East Anglian Traditional Music Trust
Stepdance Day 2016 (new)
Melodeons and More 2016 (updated)
This year's Stepdance Day took place on Sunday 24th July in a new location, is in the village of Occold near Eye in mid Suffolk. The village made us very welcome, especially Danny, the new landlord at the Beaconsfield Arms and Barry from the Village Hall. We had a good turnout of stepdancers and although our younger regulars were elsewhere this year, we were very pleased to welcome several new dancers.
Doreen West O'Connor presents Lenny Whiting with the Percy West O'Connor Award.
Best Newcomer Irene Apps in action, with music from Steven Matthews.
|James Abbot in action.|
2016 winners were:
Steve Monk Competition: overall winner - Doreen West O'Connor; 2nd place Mo Allum; 3rd place Famie Fowler; best newcomer Irene Apps.
Font Whatling Competition: winner Simon Ritchie; 2nd place Robert Hunt; 3rd place Doreen West
Percy West O'Connor Award: winner Lenny Whiting; 2nd place Lesley Riding; 3rd place David Brooks.
Click here for a set of photos taken by Barry Woods.
|Traditional Music Day 2016|
Not just one, but TWO of our 2016 guests won amazing awards in 2015!
We're in the final throes of putting the programme together now and it's full to bursting of good things to listen to or join in with. A new addition this year is the mobile stage from the John Peel Centre. We'll be using this small stage for our site entertainers. The John Peel Centre for Creative Arts is in the centre of Stowmarket and has reinvigorated the live music and arts scene in the last few years. Otherwise, there's lots of opportunities to hear our main guests, Nancy Kerr, Roisin White, The Dartmoor Boys, Peta Webb & Ken Hall and Michael Sheehy, as well as join in with singing or music sessions, stepdancing and ceilidh dancing.
Headlining the guest list is the wonderful Nancy Kerr (bottom row left), one of the most celebrated folk musicians of her generation, who was voted the BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year 2015 amongst many other accolades for her sparkling musicianship and impassioned performances. She is supported by equally compelling singers Roisin White , winner of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Singer of the Year Award in 2015 (bottom, 2nd left) and Peta Webb and Ken Hall (bottom, 3rd left). On the musical side, the ever-popular Dartmoor Boys (Mark Bazeley, Jason Rice, Thomas and Charlie White, (top row left) travel east for a welcome return and the English Dulcimer Duo (top right) featuring Sue Harris and Lisa Warburton make a rare appearance. There’s also fine Irish music from Michael Sheehy (bottom right).
These guests are just one aspect of this very distinctive and characterful event which features many local stepdancers, traditional musicians and singers, as well as a backline of regular visitors who frequently grace the stages of other festivals. There is plenty for all the family to get involved in: trying out instruments, joining in the singing and dancing, listening to stories and songs and viewing this year’s special exhibition of dulcimers, including locally made instruments from the nineteenth century.
The wonderful setting of the Museum of East Anglian Life in the centre of Stowmarket provides lots of small historic buildings enabling us to run about thirty different events around the site during the day, and in the evening there's just the one acoustic concert in the atmospheric setting of the medieval Tithe Barn, featuring all the main guests.
Tickets for the Traditional Night Out in the Tithe Barn are sold separately, so you can come for the day, the evening, or for the best experience, come to both!
Traditional Music Day tickets (and Traditional Night Out tickets) are available from 10th May.
Daytime tickets give access to all events (space permitting) and the museum site from 10am-5.30pm. On the day, only ordinary museum entrance tickets are available which do allow access to a limited range of free events, but not the concerts or other indoor events.
Full details are on the Traditional Music Day page of this website.
The latest in our series of articles about Vaughan Williams' folk song collecting in the eastern counties is now available to read here. In January 2016 we were invited to talk to the Pulham Society about local music and singing and took the opportunity to share our latest researches into dulcimer players from the vicinity and also to unearth further information about the singers visited by Vaughan Williams in 1911.
We were able to positively identify all the singers and flesh out their life stories somewhat. There will be links through to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library online database for all the songs, just as soon as there's a couple more hours free to do it! And a few more photos coming in soon, too. Take a look at the work so far and find out more about Blue Fisher, Mr Woods and the singing landlords at the Gissing Three Horseshoes and the Scole Greyhound
We have just revamped all the information about Vaughan Williams' collecting in the region, which is of interest to local and family historians as well as those interested in the folksongs themselves. You can now access all the information and photographs through the Vaughan Williams in the East webpage.
We have also started to provide links from this website directly through to Vaughan Williams' original notations of the songs, which are housed on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website and digitised through the English Folk Dance and Song Society's project 'The Full English' - so far we have done the King's Lynn and South Norfolk material.
Melodeons and More 2016
This year's event, on Saturday 19th March was the best attended yet and had a great atmosphere, full of bonhomie as well as music. We welcomed many people to Suffolk for the first time amongst the 'old hands' and had a superb line-up of tutors and guests for the evening concert.
Workshop subjects included looking in detail at more unusual tune types in the traditional repertoire, such as 3/2 hornpipes and slow airs, as well as how to put some lift and shape into your music when playing for dancing.
The evening concert was a marvellous event, so many talented musicians, each with their own style. One highlight amongst many was the appearance of a unique collaboration of four young players - Boxtet - you saw them here first, folks!
Amongst the many lovely comments we received were the following:
'I think the fact that you continue to draw people in from far, wide and overseas is testament to the success of the model and the esteem with which it is held in the melodeon world.'
'There's this massive feeling of backstory to it all ... if you're new to it, as I am, it feels so exciting.'
'I have only one complaint and that is that it's all over too quickly!'
Full details of the event are all on the Melodeons and More page of this website.
Next year's Melodeons and More will be on Saturday 25th March 2017.
Launch of East Anglian Dulcimers website
Thirty years of research are coming to fruition in a new website devoted to the history of the dulcimer in East Anglia!
It is jam-packed full of photographs and fascinating details about this iconic and distinctive instrument.
There are sections on the instruments themselves, with details on the construction and decoration and further sections about players and makers over the last 150 years or so. The players' pages also link to sound recordings and other resources.
It will make a significant contribution to our knowledge about this instrument in England and to our understanding of the social and economic contexts in which this instrument and its music flourished.
Whether you're a musician yourself, or interested in local history, woodworking or antiques, there's bound to be something on this wonderful website that will interest you.
The site is at www.eastangliandulcimers.org.uk and went live in late 2015. Do look back regularly, as it's a developing resource with more information added all the time.
Melodeon evening classes
This Spring we ran two levels of classes: Improvers, taught by Katie Howson and Beginners, taught by Ron Ross. Classes were on a Tuesday night in Stowmarket at fortnightly intervals for four sessions each term. In the Summer we are taking a break from formal classes, but we will be reviving our Melodeon Party (mad idea!) for all past and present evening class students. If you've attended our classes in the past, do drop us a line to find out the details. If you might be interested in evening classes in the future, do email us and find out the latest news.
We also hire melodeons (and anglo-concertinas) which are available by the month.
To keep you up-to-date with what's going on at EATMT, we send out a newsletter by email about four or five times a year.
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Last year we offered training sessions for people who would like to take our jig dolls out to various community event and show others how to operate them. We usually have several dates over the summer when we are invited to bring the jig dolls along to let members of the public have a go, so we need people willing and able to do this, plus a musician or two. So far we've got about half-a-dozen people interested, but there's room for more, so get in touch if you're interested and we can arrange some more training sessions.
We’re always pleased to welcome new people to the friendly and hard-working team of volunteers who help us out in a wide variety of ways. Volunteers help with stewarding and helping at events, checking tickets, making refreshments, putting up signs, taking photographs, helping with equipment and transport and with occasional office-based tasks. Please email us or give us a ring on 01449 771090 if you would like to help out in any way. Do get in touch!
We'd also like to hear from anyone with First Aid qualifications who might be prepared to help out occasionally at our events.
Above and centre: Jig dolls in action with volunteers and public; right: volunteers in action at Traditional Music Day.
This page is updated throughout the year, so do look back here regularly, or alternatively, to receive our email newsletters (about four times a year), please click here. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Melodeon Makers 2014
World Dulcimer Congress
This amazing event took place in Malvern in Worcestershire, in October 2015 and the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust took a display of East Anglian made dulcimers and a photographic exhibition which drew much interest and provoked some interesting and fruitful discussions.
We also gave two talks - one to the Nonsuch Dulcimer Club at their annual gathering on Sunday 25th October, and one to a more international audience at the World Dulcimer Congress on Tuesday 27th October, while Richard Blake followed up on the Thursday with further ideas on the development of the dulcimer in Norfolk.
Photograph left courtesy of the WDC.
Percy West R.I.P.
We're very sad indeed to report the news that Percy West, stepdancer extraordinaire, died after some months' illness on Saturday 25th July 2015 at home near Diss.
Percy was a great character, his cheeky nature expressed through his exuberant and energetic stepping style which has inspired many younger dancers.
Thanks to Susan Bell for this wonderful photo which really captures Percy's style.
Below is the piece which we wrote for Percy's funeral, which took place in Diss on Thursday 6th August.
John Howson writes:
Almost forty years ago I was with the great melodeon player and stepdancer, Font Whatling, in Mendlesham Fleece. We were sharing a packet of small cigars (as we often did) with our pints. Our conversation centred around the local music and stepdancers and then the door opened and a slim, well-dressed man walked in. He acknowledged Font and went to the bar. Font leaned over to me and said 'That’s Percy West, now that’s who you ought to see dance!'
It was actually quite a few years before I did see Percy dance - but what a dancer! We became friends and he told me about his family. I then discovered the recordings made by Peter Kennedy in 1956 at Friday Bridge, Wisbech of Percy’s father Frank Connors introducing his family tradition, and included in those recordings was a 13 year old Percy stepping to his father playing mouthorgan. It sounded like a stunning performance and over the last twenty years I have seen many stunning performances from Percy. Whether it be at our Stepdance Day in Worlingworth or our annual Traditional Music Day in Stowmarket where the closing dance at the Stepdance Special always had to go to Percy, simply because nobody else could follow him.
Over the years we had many invitations to weekends away at festivals and clubs all over the country, but Percy was happy in the location he knew. I would have loved to have taken him to Dartmoor Festival to meet up with the Orchard family but it was too far. Fortunately he did of course eventually meet up with the great stepdancer Tom Orchard at our Traditional Music Day in Stowmarket and within minutes they had established that they were related. But a few years ago, Percy and Doreen did agree to come for a weekend away in central London for the Keith Summers Festival. Percy was amazed that the welcoming audience knew about him and, as ever, he stunned them with his stepping. We all stayed in a posh hotel, paid for by the festival, but Percy confided in me that he had had little sleep in such an environment. What was probably the highlight of the whole weekend was when Steve Knights, who was driving the minibus for us, took us on a trip around the sights of London and we arrived, with immaculate timing, at the front of a traffic queue at Buckingham Palace just in time to see the Changing of the Guard!
But it was in the pub where Percy really shone, not just as a dancer but also as a raconteur. He was always the centre of the party, always with a quip and a joke particularly after a few bottles of his favourite tipple – Mann’s Brown.
Katie Howson adds:
As a musician who has played for many stepdancers, Percy was just the most exciting dancer to play for, however brief the burst of dancing was, that didn’t matter. The joy and humour of his dancing made playing for him the highlight of many, many occasions. I feel deeply privileged to have known him and to have had those wonderful experiences in such good company. He has entertained and inspired many people and I really hope some of the dancers coming through now pick up Percy’s cheery and cheeky style as well as his steps.
There’ll be many a glass raised in Percy’s memory wherever steppers are gathered in future years.
Lenny Whiting wins stepdance double (2015)
On Sunday 26th July, 72 year old Lenny Whiting from Stradbroke (left, receiving one of his 2015 trophies from judge Marilyn Monk) pulled off a remarkable feat of winning both of the annual dancing competitions held at the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust’s Stepdance Day at Worlingworth Swan. Over two hundred people gathered to see some of the best stepdancers in the region and more than twenty people took part in the two competitions held during the day, with a further number of people joining in a beginners’ workshop at the start of the event.
The aim of the first competition – the Steve Monk Memorial Stepdance Championship, held for the last 16 years in memory of Framlingham stepdancer and singer Steve Monk – is to encourage anyone and everyone to have a go. Participants ranged in age from five upwards, including thirteen year old Catrin Pena who has been dancing since she was five, and Ella Beal aged sixteen, a previous winner. The Font Whatling Traditional Stepdance competition commemorates Font Whatling, a well-known musician and stepdancer across Suffolk and further afield, who played regularly in the Worlingworth Swan and is for more experienced dancers, with the aim of to keeping the local traditional style alive and in good shape.
Lenny has previously won both competitions, but never both in the same year! 17 year old Dominic Smith from Wingfield came second in both competitions, so Lenny has some stiff competition in future years!
Melodeon Makers 2014
2014 saw the fiftieth melodeon built in Stowmarket, on the fifth Melodeon
Makers course run by EATMT in partnership with Emmanuel Pariselle from Poitiers.
Emmanuel is a designer of instruments and the only person brave enough to take
on a group of ten people for a week, who each went home with a one-row melodeon
at the end of the course. His original inspiration was an early twentieth
century “Monarch” melodeon, of the style which was played by so many traditional
musicians in East Anglia, which is why we first jumped at the chance to host
this course in 2007.
Click here to read more and for more photographs from the 2014 event.
Currently EATMT has no definite plans to run another one-row making course.However, there is good news if you are interested in making a melodeon with more buttons! In 2016, Emmanuel is leading a two-and-a-half row building course (fully subscribed) and the possibility of a one-row building week, both at Halsway Manor in Somerset. Halsway is a residential centre for the folk arts, currently undergoing exciting developments, and a great place to spend a week, although of course, not as lovely as Suffolk!! There is also the possibility of a one-row building week in the future at this venue. If you're interested in these courses, contact Gavin Davenport at Halsway Manor.
News just in (December 2015): Emmanuel is also running his annual workshop in France from 5-13 July 2016. Instrument specification: two-and-a half rows, two voices, fourteen basses. Price: 2200€ including accommodation and food, straps and gig bag. A deposit of 800€ must be paid to reserve a place. Details here (in French) or contact Emmanuel directly (in English) by email.
Songs from King's Lynn
In October 2014, there was a fascinating day for those interested in traditional song, at Marriot’s Warehouse on the historic quayside in King’s Lynn at the invitation of Norfolk singer and musician Alan Helsdon. It was the first easterly meeting of the Traditional Song Forum, a national organisation which brings together people interested in the research, collecting and performance of traditional song. TSF meets three times a year at locations around the UK and each meeting has a programme of talks open to non-members.
The morning started with a round-up of Traditional Song Forum members’ research projects, followed by presentations by Alan Helsdon and Liz James on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ collecting in 1905/6 in King’s Lynn. After lunch there were tunes from Chris Holderness and Richard Blake - playing a dulcimer found recently in King's Lynn (below, second right) - and a walk to the Fishing Museum in True’s Yard, (below, right) where singer Joe Anderson used to live, before Katie Howson's talk on the singing fishermen of the 1950s and 60s with some of the newly rediscovered recordings to listen to, and finally some reflections on Norfolk singer Sam Larner from the renowned folklorist and collector Doc Rowe. After a brief gasp of fresh air and some very good fish and chips, it was back to Marriot's Warehouse for an evening of local songs, music and stories from Damien Barber, Katie & John Howson and Chris Holderness and Richard Blake.
1950s and 60s songs and singers
EATMT has worked with Alan and fellow singers and
researchers Jill Bennett and Liz James for a number of years on the King’s Lynn
material, since our first
North End Voices project in 2005.
Alan led the “Northenders” schools project for EATMT in 2007. On the 2005
project, the song tutor was Chris Coe, and together we looked at some of the
songs collected in the mid twentieth
century, as well as the earlier (and better-known) items collected by Ralph
Vaughan Williams in 1905/6. In True’s Yard museum was a transcript of recordings
made with fishermen in the 1960s by Mike Herring, but search as we could,
neither EATMT nor Liz James and her colleagues in the King’s Lynn museums could
find the actual recordings. Then, amazingly, Chris Coe’s husband,
Johnny Adams, a respected sound engineer based in Yorkshire, commented that he
had been given some tape recordings of singers from King’s Lynn ... and ... they
turned out to be none other than Mike Herring’s tapes of “Bussle” Smith (above,
left) and “Slinger” Woods for which we had the transcript! This set us off on a
quest to find out more, and we presented our findings and played some of the
recordings at the TSF day. The recordings are now once more housed in True’s
Yard museum, alongside the transcripts.
Click here to visit the Traditional Song Forum website.
The Full English
This magnificent project, run by the English Folk Dance and Song Society was completed in late 2014: the online archive has thousands of songs, dances, stories and tunes to be viewed at the touch of a button - or two! The year-long project included community events and eighteen schools projects across the UK; the latter culminated in a wonderful day at Birmingham Town Hall in June, with varied and moving performances from children aged 4-18. Thanks to the EFDSS and photographer Roswitha Chesher for these photos of very different takes on molly dancing, from our two local projects in Cambridgeshire, led by tutors including Mary Humphreys and Katie Howson.
Mary worked in a primary school with Debs Newbold, teaching traditional songs, rhymes, dances and games, based around a true story. Katie worked with Kerry Fletcher, Paul Scourfield and Amy Holly with a brilliant group of 18 year old dance and music students on a piece involving both traditional and contemporary dance, based around the ballad Lucy Wan. The students learned about molly, step and broom dancing, using tunes from the region. The molly dance was used to represent the community, with contemporary moves expressing the breaking of social mores through incest and finally murder, from the song lyrics. Further information about this project is on the Education page.
Blaxhall Ship CD & film available
The Ship Inn in Blaxhall, near Snape on the Suffolk coast, has a special place in traditional music in England. This month, some iconic recordings from the 1950s, made by folk-song collector Peter Kennedy, have been made available once more on the Topic label’s latest ‘Voice of the People’ CD series. ‘The Barley Mow’ includes the film made in 1955 as well as audio recordings of Cyril Poacher, Jim Baldry, Jumbo Brightwell, Bob Scarce, Geoff Ling and others, finishing with Jack French singing the title song.
New Norfolk Dulcimers
Many of you will already know of Norfolk’s tradition of dulcimer playing, with legendary names such as Billy Bennington and Billy Cooper. EATMT has been researching the lesser known players of our region and also the dulcimer makers, such as Mark Widdows from Norwich and James Caston from Forncett St Peter. Now the name of Richard Blake has been added to that list.
Richard Blake has lived in Melton Constable for many years, and has finally combined his skills of playing the dulcimer and cabinet-making to design a new Norfolk-style dulcimer which is now being produced professionally at Marcus Ashby’s workshop in Norwich. Here is Richard’s story.
‘Sometime last year, my brother, who is much more knowledgeable with computers
than I am, suggested that he could turn the measurements that I had made, some
ten years ago, of the
dulcimer at Gressenhall Museum, into full size working plans that could be used
by any cabinet maker. At about the same time I found Paul Hasluck's 'Violins and
Other Stringed Instruments' * (published 1907) on the internet, this gave an
accurate description of how dulcimers used to be made. Putting the measurements
that I had made together with Hasluck's description we were able to take the
plans to Marcus Ashby in Norwich who had the machinery to make the first
prototype. This looked good and, when strung and tuned, played well. Most
importantly it sounds like the real thing! Satisfied that the whole thing works,
I have had the first batch of six made, which I am now fitting with strings and
chessman bridges. I insist on tuning them the 'Norfolk' way: if, like me, you
wish to play like Billy Bennington or Billy Cooper*, then you really do need
those chromatic notes that the old tuning provides. As well as being essential
for the two Billys' repertoire or the music from the Watson* manuscript, it
means that the rare classical dulcimer repertoire is also playable. The
dulcimers cost £700 each with an extra £50 for a soft case. I will also supply
cane beaters in the traditional style.’
For further information about dulcimers in East Anglia, click here.
*Further information on sources referred to above:
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Page last updated 26 July 2016
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