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For Knight and Spiers, Folk is a Risky Business

Updated: Feb 27

Peter Knight with violin and bow in one hand and the other hand in an open gesture speaking to 5 people all listening to him

Knight and Spiers Improvisation Workshop and Concert

17 February 2024, St Mary’s Church Guildford

The Workshop

Improvisation can be a discomforting and unfamiliar thing for players of traditional music. Perhaps that was why we didn’t see the same rush for Knight and Spiers workshop seats as we did for their concert tickets. Undaunted, we knew that this was going to be a rare and unique treat for the 21 brave musicians who turned up at St Mary’s on a grey Saturday afternoon, looking a little uncertain and fearful.

Just as an empathetic, skilled horse rider calms a nervous thoroughbred, Peter’s soothing words and firm guidance, and John’s trusted accompaniment, soon had everyone listening to each other and playing as one, filling the acoustic space above us with layered drones and riffs.

This was only the warm up.

It isn’t every day that you have the chance to jam, one-to-one with Peter Knight, but this was exactly what all our workshoppers did in the course of the afternoon. There was no time for fear, no point in thinking “I’m not good enough.” It was time to be in the moment and to let music flow!

What our participants said:

“I found the workshop an amazing combination of terrifying, exciting, liberating and inspirational, if that is not too many adjectives!”

“It was a really inspiring afternoon and evening. Thank you Folk Inspiration so much for organising it, and to Knight and Spiers for sharing your wonderful music with us.”

“Thanks for organising such a profoundly different event 😊

The Concert

With every space in the nave filled with seats at St Mary’s, Peter and John had to make their entrance through the South Transept and St Mary’s Chapel, passing the altar to come downstage into the Anglo-Saxon tower.

As if sensing the centuries of life that passed over these stones, Knight and Spiers started to play. There was no need for words. Bowed strings and air flowing through reeds started to evoke a timeless and familiar melody, a musical meditation that, as Peter described after they finished, “eventually became Scarborough Fair”.

Through the evening, Peter and John would alight on a particularly beautiful tune in their folk repertoire, traditional or contemporary, sending it up into the skies. With their invention, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance took flight, hovered above us, as if toying with an updraft, before returning gracefully to earth. The loping notes that we recognise grounding us again.

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything”, Peter told us. Just as we were getting comfortable with their game, he and John would take improvisation further, stretching our imaginations and giving us permission to step with them into the unknown.  Knight and Spiers showed us folk can be a risky business - and it was GLORIOUS!

Thanks to our brave and beautiful workshop participants and to everyone who bought a ticket to the concert.

A heartfelt thank you to Peter Knight and John Spiers for risking all and to Harry O’Sullivan on sound for enhancing the beauty of St Mary’s acoustics.

Thanks also to the lovely team at Holy Trinity & St Mary's Parish Office for allowing us to use the beautiful St Mary's Church for our workshops and concerts.

Our gigs couldn’t run without the help of our volunteers. Huge thanks to Barbara and Carole behind the bar and to my Mum for her irresistible brownies and her morale support.

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