Excellence meets entertainment

Over the past week, The Oxford Fiddle Group has entertained five separate audiences in five different parts of the Algarve and during that time have been instrumental (sorry about the pun) in helping to raise more than €3,000 for charitable organisations. What makes a disparate group of people like The Oxford Fiddle Group such a delight to listen to and what motivates them to spend a week in the Algarve to help others? Sheena Rawcliffe met the eight members of the group at The Holiday Inn in Armação de Pêra, to thank them for bringing such joy to the Algarve and to get to know a little more about them.

The Oxford Fiddle Group actually numbers over 20 players, with the group meeting weekly; although it is hoped that musicians turn up each week, the arrangement is relatively informal.  The group’s members range from early 20s to considerably more than that; it would have been indiscreet to ask how young the oldest musician was!

It soon became apparent that the single most important thing about their music was passion!

Jed Mugford, Tom Bell-Richards, Chris Mills, Marilyn Mills, Rita Blewitt, Peter Day, Christine Ellis and Adrian Broadway all have day jobs; there is a strong thread of education running through many of the players, with the group also including a graphic designer, a chartered accountant and a puppeteer.

Individually the players learnt various musical instruments from an early age, but as is so often the case, the real joy of music was not appreciated until much later in life.

At no stage or age has any of the eight made a profession of music. And at no stage or age have any of them believed that it was too late to learn something new when it comes to musical instruments or new musical pieces.

For the one thing which generally makes these fiddlers different from violinists is that they play by ear. They all felt without exception that playing by ear adds to their passion and the joy that they gain from their playing, as well as the delight they offer to their audiences.  

There are many lights being hidden under various bushels in the group. A great sense of humour is one of the attributes which the Fiddle Group all have, but the natural comedians are Adrian and Pete.

Adrian gave up full-time headship, after 30 years as a teacher, to become what he describes as a full-time puppeteer. His mission is to take performing arts to those still in education, as well as offering an entertaining experience at parties and other informal gatherings.

Pete, who smiled continually during our chat, has a great affinity to music from the Shetland Isles and has for the past several years spent the summer in the Shetlands enjoying the music played there and, of course, joining in.

He spoke of the young people on the Shetlands, all of whom learn to play the fiddle and their commitment to keep this important part of Shetland life strong.

The fiddle music from the Shetlands is different from that of Scotland mainland, something which was firmly expressed during the Shetland set which was played at The Holiday Inn gig.

And then there is Tom. Tom is the chartered accountant and he is the leader of the group when they are playing. When asked why, there was no simple answer; it just sort of happened.

But Tom’s slight reticence to ‘big himself up’ was lost when the others spoke very highly of him. Chris spoke for them all when he said it was always a great pleasure to play with Tom as he has an incredibly good rhythm, particularly when playing the fiddle.

However, Tom’s great playing rhythm is just part of his musical abilities, as he also makes musical instruments. The fiddle which he was playing here in the Algarve was made by his own fair hand and he has also made mandolins for himself and for Chris. Sadly, easyJet’s baggage policy did not allow for these to be brought to the Algarve.

The Oxford Fiddle Group agreed to play in Armação de Pêra, S. Brás, Luz, Silves and Tavira with events being organised through Lin, Jed’s sister.  They were only too pleased to be able to share their music with the audiences (each event was sold out with waiting lists for tickets) and were even more pleased that three of the events raised great sums of money for Help for Heroes, Madrugada, and Centre Algarve.

Thanks must also go to Alison Blair, Carole Goode-Dixon and Lynne Booker for the great effort they put into making the charity events such a success.

It was evident when speaking to the eight musicians that the Algarve is a place they enjoy visiting – and we enjoyed having them here. We look forward to their next visits.

Websites which you may find useful:

Oxford Fiddle Group: www.oxfordfiddle.co.uk

Online Magazine for Fiddlers: www.fiddleon.co.uk

Puppeteer Adrian’s website: www.handuptheatre.co.uk

Do you play the fiddle? Would you like to meet like-minded musicians? Perhaps it is time the Algarve had its own fiddle group!

Email the Algarve Resident at [email protected]


Fundraising dinner a huge success

Restaurant Gusto Bar and Grill in Praia da Luz hosted a sold-out fundraising event for the charity Madrugada on Friday, February 17.

Attended by charity members and guests alike, the €20 tickets included a meal, wine and entertainment from the Oxford Fiddle Group, who played for the event free of charge.

Guests were treated to the speciality of Gusto’s grilled Madeiran skewers, which arrived sizzling to the table.

As the weather was still fairly cold outside it was also a welcome relief to find the venue warmed up quickly with over 100 guests enjoying the live musical entertainment.

The group of eight fiddle players introduced by member Adrian Broadway noted they were only part of a 18-strong group and played a number of popular Irish, Scottish and American songs while some guests even joined in with a bit of dancing.

Alison Blair, the founder and director of Madrugada, said she was thrilled with the turn-out to the event as she stood up to thank everyone for coming as well as the staff at Gusto’s and everyone involved in the charity’s work. A total of €900 was raised for Madrugada on the night.

The evening was also attended by Clive Jewell, British Consul to the Algarve who spoke in support of the good work done by the charity and the strong bonds formed by the community within the Algarve.

Emma Bertenshaw

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