Small hall to national arena

Borders ceilidh band, The Small Hall Band will be among traditional music royalty this weekend at the finals of the MG ALBA Scots Trad Awards ceremony in Dundee.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 2nd December 2015, 1:31 pm
The Small Hall Band from the Borders has been nominated nominated for a MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Award
The Small Hall Band from the Borders has been nominated nominated for a MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Award

The band has been nominated in the Community Music category, and former Small Hall Band member accordionist Andrew Waite from Chirnside has been nominated in the Up and Coming Artist of the Year.

Andrew (21) honed his skills in gigs in the Borders and Northumberland.

The winner of the Up and Coming Artist is decided by public vote and he is hoping his local fan base will support him.

Exposed to traditional Scottish music from a young age – his grandfather John Hamilton was a gifted accordion player – Andrew began lessons at the age of eight with Ian Lothian and won a place in youth ensemble Folkestra run by Kathryn Tickell.

For the best part of 20 years the Small Hall Band, made up of youngsters from the age of seven through to adults of indeterminate age, has been playing to audiences across the Borders and north Northumberland.

Meeting originally in Birgham Village Hall, taking its name the Small Hall Band, from the fact that it met in the small hall.

“It was started by a small group of families who enjoyed playing Scottish Traditional music,” explained Liz Marroni, who has been with the band since it started in 1995.

“Joining in is free, the only requirements being an interest in learning and playing traditional music and a willingness to give time, and have fun participating in concerts, ceilidhs, and music sessions.

“Parents have always been involved both as musicians and as organisational helpers, particularly with transport, although many have also learned instruments. Band members and families/friends come from different areas in the Scottish Borders and north Northumberland as we are situated just outside Coldstream. Our monthly practices are always highly sociable, with home made cakes featuring strongly.”

The band has played in over 100 different venues, many of them small village halls, across south east Scotland, north Northumberland and beyond, bringing traditional music, song and ceilidh dancing to many communities and hopefully inspiring others to join.

“At times the band has had as many as 39 folks on stage, mostly between the ages of seven and 17, plus some adults playing fiddle, flute, whistle, piano, guitar, banjo, cajon and mandolin players,” added Liz.

“Although membership has naturally changed over the years, many of the original members, including several who are now established professional musicians working internationally – Innes Watson, Lori Watson, Carly Blain, Christina Marroni - keep in regular touch and still play with us on occasions.

“Many others continue their involvement with music in their own families – including Andrew Waite, Chris Waite, Lillias Kinsman Blake and Rachel Cross.”

Coldstream resident Anne Hyslop said of their nomination: “Best community band ever that has so many past members making music professionally. They learned to love music of all kinds through being band members!”

The Small Hall Band’s next event will be a new year family ceilidh in the Coldstream Community Centre on Saturday, January 2, 2016.