Feast of Fiddles

How many times have you heard sayings like “Strange how things turn out”?

A Spot of Background

A few months back, Annya and I attended our first concert at the Apex. The band we were to see was Feast of Fiddles and right from the off, they grabbed your senses.. Their music spanned rock, folk and other genres and was crafted superbly to suit fiddle, guitar, sax, clarinet, keyboards and last but no means least, the melodeon.

There were faces in the lineup that were familiar.. One in particular struck a chord with a memory that was well shrouded by time.. Only when Hugh Crabtree, the founder (and “boss” as he is described on the band’s website) introduced a solo spot to be performed by Peter Knight, was the memory bowled forward – Steeleye Span. Then I managed to associate names to other faces in the line up..

Well, I had already found Feast of Fiddles a great band to follow but seeing musicians such as Peter Knight, Brian McNeill, Phil Beer and others, notched up my appreciation a couple more levels.

During the interval, I was surprised to see the band were enjoying a drink in the bar with the audience. I found the courage to strike up a conversation with one of the Fiddle players – Garry Blakeley. It soon became apparent we had something in common. Garry lives in Hastings and the town was part of my old stamping ground while I was living in Sussex. Much nattering about the area and then before I could chicken out, I brought up the subject of photographing the band. Gary suggested I contacted Hugh Crabtree and ask – the worst that could happen is he could say no.

So I did… and the ‘Man from Delmonte’ said yes 🙂

The band were due to perform at The Cut in Halesworth on October 28th. That meant a busy 10-day period: Friday 19th will be a long day working Long Melford with the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra then a drive up to Cumbria, back on the 26th and the gig on the 28th. “London Busses” I cry – but with a HUGE smile on my face.

About a couple of weeks before the gig, the experience of photographing the Krar Collective popped into my head. Holding a camera sporting a 100-400 zoom makes for an arm that all but falls off by the end of the evening. So, a monopod is in order. I quickly bypassed the £300 beasties and settled on a Giotto monopod with a Manfrotto head. This gave compatibility with the quick-release shoes fitted to the camera gear. All for 60 quid – that’s more like it.


Time does its thing and Sunday, 28th October rolls around. I leave home at mid-afternoon and arrive at The Cut an hour or so later. The band were already rehearsing and so I found a place where I could dump my stuff and make a start.

Feast of Fiddles  - Dave Harding Feast of Fiddles  - Garry Blakeley and Tom LearyFeast of Fiddles  - Hugh CrabtreeFeast of Fiddles  - Dave Harding, Hugh Crabtree and Garry BlakeleyFeast of Fiddles  - Garry BlakeleyFeast of Fiddles  - Dave HardingFeast of Fiddles  - Peter Knight

What a privilege.. technicians rushing about doing their thing, the band rehearsing… and me..

The rehearsal ends with enough time to spare to transfer the photographs taken so far to the Mac… Definitely some good stuff there. The quality of the rehearsal shots give my confidence a boost prior to the main event. Looking at the shots, I am struck by the huge difference between this type of photography and what could be described as ‘main-stream’. Low light, constantly changing colour temperatures and an understandable ban on using flash. All things that you usually move heaven and earth to avoid. Thank heaven for digital SLR’s with low-noise sensors and ISO ratings that pass into the thousands 🙂 That last bit may stray into geekery but essentially with high sensitivity, comes the risk of noise creeping in – a bit like visible ‘grain’ in the wet-film equivalent. While new DSLR’s are not noise free, its presence is subtle. One final point on this issue – my respect for the photographers that used (and perhaps still do) wet film for live performance work has gone up immensely.

The Gig

The audience had filed in and had settled into their seats. The band were introduced and they began the gig with a number that had the house rocking in no time. Getting about to photograph the gig was to be relatively easy. The Cut has a stage at floor level with a single, raked audience area. I could move under the seating area to get from one side of the auditorium to other without disturbing the audience. I could also get, discretely, to the upper level of the seating area so the next 3 hours see me walk what seemed like MILES 🙂

Feast of Fiddles - Phil BeerFeast of Fiddles - Garry Blakely and Tom LearyFeast of Fiddles - Garry Blakely and Tom LearyFeast of Fiddles - Hugh CrabtreeFeast of Fiddles - John UnderwoodFeast of Fiddles - Hugh Crabtree, Phil Beer and Garry BlakeleyFeast of Fiddles - Brian McNeillFeast of Fiddles - Brian McNeillFeast of Fiddles - Martin VincentFeast of Fiddles - Garry Blakeley and Tom LearyFeast of Fiddles - Phil BeerPhil BeerFeast of Fiddles - Brian McNeill, Ian Cutler, Alan Whetton, Peter Knight, Hugh Crabtree and Phil BeerFeast of Fiddles - Peter KnightFeast of Fiddles - Ian Cutler, Alan Whetton and Peter Knight

My attention would occasionally turn to the audience; the players could bring the house down one minute and hold the audience in quiet awe the next – particularly during the solo spots. These were a master stroke. Each of the players had their own style of play and having their time in the limelight allowed it to come to the fore.. It was great to experience it and from the perspective of someone recording the event, it was no less remarkable to see how the audience responded to the band during the gig. It was an odd experience – to be around the audience but not part of it.

As for the music itself, any comments are inevitably subjective. Suffice to say I was there to work but strewth, I’d have to be a cold, cold fish not to be wrapped up by some of the melodies they played.

Returning to photographing the event, the monopod was a life saver – or at the very least, an ARM saver. I could not recommend such a beast strongly enough to any one that needs to improve on hand-held but where a tripod would be impractical.. Drop me a line if you want to know more about the one I used…

I had the ‘nod’ to use the images a couple of days ago.. So if you have seen them, I hope they give an idea of what this fine band are all about.

Click on Feast of Fiddles to find out more about the band.

If you would care to leave your own comment, please do – using the space below…

Wandering River provides professional photography and videography services. Find out how Steve can help you – view his portfolios or contact him for more information

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