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Rant's chamber-folk secrets shared with Fèis Rois

By Kyle Walker

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Bringing together 16 musicians for an evening of traditional music sounds like the sort of thing that would require months of planning.

Fiddle four-piece Rant – Bethany Reid, Jenna Reid, Lauren MacColl and Anna Massie – are aiming to do just that. The chamber-pop group are bringing 12 of Feis Rois’s most talented young fiddle-players with them when they play the Ironworks on Sunday night.

Featuring songs from Rant’s two albums, the young musicians have had the sheet music for months now, honing the music to a pinpoint.

There’s only one final hurdle left to clear – everybody actually has to meet up for the first time.

“We’ll meet them on the Saturday morning and we’ll work away all weekend,” Lauren explained. “All the music’s written out, it’s all scored, it’s all there for them – but yeah...

“We’ll only meet as a 16-piece the day before to bring it all together, so that’s the added pressure for them and for us because we’ve not met most of them before.

“But all these young players, they’re very used to that kind of workshopping scenario with music and...”

She pauses, before laughing. “Yeah, I suppose it does sound a little bit like a bootcamp – but we’re not going to work them too hard!”


With the Highlands being the size it is however, such a late meeting can be easily forgiven. “They’re travelling from all over, we’ve got a student coming from Knoydart and some from up in Sutherland.

“So it needs to work like that but it’s important for us to have a spread of youngsters from different areas that maybe don’t get a chance to play together.

“Although you know some of them will have met each other before, so it’s a nice social experience as well.”

This isn’t the first time that Rant have taken on this sort of project however – the 4:4 idea started life as a one-off Celtic Connections performance in 2017. That time it featured students from the Central Belt.

“We were keen to do something that was more project based,” Lauren explained. “We were doing a lot of gigs in our own right, and we all do teaching on different levels - we’ve all got private pupils and we’re all really keen on the idea of passing on what we do.

“And it seemed like quite a good educational strand, I suppose, to basically take what we do and allowing ourselves time to look in depth at what we’re doing as a band and how we’re arranging and pass that on.

“So really that was the first thought – that it would be just great to work with some young people and show them what it is that we do, and how they can approach arranging music.”

And working together with Feis Rois to deliver this latest version seemed like the natural step forward for Highlanders Rant – Lauren and bandmate Anna (both from Fortrose) learned the traditional music crafts through the Feis’s tuition.

“Yeah, and all four of us as a band have experienced learning classically and playing traditional music as well when we were youngsters,” Lauren added. “Those two strands coming together are I suppose another important part of what we’re doing.

“Yeah, we’re playing trad music – but it’s in a slightly more chamber music presentation if you like, so we find ourselves doing all sorts of different gigs that are more chamber orientated festivals or that kind of thing.

“So working with the Feis I suppose was a natural progression to do something in the Ness, and we’ve got the best access to the best youngsters up here.”

And those youngsters and Rant will combine to create a massive sound – the 16 fiddles creating an amplification that the band hope will fill ever square inch of the Ironworks.

“With the gigs that we tend to do we try to use minimal amplification,” Lauren said.

“I mean historically, at the beginnings of our kind of music from the 18th Century, in order to get volume before PA you had to multiply, so it’s a nice kind of full circle to kind of come back to that.

“Yeah, we’ll be using amplification obviously, but it’s minimal so that really what you’re hearing are the raw volumes of all those instruments playing together – it’s a big sound.”

But while the group hope that the sound will be big enough to have audiences leaving with the sounds of the Strathbogie Toast ringing in their ears, ultimately this night is about the Feis students – this is an educational experience as much as it is a performing one, after all.

“I hope participants will get the opportunity to focus on the sound that they’re making and their instruments,” she said. “Because obviously they’re all playing the same thing, they’re all specialising in the same song.

“Sometimes when they’re learning in bigger groups you don’t often get the chance to focus on what they’re really doing.

“But also they should have fun with it and experience putting on a concert – live trad music doesn’t need to make people jump up and down, it can be really thoughtful performance music as well.

“So it’ll give them the chance to do a really lovely focused gig as well.”

Rant, alongside young players from Feis Rois, play the Ironworks on Sunday night. Doors open at 7.30pm, and tickets cost £12 advance (£10 concession advance). For more information, go to www.rantfiddles.com

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