UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 06 JUNE
The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble returns with its sixth album, Twenty-Five, and a full festival set on Sunday 11 June in Digbeth.
The album, Twenty-five, documents the band’s official 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert, which took place in May 2022, at its base of operations, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Consisting of seven tracks, including a three-track medley, the album captures the Ensemble in its element, with a series of raw visceral tunes powered by infectious, liberating rhythms.
Opening Twenty-Five are The Victor’s Returnand the Frank’s Reels set, which have been part of the Ensemble’s set list for more than 20 years.
Other selections take on a political tone: Arthur McBride was chosen for its anti-war sentiment, while Rights Of Man touches on themes of mortality, nationhood, ownership and human rights – recalling how the remains of 18th Century radical Thomas Paine were exhumed in the US a decade after his death, to be scattered across continents.
Twenty-Five ends on a high, with the spectacular and celebratory Fiddle Castro’s Reunion in Birmingham, in which the 71 members of the full Ensemble – all wielding their brass, wind, string and percussion instruments – jostle on stage alongside more than 50 previous members also armed with their instruments of choice.
To mark the arrival of Twenty-Five, the Ensemble has been touring, including a run of festivals, such as Jazz Sous Les Pommiers in Normandy, France (with Femi Kuti), and The Secret Garden Party (with The Libertines and Underworld).
The band will also host the tenth edition of its own Power Folk mini-festival, in Birmingham featuring a full set from the Ensemble alongside invited guests, jam sessions, and solo spots.
Musical Director Joe Broughton said: “We can’t wait to get back on the tour bus. After celebrating 25 years of the Ensemble in 2022, and now a decade of Power Folk this year, everyone feels very powered up – it’s going to be a joyous summer.
“Twenty-Five presents a vivid snapshot of the Ensemble, capturing the 2022 line-up at their exciting peak. But the recording also acknowledges the rich heritage of the band, as well as demonstrating how the Ensemble never sits still: it’s forever moving forward, building on the past, always reflecting the shifting diversity and interests of the skilled musicians on stage.”
With a full contingent of some 70 musicians, the Ensemble is the UK’s largest folk big band. Formed in 1997 by multi-instrumentalist Joe Broughton, the Ensemble’s unfiltered approach to music-making has pushed the boundaries of what is thought of as ‘folk’ and ‘traditional’. Though still rooted in these genres, the musicians embrace Latin, Eastern European and Asian influences, as well as more contemporary genres, creating a sound they’ve titled ‘Power Folk.’
Providing a launchpad for generations of young musicians and composers, the Ensemble has a positive impact that has undoubtedly contributed to Joe’s inclusion in King Charles III’s first New Year’s Honours List, receiving the British Empire Medal for his services to music.
For more information on Twenty-Five and the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble’s 2023 tour, see: folkensemble.co.uk
Staff can catch the Folk Ensemble's full festival set on Sunday 11 June in Digbeth at POWER FOLK 10.