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Archived News Jan 2020

New Album CD cover



How blue it went overnight, the party political map of England, in those early hours of Friday the 13th of December! What lies ahead? Goodbye EU… goodbye Scotland, Ireland? While there is ample scope for speculation, I'll confine my predictions to the imminent release of a new Rattle on the Stovepipe album, Through The Woods (WGS432), which will feature none of the above, but songs of Appalachian moonshining, river boats, apple planting, prison farms… and, as you'd expect if you've heard us before, great old time fiddle and banjo tunes. I'll keep you posted. You'll be able to buy it at gigs or direct from WildGoose Records:

My fellow Rattle members Dave Arthur, Dan Stewart and I enjoyed our trip up north to play in Ripponden, Yorkshire, as guests of Pete and Sue Coe, and visit Liza Austin's young musicians and dancers the Fosbrooks in Stockport. Thanks everyone who came out to hear us. Before our final show at the Bothy Club, Southport, we went for high tea in that resort's Westminster Tea Rooms. A very decent cuppa and the scones were excellent.

Dave, Dan and Pete at the Westminster Tea Rooms, Southport. Photo: the waitress.
Dave, Dan and Pete at the Westminster Tea Rooms, Southport.
Photo: the waitress.

In October, Margate's small but impressive Rosslyn Court, a new venue for us, hosted banjo and fiddle workshops with Dan and me in the afternoon, then rustled up a lively Thanet crowd, including our friends from the Little Opry, for an evening gig - thanks, Morag and Chris. All in all, 2019 was a good year for Rattle, from that exciting Roundhouse show with Shirley Collins in January to recording Through The Woods over the summer. We are still sorting out bookings for 2020, and hope to see you along the way. We'll be in Dorset in March (see GIGS for details), at an old timey festival in Italy in July and in London on 12 December, if not before…

And in fact, at the time of writing, my first solo folk club performance of the 2020s ('The Terrible 20s'?) will be at the Cellar Upstairs, London on Saturday 11 January - see GIGS. It's a solo booking, though I hope two of the club's resident singers, Peta Webb and Ken Hall, will join me on a song or two - and that we'll see you there. This club, currently at the Calthorpe Arms, has met in various venues over the years (recent ones all Upstairs in pubs, hence the name) but the original Cellar folk club, according to a fascinating article by Sheila Miller in the current issue of English Dance & Song magazine, started life in December 1960 in the basement of Cecil Sharp House - in Storrow Hall, to be precise, where I now teach my group fiddle classes! And among the young folk singers appearing at that time was one Shirley Collins!

Left to right: Pete, Dave Arthur, Ian Kearey and Shirley Collins at the Albert Hall, 2017
Left to right: Pete, Dave Arthur, Ian Kearey and Shirley Collins
at the Albert Hall, 2017

Fast forward sixty years and Shirley remains a vital creative force. She won the 2019 Penderyn Music Book prize for her recent autobiography, All In The Downs, which tells the moving story, among many others, of how she developed the dysphonia that left her unable to sing for thirty five years. Her new album, Heart's Ease, will be released by Domino Records this year, an exciting follow-up to her 2016 comeback album, the award winning Lodestar, and to Rob Curry and Tim Plester's film The Ballad of Shirley Collins (2017). I was deeply chuffed to be asked to play on several tracks of Heart's Ease, including Ladies Go Dancing at Whitsun, a song Shirley first recorded with her elder sister Dolly Collins on their classic 1969 album, Anthems of Eden. Tour dates will be be announced in due course.

Meanwhile, London Fiddle School classes resume on Wednesday 15 January. The 8.00pm intermediate/ advanced course is American Old Time fiddle. Yes, I taught Old Time last term, but it was such a good class and so many great tunes keep popping up, it seems a shame not to keep going. New people are of course welcome to join - see WORKSHOPS. The 6.30pm class is called The Inside Story, and as well as learning tunes, we focus on physical aspects of playing, including posture. I recently came across the term 'somatics', defined as 'the field which studies the soma: namely, the body as perceived from within by first-person perception' - Thomas Hanna. And that's a whole dimension of violin/ fiddle playing (as well as of being alive) I've become deeply interested in. The class is billed as Basic-plus level, but more experienced players are also welcome.

Coming up on Sunday 23 February is the 28th - 28th! - annual London Fiddle Convention, featuring The New Deal String Band, Gundula Gruen, Laurel Swift - who, some may remember, flew to the Fiddle School as guest tutor a year ago - and the wonderful Ilana Cravitz, who joins Chris Haigh, Richard Bolton and me in a special ensemble performance. Lots of workshops, fiddle contest, session etc. Details on the Convention website - and do check out the videos on the site if you haven't already!

Pete, Richard, Chris and Ilana getting ready for the fiddle convention
Pete, Richard, Chris and Ilana
getting ready for the fiddle convention

Poster London Fiddle Convention



Best wishes for the new decade!

See you soon


Stop Press: I just heard the sad news that Bob Winquist, co-founder of the London Fiddle Convention in 1992, died peacefully on 4 January 2020.

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