Tag Archive | Lancaster

A Musical Autumn Ahead – some forthcoming events

Laid-back tunes outside the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel at Langdale Festival

Laid-back tunes outside the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel at Langdale Festival

It’s going to be an eventful Autumn, music-wise. Here are some forthcoming events that either myself or my friends will be involved in.

Next weekend – Friday 13th September onwards – is the twice-annual Langdale Charity Folk Festival. This, as I have noted before, is one of my favourite places and events to go to in the world. My own gig will be on Saturday afternoon in the main bar, but I will be doing lots of music outside of that slot too, much of it involving relentless Irish tunes with Mike Allen on fiddle and any other wandering traddies who might be passing through. Only six sleeps to go!

The same weekend is the twice-annual Irish Music Weekend in Lancaster, organised by my very good friend Dave Lyth. Unfortunately (as I will be in Langdale) I will not be able to attend this time. I’m very sad to miss it as the craic is likely to be mighty, with lots of great musicians from all over coming to this very popular event. If you love Irish sessions, Lancaster is the place to be (unless you come to Langdale to play tunes with Mike and me instead, that is!)

On Friday 20th September, we will have our next monthly traditional session at the Lord Ashton in Lancaster. Starting at around 8.00 pm, this has been consistently good so far, and is in a small, friendly pub with good beer. All trad musicians and lovers of trad music are welcome.

Wednesday 2nd October sees the return of the Irish Traveller singer, Thomas McCarthy, to Lancaster. Tom will be performing at The Gregson, along with support from local duo Nyewood. As I have said previously, Tom is an amazing exponent of a tradition not widely seen outside the Traveller culture, and it is truly a privilege to hear him sing. Highly recommended.

Finally, the Lancaster Music Festival will take place during the weekend beginning Friday 11th October. This is a community-run event during which live music will take place all over the city, in pubs and other venues. I will be playing a short spot with my friends Celia Briar (harp) and Ross Campbell (concertina and various stringed instruments) in Market Square next to the Information Stall on Saturday 12th October, probably around 1.00 pm. Come and say hello if you’re out and about!

Trip to the Cottage

Trip to the Cottage

The cover of the Trip to the Cottage tape. Left to right: Dave Lyth, Michael Feely, Bev Whelan, Gordon Johnston.

Last night’s session at the Lord Ashton was a trip down memory lane; or, more accurately, a Trip to the Cottage.

That is rather a cryptic thing to say, so I shall elaborate. In 1991, I was one of a bunch of musicians with connections to Lancaster who made a recording called Trip to the Cottage. The musicians on the tape – no CDs in those days! – were Dave Lyth (fiddle), Michael Feely (flute), Gordon Johnston (banjo/guitar), and myself on flute and whistle.

The recording was made in Dave’s house, which has the enigmatic words ‘Vi Cottage’ etched in the stone over the door. A proper cottage industry, therefore, was Trip to the Cottage! Our sound engineer was my good friend Mike Allen (frequently mentioned in these pages for his excellent fiddle playing), and the cover was designed by local photographer and jazz musician Barrie Marshall.

We probably sold three or four dozen of them after it was released, and whilst it didn’t exactly rock the trad world, it was nice to discover that a radio station in the north of Ireland regularly played tracks from it on the air. Tapes became obsolete soon after that, of course, and sales dried up completely. Rumour has it that a forlorn box of unsold copies still lurks in the depths of Dave’s cellar, waiting to be discovered by future generations who will no doubt shake their heads in puzzlement at this bunch of strange objects, featuring people they have never heard of.

We were destined never to hit the big time, but of course the tape is a nice memento of those days for those of us who were involved. Here’s a sample of what it sounded like. This is me on flute, along with Gordon playing both banjo and guitar. Wow, we were cutting edge, with all that multi-tracking! This set of reels is the Old Copperplate followed by the New Copperplate:

Fast forward to the present. It was a quiet night at the Lord Ashton last night, with several of our regulars away, and by chance the four of us who turned up included three of the original musicians on Trip to the Cottage – myself, Gordon and Dave. We ended up playing set-after-set of nostalgic tunes from our past, including several that were on the tape, ably accompanied by Paul Beevers on bouzouki. It was all very laid back and pleasant, and brought back lovely memories of those days.

Dave Lyth (fiddle), Bev Whelan (flute), Gordon Johnston (banjo) and Paul Beevers (bouzouki).

Dave Lyth (fiddle), Bev Whelan (flute), Gordon Johnston (banjo) and Paul Beevers (bouzouki).

Last Night’s Fun

Last night was our second ever monthly session at The Lord Ashton. It was a really good night, enhanced by a visit from some fantastic Scottish musicians, a late licence, and an audience who actually listened to and appreciated the music for once!

There were three of us playing the flute last night; Joe Murphy from Lancaster, Craig Crawford from north of the border, and myself. The heat was a bit hard on the tuning (though of course I blame the fiddles), which brought to mind this question: what do you call three flute players playing an ‘A’? Answer: a chord!

The next session will be on Friday 16th August.

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Forthcoming Session in Lancaster

Computer problems have kept me from blogging of late, which means it is almost exactly a month since I was last here. Fortuitously, this means our next monthly session at the Lord Ashton in Lancaster is imminent, so this post can serve as both my triumphant return to blogging, and a reminder.

Our next session will be on Friday 19th July 2013, from 8.00 onwards. Further details (plus how to find the pub) can be found at thesession.org.

We also have a Facebook page, where regular updates about the session are posted.

Here are some photos of our last session in June:

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And also a wee bit of a video:

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I’ve heard we may have some visitors from Scotland on Friday, great musicians all, so it should be a good night. Musicians/listeners/people who just love to buy pints for musicians are all very welcome!

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Announcement: New Trad Session in Lancaster

Ian, Joe and PaulBeing horribly over-committed in a non-musical way most of the time, I rarely make it out to the regular Tuesday night Irish session in Lancaster at The Gregson. I find that a night of tunes and (probably) beer is really not conducive to getting up at 6.00 on Wednesday morning, which is the usual time I set my alarm for on weekdays. Inevitably this means I end up not playing in any sessions at all for long tracts of time, and people could be forgiven for assuming I do far more writing about music than actually playing it!

It turns out a few other people have similar weekday issues, particularly those (like me) who are bringing up young families and holding down full-time jobs. So what to do, what to do? The answer has presented itself in the form of a new, monthly session on a Friday. It being monthly rather than weekly facilitates advanced planning and arrangement of babysitters, and for those of us who just can’t hack late nights and early mornings during the week (oh, how the mighty have fallen), having the session on a Friday means that we get two whole days over the weekend to recover before having to go back to work. Voila, problem solved!

The first of our monthly sessions will take place next Friday, 21st June 2013 in The Lord Ashton, North Road, Lancaster, and will be held the third Friday of every month thereafter. Traditional tunes other than Irish will also be played, though it is likely that Irish tunes will dominate. All trad musicians are welcome, as are potential listeners – when we did a taster session to try out the pub, it was just us and the barman for most of the night!

In the meantime, for those hardy souls who can manage to get out during the week, the weekly Tuesday Irish session in the Gregson is still going strong, and if ever I find the stamina (or get a day off on a Wednesday) I hope to pop in to that as well. You can clearly never have too many sessions (though, in my case, I frequently get too few).

Here’s a little flavour of the type of music you will find at our session at the Lord Ashton, played by some of the people who are likely to be there. Paul Ferguson and Ian Francis on fiddle, backed by Roger Purves on bouzouki:

 

Irish Music Weekend, Lancaster – Recap

I managed to get out to play on Saturday night at the Irish Music Weekend in Lancaster. We started off in The Moorlands, then moved on to the Robert Gillow which had arranged a late licence so we could play into the early hours. It was my first time playing at a full-on Irish session since September 2012, when I broke my wrist. My wrist is a bit sore today, but not too much the worse for wear, which is a huge relief. My hangover is another matter!

Some pictures below, plus a video of the late night session at the Gillow, filmed by Barrie Marshall.

Irish Music Weekend in Lancaster

Gregson sessionThere are Irish sessions in Lancaster this weekend. Last night there were sessions at the Moorland and the Lord Ashton, and the schedule for today and tomorrow is as follows:

SATURDAY

11.00am till 8.00pm: Gregson upstairs (with bar upstairs open most of the time and food can be delivered upstairs. Bar downstairs open as usual).

8.00pm till 11.45 or so: Moorlands Hotel

11.00pm till folk leave: The Robert Gillow

SUNDAY

11.00am till 6.00pm or so: Gregson upstairs as Saturday

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I’ll be out playing a few tunes at some of it, maybe I’ll see you there!

Pipe Dreams

All my recent focus on harps and harpists reminded me of this video of myself and harp player Celia Briar, which was filmed at the Priory Church of St. Mary in Lancaster in December 2010:


Known locally simply as The Priory, the ancient church sits on top of Castle Hill beside Lancaster Castle. It’s a very beautiful building, on a site that was once a Roman fort, old enough that archaeological investigations have revealed elements of a fifth century Saxon church incorporated into it.

Lucy, the Project Officer, filming at the back of the church, surrounded by ghostly orbs.

Lucy, the Project Officer, filming at the back of the church, surrounded by ghostly orbs.

The concert we did there, Pipe Dreams, was in support of the Pipe Organ Project, which aimed to secure lottery funding to replace the electronic organ in the church with a magnificent pipe organ, a Willis III dated from 1913, as well as a smaller pipe organ in the north chancel (both of which are now in place). It was one of many music events that took place there during the course of the project, which also strove to raise the profile of the Priory as a cultural space for the use of the entire local community, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.

The alternative Women's Institute take over the high church of Lancaster!

The alternative Women’s Institute take over the high church of Lancaster!

Pipe Dreams was organised by Project Officer (and good friend) Lucy Reynolds, and was a real community effort, with lighting provided by Izzi Wilkinson and fellow performing arts students from Preston College as part of a BTEC assignment, whilst some decidedly un-churchy friends of both Lucy and myself served tea and buns like an alternative, irreverent Women’s Institute.

It snowed heavily during the evening, which somehow added to the magic, and the children who were there (including my two) gleefully ran amok in a big pack outside, playing in the otherwise undisturbed snow on Castle Hill.

Pipe DreamsThe music was very eclectic, with the jazz improvisation of Stephen Grew’s World Line Ensemble, songs and tunes on a variety of different bagpipes from Bill Lloyd, the singer-songwriting and piano playing virtuosity of Chas Ambler, and an abridged version of popular local band The Manfredis, featuring the amazingly talented Chele Stevenson (when she wasn’t serving tea!) on vocals.

Celia and myself finished off the night playing music by O’Carolan, some music composed by ourselves,  and a variety of traditional tunes.

The Pipe Dreams concert, in the beautiful Priory with the snow falling outside, was a very special experience. The acoustics were amazing, with our flute and harp effortlessly filling the interior right up to the rafters.

It was such a privilege to be given the opportunity to play in such a beautiful, iconic local building.

Some Forthcoming Music Events

I am happy to report that The Fluter Who Cannot Flute has now become The Fluter Who Can Flute a Bit! It took many months for my broken wrist to heal but, at last, I am all out of plaster and splints, and am starting to work up to playing at full session capacity. I’m not yet The Fluter Who Can Flute a Lot, as I still have some pain and mobility issues, but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is just as well, as there are a couple of music events coming up soon that I would be gutted to miss.

First of all, there is our Spring bi-annual Irish music weekend in Lancaster, organised by my friend David Lyth. This will take place 22nd – 24th March 2013. Full details of times and venues can be found on The Session website. This is usually a great weekend of pure traditional sessions, and has become so popular that in addition to the big main session there is frequently overspill into smaller, peripheral sessions, which I like quite a lot. We get musicians travelling to this from all over the UK, as well as Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Here’s a video made at an Irish music weekend four years ago by my son Rowan (with a little bit of help from mum). I am posting part 2 (part 1 can be found here) as this second video, filmed on the Sunday afternoon/evening after a lot of musicians had left, perfectly illustrates the immense patience and self-sufficiency a child with a traditional musician for a mother has to develop!

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Me in my element

Me in my element. The most beautiful place in the world, the Langdale valley.

The next big event after the Irish music weekend will be another bi-annual shindig, the Langdale Charity Folk Festival. The May Festival will be on 10th – 12th May 2013 at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale, Cumbria. This is such a great event which, over the past few years, has raised over £17,000 for SARDA, The Great North Air Ambulance and Fix the Fells. A very worthwhile set of causes, and a great opportunity to spend time in a beautiful location listening to – and playing! – great music with a friendly bunch of old and peculiar people. And there is excellent Old Peculiar ale to be had, too. What could be more perfect?

We Apologise for the Inconvenience

Paul and Ian getting in everyone’s way last night with their wild fiddling

For such a small city, Lancaster has an amazing variety of musical culture. It’s been like that ever since I started coming here in the late 1970s; jazz bands, rock music, a thriving folk scene and a hub of Irish traditional music.

It was the latter that inspired me to head off out last night. I went to play at an ad hoc session at the Gregson Centre with some of my favourite local musicians. It was inspiring stuff as always, with Paul and Ian on fiddles, Steve on pipes, Celia on harp, Hugh on cello (some  traditionalists might wince at that, but let me tell you, Hugh is brilliant and absolutely knows what he is doing), and myself on flute and occasionally whistle.

It sounded amazing, and sometimes there might even have been the suggestion of applause. Nothing too enthusiastic, mind you; this is Lancaster, after all, and despite the quality of the music in this town, audiences tend to be a bit… indifferent. In a pub very close to the Gregson, for example, we once arranged for a side room to be reserved for our session later that night. The notice the barman put on the wall read:  ‘The green room is reserved from 8.00 tonight for folk musicians. We apologise for the inconvenience.’

Here is a quirky little film, full of odd camera angles, showing a bunch of us being highly inconvenient in the Gregson back in 2009: