Waldorf String Band for British Traditional Folk & Celtic Music.  Established 1987


Written by Rael Birns, October 2008

1987In 1987 when John Gnodde and I started Waldorf String Band, neither of us had any idea of how long the music relationship would last, and now 21 years later we are both astonished!

In those early days I met John at Buskers Folk Music Club in Johannesburg where we both shared a love for Celtic and more generally, the traditional folk music of UK and USA. We had both played these styles of Folk Music in our earlier ‘music lives' – John in South Africa, and I in UK. So it was a fairly natural thing for us to get together and try out some songs and tunes… and it seemed to work.

After a couple of months or so, we were joined by Iain McAlpine and Martin Edwards. The gigs and appearances started and rapidly the demand for our music grew and within a short space of time we were performing regular shows at Rakes and Gold Reef City in Johannesburg; festivals such as Splashy Fen; and as guests on SABC TV programmes like Sounds Country and the Cyril Green Show. Then during 1990 we were asked by SABC to record a TV special, which was directed by the late Ken Kirsten at Gold Reef City .

This led to our first commercial recording contract with Transistor Music, which was eventually bought out by RPM & Gallo. It was jointly produced by Des Lindberg and Chris Kritzinger and must have been one of the last vinyl albums released in South Africa during 1990. In 1993 this was followed by our recording Spirit Of Christmas, which is now released annually by Gallo Record Company.

Then in the mid ‘90s and early 2000's Martin Edwards and Iain McAlpine returned to UK and Waldorf String Band underwent a major change. John and I were joined by the folk singer and guitarist of note, Billy Dean; the legendary Nippy Cripwell on double bass; and the brilliant flautist Jimmy Smyth, all of whom added immense contributions to the newer arrangements of our music. This in turn triggered off a long-term relationship with Gallo Records, as over the next twelve years we recorded and released another seven CDs and three DVDs which includes the highly successful ‘Singalong Party' CD & DVD.

Sadly Billy Dean was lost to us in a motor car accident on New Year's Day 2005 and for some time a couple of very good friends in music - Sez Adamson and Alistair Coakley - ‘stood in' for him. But as often happens, the obvious replacement was ‘staring us in the face', and our dear friend Alan Strang, who had recorded backing vocals for us on our recordings, was finally recruited as a permanent member of Waldorf String Band.

Rael Birns (October 2008)


PO Box 652039, Benmore, 2010,  Gauteng, South Africa. Cell +27 (0)82 452 1100. [email protected]