About The Music
We are all accomplished traditional musicians in our own right. We all live and work in South West Yorkshire, an area which since the dawn of the industrial revolution has attracted people from a great variety of cultures and musical traditions. Our musical lives have developed against this backdrop, and the band’s music draws on the best elements of the cultural mix creating its own unique synthesis.
As a 3-piece dance band with caller:
The core of the dance band’s repertoire is Irish dance music – jigs, polkas, reels, waltzes and slides. It may seem odd to use Irish music for dances which are mainly English, but we have found that the unique sparkle of Irish tunes can transform even the plainest dance into something very special.
David’s bouzouki is the band’s preferred rhythm instrument. It provides a strong pulsating foundation of power chords on which the melody stands, and it drives the dance along like a great big engine. The bouzouki also adds counter melodies, whilst David’s pedal keyboard fills out the low register with tasteful bass drones.
A variety of instruments are used in melodic roles. Catherine alternates between whistle, flute and fiddle, whilst Alan divides his time between button accordion and tenor banjo. During some longer dances and in instrumental sets played between dances, caller Tony’s fiddle may supplement the melody. If a song is required for any reason, Tony, David or Catherine will sing it.
All the instruments are played in the Irish style – with a strong emphasis on a clear and steady rhythm. This is a great help to dancers.
Our main instruments are traditional acoustic ones, fitted with a variety of microphones and pickups. Sound from the instruments and from the singers’ microphones is balanced through a large portable mixing desk and then amplified, usually through two 500 watt powered speakers. The band also has additional amplification capacity and advanced feedback control equipment which together with the other amplification gear enables optimum sound quality to be delivered in almost any location.
About The Band
I have always loved Celtic music and traditional Irish and Scottish ceilidh dancing. After visiting the west coast of Ireland in the 1990’s I was mesmerised by listening to and watching the fiery musicians playing wild fantastic tunes. Whirling impromptu set dancers would suddenly take to the floor and the whole bar would be rocking.
I was desperate to learn some traditional tunes. I bought a whistle (and later a flute) along with Mally’s quintessential manuals and began going to local sessions, picking up a few tunes and practising at home.
Going to any local ceilidh was a must for me and I would dance enthusiastically all night if possible. I started learning the fiddle at Geoff Bowens ceilidh club in Ilkley with a view to starting a local ceilidh band. This I eventually did and Hullabaloo was jointly formed and it was my responsibility to put the dances and music together.
I later joined the Yorkshire Dales ceilidh band Buttered Peas and played with them for a number of years. During this time I also played and danced for Irish set dancing in Bradford and clog dancing in Saltaire, and in and amongst I have also been a caller/player for two Irish ceilidh bands; Fresh Eire and Eavesdropper.
In addition I have been involved for many years as a player and dancer with Yorkshire Dales Workshop and currently play every month in Addingham as a member of the ceilidh group Beneath the Clock. Here we learn new dances and tunes from around the world.
The band Phoenix was formed by three former members of Buttered Peas; Tony, Dave and myself with Alan joining us to complete the line up. We have concentrated on developing a more Irish based repertoire as well as retaining a Scottish and occasionally English flavour.
Like a lot of folk musicians, I started singing and playing guitar after hearing people like Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, John Denver and Ralph McTell. While I was attending guitar evening class in Baildon, the tutor brought in a Greek bouzouki and, having already acquired a mandolin, the world of Irish music began to open up for me.
The music of bands such as Planxty, Moving Hearts, De Danaan and musicians such as Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny became essential listening. During this time (late 70s/early 80s) I was also on the committee of the Topic Folk Club in Bradford, where I saw many fine artists perform. After this period, my attention turned to the ‘session’ scene, which helped to hone my skills as an accompanist, picking up tunes by ear; I have never got around to learning to read music!
I was a regular at the weekly session in my local pub, The Lamb in Oxenhope, for many years and I still manage to get to one or two sessions a week in the area. I have also played regularly with popular local Irish band, The Wild Geese, for a number of years.
Other bands I have played with include: Wharfedale-based ceilidh band, Buttered Peas (with Cath and Tony), Eavesdropper, Go-Beo and Fresh Eire (notably at Mulligans Irish Bar in Amsterdam). I have also played at several local festivals as a member of Barry Smith’s Westport, along with Cath and Tony, and I am a member of the resident band (Beneath The Clock) at Addingham Ceilidh Club. I like to get to sessions in Ireland whenever possible; I’ve enjoyed going to fleadhs and have been several times to the Ennis Trad Festival in County Clare, the official ‘home’ of traditional Irish music.
I’m a bit of a collector (or impulse buyer!) of instruments and I own a Terada guitar (not played much now), two guitar-shaped bouzoukis (a Rob Armstrong and a Jimmy Moon), a Rob Armstrong mando (tuned like a bouzouki GDAD); this is my main instrument. I also own an Armstrong mandolin, a Stefan Sobel mandolin, a Clareen tenor banjo and a five-string Deering Goodtime banjo (my latest acquisition!). I also play a Roland pedalboard through a midi app on the ipad with connections through a Alessis idock.(see pictures of Dave’s instruments here).
I also double up as the band’s sound man and own the equipment jointly with Cath; this has become an interest as an offshoot of my day job as a service engineer.
I have been involved in folk music in one way or another for about 35 years, since going to Folk Camps for family summer holidays in the 70’s. I was living in Essex and got involved with Morris dancing and singing in pubs and folk clubs, and eventually helped to form a ceilidh band. At first I played rhythm guitar and 5-string banjo, then I learned to play the fiddle, working with various bands in Essex.
In 1990 I moved to Yorkshire to do a degree in Peace Studies at Bradford University. I lived in Hebden Bridge for a while and got involved with the folk music scene there, playing in pub sessions and again joining a ceilidh band, which is when I started calling the dances.
Wanderlust struck in a big way and I went travelling, eventually to Australia, and spent a year hitch-hiking round New Zealand with my fiddle and guitar, playing at every opportunity. I came back to England for a while then set off again travelling round Europe. In Prague I joined a band called Celtic Rej, consisting of Irish, English and Czech musicians, which became very popular. I spent a year travelling with Celtic Rej around the Czech Republic playing traditional Irish music to a nation hungry for new forms of expression.
Returning again to West Yorkshire, I picked up where I had left off, playing in ceilidh bands and pub sessions. I also travelled to Ireland several times, once to play in a festival. The dreaded wanderlust struck again and I went to South America and, after three months drifting around Argentina, met up with some excellent Argentinian musicians in Buenos Aires who played traditional Irish music. I hitched up with them for a while, playing pub gigs and concerts in various venues around the city.
I came back to Yorkshire for what was supposed to be a brief stay, but I’m still here. I had met up with Cath and Dave previously at various pub sessions, we all became members of the Dales-based band Buttered Peas, before moving on to a band playing more traditional Irish music, Eavesdropper, also with Alan. Then emerged the current line-up of Phoenix in which I do the calling, play fiddle and occasionally sing. I also play for an Appalachian dance group Roll Back the Carpet, based in Shipley, and I perform locally with my partner Rahel in a mainly song-based duo which we call Otra.
I got my first guitar when I was 18. I formed old-timey band The Harpers Ferry Ramblers with three friends in Leeds. That band broke up within a year. Two of us worked on as a guitar and banjo duo before forming another Appalacian band The Original Preservation String Band that worked for a couple of years on the folk scene in the north of England. I played guitar, slide guitar, mandolin and fiddle and sang a bit. We played raw fiddle and banjo mountain music, songs from North Carolina’s Charlie Poole, a few English ballads and quite a lot of white blues.
Many of our American fiddle tunes came from Scottish or Irish roots and I started buying published collections of Irish and Scottish dance tunes by way of research. I got hooked on Irish tunes and started to learn to play some of them.
When the Original Preservation String Band split up I joined the house band at the Cross in Heptonstall. I chiefly played fiddle and the band supported visiting artists, playing every week at the folk club as well as occasional gigs out of town. Two band members joined Lancashire morris team Colne Royal and I was invited to join the team’s band as fiddler. The Lancashire musical tradition has a strong Irish influence and I got the opportunity to play some of my favourite polkas jigs and reels with The Moon and Castle Band – the team’s own celidh band.
I then bought a D/G button accordion and used it to good effect in the morris band, as well as in the ceilidh band. At this time I bought my first tenor banjo after seeing Barney McKenna playing banjo with the Dubliners.
I also continued to play guitar, doing 1930s swing with a pianist and a trumpeter, and I bought an electric guitar on which to develop this and other blues-based styles.
In 1998 I traded in my D/G accordion in against a new tenor banjo and got stuck into playing Irish music properly, attending as many informal sessions as I could. In 2003 I bought my first Irish B/C button accordion and began to build a repertoire on that instrument.
In 2005 I joined Eavesdropper and moved on to form Phoenix with Cath, Dave and Tony in 2006.