REVIEW: Alnwicky at the Treehouse, The Alnwick Garden

At times their music lived up to their name – or at least the alternative spelling, anarchy – with raw, in-your-face, lively, foot-tapping folk.

Then, on the flip side, Alnwicky became dreamy and melodious; vocal harmonies as sweet as a nut and instrumental techniques complex and varied. Listening to their performance in the fairytale setting of the amazing Treehouse Restaurant on Sunday, August 20, it was hard to believe that their ages ranged from 18 to 15.

Alnwicky on the Treehouse.

Alnwicky on the Treehouse.

Until a few weeks ago, they were all at school sitting exams of one kind or another.

There is an endearing chemistry between them and a clear understanding of each other’s roles. Try as they might to be edgy, punchy individuals, they are so not – they are in fact the most charming and polite bunch of kids you could ever imagine.

In a band that is absolutely brimful of talent, it seems remiss of me to pick out anyone for particular praise, but out front is the youngest member, Anna Maxwell, who defies her tender years with an incredible voice, so rich and full of depth, and a wonderful tone that you could listen to all evening long. She nonchalantly throws in some spectacular fiddle work and even a touch of mandolin, a combination that would confound even the best of musical artists.

And on guitar, cajón drum and vocals is Dan Lyst, a stalwart of the musical productions at the Duchess’s Community High School. Gaining a rare place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study drumming is testment enough to his pedigree.

Student folk band Alnwicky performing on the Treehouse at The Alnwick Garden.

Student folk band Alnwicky performing on the Treehouse at The Alnwick Garden.

The combination of three flutes (Issy Maxwell, Zoe Gilroy and Jess Dobson), two fiddles (Martha Carrdus and Anna), Dan’s guitar and Jamie Macaulay holding it all together on keyboard was intoxicating, particularly as we were perched high in the trees on a reasonably balmy night (for Northumberland!).

The traditional tunes, by the likes of Mark Kopfler, which form most of their recently-released CD On The Border Run, were an absolute treat. It was also a new departure for the Treehouse – with pulled pork buns served on the decking adding to a chilled-out atmosphere - let’s hope there are many more nights like it.

WHO ARE ALNWICKY?

The seven band members have either just left or are still at school. Here they are, including their plans in September.
Jamie Macaulay: Age 18, keyboard, Newcastle University to study chemistry
Dan Lyst: Age 18, guitar/cajón/vocals, Royal Northern College of Music to study drumming
Jess Dobson: Age 18, flute, Leeds University to study chemistry
Martha Carrdus: Age 18, fiddle, gap year
Issy Maxwell: Age 17, flute/vocals, A-levels at Duchess’s Community High School
Zoe Gilroy: Age 17, flute/vocals, A-levels at Royal Grammar School Newcastle
Anna Maxwell: Age 15, fiddle/mandolin/vocals, GCSEs at Duchess’s High School