Downend Folk Club. Downend Folk Club.

On the third Friday of each month, music lovers from all over the area (and some some from further afield) gather at one of our two homes to listen to some of the best music this country has to offer.

The range of styles that we have put on has varied widely… regulars have witnessed foot-tapping folk-pop, melancholy blues, talented singer-songwriters and even hints of country and Americana. This is though, at its heart, a folk club, and this month’s offering was absolutely, completely, and unashamedly from the very folky end of the spectrum. Not that that should be read in any way as an apology, because ALEX CUMMING & NICOLA BEAZLEY are two musicians right at the very top of their game.

Photo: Chris Dobson

They came to town at the end of a tour to promote their new album, ‘Across The Water’, and the moment the pair took to the stage, Alex’s larger-than-life personality was immediately to the fore. “Hello, Downend!” he cried, before the pair kicked off their first set with a rousing rendition of ‘Bonny Ship The Diamond’. Downend responded with enthusiastic singing along and tapping of feet… so early in the evening! The signs were good. Further similar sing-along songs followed throughout the evening… including an opportunity for the gathered West Country folk (including Alex himself, although he now lives in the USA!) to accompany the duo with their very best pirate sounds; and an excellent rendition of ‘Billy Taylor’, which kicked off the second-half.

The classic coupling of squeezebox and fiddle, married with Alex’s very folky voice and Nicola’s subtle harmonies, is a combination well-suited to these rip-roaring sea shanties and rousing traditional sing-alongs, but this is a duo capable of much, much more… during some of their tune sets, in particular, there were moments of pure beauty, not least in ‘Bethan’s’, a set of tunes written by Nicola for a friend, and ‘Oliver’s’, which she wrote for Alex’s son, born earlier this year.

"Two musicians right at the very top of their game"

By the time they finished their set with ‘Come Me Lads’ (a West Country version of ‘Let Union Be’), the healthy crowd were very much in a clapping and singing-along mood. The demanding of an encore can often feel a little prerequisite, but there was no doubting the sincerity of the crowd’s cheers and calls for one more… Alex and Nicola had thoroughly earned it!

The evening was kicked of with a short set from local band ROAD NOT TAKEN who, despite being shorn of two of their regular members and with another two confessing to feeling considerably under the weather, performed an enjoyable set, mostly taken from their debut EP ‘Back Into Storyland’, released earlier this year.

But it was to Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley that the evening rightly belonged. This was an evening of no-nonsense English folk music… but it was English folk music at its very, very best.

Our promise to bring some of the country’s top emerging folk talent to the area continues this month as we feature highly-rated duo ALEX CUMMING & NICOLA BEAZLEY.

Alex & Nicola are an exciting box & fiddle duo performing both songs and tunes from around England. They are both recent graduates of the Newcastle University Folk and Traditional Music Degree and were New Roots Finalist in 2014.

The last couple of years has seen Alex & Nicola build up a great reputation performing at some top venues and festivals including Towersey Village Festival, Whitby Folk Week, Sidmouth Folk Week, Bromyard Folk Festival, Sage Gateshead and more. Their show at Downend Folk Club is part of a nationwide tour to launch their much-anticipated debut album ‘Across The Water’.

With Alex's rhythmic danceable accordion style & strong voice and Nicola's stunning and gutsy fiddle playing, the duo create a big sound and give a new voice to the wonderful canon of English Folk Music.

"...their instrumental skills are wonderful" - Folk Radio UK

Alex Cumming started to learn Piano Accordion when he was six years old and has now become a regular on the English folk scene as an Accordionist, Singer and Ceilidh Caller. As well as performing with Nicola Beazley, Alex performs and records with vocal quartet, The Teacups, BBC Folk Award Nominee Ange Hardy, up and coming band KARA and ceilidh band Dyer:Cumming's. Alex has performed across the country at many top festivals, folk clubs and venues as well as appearing on BBCs Edwardian Farm, BBC Radio 2, and hosting his own folk show on Newcastle Student Radio.

“Highly skilled at their craft” –

Nicola Beazley started learning the violin at the age of seven, and since then has been performing as a folk musician in many different guises across Europe. With her six-peice band, Ceol Tire, Nicola has toured the Czech Republic, Germany and Ireland with their debut album ‘Aeroplane Seats’, and has also performed on BBC Radio Lancashire’s Folk show The Drift. Nicola also plays with a Newcastle based harp, dulcimer and fiddle trio, Speldosa, and alongside performing with Alex Cumming, Nicola has performed, called ceilidhs and taught at many of the big Folk Festivals and Clubs. Nicola currently lives in Sheffield and works with folk organisation Soundpost.

Opening the show at the club’s regular home of Frenchay Village Hall will be local favourites ROAD NOT TAKEN… or three of them anyway! With regular members Joe Hamlen and Claire Stobie enjoying a well-earned holiday, the original trio of Anita Dobson (vocals, kalimba), Ant Miles (guitar, harmonium, piano, mountain dulcimer, backing vocals) and Joe Brydon (slide guitar, harmonica, bouzouki) will kick off the evening by trying out a selection of new songs ahead of some high-profile local headline shows later this year.

The concert will be held on Friday 19th August at Frenchay Village Hall. Doors open at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start, and there will be a full bar, serving GWB real ales, Severn Cider, a selection of wines, soft drinks and tea and coffee. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/tankard/mug as part of the club’s drive to cut down on waste. There will also be a raffle featuring some great prizes.

Tickets are available from Melanie’s Kitchen and online HERE. They are priced at £11 each, but if you buy before Friday 12th August they’ll cost you just £9 as part of the ‘Early Bird’ scheme. Members tickets are a bargain £8 each and are available direct from Ant Miles or from the Members area of the website.

We're thrilled to be bringing you an extra FREE concert this Summer!

We've teamed up with our friends at FANCOURT MUSIC and CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND to bring you CLAUDIA SCHWAB & Friends in Concert on Wednesday 31st August, when Claudia will be recording the entire event for use as live videos.

Claudia is an originally Austrian fiddle player and composer, who lives and works in Ireland. As a musician of the world, in her music she amalgamates different traditions and styles such as traditional Austrian, Irish, Classical Indian, Swedish and Eastern European folk. 

Her musical journeys brought her to Egypt, California, Italy, Slovenia, India, New York, Moldova, Transnistria, Sweden, Germany and Hungary, as part of orchestras and bands as well as touring her solo project. 

Since having completed her BA in music and psychology in 2012 and an MA in ethnomusicology at UCC in 2013, she works as a freelance musician.

Claudia will be joined on stage by STEFAN HEDBOG and MARTI TAERN (regular members of Claudia's trio) as well as top UK folk musician HANNAH JAMES.

Local support will be announced nearer the time,

The event will take place at Christ Church on Wednesday 31st March 2016. Doors will open at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start. Entry is free (donations towards costs will be taken on the night but there is no obligation). There will be a bar run by Downend Folk Club, stocking the usual GREAT WESTERN BREWING COMPANY real ales, Severn Cider, a range of wines and soft drinks and teas and coffees.

There is no need to reserve places... simply come along and enjoy an evening of free entertainment. Please invite as many people as you can, as part of the point of this is so that Claudia will have a big audience for her videos!