and I am very excited about the performers. I am very much looking forward to this year’s event.”

Among those to feature at the festival will be Newcastle-based band The Caffreys. The acoustic group, performing ‘rootsy rocky folky country pop’, have just appeared in BBC Four’s UK’s Best Part-Time Band Final.

A first for the music festival is the jazz and blues night which features a full line-up with the Lorna Reid Trio premiering. Lorna and her musicians have travelled extensively and have a repertoire ranging from easy listening to hot vintage swing. The jazz night, on Monday, will be at the Working Men’s Club. Tickets will be on sale from the festival information stall in the Market Place, with some availability on the door.

Another new event is the tea dance, which will be held in the Town Hall on the Tuesday from 4.30pm.

An additional strand this year is links with the spoken word. Local poets will perform works on the main stage and bring fans together on Tuesday evening for a poetry event.

Alnwick Playhouse will host two evening concerts, with a Celtic night next Thursday and a Northumbrian session next Friday. Both shows start at 7.30pm. A craft fair takes place in the Market Place throughout the eight days of the festival, running from 10am to 5pm each day and featuring a range of items and goods. There will also be a series of workshops, including ukulele; drumming; Maypole and circle dance; and instruments from junk.

For more information about the music festival, visit www.alnwickmusicfestival.com
Here is a guide to some of the performers who will appear at this year’s music festival:

The Baghdaddies – The Baghdaddies’ exuberant and rampant brand of world music is an exhilarating cocktail of Balkan melodies, ska and Latin grooves and sizzling brass played with furious energy and theatrical humour.

Orlyk – Ukrainian Folklore – Manchester-based award-winning group of dancers and musicians of Ukrainian heritage, and one of the few Ukrainian acts that dance and sing to live music. Dedicated to promote Ukraine’s rich culture.

Mugen Taiko Dojo – The Dojo team will perform earth-shaking Taiko drum rhythms, dynamic choreography and high energy, brought to you by the Mugen Taiko Dojo, the UK centre for Taiko drumming.

Soznak – Newcastle-based Soznak brings together musicians from Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Ireland and Spain – all flowing together nicely with wit, charm and good humour.

Eve Williams – Influenced by her homeland of Northern Ireland and by the music of Moya Brennan, Kate Bush and Peggy Lee, Eve has played at Celtic Connections and other festivals.

Lorna Reid - Jazz & Blues – One of Scotland’s most talented singer-songwriters. Her shows at the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival and Edinburgh Fringe were sold out.

The Caffreys – Playing original music that’s rootsy, acoustic, soulful and rocky – the band has a growing following across the UK, playing festivals and venues beyond their native North East.

Fifty Shades of Blue – Glasgow-based duo playing original material and putting their own twist on old favourites. Mainly folky and bluegrass with some shades of blues.

Tom O’Donnell – An American living part of each year in Rothbury. His unusual material has given him a great audience in Northumberland, where lots of folk make wonderful music of all kinds.