The High Level Ranters originally came together through Folk Song and Ballad Newcastle, one of the first folk clubs in Britain. The Bridge Hotel, in which a folk club still meets, is situated at the North end of the High Level bridge. The group took their name from the bridge, and also from the rant step, used in local dances such as the Morpeth Rant. The original Ranters began playing together as a band in the early 1960's, when the folk song revival was in full swing. Instrumental folk music was practically unheard in the folk clubs at the time, but the Ranters proved that traditional British dance tunes could be just as interesting and exciting to listen to as the songs. Their fine spirited playing of rants, reels, jigs, and hornpipes pointed the direction that this form of British folk music was to take. The band draws extensively upon the wealth of Northumbrian music in both dance and song, and remains closely in touch with the country areas where traditional musicians still make music at home and in the pubs. Music hall songs from Newcastle also have an important place in their repertoire - but apart from their own tradition in the North East of England they also enjoy playing and singing songs and tunes from all over the British Isles. The Ranters unique sound is produced by combinations of the small pipes, fiddle, accordion, tin whistle and piano. A typical Ranters concert is a balance between group instrumental and singing, with solos by individual members of the band. The total effect is an immensely versatile and highly entertaining performance, and their group and solo skills are in great demand at festivals, for workshops, concerts, sessions and singarounds.

Today the High Level Ranters are known as one of the longest standing traditional bands in the country, losing none of their enthusiasm for entertaining audiences. Whilst their line-up and instrumentation has changed and evolved over the years, they undoubtedly remain one of the leading exponents of the traditional music of the North East of England.


Jim Hall

Being born in Gateshead, Jim grew up with many of the songs and tunes which are such an important part of the Ranters repertoire. He played these and many other music-hall songs on the piano in pubs around Tyneside in his student days before becoming seriously involved in traditional music and in particular the Northumbrian small pipes. He quickly became an outstanding player and won many competitions, played at festivals and concerts both in this country and abroad, and made radio and television appearances. In addition, he plays the piano with the band.

Johnny's reputation as an entertainer was well established before the Ranters were formed, for he had already recorded several of his own songs, and written scripts for radio and T.V. documentaries on folk music and community life in the North East. Johnny, who came to traditional music from Ragtime, Jazz, Skiffle and Bluegrass music, was a founder member of Folk Song and Ballad Newcastle. 13 years in the mines gave him an interest in songs of the coalfields.
He now plays accordion and piano with the Ranters and is their natural front man. His verbal improvisation and Bible stories told in irreverent dialect are guaranteed to throw the most unresponsive audience into uproar!

Colin Ross

One of the original members of the band and a continuing influence in the group with his strongly rhythmic fiddle playing. His earlier experience as a folk dance musician shows clearly when he is leading the band in the ceilidhs they also play for. He also plays the tin whistle for accompanying the singing, but is now better known for his making and playing of the North-East's own instrument, the Northumbrian small pipes. He is a full time pipe maker, and has taken an active part in the Northumbrian Pipers Society for many years, being its current Chairman.

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