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Alistair Anderson

The Sage, Gateshead

14 May 2008

For those who don't know, Anderson is a near-legendary figure in folk music around these parts. He plays concertina and Northumbrian pipes, learned his songs from the old generation of Northumbrian pipers, and he's worked with just about everybody in the business over the last 40+ years. So when he decided to have a birthday party and invite a few old friends, an unmissable array of musicians turned up. Anderson acted as MC for the evening and joined in with each of the guest acts, as well as doing a couple of solo spots.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't know much about Anderson himself. It was the list of special guests that convinced me to go to the gig...

Martin Simpson — fabulous guitar player, not terrifically flashy but has a beautiful tone.

Katie Docherty — a young local singer with a beautiful voice

Kathryn Tickell — I think she's stalking me, I've seen her three times in the last six months. Northumbrian small pipes... best sound in the world.

Richard Thompson — nothing needs to be said...

But the other guests, the ones I didn't know in advance, were equally impressive:

The Farne Ensemble — a young folk group (two violins, cello, harp, penny whistle/oboe).

A string quartet drawn from Northern Sinfonia (led by Bradley Creswick) who joined for part of a suite Anderson had written for concertina and string quartet. Classical concertina! Who would have though it would work? But it was superb. One day I want to hear the whole suite. After that piece, Creswick and Anderson played a Teleman canon for recorder — on violin and concertina! Again, amazing...

Jennifer Maidman (guitar) and Annie Whitehead (trombone)joined Anderson for some jazz numbers. Yes... jazz concertina... who would have thought it would work...?

And finally, "Clog on the Tyne" (how cool is that name?) — clog dancers! And rapper dancers! Rapper dancing is amazing... I have analysed the physics of it and concluded that it is not actually possible in three-dimensional space!

The whole evening was tremendous fun, even better than I imagined it would be. The only complaint is that with so many guests nobody was on stage for long enough. I would happily have sat through a full show from any of them.

I can't imagine anything like this happening again, so I'm really glad I was there for it.