Fiddlers Feast, formerly the Fiddlers Festival has grown from humble beginnings at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 1996 into Australias Premier Fiddle Band. Featuring some of the best fiddlers and violinists around, 'Fiddlers Feast' is a group playing an eclectic collection of music from Jazz, Swing, Blues, Celtic and Country to Contemporary; "a powerhouse of Australian Celtic music that flies down bush tracks, over blue mountains and zips down the Australian city highways". Fiddlers involved with Fiddlers Feast under the musical directorship of Marcus Holden have included George Washingmachine, Mark Oats, Lindsay Martin, Andrew Clermont, Pixie, Ian Cooper, Clare O'Meara, Ray Schloeffel, Jane Brownlee, Nigel MacLean, Mick Kerin, Daniel Weltlinger, Adrian Keating, Jessica Randall, and many more. What began with four has seen over 40 fiddlers involved with various productions around the country. Several tours to Japan as well as high profile appearances back home have inspired a whole new generation of fiddlers and groups like the Hawkesbury National Fiddle Festival and the Southern Cross Fiddlers, dedicated to the promotion of the fiddle as an alternative to the classical stream of tuition and performance. Fiddlers Feast appears regularly at major events and festivals around Australia including Woodford Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Gympie Muster, Tamworth Country Music Festival, the Brisbane Festival, Adelaide Arts Festival, and the Famous Spiegeltent. Fiddlers Feast has toured with the support of the Federal government for the Playing Australia Touring Program, NARPACA and Queensland Arts Council Touring program, have been guests of the Brisbane City council for their 150 year celebrations and were invited to perform at Expo in Nagoya, Japan by DFAT in 2005. In August 2006 Fiddlers Feast was part of the Australian contingent at the Inter-Celtic Festival, Lorient in Brittany as part of the Year of Oz and is planning a return trip to in the European summer of 2007. Their new CD, FRENZEE, released in August 2006, is a rip-roaring collection of all sorts of fiddling from Country to tongue-in-cheek classical, from twisted jazz tracks to rock and reel with a plethora of weird and wonderful music and guests from all parts of the harmonic spectrum.
Marcus Holden, violin, mandolin
Mark Oats, violin
Clare O'Meara, violin, vox, piano
Garry Steel, accordion, keyboards
Get Reel (2003)
Strung Out (2000)
Fiddlers Festival Live (2000)
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Homespun Hoedown that stomps into Celtic Country. Genre busting is a post modern reality, but this ...Homespun Hoedown that stomps into Celtic Country.
Genre busting is a post modern reality, but this debut album by Marcus Holden's Fiddlers Festival doesn't just crash through the boundaries, it nukes them. A track by track tour shows how extensive the scope of it all is.
Fiddlers Curse is an instant classic in the country rock vein, with Kevin Bennett (of The Flood fame) delivering a gritty narrative lyric. Peel Of The Onion, a traditional Celtic tune, is lent a slightly new age air with it's keyboard programming while retaining the folky robustness. La Cumpasita, a tango, has a bewitching Argentinean texture created by Holden's lusty fiddle, accompanied by accordion, guitar, bass and drums. A similar texture is used to different effect on the ensuing two-tune medley of Celtic flavour.
El Condor Pasa is a highlight. Holden doubles on viola and recorder, while Kate Morgan adds cello and Willy Qua flute. The result is a reading of the timeless melody which exquisitely emphasises its loneliness and desolation. A rather cheeky medley combines Coleraine Jig with Jesu, Joy of Man's desiring and gets away with it, while Tiger Rag sees Holden joined by George Washingmachine for a two-fiddle workout that would get them whooping in the pub and might have you doing the same in your living room if you're not careful.
Holden is a selfless leader who clearly delights in the talents of his peers. Ray Schloeffel plays violin on his own charming Blacktown Jig, and Malachy Bourke is the lead fiddle on Holden's arrangement of the Morning Dew. If the core Celtic theme seems to be developing at this point, Holden's title track is a country hoedown with a hint of the melancholy to ease the glibness that can beset such music. What follows could be the genre busters anthem: Cole Porter's Don't Fence Me In (with Goofy Scatting). Music for a Found harmonium is a kind of country
Ravel's Bolero, with a repeated theme growing in intensity.
Turkey Set is a bluegrass stomper (with soprano sax interjections from Willy Qua) which gives way to Old Tunes, a simple setting of the Henry Lawson Poem. So what do call it? A pedant might try for Celtic country with rock and jazz influences. But it's music- unassuming, honest and fun.
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The Fiddlers Festival's new CD GET REEL received **** (FOUR STARS!) Here's what John said...."This...The Fiddlers Festival's new CD GET REEL received **** (FOUR STARS!)
Here's what John said...."This new one from Marcus Holden's band Fiddlers Festival just leaps from the speakers. Once again, the repertoire is wonderfully, irreverently eclectic. For instance, it surges from PRESIDENT GARFIELD'S HORNPIPE into IT DON'T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN'T GOT THAT SWING) without blinking an eye. The folk, jazz, bluegrass, rock and tango standards are perfectly happy in each other's company. Throughout the album, Holden's marvellous violin swoons and and sighs, swaggers and strikes sparks, even becoming ominously electrified on MUSICAL PRIEST PARTS 1 and 2. It's funny, sad and full of surprises."
None so rare as fiddlers fair
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Australian fiddlers have inspired a Japanese festival with their sense of fun as much as their wizar...Australian fiddlers have inspired a Japanese festival with their sense of fun as much as their wizardry, writes Lee Anthony
IN a culture where almost every child learns piano or violin, Australian fiddlers have shown the Japanese that infusing a bit of fun into music doesn't diminish high-quality playing.
Some of this country's leading non-classical violinists took a bow in Osaka last Monday as they inaugurated the Japan Fiddle Festival, an event inspired by their performances and educational efforts in Australia.
Marcus Holden's multi-genre Fiddlers Feast (until recently known as Fiddlers Festival) and jazz/blues players Nigel McLean and George Washingmachine joined some of Japan's top fiddlers at Osaka's Azalea Hall Cultural Centre for the one-day event.
Japanese performers included celtic-rock fiddler Takehiro Kunugi, traditional Irish violinist Hidenori Omori and the Japan Fiddle Club Band. McLean performed with popular Melbourne-based jazz pianist Joe Chindamo.
The festival was part of the official 2006 Australia-Japan Year of Exchange program, a cultural and educational promotion of more than 100 events held in the two countries.
For Fiddlers Feast the event was the culmination of a series of events beginning in 1998 when they headed up a recording featuring an eclectic mix of virtuoso fiddle players. A guest at the CD launch, Lucia Okamura, was inspired to suggest the line-up get together regularly and she subsequently organised the successful annual Hawkesbury National Fiddle Festival at Clarendon, NSW, which began in 2000. The organisers of the Japan Fiddle Festival were, in turn, guests at her festival; they visited the Australian event several times and were so impressed they have frequently invited festival performers to Japan.
"The Japanese are very appreciative of great acts," says Okamura, who also helped establish the Osaka festival. "The audience wanted to get the best seats and literally ran into the hall as the door opened. There was a Japanese fiddler there Takehiro Kunugi who opened the act - very impressive, amazing presence and amazing hair; obviously a bit of a pop star as he had a queue miles long at autograph time."
Eleven Australian musicians made up half the program, which included sold-out workshops on jazz and Irish fiddling. "Having seen the fiddle culture in Japan since about 1990, it's amazing the depth of talent it has developed in the past decade - which is not surprising, as this is a culture where every kid learns either piano or violin from a very early age," she says.
"A good violinist is a dime in a dozen in Japan, so Australians do have to pull something out of the bag to shine."
Japanese audiences responded enthusiastically to the Australian style. "How fantastic, having Aussie fiddlers together with their Japanese counterparts, jamming together and developing a real sense of a global fiddle community," says Holden.
"It's such an eye opener for all of us. The similarities and differences in style and approach ... it was a real chance for the world to hear Australian fiddling as a legitimate, distinct style."
Initially the Osaka audience was reserved - as are most Japanese audiences - but soon got into the swing of the music: "George Washingmachine had them dancing. They have really good jazz and Irish fiddlers already but we are kind of different in that we play like Australians."
Holden says a similar thing happened in France when Fiddlers Feast was a headline act at the popular Festival InterCeltique in Brittany, France, last month, an event which draws around 750,000 people and this year featured an Australian theme.
The Osaka event was a learning experience for the Japanese audience, says McLean: "The masterclass I held was packed to capacity and they were very interested in my career and why I chose to be diverse in music instead of focusing on one genre."
Okamura says she and Japanese festival director Keisuke Sasaki have developed a long-term fiddle-related partnership.
"It was quite amazing as when I was organising the inaugural Hawkesbury event in 2000, I got this rather dreamy email from this Japanese guy stating that it was his dream to promote Australian fiddlers in Japan. He would have had no idea the organiser of the Hawkesbury event was Japanese then. Rather than continuously answer his emails, I told him to 'just come' - and he did.
"In 2001, he asked me who he should present first to Japan, and I suggested the Fiddlers Feast as they are multi-genre. After two tours with Fiddlers Feast, he then invited McLean, who travelled alone to workshop and perform with local jazz fiddle groups. Other fiddlers who have toured Japan within our collaboration are Shen Pangeng (a Melbourne-based erhu player) and Andrew Clermont."
The Osaka festival looks to be the beginning of even more beautiful friendships. Okamura says she has been approached by the director of several large Japanese music festivals to discuss further collaborations.
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Frenzee (Rouseabout Records) * * * * I defy anyone to not like this CD. The hi-fi speakers spark ...Frenzee
* * * *
I defy anyone to not like this CD. The hi-fi speakers spark with the fun the band formerly known as Fiddler's Festival had recording it. They tear through a typically bizarre and eclectic mix of jazz, folk, gypsy, country and rock, including a madcap Holidays for Strings. This beats the socks off the Sydney band's previous releases on all levels, the diversity sounding more cohesive and the multi-violin front line, led by Marcus Holden, augmented by guests galore.
John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald
If you could have only one live band on your desert island
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Frenzee (Rouseabout Records RRR40) If you could have only one live band on your desert island, the...Frenzee
(Rouseabout Records RRR40)
If you could have only one live band on your desert island, then choose Fiddler’s Feast (formerly Fiddler’s Festival). They are rollicking fun, with plenty of fiddles, and a tight rhythm section playing with precision and power. Frenzee will put a smile on your face and leave you breathless with its high energy, feet taping, no boundaries repertoire. An impressive list of guest artists joins in, including George Washingmachine on vocals and fiddle. The song selection is eclectic: originals, folk songs, and a decomposed Eine Kleine Nutmusik by Marcus Holden, where he was trying to
see how many themes and nursery rhymes he could inflict on W.A Mozart!
Catchy Cajun tune, by Clare O’Meara
Celtic Fiddling Set
Theme from the TV series, the Civil War
Rollicking Original by late Ray Schleoffel
Classic Irish Ballad
Unofficial National Anthem
Celtic Rock and Reel
Eine Kleine Nutmusik:
A tongue in cheek version of Mozart.
Holiday For Strings:
Zany TV Theme from the 60’s
How High The Moon:
Jazz the FF way!
Humours Of Westport:
It Don’t Mean a Thing:
Duke Ellington’s Famous Composition
Bill Monroe’s Timeless Tune
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring:
J.S. Bach performed by Two Mandolins.
Klezma goes Celtic!
Sulty ballad from Piazzolla
Music For a Found Harmonium:
Theme from the Oz Movie ‘Malcolm’
My Baby Just Cares for Me:
Nina Simone’s signature tune
North Sea Chinaman:
Modern Scottish Fiddle Mayhem
Rhythm and Blues on the Fiddle!
Clare O’Meara’s Foot Tapper.
Marcus Holden’s Bulgarian Gypsy Funk!
Django Reinhardt at his Best
Bluegrass at Top Speed!