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The Shirley Collins tour earlier this year was scary and exciting - and a great success. Dave Arthur and I opened the first half of the show, then played as members of the 7-piece (plus team of Morris dancers) Lodestar band in the spectacular, multimedia second half. Shirley's fans came out in their thousands. For me personally, after several decades kicking the folk football around the park, this was like playing in the Premier League - and having a great season. As well as the concerts, Shirley, Ian Kearey, Dave and I performed at the BBC Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall (yes, I know every schoolchild in the borough of Camden has performed at the Albert Hall, but don't spoil it) and, more recently, Cambridge Folk Festival and the Green Man.


(Amber) - Pete and Dave at the Dome, Brighton
(Amber) - Pete and Dave at the Dome, Brighton

And the future? Shirley, Dave and I will be at the Leicester Square Theatre, London on Monday 25 September, a benefit for the William Blake Society put together by comedian Stewart Lee. There's also talk of dates in Ireland (Belfast and Dublin) in January and of another album… Well, let's face it, Shirley's only 82, with no plans to retire just yet.


Pete, Dave, Ian Kearey and Shirley Collins performing  'Washed Ashore' Shirley at the Barbican, London
Pete, Dave, Ian Kearey and Shirley Collins performing
'Washed Ashore'

Shirley at the Barbican, London
Shirley at the Barbican, London


End-of-tour standing ovation at The Dome, Brighton
End-of-tour standing ovation at The Dome, Brighton

Straight after Cambridge I headed to what people used to call 'the continent' (and they may do again) to teach at Danish fiddle maestro Harald Haugaard's International Fiddle School in northern Germany - my sixth year there, the school's ninth. With 140 students from fifteen countries and tutors from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Shetland, Austria, the USA and, in my case, obviously, England, it was like a big family reunion, but without the nastiness. I taught a pair of hornpipes from Gypsy fiddler James Higgins (1819-1910), tunes soon to be as popular, I hope, in sessions across the Channel as Astley's Ride, Persian Ricardo, Iron Legs, The Sportsman's and The Savage Hornpipe already seem to be in some quarters.

poster
Harald's tutor team (sorry, not a great photo) - l. to r. Lykke, Julia, Nelly, Rudi, Kevin, Antti, Hanneke, Harald, Helene and Leo
Harald's tutor team (sorry, not a great photo) - l. to r. Lykke, Julia, Nelly, Rudi, Kevin, Antti, Hanneke, Harald, Helene and Leo


Naturally, I came back with my head swimming with Swedish polskas, Shetland reels, Finnish polkas, Scottish airs and tunes from small Danish islands - some of which I'll be teaching on Wednesday evenings from 13 September at Cecil Sharp House in a new, wide-ranging 13-week 'European Fiddle Traditions' course - see WORKSHOPS for details.

On the subject of workshops, I'll be in Hitchin, Hertfordshire for a weekend of Scottish and Irish fiddle at Benslow Music, 29 Sept - 1 October. Harpists on the parallel course run by Danielle Perrette of the Clarsach Society will join us in the bar for tunes on the Saturday night. I'm also giving a one day workshop in Herne Hill, south London on 26 November - again, see WORKSHOPS for details. One workshop event that, sadly, I won't be teaching at this year is Strings at Witney - because it's no longer happening. I've taught at every one since Dave Townsend started the Strings weekend in 1997 and have enjoyed working with so many enthusiastic fiddlers and fiddle tutors over the years, but attendance of late has dwindled and Dave has finally been obliged to pull the plug. I'm sure I'm not alone, however, in my gratitude to him for the twenty fun-filled years of that well organised and brilliant annual event. Thanks, Dave.


Pete, Dave and Dan at the Spa Theatre, Whitby (photo, Sue Lee)
Pete, Dave and Dan at the Spa Theatre, Whitby (photo, Sue Lee)

Talking of brilliant annual events, Rattle on the Stovepipe were once again at Whitby Folk Week, which is a bit like the Hotel California. Yes, you can check out on the Saturday morning - in fact, you have to - but leave? Never! Sales of our new album, Poor Ellen Smith, were brisk. The critics seem to have liked it, too.
'Another offering from the superb grouping of Dave Arthur, Pete Cooper and Dan Stewart. Each release brings a new development and this time we can hear a tighter sound with a more up-tempo approach to the instrumentals,' writes Vic Smith in fRoots magazine.
'Poor Ellen Smith feels fresh and full of life, with the classic combination of guitar, banjo and fiddle augmented by occasional melodeon or harmonica,' says Ian Croft of RnR. 'The seventeen tracks switch back and forth between songs and tunes, starting with an 'ass kicking' song with the wonderful title, 'Dead-heads And Suckers'. There's plenty of death to match the spirit of the times, as in the title track, a jolly treatment of a grisly murder tale, and old favourite 'Stackolee' seemingly played on speed… All I need to say about the tune sets is that they're varied and uniformly excellent…Finally, here's an album that, for once, has sleeve notes that deserve high praise indeed. They're informative, well researched and a fitting complement to a really superb CD. Thanks, chaps! **** 4 star.'


Peta Webb and Pete at Whitby (photo, Sue Lee)
Peta Webb and Pete at Whitby (photo, Sue Lee)

Another great joy of Whitby is my annual reunion concert with Peta Webb. Thirty years after the release of our vinyl LP The Heart Is True we still enjoy performing together - usually the same songs, to be fair, but they're good'uns. Peta and Ken Hall run the excellent Musical Traditions Club at the King & Queen pub in Foley Street, London, and their Autumn season kicks off on 15 September with Will Dukes' Sussex Concert Party.

For me, Autumn's looking pretty quiet on the gig front, but Richard Bolton and I will be playing at Islington Folk Club on 26 October. Rattle on the Stovepipe will be in Stanstead Abbotts on 10 December and at the Lewes Saturday folk club on 16 December - see GIGS for details.

See you later,

Pete

 

 

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