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by Roger Edwards
Head First!
Approaching the English Concertina
The Y
T
he first concertina I ever In contrast, the dismissals
heard accompanying a were so strong that they really
folk song was played by
orkshire Garland Project
knocked the stuffing out of me.
Alf Edwards. It was an English Then someone introduced me
system instrument and it to a chap named Fred Hamer,
had the most gorgeous tone who was a past Squire of the
imaginable. The song was ‘All Morris Ring. Although recently
for Me Grog’ and it was sung blinded, he was still a very active
by A. L. Lloyd. Everything collector of folksongs and ritual
about the performance was dances. He was, above all, a
understated, yet it was rich man of real courage. He was
in its simplicity. And it left very supportive of what I was
an indelible impression. The trying to do and taught me to
sound and tonal quality of Alf ignore detractors. It’s inevitable,
Edwards’ English concertina they make themselves heard
has remained a benchmark the minute someone achieves
reference for me ever since. something, so don’t let them deter
you. What I was doing was right
Have you considered the and important. His sound advice
idea of taking up the English was naturally born out of his own
concertina? Or recently done personal experiences.
so? Often, people get only as far
as picturing the possibility before Significantly, the strength and
they abandon the prospect as a support that Fred Hamer had
non-starter. Existing players have given led me to eventually form
been known to unintentionally my own morris team to perform
put negative thoughts into an the dances I was collecting, and
aspirant’s head by overwhelming my gratitude to him is profound.
him or her with seemingly helpful English always disparage their me investigating the morris history So, a group of enthusiastic local
advice, whilst actually throwing own’. It’s a cultural thing and it’s of our own locality, actually finding lads, amazingly talented and hard-
up clouds of confusion in the still prevalent to this day. past dancers and recording working, became the Garstang
process. There are the pitfalls dances that were on the verge Morris Dancers, an energetic
of purchase, too; that alone Automatic responses of being lost. My excitement and proud team who made a
might see off the whole thing as Let me just explain something was considerable. It was still key contribution in establishing
a daft idea. Then you feel more that happened to me. Although possible in the late sixties and a living relevancy for North West
confused than when you first it’s about dance, the mechanics early seventies to find dances that Morris. I was given a confidence
considered the notion and you are relevant to what we’re had previously been performed in boost when I needed it most and
desperately seek the status quo talking about and it informed my our part of North West England. it’s my firm belief that everyone
- just what were you thinking of? understanding of the processes It was at this point, however, that can benefit from similar gestures
that go on when someone first I suddenly experienced a whole of intuitive understanding. That
Well, just hang on a minute. What enters a new arena. Shortly after raft of responses from other episode illustrates superbly that
all that was about has nothing I stumbled onto the folk scene, people involved in folk music and something which at first might
whatsoever to do with actually many years ago now, I was dance. In inverse proportion to appear to have been a relatively
learning to play your chosen invited to become the musician each success, I received counter small gesture can help create
instrument. What it does have for some embryonic longsword disparagement from those who a far reaching and unimagined
everything to do with, though, is dancers whose enthusiasms felt they had an established outcome.
the supply of clear information, later turned them into a morris reputation to maintain for
your psychology and the team. They chose to dance a possessing superior knowledge. My point? As long as there are
overall impact on your levels of well known repertoire of dances They challenged me at every turn. people about, there’ll always
confidence. There are many times and traditions, all published in How could I know what I was be the careless comment to
more people who’ll happily put a Cecil Sharp’s The Morris Book. talking about? What did I know undermine an individual’s
damper on your plans than there My suggestion that we should about dancing? Everything about aspiration to better him or herself
are those who would genuinely perhaps research what went on traditional music, dance and song or improve the lot of others. So,
wish you well. To the uncertain in our own area and adopt that already lay in the vaults at Cecil to all those about-to-be musicians
beginner, these responses can as a potential repertoire was Sharp House. out there, for whom English
be extremely large determinants, greeted with absolute silence save International will not only be
influencing a delicately balanced the faint whistle of wind blowing In retrospect, I should have hugely stimulating and provide
confidence. As long ago as the tumbleweed about. expected something like that, but enormous listening pleasure, but
end of the nineteenth century, the I didn’t think that way myself. I could well be a defining source
folksong collector, Rev. Sabine My youthful urge to make an was young, innocent and unaware of real inspiration, you need also
Baring Gould, observed that ‘the ‘original contribution’ soon had of the vagaries of human nature. to be aware of your psychology
The Living Tradition - Page 20
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