Feast of Fiddles at The Minster, in Preston

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Where can you find the cream of the folk crop all in one place?

Twelve of the best folk musicians - known as Feast of Fiddles will perform at The Minster, in Preston, on Thursday April 6, at 7.30pm.

The band was formed in 1994 when Hugh Crabtree decided to gather the top folk artists for a one-off concert at Nettlebed Folk Club in Reading.

Members reunited each year for a tour and they are looking forward to their sixth studio album entitled Sleight of Elbow.

They are now embarking on their 24th annual tour to coincide with the release of their new album.

Recalling how the band formed, Hugh said: “It was a case of directly approaching the obvious candidates - people who were well known in the circuit.

“I had a good starting point as I knew Ian Cutler (Bully Wee) and Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention). Tom Leary (Lindisfarne) was known to Chris.

“Rick Sanders and Simon Swarbrick joined and the tour built up as we added gigs.

“We literally met in the car park on the evening of our first gig.

“By the third year Rick and Simon moved on and I got in contact with Peter Knight (Steeleye Span) and Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band). Phil Beer (Show of Hands) dips in and out when he is available.

“We all have our own things going on too so getting everyone together is a challenge but we block out the diary to get together for the tour.

“It is like a family reunion. Living out of each other’s pockets for a few weeks is a good laugh.

“The downside is that if festival organisers think we can only meet once a year, we don’t get booked.

“But we have done several festivals. We are doing Folk on the Pier in Norfolk in May and the Fairport Cropredy Festival in August.”

The band also consists of Garry Blakeley (Band of Two), Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span), Dave Harding (Whittakers Patent), John Underwood (Whittakers Patent), Martin Vincent (Albion Dance Band) and Alan Whetton, who has played with many well known artists including Cliff Richard, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and Shakin’ Stevens.

They will be performing songs from their new album, which is something of a departure for them as it features a lot of original compositions from within the band and only a single traditional tune.

They cover their own arrangements of tunes from other genres, film or TV.

The title track - Sleight of Elbow - is one of two pieces by guitarist Martin Vincent which was first aired during the 2016 spring tour, which he missed because he was in hospital getting a new valve for his heart.

The final track on the album is the only traditional tune and one that has been a feature of the band’s repertoire ever since the very beginning. Frequently introduced as a French dance tune that morphs into a drum solo it is Branle des Chevaux or Horses’ Brawl as it is better known in the UK.

Patrick added: “No genre is excluded.

“The album has a couple of folk items out of 10. The rest is original material or theme tunes, for example we have Mission Impossible.

“We have our own version of String of Pearls, by the Glen Miller Band. People might ask ‘what on earth we are doing that for,’ but I ask people to have a listen and they will be impressed.

“Nothing is off limits.”

For tickets, at £20 each, call 07971 243809, or visit Friends of Folk http://www.Fofshop.org.uk