Johnny Adams has been in a number of bands over the years, some of which have been quite seminal, putting new ideas, styles and repertoire into the English folk scene. These bands include The Druids, New Victory Band, Muckram Wakes, Old Swan Band, Hookes Law, Red Shift and Our Northern Branch. A multi-instrumentalist, with keyboards, accordion, melodeon and trombone in his armoury, he says that the fiddle is his favourite, and he plays a custom made instrument by Gina Le Faux with a short bow by Ken Cameron. Amongst many other activities, Johnny heads up the Village Music Project, conceived with Chris Partington. The project is a study of English Social Musicians from the 17th. century onwards from their manuscripts and is instrumental [sic] in securing and making available many manuscripts of past musicians that might otherwise have been lost to us. You’ll hear some of the tunes from these manuscripts in the English String Band’s repertoire.
Paul Burgess is a veritable repository of English tunes and author of many more that have almost passed into tradition. He plays with a unique attack and feel that comes from countless energetic dances at which he has performed. Paul Burgess comes from a family of dance-band musicians stretching back at least four generations. As well as the fiddle, Paul plays the recorder and sings and has performed at venues from Adlestrop to Zanzibar with everyone from the CBSO to Laurie Lee. He is currently a member of the Old Swan Band (40 years plus and still going strong) as well as playing with Johnny Coppin and others. He was a founder member of the Mellstock Band, John Kirkpatrick Band, Edward II & the Red-Hot Polkas and The English Country Dance Band and has provided music for radio, TV and film. In addition to performing, Paul is well respected as a researcher into English traditional music and song, giving lectures and workshops on the results of his research, including at the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention.
Catherine Chandler is an accomplished fiddler. She has a classical background and indeed still keeps busy teaching violin, and since first coming across English traditional music a few years ago has developed a great enthusiasm for it and has performed in a number of folk groups. She is also an accomplished Nyckelharpa player (and plays solo and with duo/trio groups and with the English Nyckelharpa Collective) and is more than happy to demonstrate the instrument in our English String Band 'concert band' (folk club style) appearances. Catherine has a talent for, and gets a lot of enjoyment from, playing harmonies and counter melodies which adds yet more texture to the band’s sound.
Dee de Wit enjoys playing ‘cello in a variety of genres. These influence his accompaniment of English traditional tunes, which is well respected and sought after, helping to give lift and added interest. A member of the original English String Band, he has also played in a number of other string bands, including Goulash, Highly Strung, and Our Northern Branch and dimly remembers guesting with The Late Night Band at Sidmouth many years ago. He is often found adding welcome depth and character to tunes in English sessions, not least at that most iconic of English folk festivals, Sidmouth.
Liz Giddings began playing fiddle as a teenager for the Blackmore Morris Men and in local ceilidh bands, though it was some years later that Roger Digby of Flowers and Frolics introduced her to archive recordings and English Country Music. She then began to develop a more traditional style and greater appreciation of the music. Liz and Roger now play together as a duo, performing at traditional music events and accompanying Bob Davenport for his rare appearances. Their CD, The Passing Moment, features a collection of tunes mostly learned from lesser known traditional musicians and composers and they are recognised for their unique sound of the two instruments in very close unison and fiercely rhythmic style. Liz also joins John and Katie Howson to play in the Michael Sheehy Band (sharing their love of Irish music) and the Valiant Dance Band.
Flos Headford is a welcome sight at any musicians' pub session, thanks to his wide repertoire, quickness to learn and his inventive approach to tune and song accompaniment. He has been playing fiddle since his early thirties, starting with Morris dance and progressing to English country dance music through years of attending musicians' sessions in Gloucestershire and at Folk Festivals throughout the UK. He currently plays with the Old Swan Band (and has done for 30 years or more) and was a founder-member of outfits as diverse as The Mellstock Band and Edward the Second and the Red-Hot Polkas (later known as E2). Although not primarily a singer, he has a good voice, and a fine repertoire of comic songs, providing a welcome contrast to more solemn material.
Howard 'Mitch' Mitchell has many strings to his bow (so to speak). As well as playing double bass with the English String Band, he also plays the double bass, melodeon, and concertina and has played for numerous Ceilidhs, Folk Dances, Country Dances, Barn Dances and Festivals and at sessions and Musicians' Workshops. He can be heard playing with English Ceilidh Band "Fish 'n' Taters" and "The Red Fox Ceilidh Band", with the trio "The Old Fashioned" with Fi Fraser and Pete Bullock, and with the "The Derbyshire Volunteers" (made up of the "who's who" from the Derby folk scene). He has been actively involved in the folk scene for many years and is on the Board of Trustees of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).
Rob Neal has been involved in English traditional music since the early 1970s. He played in the song group Ticklers Jam and its connected dance bands Ticklers Folk Circus and Saturday Night. Rob plays concertinas (English/duet) and piano as well as the ‘cello. His ‘cello style is original, being both bouncy and percussive and very damaging to his ten bows. In 1990 he returned to his roots in Suffolk and joined Katie’s Quartet and Old Hat. He is very involved in the thriving East Suffolk traditional song and tune sessions based in pubs such as the Blaxhall Ship.
Matt Quinn is fast becoming a well-known name on the English folk scene. A multi-instrumentalist, Matt plays melodeon, mandolin, fiddle and sings. He has been performing for the last 7 years in various bands including Dogan & the Boombox Karavan, the Eliza Carthy Ceilidh Band and his own bands The New Slide and Les Sessions du Confiture. He has performed at a wide range of venues from folk clubs across the country up to main stages at Sidmouth, Beverley, Warwick, and Broadstairs festivals. On the fiddle (so to speak) he plays with a distinctly English style that will bring a smile to your face and have you bouncing up and down in your seats. He has been described as one of the most exciting young fiddle players in the country.
Taz Tarry has developed his own fiddle style based largely on Southern English traditional fiddle styles but with others in the mix. Taz developed his style of playing particularly for dancing, joining the Bedfordshire based Morris side, Redbornstoke, to hone this skill. He has played in acclaimed dance bands for over 30 years, including Grand Union. Along with Paul Burgess, Flos Headford, Johnny Adams and Dee de Wit, he was part of the original English String Band a number of years ago. Taz is welcomed at any English music session where his playing is also often complimented by audiences as being very enjoyable to listen to. He has played at many national festivals and ceilidh series, and has given numerous workshops on fiddle playing. Taz and Flos also play together in the five piece ceilidh band, Monty's Maggot.
Clare Wilde started playing traditional music with Simon Ritchie in the band for the Thaxted Country Dance club, run by Bobby Ritchie. Thaxted has a strong traditional music scene and Clare says she is lucky enough to regularly play with some truly brilliant traditional musicians. Clare has served her time playing in pubs, folk clubs, dances, parties and at festivals with various traditional, ceilidh, folk-rock and celtic punk bands. Through Johnny Adams she has become interested in Northern and border fiddling, particularly the music of Willie Taylor. Clare feels privileged to be part of the Good Easter Molly Gang, one of the last traditional sides and among the longest established, who dance on Plough Monday every year. Clare currently plays a bespoke made Rod Ward violin and a Tim Phillips Infidel.