‘...when The Familiar Strangers hit their stride their blend of world folk styles was infectious...’
The Familiar Strangers are -
Rory McLeod - Voice, Guitar, Tap Shoes, Harmonica, Spoons, Trombone
Bob Morgan - Clarinet, Saxophone
Diego Laverde Rojas - Columbian Harp
Richard Sadler - Double Bass
Rory is a one man soul-band and poet! He has a troubadour's talent for weaving magical, musical, storytelling spells. The spoons, harmonica, guitar, trombone and tap dancing shoes accompany the ‘rich, raw, deep and resonant’ voice of this ‘singular and liberating performer’
Rory is a musical Gypsy, his eccentric melodies are infused with influences from Flamenco to blues, through to Celtic, East European and Calypso rhythms creating a style of music and songwriting that has been described as ‘intimate, revealing, political and powerful’
‘When he sings his songs he will take you on a journey with him’ ‘Poetry and dance-stories with verve, sharpness, humour and warmth about people and for people’ ‘Great songs to dance to, infectious rhythms, flying harmonica!’
An ex-circus clown and fire eater, Rory has played harmonica and guitar with Michelle Shocked, Ani Di Franco, Butch Hancock, Michael Franti, Townes Van Zandt, with the West-African guitarist Ali Farke-Toure and Taj Mahal and Madagascan group Tarika. He has enjoyed creative collaborations with Hassan Erraji, Kathryn Tickel, Paul Rodden and BJ Cole, virtuosos, respectively of the Moroccan Oud, the Northumbrian pipes, the Irish banjo and the pedal steel guitar.
Rory has written songs and music for a BBC radio documentary - an oral history project - about East London's 400 year old Spitalfields fruit and vegetable market.
Commissioned by 'Shiftwork', a Scottish dance and circus theatre based company devising a psycho-comedy theatre-show based on a traditional puppet play called Punch and Judy and to write music for TV animation series ‘Creature Comforts’ 2003. Appearances on Channel 4 arts programme 'After Image' and Welsh TV 'Television Ballads'.
In 1996 Rory was the BBC's Pick of The Week for his ‘Invoking The Spirits’ - a recording of a personal musical journey through Zimbabwe, searching for the Mbira, (an African thumb Piano) playing and talking with African musicians for the BBC's Radio 4.
Also commissioned to write songs and music for Scottish based, Tabularasa Dance Company, a dance-theatre piece for Children called ‘Huff Puff & Away’ about wind and breath and again in January 2010 to compose songs and music about Hadrian’s Wall, collaborating with other poets, musicians and writers.
Best Live Act - BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2002 - Texas Harmonica Champion 1981 - Edinburgh Festival Street Busker of the Year 1985.
Bob has a long collaborative history with Rory from his very earliest recordings, providing arrangements and solos designed to help project the lyrics and recreate the magic of the song in the imagination of the listener.
Bob is a successful composer for theatre, film and television in diverse genres. He was amongst the first intake of the ground breaking modern music course at the Leeds College of Music, gaining diplomas in both Jazz and Classical Music. He has a special interest in the musical interpretation of words and has studied opera both as a singer and a composer. On graduating he became the youngest ever musical director at Liverpool Playhouse.
‘Congratulations to .... the virtuoso clarinettist, this was something that really made you listen’ – The Financial Times
Bob performs in many styles, moving through Reggae, Jazz, Free Improvisation and The Blues towards World Music and has toured and recorded in Europe and the US, most notably in the footsteps of Sun Ra when heading up the Halloween Parade down New York’s 6Th Avenue with The Repeatos. He put together the improvising orchestra The Angel of The Odd to accompany classic silent movies and created a new genre in his music of wit and charm for children’s television. Bob has also worked extensively with young people, co-creating the first recording studio and record label within a youth club.
‘Honks away on sax ..... a master of the art’ – The Guardian
His composing and improvising credits include:
Theatre - Numerous productions of Shakespeare, the first professional production of Brecht’s The Last Days of the Commune, Ken Campbell’s 24 hour play The Warp, West End production of Leave him to Heaven,
TV - Title, Gallery themes and incidental music for Tony Hart’s BAFTA winning BBC children’s art series Take Hart and Hart Beat
Film – Video series Ireland, Zanskar, the Lost Kingdom
Dance - Protein Dance Company’s (In)visible Dancing
Music Library - several albums, tracks widely used including on Eastenders
‘The best piano yet on Vinyl’ – New Musical Express
Bob has also recorded/performed with: Dennis Bovell, Bonga & the Vodou Drums of Haiti, Diabel Cissokho, Phil Manzanera, Sugar Minott, Jeff Nutall, Ian Seigal, Joe Strummer and Amy Winehouse.
From Bogotá, Colombia, Diego has been playing the ‘Llanera’ (low land) Harp since 1982. This particular harp design is the product of the European influence, and has been adopted in a beautiful area between Colombia and Venezuela called ‘Los Llanos’ (the plains).
In Colombia, he taught in various music academies and was director of the Folkloric Lowland's group of the Central University of Bogotá. He has toured the world as a musician with the Ballet Folklorico Colombiano.
Since coming to the United Kingdom, he has been involved in different festivals as a performer and teacher around England, Scotland, Wales and Europe.
Edinburgh Harp Festival,Scotland (2003, 2006), Stamford Harp Festival, England (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010), Carnaval del Pueblo, England (2003 and 2004), Mosenbergh and Lauterbach Harp Festival, Germany (2005,2006,2010, 2012, 2014), Süddeutsche Harp Festival, organised by The Institute for Harp, sound and healing in Southern Germany (2010,2013), Clarsach Society, London Branch Harp Weekend Sept. 2006, Spring String Weekend, Knighton North Wales March 2007, Seduced By Harps, Lommel, Belgium 2009,
Royal Albert Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, with ‘Ensamble Criollo’, supporting Buena Vista Social Club and Salsa Celtica (2009,2010), Glastonbury Festival as part of Georgy Pope Band (2010) and with The Familiar Strangers in 2011.
In South Africa, he represented Colombia in the Ibero American Festival organised by the Colombian Embassy in Pretoria, 2004.
Diego works as a solo performer, as well as a member of many different projects. He is a founder member of Ensamble Criollo, Folkloric Band featuring as a priority traditional music from the Colombo-Venezuelan plains; they expand their repertoire to cover music from different Latin American countries.
‘Sadler’s playing is tight, powerful and positive...– he’s an emphatic presence’ – Bruce Lindsay – All About Jazz
Richard moved to London in 1989, giving himself five years to succeed or fail as a musician… Since then he played regularly across all genres – jazz, pop, blues, rock & roll…even country! He continues to work as a musician, composer and sound engineer.
As a founding member of the Neil Cowley Trio, he performed on their first three albums, touring extensively worldwide with the trio, contributing to the writing and arranging. In 2006, they were presented with a ‘BBC jazz award’ and even made it to ‘Later with Jools Holland’ on the BBC!
He has worked as a studio session musician (eg Ray Davies (Kinks), Paul Weller, Tom Jones)
As a jazz musician, he has played and continues to play with many great players.
He has played at major festivals in the UK (Glastonbury, The Big Chill, London Jazz Festival etc) He has played in major venues in UK from Queen Elizabeth Hall to Ronnie Scott’s, etc and has played at jazz clubs and festivals in USA (Rochester, New York), Canada (Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto), Australia (Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne) , New Zealand (Auckland, Queenstown) Thailand, most of Europe (not quite all tho!!)…
TV – Later With Jools Holland, RTE Eire. Radio – sessions for BBC Radio 3 and 6 (Jazz Line Up and Tom Robinson)