Feast of Fiddles

Feast of Fiddles
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Feast of Fiddles Review

Lynda Moyo takes her Gran to see an unlikely bunch of violinists at Band on the Wall

Published on April 18th 2011 in Manchester Confidential

VIOLINS are an acquired taste. Screeching or soothing, every ear is different for this particular string instrument.

My own relationship with the violin is pretty manic. As my grandmother has always played one, it has an obvious sentimental appeal. Having had a go on the old fiddle a few times though, I can confirm this is not my own instrument of choice. Give me a drum to bang on any day.

Listening live however, is a different matter, as I found out at Band on the Wall for the Manchester leg of Feast of Fiddles’ UK tour.

Feast of Fiddles are an 11-piece collective of violinists, guitarists and a drummer, led by front man and accordion player Hugh Crabtree. For anyone who has ever doubted the voice of the violin, the sound of this bunch will make your ears prick up unexpectedly.

The main surprise is the fact these middle aged men look like they could be stereotypical geography teachers - slightly dead-eyed, plump-ish, ineffectual and addicted to coffee, probably. They’re quite the opposite of the Vanessa Mae brand of violinist, but that certainly doesn’t affect their playing abilities.

Upon picking up their instruments the air became electric with high frequency fiddle playing at a cracking pace, backed by strong rhythms from guitars and percussion. I love live music and this was definitely LIVE.

Crabtree pumped that accordion as though it was powering his own heart beat, all in good humour of course; each and every violinist fiddled frantically and one player even sang into the mic with the violin still at his neck. Impressive, high energy stuff.

Essentially a folk band, this didn’t stop them dabbling in other genres. The varied programme of the evening included folk, rock, jigs, airs, theme songs and some original pieces.

Each talented member also performed a solo piece in their own style, in between band items. The standout was violinist Peter Knight, who is clearly a world class musician as well as a man who knows how to rock the crowd. His improvised solo nearly reduced me and Gran to happy tears.

The intense concentration of the band members on the respected Band on the Wall stage was punctuated with looks, wry smiles, moves and bow tapping as they communicated with each other through their playing.

Clearly in it for the love of the music and thrill of playing, this was just a group of friends having a good time. It wasn’t a shock then to learn that some of the members actually have day jobs too. Maybe as geography teachers.

Lynda Moyo


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