PaintedI’ve seen Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble on stage just once and it was an exciting experience. It was a small theatre and I reckon there were more people on stage than there were in the audience – what a sound – and Joe says that they might have turned it up a bit on Painted, their first studio venture, recorded to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. The CFE is an international band and its composition is dependent on which students study the module that leads to its formation for the annual summer tour. There are fifty-six musicians on this album drawn from all over Europe and the far east; that’s a full orchestra of strings, woodwinds and brass plus the guitars, basses and percussion drawn from the modern folk scene.

So, what’s good? Pretty much everything, really. The set begins with two traditional Irish tunes, ‘Banish Misfortune/Poll Ha’Penny’ followed by Sal Broughton’s ‘The Graduate’, a piece that embodies the ethos of the Ensemble – there are no auditions, just a commitment to hard work. ‘Cant De Batre’ and ‘Pimentons Torrats Amb Oli I Sal’ are both Spanish, the latter written by and both arranged by Daniel Blanco Albert. Then it’s back to the Irish and ‘Fairy Dance’ and all I can say is that these are bloody powerful fairies.

Rosie Tunley sings ‘Rain And Snow’, the song from the USA that has so many titles and compasses so many floating verses and now the record is reaching its peak. ‘The Butterfly/Kodo’, the latter written by Yoshida Kenichi, is magnificent and I love the way that ‘Tek Bir Güneşin Altinada Yürüyoruz’ is handed over to the brass section to do with as they will. Julie Claire takes lead vocal on Kevin Dempsey’s version of ‘William Taylor’ before the set closes with the jazzy ‘Две ръченици/Lattinmore’.

In a live show the CFE would just be warming up for the second set but they know to leave us wanting more. They will be on tour through until August and I urge you to seek them out.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

There are no videos of this year’s ensemble yet but here are last year’s team playing ‘Fairy Dance’ at their final performance: