Prepare for a Feast of Fiddles at the Union Chapel
- Credit: Archant
Featuring top fiddlers from Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention and Show of Hands, the folk rock outfit that has been likened to a group of geography teachers takes to the Chapel stage
Half of them may have bus passes, but Feast of Fiddles have been rocking venues across the UK with their lively gigs for decades.
Featuring top fiddlers from Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, and Show of Hands, the folk rock outfit, that has been likened to a group of geography teachers, started out as a one off.
But several line-up reshuffles, six albums and 22 years later, the fiddling supergroup is alive and kicking.
“It started in 1994 as a project gig for my local Nettlebed Folk Club,” says band founder and performer Hugh Crabtree.
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“I put six fiddle players in front of my Ceilidh band. We met in the car park, decided the repertoire, quickly rehearsed it and did a mash up of a barn dance with Ceilidh band tunes. Of all the gigs I did, it was the one that had legs and gelled into a band.”
Crabtree, whose day job involves making equipment to ventilate piggeries and grain stores, learned piano and clarinet as a youth and set up a folk and blues club while at Reading University in the early 70s. Later founding a folk rock dance band the multitasker developed an extensive contacts book and now runs the band, fronts the gigs and plays melodeon.
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“I’ve been in and run Ceilidh bands for 40 years,” he says.”Music has always been a passion but a pastime rather than a career.”
Feast of Fiddles’ repertoire inevitably includes traditional Scottish and Irish tunes but also “a thread of Englishness” with Morris tunes in the set. Their latest album features lots of original material but they also do TV and screen tunes such as Pirates of the Carribbean – and the odd surprise such as the Glenn Miller classic A String of Pearls.
“We’ve gone from a hit or miss night to a more sophisticated line up with a stellar cast and it all works swimmingly well,” says Crabtree.
The first half sees each fiddle player taking virtuoso turns to perform their particular style including Peter Knight (Steeleye Span), Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention), Phil Beer (Show of Hands), Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band), Tom Leary (Lindisfarne) and Garry Blakeley (Band of Two)
The second half features ensemble pieces including “lots that people aren’t expecting from a folk rock band.”
With lgendary session drummer Dave Mattacks plus a backline of guitars, keyboards and sax, Crabree says: “It’s a full on big noise high energy show with a 12 piece band. Half of them have got bus passes and the audience is a bit grey but there’s a good number of under 30s who dance in the aisles.”
The infectiously toe tapping night out springs from that rarest of things, a band who get on.
“We don’t live in each other’s pockets so much that we’ve fallen out. The tours are like a reunion or rugby tour without the sport. It’s the intense fun of getting back together with your pals.”
Feastoffiddles.com launch their sixth album Slight of Elbow on April 11 at The Union Chapel.
Show 7pm Tickets £21.50, unionchapel.org 020 7226 1686