14 year old Joni Brown is a member of The Bath Youth Folk Band. Here she explains why she enjoy playing with the group and what it offers to young musicians across the region.
I wouldn’t love folk music if I hadn’t joined the Bath Youth Folk Band. In 2014, I spent a day at Bath City Farm, where some folk musicians were playing, and fell in love with the music almost instantly. The next month, I was inspired to join the band and see what happened. After starting in junior band, I eventually moved to the main band, where I was flung into my first gig at the exact place that I had started loving folk music the year before.
Since then, my music has progressed immensely, with my fiddle accompanying the array of flutes, whistles, guitars and cajons that make up our band. The rest of the band is not only very friendly, but very talented, and I have learnt so much from them. However, it’s not all about playing – from writing set lists on the back of burger packets, to practising for hours before a concert, it’s surprising how the talented people who organise the band have managed to adapt to our varying levels of experience and professionalism.
Possibly the biggest gig that we have played at is the Southdowns Folk Festival that took place in September last year. We all spent a fair part of the day of the gig travelling the 100 odd miles to reach Bognor Regis. Then, despite the occasional missing band member and snapped string, we managed to thoroughly enjoy playing to our late-afternoon audience.
One of the pieces that we played was a song that I had found from an album called Songs of Separation. It is called Poor Man’s Lamentation and is about the attitudes to rich and poor in the way that we all treat each other. I had loved it for months, so I was excited at the chance to sing it with the band. We got in touch with some of the musicians who were part of the album (Jen Hill and Hannah James), and they were so supportive. I would say that it was a successful performance, and we still play the tune in the band now.
Altogether, being part of the band has been such a positive experience and I can’t wait to see where it leads me. My confidence has increased, and I have started a small folk band at my school, as well as having taught and busked some tunes with my friends. The band itself has done so much for me, and my skills are only improving as time goes on. From playing with Irish dancers on the streets, to getting paid in pizza, to being seen doing what I love by so many people I know, I can’t recommend the experience of the Bath Youth Folk Band more.
Bath Folk Youth Band is a top-class youth folk ensemble in Bath, drawing on the enthusiasm and talents of students from its annual Traditional Music Summer School. The ensemble was formally launched at Bath Folk Festival 2014 with a week of workshops and performances, including a collaboration with the Ards CCE. The group meets once a month and promotes the traditional music of the British Isles, encouraging students to develop their own arrangements and style within the folk canon.
Most members of the senior band are Grade 5-8 standard and range in age from 8-18 years. The musicians have not all taken the traditional route of music exams but they can all learn tunes by ear. The group is keen to welcome new members and runs a training band for students from Grades 1-4, who progress to the senior band once they have developed the necessary skills. Both bands perform at a range of events and festivals throughout the year.