East Anglian Traditional Music Trust
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There were also fiddle and song workshops, and a touring exhibition featuring photographs and information about traditional material and performers from the county.
In each area, research was carried out into the traditions of the locality, and artists worked in schools, residential homes, and with interested individuals and groups to put together a concert in each community celebrating local traditions and performers.
Below is the exhibition text relating to each community involved in the Tuning In project.
The pubs in the Orford area have, over the years,
echoed to many singers and musicians.
During renovation work at the stables at Richmond Farm near Orford, some old wainscotting was found with faint pencilled writing across it. It states that a song called ‘Three Jolly Fishermen’ was sung during previous building work, in March 1877. This song has now been revived amongst the local singers and became the theme tune for the concert held in January 2002 as part of the ‘Tuning In’ project.
During the three months work in Orford, EATMT has worked with the primary school, residents and visitors to Esmond House and a number of individuals on songs, music and dances from the area. The Parish Council invited EATMT to put together a celebratory event for the re-opening of the Town Hall, after refurbishment had been carried out. For this event, a tune was composed (’Orford New Town Hall’) by Judy Horne of the band Syzewell Gap, and children from the school made up a traditional-style dance to go with it.
The villages around Saxmundham have a strong
tradition of stepdancing, singing and music-making,especially on the ‘accordeon’
The tradition of playing the melodeon is still going strong in the villages around Benhall: pictured below are some of a group now named the ‘Benhall Button Bashers’ which includes Graham Smith, Ivy’s son and Tiger’s grandson. This group meets regularly to play together, and also includes Graham’s son, Leo.
A singer who was recorded at the ‘Eel’s Foot,
Eastbridge in 1938 by the BBC was Alec Bloomfield. He was again recorded by
Peter Kennedy in the 1950s and by Keith Summers in the 1970s
During this project, EATMT has worked with the primary school, the history group, the Good Companions Club and a number of other interested people. The school now has a class set of dancing dolls, which formed a highlight of the final concert, backed by a massed band of musicians playing tunes from Tiger Smith and Oscar Woods.
A town the size of Lowestoft might be
expected to provide fertile ground for folk-song hunting, but the picture
that emerges over the twentieth century is one of popular entertainment in the
town and holiday camps (which
also provided employment for local musicians) and more old-fashioned,
traditional music in the surrounding villages. Townspeople travelled out to
village hops in the winter, and country people travelled into Lowestoft for work
There was also a strong tradition of family entertainment: several people active in the local folk music scene today recall their parents and grandparents playing and singing, sometimes popular music of the day as with Carole Allen’s father Jimmy Pipe, and sometimes older items such as ‘The Faithful Sailor Boy’ (sung by Ivan Bunn’s grandmother Ethel Bunn) or ‘Squally Old Weather’ otherwise known as ‘Windy Old Weather’ (sung by Ian Prettyman’s father-in-law Barney Smith). In the 1950s, folk-song collector Peter Kennedy recorded Annie Markwell singing ‘The Dark-Eyed Sailor’ and other songs. It’s interesting how many of these relate to the sea! Although, when John Howson recorded songs from Ted Quantrill in the 1980s, he remarked ‘When you’ve been out there, in the wind and the squall, that’s the last b***** thing you want to sing about!’ He did however sing ‘Heave on the trawl’.
There are still memories of May Day customs in
Lowestoft, and a fascinating link with Padstow in Cornwall, which has a vigorous
May custom to this day, which is said by some in Padstow to owe its survival to
the support of the Lowestoft fishermen who worked there in the early years of
the twentieth century.
Mendlesham, and in particular the outlying hamlet
of Mendlesham Green, was a lively place for traditional music during much of the
Hack Brundish (formerly of Front Street, Mendlesham) exclaimed: ‘The Green Man, I used to live there! There used to be some good old singers back then- like Dinkie Finbow and Pom Hart - he knew some songs - like ‘The Female Cabin Boy.
Tinker Parker (formerly of Mendlesham Green) remembered: ‘Ted Thorpe, he used to play all them hornpipes, like Jack Robinson, that old man, he knew some hornpipes. He’d say “Come on together, let’s get those feet working.” Of his wife’s brothers, who were reputedly superb stepdancers, Tinker said: ‘Heel and toe I’m talking about … they’d stand on two bricks, and they could double and treble time it. How they learned, they’d get a plank across a ditch with a bit of spring in it, and they’d get on that and go up and down, and learned themselves.’
‘It’s a pity they ever shut that pub’ said Tinker Parker, but not everyone was so keen on music: Roy Colchester recalls the old saying ‘Ringers and singers are no home bringers’!
The community in Mendlesham Green had in fact two strong musical traditions in the early 1900s: apart from the self-made entertainment in the pub, the village carpenter, William Arbon, started up a village band based around cornets, fiddles and drums, which performed at many local functions. Many of the members bore the same family name, Arbon, which is still a common name in the village today.
The Fleece Public house, in Mendlesham itself, was also a popular place for music, and Reg Pyett was one of the regular musicians there. Reg played the melodeon, and as well as many popular song melodies, could also knock out several of the old time hornpipes and polkas that were used for dancing, such as the Sailor’s Hornpipe and Heel & Toe Polka. Reg’s proudest moment was in 1925, when he played at the Hippodrome in London: ‘I had two hours playing and I got £15 for that, and that was when money was money.’ It was certainly better pay than the usual free drink and a collection in a hat, which was a common arrangement locally - not that such payment was to be sniffed at during the hard years of the twenties and thirties.
the nineteen eighties both the Fleece and the King’s Head welcomed traditional
music, and singers and players from the area frequently congregated there,
including Mendlesham’s own David Webb. David also travelled with the Old Hat
Concert Party to folk music events in London and elsewhere, where his singing,
stepdancing and musical talents were also appreciated. Tony Harvey of Tannington
sometimes came to these
As part of the Tuning In project, children in the village primary school have learned local songs and dances, some of Gordon Syrett’s favourite songs are being sung again by Linda Davies and Laura Head and the village country dance group, the Mendlesham Mollyckers have taken up the broom dance with great enthusiasm.
For more about Mendlesham, see our Village Portraits page.
What are the musical traditions of East Anglia?
Traditional Music Day Melodeons & More Workshops, classes & schools Community Projects
Traditional musicians Jig Dolls Dulcimers Stepdancing Vaughan Williams in the East
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