Skylarking is a 3-piece ceilidh band based in central Suffolk, England, where they are best known for their exciting blend of traditional music from Britain, France, Spain and Italy. Melodies led by bagpipes from Central France and Galicia, counter melodies on fiddle, and middle ground filled by melodeon are all well and good; but you don’t get people dancing with an interesting tune - you need a groove. So to give their unique repertoire drive and ‘danceability’, they use computer-generated rhythm tracks, which also help align the unusual European rhythms with English-style dances. Trad Disco!

"You don’t get people dancing with an interesting tune - you need a groove"


They specialise in modern folk dance music which is perfect for your social occasions such as weddings, parties or ceilidhs. They provide the music, PA and caller, you provide the fun. It's always a pleasure to play for an enthusiastic dancing audience and you'll find their musical style suits all ages and the called dances fun and easy to do.


To hear a sample of their music click on a sample track below.

Don't forget to turn up your sound!


News and Features


European Folk and Dance Music


I have always felt proud of England’s heritage of music and dance, and I’m very pleased to be part of its continued exposure and development. So much so that I recently began to wonder whether I was betraying my ‘roots’ by not sticking to a consistently English repertoire when I play in Skylarking. When I really started thinking about this dilemma, it did not take me long to find a way to put my mind at rest…

When I’m not thinking about, or listening to, or playing music, I like to go birding: I started doing it at about the same time as I first played in a band. My wife introduced me to the subject and I soon realised that it’s an interest that is best shared – just like music. After a while, we found that we’d seen lots of British birds, and wanted to look for something different: to broaden our knowledge, to experience the excitement of coming across something new, or maybe just to come across birds we were familiar with in a new and interesting setting.


So we began to go birding abroad, to mainland Europe - nowhere that we might encounter strange and exotic species; I know that I would find that too confusing. I’m happy with things that are familiar to me but different enough to make them interesting: I need points of reference, rather than finding everything new and strange.

And over the years, the same has happened with my interest in music. Having spent many years playing English tunes, I felt that I wanted to broaden my horizons – but not by listening to music so foreign to my ear that it made no sense or simply wasn’t enjoyable. Led by members of the bands, past and present, in which I have played, I came to appreciate folk music from further afield – most commonly France, Spain and Italy: it is different enough to make it exciting to play, familiar enough to make it comprehensible and comfortable to work with.

That is why, when listening to Skylarking performing, someone with a knowledge of English folk music might think ‘They’re playing a jig’ when, in fact we’re playing a Spanish muiniera, or it might be an Italian tarantella. ‘Is that an English reel?’ No, it’s more likely to be a French bourree or a Spanish Paso Doble. ‘This one’s in 3-time. A waltz?’ Sorry, no. It’s a jota!  And so on.

So our music is familiar enough to the ear that it works as either a listening or a dancing experience, yet it is made up of elements that will be unfamiliar to most people in our (English) audiences and at our dances. I doubt if I will be able to persuade you to take up birding, but I hope that you’ll enjoy the experience of dancing to Skylarking’s unusual, probably unique, repertoire.

And, yes, I still go birding in England, and I still love English traditional music.

Steve Wiles

Alex Bartholomew

Alex started playing the violin aged 7, is classically trained and played in local youth Chamber/Symphony orchestras. Alex has had her current violin for over 20 years. It's believed to have been made in Markneukirchen, Saxony - a town famous for making instruments for over 300 years and is thought to be just under 250 years old.

Steve Wiles

Steve is the band’s caller, with a repertoire of dances suitable for all ages and all levels of expertise. His main instrument is the melodeon, which he first picked up to provide music for Morris. His playing style acts like a rhythm guitar, sitting between the melody instruments and the bass/drums. Having gone through Hohners and Salterelles, he currently plays a Castagnari Mori, unconventionally tuned. Steve plays a Recording King acoustic guitar in Double Dropped-D tuning, and very occasionally an Epiphone SG in cittern tuning or a conventionally tuned Fender Strat. He uses Cakewalk software to create the percussion backing tracks, which are then refined by the other band members. This results in a sound that is regularly heard in discos and clubs, but rarely at ceilidhs, backing melodeon, fiddle and bagpipes.

Sarah Holmes

Sarah is a classically trained oboist who plays the wind instruments in the band. During a visit to the annual music festival at St Chartier, Central France, she bought a beautiful set of French bag-pipes and so began playing the Musette with the band. She has recently extended the instrument collection and now also has a Gaita (Spanish bagpipe) and a saxophone as well.

Roland, the mysterious fourth member of Skylarking

Why does Skylarking use a machine as its fourth member?


Rhythm is an integral part of the human experience from birth onwards: from our heartbeats when we’re born to the cycle of day and night, rhythm makes the world work.

Despite this, in most cultures of the Western World, it seems that melody and harmony have always been regarded as the pure, spiritual elements of music, with rhythm and dance being the meaningless or unimportant aspects.


Elsewhere, however, rhythm and movement have always symbolised and strengthened the bonds between people; which is why, in some societies, people affirm their unity by dancing together and in others, dance music is regarded by many as mindless pap.

Based on the rhythms of Africa, Blues was the genesis of the modern musical age, as much for its groove as anything else. From jazz, through Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll, into pop and contemporary ‘dance’ music, it is the rhythm of the music that makes people tap their feet, clap their hands or get up and dance: not the melody.


English dance music has traditionally had a strong, identifiable melodic bias – to such an extent that, in some bands, all instruments are engaged with the tune. Skylarking believes - very strongly - that you don’t get people dancing with an interesting tune: you need a groove. However, in a small 3-piece band such as ours, having one person playing percussion takes something away from the interplay of melody instruments which is a feature of our style – unless we resort to modern technology.

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Please read the booking terms and conditions which we hope you will find helpful. It also contains some information about the venue requirements.

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