Review: The Full English Quartet and Megson, Ipswich School Festival of Music, October 6

The Full English Quarter, Ipswich School Festival of Music 2014. Photo: James Fletcher

The Full English Quarter, Ipswich School Festival of Music 2014. Photo: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant

As statements go, fiddle player Sam Sweeney’s declaration he “hates folk music” was rather a shock to the six musicians participating in his workshop at the Ipswich School Festival of Music’s inaugural folk day.

Megson, Ipswich School Festival of Music 2014. Photo: James Fletcher

Megson, Ipswich School Festival of Music 2014. Photo: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant

However, Sweeney and the five other musicians visiting the school went on to demonstrate it can be far from hateful if it includes a real sense of pulse and rhythm – Sam himself admitted he only hates it “when it is played badly”.

The day started with the award-winning duo Megson who spent the afternoon delighting children as young as three from primary schools with their Family Folk Show. The happiness of these youngsters was evident throughout as they did the “banjo wiggle” to Baby and the Band and produced piercing quacks to Five Little Ducks.

Stu and Debs Hanna seemed more comfortable with the knowledge they wouldn’t receive quite so much screaming from the evening audience.

Their set went down an absolute storm, with the title track of their 2010 album The Longshot - a song about supporting a rubbish football team - proving a favourite.

Sam Sweeney of The Full English Quartet with students, Ipswich School Festival of Music 2014. Photo:

Sam Sweeney of The Full English Quartet with students, Ipswich School Festival of Music 2014. Photo: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant


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Before the interval, musicians from the school took the stage to perform items they had been learning with members of The Full English in the afternoon workshops.

This started with a performance from string players of the English tune Bagpipers led by Sweeney and Rob Harbron. I was privileged to perform in this myself. One of my personal favourite tunes, to play it alongside these incredible professionals was a great experience.

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This was followed by two songs from the singers involved in Nancy Kerr’s vocal workshop – it was especially impressive these songs should be so polished, despite the fact they had only been learnt a few hours previously.

After an interval, the audience experienced an incredible set by The Full English Quartet – four members of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ best group and best album winners in 2014.

Most of the material was from their award-winning album, although new arrangements had been made to counter the absence of three of the seven members of the band.

The group managed very well without them, although some arrangements lacked the depth of sound managed so well on the album. Particular highlights included Pretty Nancy, which gave the audience an opportunity for a good sing-along; and Arthur O’Bradley, a tongue-twisting song.

I think members of the audience will agree with me when I say that we certainly don’t hate folk music!

Finn Collinson

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