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

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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!

See now, see now… A wee selection of hothouse festival photos 2013.

A small selection of images from the day! it was such fun! Apologies (of sorts) to Sam Brookes for catching him unawares towards the end of a long day, mid yawn! Couldn’t help but post it! He worked very hard as some of the other photos will show! Enjoy!

 

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Welcome to Halsway Manor, Somerset

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Welcome to the new Halsway Manor Blog. Halsway Manor is a creative organisation that provides courses, events and activities for everyone interested in traditional folk music, dance and song, storytelling, folklore, arts and crafts. We are located in the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the South West of England.

We are very excited to be able to use this blog to tell you all about the wonderful things that are happening at Halsway, both before and after the events. We would love to hear from you, so please come and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest as soon as they are all up and running – which won’t be very long!  Don’t forget to check out our website http://www.halswaymanor.org.uk too and please feel free to comment on our posts. We look forward to connecting with you!