O lads, ye shud only seen us gannin', We pass'd the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin';

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

High Level Ranters

The High Level Ranters have been playing traditional music and song from the North-East of England for over 30 years, becoming one of the most influential groups of the Folk Revival. For many years they were the only group featuring the Northumbrian smallpipes in their performances, and are thus responsible for introducing many of today's pipers to this most beautiful and unique instrument. They also introduced many of today's musicians to the wealth of distinctive local and traditional music in the North-East, and did so with a unique enthusiasm of performance which has not been equalled.

Their name was chosen as a combination of the location of the Bridge Folk Club at the North end of the High Level Bridge in Newcastle, where they all played, and from the Cheviot Ranters, a famous Northumberland dance band operating in the Alnwick area from about 1953 to 1996....
The High Level Ranters originally came together through Folk Song and Ballad Newcastle, one of the first folk clubs in Britain. The Bridge Hotel, in which a folk club still meets, is situated at the North end of the High Level bridge. The group took their name from the bridge, and also from the rant step, used in local dances such as the Morpeth Rant. The original Ranters began playing together as a band in the early 1960's, when the folk song revival was in full swing. Instrumental folk music was practically unheard in the folk clubs at the time, but the Ranters proved that traditional British dance tunes could be just as interesting and exciting to listen to as the songs. Their fine spirited playing of rants, reels, jigs, and hornpipes pointed the direction that this form of British folk music was to take. The band draws extensively upon the wealth of Northumbrian music in both dance and song, and remains closely in touch with the country areas where traditional musicians still make music at home and in the pubs. Music hall songs from Newcastle also have an important place in their repertoire - but apart from their own tradition in the North East of England they also enjoy playing and singing songs and tunes from all over the British Isles. The Ranters unique sound is produced by combinations of the small pipes, fiddle, accordion, tin whistle and piano. A typical Ranters concert is a balance between group instrumental and singing, with solos by individual members of the band. The total effect is an immensely versatile and highly entertaining performance, and their group and solo skills are in great demand at festivals, for workshops, concerts, sessions and singarounds.

Today the High Level Ranters are known as one of the longest standing traditional bands in the country, losing none of their enthusiasm for entertaining audiences. Whilst their line-up and instrumentation has changed and evolved over the years, they undoubtedly remain one of the leading exponents of the traditional music of the North East of England.

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