“Two virtuoso musicians playing some of the most startling and original music you will ever encounter. Compelling, exciting and utterly original” Phil Beer

It’s the duo’s passion for spontaneity that has seen them being dubbed as the ingenious masters of folk-improv and gained them an enviable reputation for being a thrilling live act. Although Summerhayes prefers to explain their approach as: “turning folk music on its head. There’s something about the word ‘improvised’ that sounds woolly and there’s something much more coherent about what we’re making than just being an improvisation… We are creating in the moment together.”
Although it was the joy of creating music spontaneously that ultimately led to the pair working together, prior to this both musicians have forged highly successful careers in the classical world.

Summerhayes, who cites Vaughan Williams and Bartók as being key influences, was first taught the violin by his grandfather, Alex Whammond, who himself studied with Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky. An indication of his anarchic streak was evident from a young age when his mother would hear him practicing the violin and shout up to him: “Are you playing what you’re meant to be playing?” His response was always, “Absolutely not!”.

Grainger studied at the Royal Academy of Music and has long-standing familial connections to the Orkney islands so grew up steeped in Scottish folk music. He nearly ended up playing the bagpipes but it was on hearing a programme on BBC Radio 4 (The History of the Accordion by the Danish player Mogens Ellegaard), that made him decide to take up the accordion instead.
Like many acclaimed musical partnerships, it was a purely serendipitous encounter that first brought them together. Grainger was playing in an Edith Piaf tribute band when Summerhayes stepped in as the replacement fiddler on a gig. As Grainger recalls: “It just was an inexplicable and instant psychic connection. To have it on stage with somebody you’ve never played with before – it’s so rare.”
Besides the instantaneous musical chemistry, they also bonded over their love of good banter and beer. Initially they called themselves Dead Man’s Folk, however on discovering they both had an aversion for excessively hoppy craft ales, they started drinking cider instead which led them to becoming The Ciderhouse Rebellion (very much in the spirit of social movements such as the Levellers and the Chartists).

The change in name also coincided with a shift in their performance style. Previously they would have a pre-determined set-list and a fairly good idea of what they would play during a gig. “After that we abandoned such restrictions. We had a rebellion against being told what to do, even by ourselves!” Summerhayes also noted that the strongest element of their partnership was their capacity to improvise, so he suggested they try to capture this on record. This resulted in the recording of their first fully improvised track (‘Chapter 1’ on Untold, released Feb 2020). “It was quite an epiphany in many ways,” remarks Grainger. “It was as if suddenly all those barriers that we artificially create for ourselves disappeared, and it actually allowed me to play what I really wanted, and even things I didn’t know I wanted.”

“A work of startling, immediate beauty, disregarding the shackles of track parameters and continually discovering melodies and forms within the loose label of folk tradition” KLOF Mag (Untold, 2020)
Since then their chief modus operandi has been to capture the spontaneity of music making, in a completely unconscious way, with the only decision being what key to start in.
Whether performing as a duo, in The Haar, or on one of their many Lockdown YouTube videos, what is instantly apparent is their remarkable synergy and innate desire to create in-the-moment music that takes audiences on a thrilling and unexpected journey. As anyone who has seen them perform will attest, The Ciderhouse Rebellion are a superb live act. However they realised that their albums to date didn’t fully capture these intensely energetic and dynamic performances. That is, until now. So in an effort to rectify this, they are releasing not just one, but three very different albums.

In their inimitable defiant fashion The Ciderhouse Rebellion look set to shake up the folk world once again when they release all three of these albums simultaneously – and in CD-book format. Given the increasing digitalisation of music and the sheer number of albums being released, some might conclude that this is a madcap concept but then The Ciderhouse Rebellion have always gone against the grain.

Just as there was initial scepticism about their idea to create music in the moment, now their innovative and spontaneous performance style has sparked a trend that has seen other artists within the folk scene adopting a similar no-safety-net approach to music-making.
Ultimately they have a fervent belief that there should be no constraints on making art. As Summerhayes explains: “I strongly believe in creativity for and of itself… creativity without boundaries. You know how there’s always an internal critic that’s sitting on your shoulder saying ‘oh is this good enough? Is that what you want to do?’ The whole thing about The Ciderhouse Rebellion is rebellion against that internal critic; it’s just saying ‘let’s just do and create and make’.”

So in defiance of critics and convention, and as a way to show audiences the breadth and depth of their creativity, these works celebrate the incredible talent and synergy between two musicians who came together, thanks to Piaf and a love of beer.

“I became utterly bewitched by the beauty of what Summerhayes and Grainger had created. It could justifiably be described as a folk symphony, possessing cyclical completeness yet creating a form that is, at once, both elemental and pastoral.”
 Fatea Magazine