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The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble at The Spotted Dog, Digbeth

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
Event:
Big band album launch at trailblazing festival
The UK's biggest folk band, The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, mark their 20th anniversary year with a new album, Painted, which will be launched at a hometown show on June 11, 2017.

The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Joe Broughton, Folk Music
Crowded stage: The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (pic: Alick Cotterill)


The band's touring line-up features a stage-challenging 50 members. Among them are 15 horns, four cellos, five percussionists, five electric guitarists, plus fiddles, flutes, clarinets, double-bass, electric bass, euphonium, acoustic guitar, octave mandola, and a harp.

An album launch party will be held on June 11 at The Spotted Dog in the Digbeth area of Birmingham as part of the ensemble's annual folk festival, Power Folk 4.

The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Joe Broughton, Folk Music
On the fiddle: Conservatoire Folk Ensemble violinists (pic: Alick Cotterill)


Formed in 1997 at Birmingham's prestigious Conservatoire by fiddle player and arranger Joe Broughton, the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble have established a reputation for creating energetic and powerful shows, especially at such festivals as Cropredy, Towersey, Shambala and Kendal Calling.

Still based at Birmingham City University's Conservatoire, the personal influences of each member shapes the set-list, as traditional English and Celtic reels slide into full-on rock grooves, funk, jazz, hip-hop, ska and reggae. Eastern European and Asian flourishes can also be heard, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the group.

The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Joe Broughton, Folk Music


Painted is the ensemble's first full studio album, and follows two live collections (2009's Sardines, 2014's The Official Bootleg) and a live DVD (2007).

With a cover image by fiddle player Ning-ning Li, its ten tracks aim to document the breadth of the ensemble experience.

Combining new arrangements of traditional tunes with several original compositions, highlights include Joe's raucous take on the classic Fairy Dance, and William Taylor, which features a commanding vocal by cellist Julie Claire. Later, Rosie Tunley and Rosemary Wilkes take on vocal duties for Rain And Snow, where harp lines and strings are soon joined by percussion, bass and electric guitar, making one of Painted's most intricate cuts.

The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Joe Broughton, Folk Music
Frenetic: The Ensemble on stage (pic: Nikki Geast)


Classic Irish tune The Butterfly gets the full-on Folk Ensemble treatment before seguing into guitarist Josh Wunderlich's frenetic arrangement of Japanese duo The Yoshida Brothers' Kodo.

With a nod to their 20 year history, they even revisit a pair of Bulgarian tunes (Ruchenitsas) first played by the band back in 1997, when the ensemble numbered a mere 14 members. Elsewhere, the percussion section morph from African drumming to Samba, to out-and-out rock.

The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, The Spotted Dog, Digbeth, Joe Broughton, Folk Music
Joyful: The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (pic: Nikki Geast)

"The challenge for us has been really capturing the power and intensity of the ensemble without it impacting on the delicacy or fragility of the quieter, more subtle moments," says Joe, who produced the album. "There's such energy, when the entire ensemble perform together, but these are world class musicians, and the tracks on Painted really demonstrate how skilful their individual playing is."

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Why? The chance to see the UK's premiere Folk Big Band
When: June 11, 2017
Phone: 0121 772 3822
Where: The Spotted Dog, Warwick St, Digbeth, Birmingham
Cost: £9
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