The Kennedy Grant Library at Halsway Manor by Cynthia and Bonnie Sartin

This week we are delighted to have guest bloggers Cynthia and Bonnie Sartin talking about the work that goes on behind the scenes in our Kennedy Grant Library At Halsway Manor which houses a huge collection of mixed media folk treasures – over to the Sartins…

HalswayManorLibrary (9 of 13)After 15 years of slogging away the 4,000 books and 2,000 records, CDs and tapes in the collection are catalogued, listed and key worded on the computer and accessible. We still have a couple of hundred LPs, about 100 CDs and the archives to sort but we’ll get there. Having said that we are continually receiving donations of CDs and other material from generous performers and visitors to the Manor so the work will carry on even when the final recordings from the Peter Kennedy collection have been added. We are happy to accept any folk related books etc. on the understanding that if we have copies already we will sell any extra ones to raise money for the library. Back copies of EFDSS Journals and Magazines regularly crop up in boxes left for us so we have a good supply of these for sale. By re-cycling these items the library is self-financing. Recently these funds have enabled us to purchase a new computer, a wonderful oak table to put it on and a top quality CD player.  

A lot of interest has been shown recently by people wanting to do research, which is very gratifying. At the ‘Give Voice’ weekend in October we were able to show the residents around the library stock and how to use the computer to find songs etc. This worked well and we were able to help in finding new material for people to sing.

HalswayManorLibrary (3 of 13)The library has provided material for several publications. The William Winter Tune Book and Songs & Stories of Ruth Tongue. Both were local characters; William a fine fiddle player from the 19th century and Ruth a self-styled folklorist and song writer who used to come to Halsway soon after it opened in the mid 1960s. We have also assisted authors writing books about John Short (Yankee Jack the shanty man from Watchet), Charles Marson (who helped Cecil Sharp with his song collecting in Somerset) and the tradition of the Ashen Faggot. Mary Rhodes is now Halsway’s official archivist and she and Cynthia are searching for material to include in a publication that celebrates the activities at the Manor since it opened as a Folk Centre in 1965.

HalswayManorLibrary (8 of 13)The collection covers a wide spectrum of folk-related material. Song, dance, music folklore and storytelling and tutors for many instruments as well as clog, sword and morris dancing. We have noticed that people come in and immediately panic when they see a library but it is very easy to use if you keep a cool head. There are printed catalogues for people who aren’t up to speed with computers but for those who are happy with modern technology a simplified catalogue is also available on the web at www.halswaymanor.org 

HalswayManorLibrary (4 of 13)If you would like more information on the library or would like to make an appointment to book some time in for doing some research, then please contact Viv on office@halswaymanor.org.uk

Cynthia & Bonny Sartin

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Hothouse Reflections by Clare Parker

As the Hothouse Show have just received a warm welcome for their final performance at Sidmouth 2013, it is a natural time for me to reflect on the past 12 months dancing with young people at Halsway Manor since Paul James appointed me as Halsway Manor’s Youth Dance Associate. I met Will Lang a year ago at Sidmouth Folk Festival and we soon started hatching plans to integrate young dancers into the Hothouse project which Will has lead with musicians for the past few years at Halsway Manor. The idea was to bring together talented young dancers and musicians, who had limited or no prior experience of folk, to work with top dance artists and musicians and create a new show based on our folk traditions, for touring. The following January we had funding support from both Arts Council England and Futures for Somerset; and established partnerships with Take Art and Somerset Youth Dance Company, Bridgwater College and a number of schools in Bridgwater.

For a week in early Spring 2013, 23 talented young musicians and dancers got together at Halsway Manor to work with leading dance artists and musicians. Bringing fresh talents and skills to the mix, they explored traditional folk song, music and dance, alongside other styles like street dance and rock music. They created a new and exciting fusion, formed the Hothouse Show; presenting a new piece of original music and dance for touring to the Hothouse festival, and Priddy and Sidmouth Folk festivals in summer of 2013.

It was wonderful to see how the young dancers felt so at home at Halsway and embraced a totally new style of music and dance. As one young dancer said “I have gained experience of these different styles of dance. It has made me realise there are other good things out there”.

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Photo: Hothouse dancers/musicians after their first performance at Halsway Manor Hothouse Festival April 2013

In the past year we have also worked with over 150 children in Taunton schools on our Spring Up! programme which aims to inspire a love of folk and social dance through regular country dance sessions in schools. Following sessions in their school, many of the children came up to celebrate May Day at Halsway Manor, and some teachers and their pupils were so inspired that they worked on their own dances to perform at local fetes. One teacher said, “The children learnt different dances – street, folk, country. They were great! It is a great opportunity for specialist dance – thank you!”. 

So what do we have in store for next year? We are taking Spring Up! to Minehead schools and hope to develop a schools flashmob shanty performance for the Minehead Harbour Festival of July 2014. Hothouse will continue to grow and merge traditional and new styles of music and dance. We will form new partnerships and work with young dancers in Bridgwater and Taunton to create our own youth dance company. And we have some exciting plans for a folk dance project for disabled children as we continue in our mission to bring the joys of folk dance to as many young people as possible.

In anticipation of a marvellous Playford weekend!

PLF_Jul12_another fine picWhen John Playford published the collection of tunes and dances in the Complete Dancing Master in 1651 from his shop close to St Paul’s Church in London, he would be astonished to know it would still be in print in the 21st century. Like all publishers he was trying to make money. To do so he brought together all the top tunes and dances of the time into one popular edition and hit on a winner! Although the tunes are anonymous it’s likely that popular composers of the day, such as Henry Purcell, contributed tunes for some ready cash. It sold out and there were many subsequent editions being published into the beginning of the next century, which is no surprise. Even now, in a world full of every conceivable type of music freely available 24 hours a day in every home, the book still stands out as being packed with great tunes. Tunes that are memorable, hummable, and which work  very well for dancing. There are a handful of duds but surprisingly few. When Paul Hutchinson and I came up with the idea for the Playford Liberation front in 2011, we got together with guitarist Chris Green, Clarinettist Karen Wimhurst, fiddle player Liv Dunne and bass player Wayne Lewis and played through the 1651 edition and we were all impressed by the high hit rate of great melodies.

pasted-file-2The idea of the PLF is to have some fun with the music and the dances. It’s not an original thought and many people have done it before us, but we did feel that, for a number of reasons, Playford wasn’t being taken up by younger musicians and dancers. From a musical point of view we’re keen to experiment with the music by seeing what we can do with the arrangements to make it sound fresh to modern ears. Like all great music it can handle a lot of different approaches. From the dance point of view, the PLF weekend is a great opportunity to get people who go to ceilidhs/barn dances and who don’t normally tackle Playford, to give it a a go!

For a sneak preview and a slice of playford, here is a video when the PLF played Portsmouth! Doesn’t it look fun?

The Halsway Manor Playford Liberation Weekend is 19th to 21st July 2013. For further information on this wonderful weekend of dancing please come and have a look at our website http://www.halswaymanor.org.uk/portal/alias__Halsway/lang__en/tabid__4461/eventid__328/default.aspx

Follow the PLF on Facebook too! https://www.facebook.com/playfordliberationfront

Somerset Folk Songs for Midsummer – Yvette Staelens writes…

_DSC2565Wow – the alchemy of song never ceases to amaze me. Somerset Folk Songs for Midsummer at Halsway brought together twenty strangers to a Somerset Manor House, plus two exciting tutors with their stash of ancient ditties, ballads, chorus songs plus bags of enthusiasm.  Yvette Staelens is our guest blogger this week, and here she tells us all about the wonderful weekend of Somerset Folk Songs for Midsummer…

Friday evening, we settled in the bar after a lovely dinner and discovered the incredible folk song legacy of Somerset. I presented slides and stories of the collectors who shared a passion for seeking out and recording ‘the songs of the people’ and then introduced those who sang to the collectors. Wonderful photographic portraits of singers and sometimes their families, taken by collector Cecil Sharp. We saw the, now famous, John England, gardener at Hambridge vicarage standing proudly in the vicarage garden, hoe in hand, having sung ‘The Seeds of Love’ to Cecil Sharp and his friend Reverend Charles Marson. A song that was to start the two men on a collecting journey seeking out the songs of the villagers and towns and hamlets nearby. We met Emma Overd of Langport who gave Sharp over 50 songs and who now has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for her contribution to English cultural heritage. We saw photos of Louie Hooper and her half-sister Lucy White of Westport standing outside their cottages in pinafores and shawls. We heard about Sharp’s visit to a gypsy, Lucy Carter, who set off a musical box playing

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‘The Bluebells of Scotland‘ which despite, at the request of Sharp, her best efforts to stop it playing, continued for 15 minutes almost driving him mad! The evening ended with conviviality in the bar!

Saturday brought more sunshine and lots of people who said that they had slept really well in the peace of Halsway. It was our chance to become a shanty crew and to sing sea songs and shanties from John Short of Watchet and others, followed by William Woolley‘s un-censored version of ‘No John No’, ‘The Beggar’ and then some work on harmony singing. Lots of other songs were explored including a rousing version of ‘Dicky of Taunton Dean’. There was lots of laughing too when things went a bit…er ..awry and there was a bit of ‘part swapping’ too, and why not?

_DSC2654The evening concert was a blast, I took the part of MC and welcomed the audience and thanked them for their support for Halsway and later conducted 25 members of the Halsway Choir squashed together on a very small stage through a folk, african-american, Baka people, English repertoire ending with Sezenina ‘What have we done?’,. A South African song  from the apartheid era in one of the Zulu languages. It included the verse ‘Wenzenina u Mandela’ and we felt incredibly emotional as we remembered the man and his struggles for his people and with lots of encouragement, the audience joined in with choruses which was wonderful! James Findlay’s set wow-ed everyone, powerful voice, great instrumental skills and lots of stories and cheeky banter…and CDs only £10!!! – according to the advert on his Mac Airbook which he placed on stage for all to see!!

_DSC2674Sunday brought real treasure. The course participants were invited to bring a song to share. We learned about the legend of the ‘The Halsway Ghost’, then stunning twin female vocals accompanied by autoharp, then ‘Johnny’s lost his marble’ had us singing along. There was a little Somerset song about pancake days and the accompanying fun had at Chilton Polden in the early 1950s, and some lovely classical guitar. The temptation to check on the ‘Murray match’ at Winbledon proved too much for some; the library TV was switched on and there was a run to the library to check the score. We finished the day learning the four-part west gallery song ‘Halsway Grace’. It sounded wonderful. The sun shone, lots of friendships were made, people smiled and laughed a lot and the traditional Halsway Sunday afternoon cream tea ended what was a magical weekend.

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Halsway has the ability to draw you in and then somehow, you never want to leave, but we had to. My best memory of the weekend? The spirited singing of ‘don’t go kissing the girls at Bridgwater fair’.

All images kindly supplied by James Findlay, who when he wasn’t playing or singing, was photographing! Thank you James!

Spring Up! Halsway Manor’s local schools’ folk dance programme

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Spring Up! is a programme of folk dance workshops delivered in local schools with the aim of giving children an opportunity to learn traditional dances, gain new skills like spatial awareness and sense of rhythm, work as a team and come up with their own creative I am setting up for my session in the school hall (newly swept to clear away the lunchtime peas from the floor) when the doors fly open and a swarm of eager young children spill into the room. You can always feel that moment of sheer joy that comes when children leave the confines of the classroom for a large empty space that invites them to move and burn off some energy! Of course, they are also keen to find out who I am and what we are going to be doing too… but, none of that – we get moving straight away!dance ideas. In summer 2013 Halsway’s Youth Dance Associate, Clare Parker, worked in Taunton primary schools taking country, folk and a little bit of street dance to over 150 children. Here she blogs about one of the sessions…

Halsway May Day Hires-1069We start with an exercise that involves using all the space available: the corners of the room, cutting through the middle, down on the floor, up in the air, making longwise, circle and square formations, working with a partner to gallop or form a right hand star. It  might look like utter chaos to anyone passing but there is a very real and serious purpose to the task  as it tunes in our awareness of the space and of each other. It is structured by the phrases of the music as we change direction or actions on musical cues; it is very inclusive and nobody need feel insecure, worried or exposed because any movement choices are OK and all importantly, it burns off some of the excess energy to bring the children to a place where they can focus.

Halsway May Day Hires-1009The exercise lasts for about 10 minutes and gives me a chance to observe the children and set up expectations for the session by reminding them to keep in their own personal space, be aware of people around them, listen to the music, listen to the instructions, using the whole of their body and their energy. It may also look nothing like folk dance but it contains the core elements and skills needed and helps children tune in to their spatial awareness, sense of rhythm, and to the sheer joy of movement. This is what the children tell me when they sit, all puffed out and very focused as a group, and I ask them what skills they have just been using.

 

Halsway May Day Hires-1080I call out “longwise formation!” and we are there in a matter of seconds, ready to start learning the Cumberland Reel. I want everyone engaged so it isn’t just the top couple but every pair (the children keep correcting my use of the word ‘couple’ which they decidedly disapprove of!) in the set that gets to do right hand and left hand star.  Then it’s the moment they love best – the chance for the top couple to gallop like crazy down the set, spurred on all the way by everyone clapping. Now, this needs a bit of work. We need to keep the energy and exuberance, but refine the movement so that it looks slightly less like a cross between Hussain Bolt and a rugby hacker! It needs quite a bit of work too to remind them to keep listening to the music and make sure they arrive back in time to cast down. Then it’s another favourite moment at the bottom making the arch and pegging it to get back to the top – to start all over again!

Once we have mastered it and each group is ready to perform for the others, I have the luxury of being able to watch the children dancing because 3 of the children take on the role of callers. They bellow instructions enthusiastically and perfectly in time with the music. They come up with their own names for movements : ‘cast’ becomes ‘banana split’, and mysteriously a “stingray!” is featured!

What is clear when watching the children dance is that they are really enjoying themselves and enjoying dancing with each other.  They perform with clarity, focus and a massive sense of energy that is infectious. Their faces show a sense of achievement and as we feedback to each other at the end of the session I am thrilled when one boy asks: ‘Can we carry on? Can we do it again?’ 

Melodeon Player Extraordinaire John Kirkpatrick comes to Halsway Manor

This week we are very excited to be featuring John Kirkpatrick on our blog as it won’t be long before he will be joining us at Halsway for a weekend workshop and a concert in the middle on the saturday night. THere is lots of information out there on John and he has one of the most informative websites I have ever seen! So please, if you would like to know more, do go to http://www.johnkirkpatrick.co.uk/ and have a look at what he is up to. Below is a bit of info on John taken in part from his biography.

John Kirkpatrick was born in Chiswick in 1947 and grew up in a family where a hearty sing song was always a part of family gathering. John was in school choirs, the Church choir and played recorder and piano, until he joined the Hammersmith Morris Men at the tender age of 12 in 1959. Whilst with the team he took up the melodeon, then the button accordion, then the anglo concertina, and got hooked on the traditional songs that were accompanied with a post-dancing pint.

John has gone on to become one of the most prolific figures on the English folk scene, performing solo, in duos, acoustic groups and electric bands, and has established an enviable reputation as an instrumental virtuoso and session musician, as well as a leading interpreter of English folk music.

John has been a member of many bands, including the Albion Country Band, the Magic Lantern, The Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope, as well as numerous ceilidh bands.

One of the things I have really enjoyed reading is some of the articles that John has published on a number of different subjects such as The British Button Box as well as responses to some of the articles he has had published. They are most amusing and briliantly written and can be found on his website under writings… http://www.johnkirkpatrick.co.uk/writings.asp

The Melodeon Workshop that John is doing for us is for experienced Melodeon players who can either read music or play by ear. It is an intensive weekend with uptempo tunes for experienced players of all ages. Some music will be supplied in advance and other tunes will be chosen at the event, in response to participants needs. Have a look at the website for further details Melodeon Workshop with John Kirkpatrick and don’t forget that it is for the Two Row G/D melodeon. 

Melodeon Workshop Weekend for the Two-Row G/D Melodeon with John Kirkpatrick

On Friday 10th May 2013  –  Sunday 12th May 2013 we are delighted to be hosting a Melodeon weekend for the Two-Row G/D Melodeon with John Kirkpatrick, because quite frankly, nobody plays the melodeon like John. John has an enviable reputation as an instrumental virtuoso and interpreter of English folk music and has played with many influential groups including the Albion Country Band, Magic Lantern, the Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope. This course is a chance to improve your skills on the Melodeon and learn from one of the true greats of the instrument. 

This weekend is pretty intensive and all of the workshops attendees will need to be able to  play folk dance tunes, up tempo from music provided or by ear. Any age is welcome, but must just be of the above proficiency level and those 16 or under have to be accompanied by an adult. The weekend starts on Friday afternoon and will finish on Sunday at 5pm.

John Kirkpatrick melodeon player extraordinaire

John Kirkpatrick melodeon player extraordinaire

We are hoping that the weather will be pretty good too and there is plenty of space to camp at Halsway, should the fancy take you!

Don’t forget that as well as the workshop, John will be playing a concert on the Saturday night (11th May) at Halsway which is open to the public. It starts at 8pm and tickets are £10 for adults and £4 for under 16’s.

If you would like to attend then please do phone Viv on 01984 618274 (+44 19 84 61 82 74) or EMAIL US with your requirements. Have a look at the website for further details and prices too.
This course is definitely not one to be missed!