Medieval one-man band from High Kelling set for summer tour

A car driven by a young man roars through a quiet market place and shoppers wince as top-volume dubstep music blasts from its open windows.

Step back 500 years and imagine a fresh-cheeked swain careering up that same market place in a donkey cart. He's making the equivalent 16th-century ear-splitting noise - blowing on a rauschpfeife.

'It can knock out a pigeon at 50 yards; it makes an incredibly loud noise,' says Robert FitzGerald, 67, proud owner and accomplished player of a large historic instrument collection of which the rauschpfeife is just the latest addition.

Next month he will be once again be entertaining audiences across Norfolk with the varied sweet, mellow, reedy and even 'quite rude' sounds of instruments with weird and wonderful names including: krummhorns, cornamuses, korholts, dulzaina, and sorduns.

The former City financier, who lives in High Kelling, near Holt, has been able to indulge and share his passion for medieval and Renaissance music since retiring some 10 years ago, and if he can't track down a particular instrument somewhere in Europe he will make it himself.

DIY is a bit of a speciality with Mr FitzGerald whose craftsmanship extends to creating his own one-man musical combo, called King Henry's Band.

Book the band for your 'gig' and the curtain will rise on Mr FitzGerald, surrounded by five empty music stands.

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'I say something like 'those feckless layabouts have let me down again but, never mind, I've got a Plan B,'' he explained.

Cue a multi-layered backing ensemble of many early instruments, each played and painstakingly pre-recorded by Mr FitzGerald, which he then accompanies, live, on anything up to 15 instruments during a performance.

'It works surprisingly well and people are habitually amazed, or so I'm told,' he said. 'All the music that I play is authentic, light-hearted and tuneful. I don't set out to deliver a learned lecture, just to entertain.

'The benefits of the band only being me is that when I'm organising a rehearsal I only have to ask myself, myself, myself and myself - although it's very difficult if you want to fire one of the players.'

Mr FitzGerald, who is musical co-ordinator at Salthouse Church, can spend anything from one to three hours perfecting a two-minute recording to accompany his live performances of music from the 13th to the 16th centuries.

Previous appearances have included a five-hour marathon during Salthouse's St Nicholas Day Medieval Fair three years ago and a concert at last year's Holt summer festival.

King Henry's Band now has bookings through to 2013 and can be seen next in Salthouse Church on Sunday June 5 during a 'come and go as you like' event from 2.15pm to 4.30pm. 'They' are also at Thornage Church on July 22 at 7pm, and Wells Parish Church on August 20 at 7.30pm.

Mr FitzGerald performs for free and is happy for the band to support good causes. He would be pleased to hear from anyone organising an event later in the year for armed services charities and can be contacted on 01263 711343.

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