Traditional fare for packed theatre

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Tradfest, Alnwick Playhouse, Saturday, March 17.

THE Playhouse was packed for afternoon and evening performances of traditional music by youngsters from across the county.

It is a measure of the resurgence of interest in our traditional music that this year’s event was divided into two separate performances to accommodate the number of musicians and those who wished to support them. Taster sessions for people to try a variety of instruments also proved popular.

The afternoon concert was aimed specifically at traditional music projects which are taking place in the Alnwick and Cramlington partnerships, supported by junior ceilidh bands from both Alnwick and Rothbury and St Paul’s choir from Alnwick under the excellent compering of Alex Swailes.

There was a marvellous evening programme by the Northumbrian Ranters, with the first performance by them of ‘A Bewick Garland’ written by Derek Hobbs for the band. This was a carefully-crafted piece which incorporated some of the recognisable techniques which are his hallmark and which were used to such great effect in his Alnwick Suite. The selection of melodies and sketches concluded with a truly uplifting and moving finale. This follows the previously outstanding success which the Ranters have had.

Among other traditional pieces played there was also a polished performance of extracts from Alistair Anderson’s Steel Skies played with the composer in the audience. Singers from the band showcased a performance of Down by the Sally Gardens which had been prepared with a forthcoming trip to Ireland in mind and the audience was hugely entertained and appreciative of a display of clogging.

As if to remind the audience that talent can also come in small bands there was a quality performance in the second half of the evening by Down in the Attic, a band of youngsters from Hexham who are tutored by Sophie Ball. They played and sang together with spirit, technique and harmony.

A song learned from Kate Doherty was very well received and it was hard to remember that the performers were not professional musicians but a band of youngsters who simply enjoyed their music.

Northumbrian Ranters concluded the evening, which members of the audience agreed was one of the best to date. The programme for 2012 was beautifully balanced and the band performed with a precision and capability which was to be envied. The band is to record a CD later in April which is hoped will be available by the end of the summer.