Rattle on the Stovepipe made it into the Film & Music pages of the Guardian on 1 April - and no, before you ask, it wasn't an April Fool's Day joke, but a very positive (actually) article by Sheila Hill, whose son 12-year-old Billy has been coming to me for fiddle lessons, a Mum's-eye view of bringing up a folk fiddler. A couple of days later Billy joined Dave Arthur, Dan Stewart and me in a concert at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London, sharing the bill with Darragh Morgan (violin), Tunde Jegede (kora) and Brian O hUiginn (uilleann pipes).
I teach my London Fiddle School group classes at Cecil Sharp House and, in case you haven't been along for a while, the venue has much improved of late. Don't get me wrong, I like an austere 1930s building with aesthetic overtones of the European authoritarian period as much as the next man, but indoors it's definitely more user-friendly these days. There's even new art to greet you as you enter, including "Euphoric Clashes" by recent artist-in-residence Matt Cowan.
"It's an anagram of Cecil Sharp House,"
explains John Lawrence at the front desk.
Lily in the cafe
The café downstairs comes in handy for a light meal before my Wednesday evening class (and tempting cakes in the break, but I'm on a diet) and the ever-helpful Lily also serves great coffee. The 10-week course I'm teaching this summer is called "Great New Fiddle Tunes", i.e. tunes made up in the past twenty years. Just turn up with your fiddle when it all starts on 4 May - see Workshops for details. A few weeks after Easter I'll be inviting as many as will of my London Fiddle School students to get some English Gipsy fiddle tunes together for 'Traveller's Joy', a concert on Saturday 2 July at Cecil Sharp House (doors open 7.00pm, tickets £5.00), featuring song, music and step-dancing of the Gypsies and Travellers of England and Scotland.
The London Fiddle Convention, an annual get-together of some of the city's best upcoming and established fiddlers (and some just passing through), will be twenty years old next year. If this year's was anything to go by, it will be fantastic. Contest-winners Matt Tighe in the 18-and-under category and Erin Smith from Aberdeen in the 'open', joined the guest line-up for the evening concert with fiddle and blues-harp player Robin Gillan, Irish fiddler and festival organiser Karen Ryan (with talented pupils), Iranian kamancheh master Adib Rostami and the London Gypsy Orchestra's Gundula Gruen, backed by Martino Skovakrik (cello). Everybody got their regulation ten-minute spot, including veterans Chris Haigh, Bob Winquist and me. The bar session was rocking, too. Make a note of next year's convention date: 19 February 2012 at Cecil Sharp House.
Matt Tighe (photo, Sam Samson)
Gundula Gruen (photo, Sam Samson)
Chris Haigh (photo, Sam Samson)
Rod Davies (guitar) and John Batchellor
(fiddle) in the downstairs bar session
(photo, Pete Cooper)
Happy 70th birthday this April to Dave Swarbrick, whom I caught recently at the Cellar Upstairs folk club, particularly enjoying the inspired way he played tunes by 18th century English composer John Ravenscroft. Swarb's got a fine new CD out called raison d'etre.
Dave Swarbrick at The Cellar Upstairs
folk club, The Exmouth Arms, February 2011
Still more anniversaries. This year is the American Civil War sesquicentennial - 150 years to you - and a six-part documentary film, 'Life In A War Zone', explores its impact on a single locality - Montgomery County, Maryland. Musical director Elizabeth Miller chose a tune of mine, 'August', for the theme music, with versions by Jacqueline Schwab, piano, and Bruce Molsky, fiddle, alongside those I recorded with Richard Bolton (on Turning Point) and Frank Kilkelly (on London Sessions), appearing on the soundtrack.
Johnny Murphy with Pete Cooper
I had a great trip over to Broughshane, Co. Antrim in March and met some of the local fiddlers including Johnny Murphy, a former pupil of Sean McGuire, who's been recording some older Co. Antrim players now in their seventies as part of a project to archive a regional tradition virtually unknown outside the area. I'm really looking forward to the CD coming out in May, and to returning for a weekend of more tunes and teaching, 17-18 September.
I was highly honoured to make the front cover of FiddleOn magazine's Spring/ Summer edition (issue 34), and be interviewed (at some length) by Trevor Buck. Well yes, I know it's not Rolling Stone but FiddleOn is, without doubt, essential reading for the UK fiddle player, full of news, analysis, fascinating artist profiles(!), and well worth subscribing to. You can now subscribe by post or online.
It's that Fiddles on Fire time again, 27 - 30 April at Kings Place, London, as well as The Sage Gateshead where it all started.The outstanding line-up this year includes Liz Carroll, the Celtic Fiddle Festival and Chris Stout & Catriona McKay. I'll be leading workshops on Saturday 30 April at 11.00am (Jigs), 2.00pm (English Fiddle Tunes) and 4.00pm (Awaken Your Inner Balkan). And in between times, encouraging some relaxed, informal sessions around the foyer area. Do come along, we'll have some mighty tunes, including easy ones for everyone to join in. Check out the full programme.
Happy fiddling and see you later,
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