Last weekend saw Castle Carrock celebrate the seventh running of its ever popular folk and roots music festival “Music on the Marr”. Actually running from Thursday evening through till Sunday evening, the festival offers a true smorgasbord of musical styles bringing this usually quiet village to life with a vengeance. As always, MoM organiser Richard Johnstone scoured the globe for his musicians with Canada, Hawaii, the Congo, Australia, Wales, Scotland and the pub next door all featuring to great effect.
With three separate venues available, Music on the Marr successfully programmes singers and songwriters alongside bands that just want to make the people dance. In the former category, Friday evening saw a fine set from Nancy Kerr and James Fagan who mixed Kerr’s own thoughtful songs with such concert staples as Fagan’s moving version of “The Drovers’ Boy” about mixed marriage in early 20th century Australia. Equally affecting was a performance in the church by Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey of Johnson’s Gentle Men, a song cycle based on his grandfathers’ experiences in the First World War. The Pitmen Poets, fine singers and songwriters all, also reflected winningly on working class experiences in their poignant but funny show based on the coal mining industry (and its demise) in the North East.
The urge to dance was met most energetically on a sweaty Saturday evening by the marvellous Whapweasel – a Ceilidh band like no other, mixing traditional dance tunes with reggae, rock and ska. People also leapt to their feet for Calan, an envigorating and talented young band from Wales. Those not dancing themselves simply appreciated the impressive step dancing on show from accordionist Bethan Williams Jones.
Ukeleles feature heavily at MoM with instructional workshops and a popular performance by the resident D’Ukes of Castle Carrock. However, the festival has never seen the instrument played as it was by the Hawaian virtuosa Taimane Gardner. Jaws were collectively dropped from the first few notes as she danced across the stage turning this unassuming instrument into a veritable orchestra. Do not miss seeing her play if you get the chance! There was also no shortage of fine fiddle playing this year with the young ladies of Fara from Orkney playing two outstanding sets to great acclaim.
The festival finished on Sunday evening with undoubtedly the most rousing singalong in its’ seven year history as the Lindisfarne Story Band bathed the marquee in the glorious glow of North Eastern nostalgia with a complete performance of the band’s legendary Fog on the Tyne album. It’s rumoured that the final choruses of “Run for Home” could be heard echoing in the Geltsdale Fells above the village! A fine Northern climax to the region’s friendliest folk festival.
- Gary Weston