Monday, August 11, 2014

Magic musical moments at Sidmouth Folk Festival Week 2014 sessions at the Balfour Inn and the Radway Inn

Loose Knit Band session at Balfour Inn Sidmouth 2014
It is always a pleasure to return to Sidmouth Folk Festival and catch up with all my folk musician, singing and dancing friends in the folk music session pub playing world. However, this year my anticipation was slightly tinged with concern since I came armed with some new tunes that I had been playing at Cornish folk music sessions down in the wilds of Cornwall. Happily, I needn't have worried because my small contributions were well accepted both at the Loose Knit Band Big Session at the Balfour Inn (top photo) and also at that temple of English tunery the Radway Traditional English session (2nd photo) . Indeed, Estren, which is a beautiful and gentle waltz found just the right mix of instruments on one occasion at the Radway to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and provide me with my Sidmouth Magic Musical Moment in Sidmouth 2014.

Radway Inn session during Sidmouth Folk Week 2014
Of course, I had been quite careful with my selection of Cornish tunes for Sidmouth Folk Festival sessions. Cornish tunes tend to be fairly syncopated in a way that traditional English style barn dance, ceilidh and folk tunes often are not. Plus Cornish traditional music session tunes often use keys outside the D and G much loved by many traditional session players (not to mention time signatures outside 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8). I was also prepared to add that, by calling these Cornish tunes, these were tunes that traditional session musicians down in Cornwall were playing, hoping to avoid any erudite discussions about origination or ethnicity that were very much beyond my capabilities.

I also came prepared with details of the excellent session and Cornish music website kesson.com (check out the Kyt's Tunery section) so that musicians wanting to know more about the tunes and their exact notation were able to track down the details they needed.

So Turkey Rhubarb, Estren (see link above), Fer Lyskerys, Quay Fair, Cock in Britches and Zeak Waltz were all given a good airing from time to time over the week and, I think that the lovely lady to whom I asked if she knew Cock in Britches probably did believe me when I said it was a genuine question and not some strange chat up line.



Who knows? Perhaps my airing of these tunes might lead to more musicians attending the 2nd Wednesday Cornish music and dance session at the Kings Arms down in Luxulyan, Bodmin, Cornwall (see video above). I'm sure they would get a good welcome (however, always telephone ahead to make sure it is still on as schedules do change for a variety of reasons). Perhaps I'll see some of my old friends as well as my new Cornish friends there the next time I go.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Upton Folk Festival 2014, DIY Ceilidh dancing and cheap camping holiday getaways with AngleTwitch Morris dance side from Barnstaple, Devon

AngleTwitch Morris dancers camping at Upton Folk Festival 2014
When a friend asked me if I was going to Upton Upon Severn Folk Festival 2014, I was happy to say that I expected to be there and was looking forward to it. When she suggested that I could join in with Angletwitch Morris dancing side playing in the band in support of the dancers, I didn't have to think twice. I had already played with members of the side at the Hunters Inn in Heddon Valley Devon and from past experience with Morris dancing sides, I know there are few nicer ways of spending a camping weekend than with a Morris side. There is always lots to do rushing off to the various dancing places, rehearsing dance steps and dance tunes and just generally having a great time in the pubs playing in the evening and lunchtime music sessions. Also, even though I have a (rather dilapidated) campervan, it is just a whole lot more fun to camp up as part of a group. As performing artistes at the festival, AngleTwitch Morris dance side members also qualified for reduced rates for the festival so it was totally a win win situation that strongly appealed to the Scrooge in me.

What a wonderful weekend it was. The sun was shining brightly. AngleTwitch Morris Dancing side couldn't have made me more welcome so I felt at home from the minute I arrived to park up alongside their tents and campervans to the moment we had to say goodbye at the end of a most enjoyable weekend with a lump in my throat and (manly) moistened eyes. (See AngleTwitch Morris photos on Facebook

DIY Ceilidh at Upton Folk Festival 2014
Another first for me at the Upton Folk Festival was my attendance at the DIY Ceilidh on the Friday evening. What a brilliant event  with some of the best dancers and dance callers I have ever seen. The DIY bit means that everybody contributes whatever they can by way of music, calling or just dancing but with the added benefit of Pat Smith and Ned Clamp acting as anchors and hosting the evening. I am used to playing with Martin Hughes, who is probably one of the very best piano accordion players in the country for folk dance, because I play with him in the BarnBuskers Ceilidh and Folk Dance Band, but it was an immense pleasure to see and to play for so many highly accomplished dancers, many of whom were also callers too.

It was a weekend when everything went well. The parade of Morris sides rocked with a fantastic atmosphere. The evening and lunchtime joining in traditional folk music sessions were brilliant, especially the session at the Swan pub by the river with Martin Hughes. Even the full English breakfasts at the campsite were the best I've had for ages. Checkout my Facebook album for more photos of Upton Upon Severn Folk Festival 2014.

So, if you like dancing, maybe having tried dance activities like Zumba, but have never given Morris dancing a thought, especially if you fancy the idea of camping with a great bunch of friendly people, why not check out your local Morris dancing side. The dances are often athletic and really good exercise so its a very healthy past-time. The dancing performances are mainly done outside so there is lots of opportunity for fresh air. This beats other dance situations where dancing occurs in enclosed sports or leisure centres. As a newcomer to Morris dancing, the Morris dance side will expect to give you full and ongoing training so there is no worry if you have never done it before. There may even be opportunities to help the dances evolve for the really creative and expert dance enthusiasts. It's fun and very social. If you are a member of a Morris dancing side, every other Morris dancing side will most likely immediately welcome you as a friend too.

If you live in or around Barnstaple, Devon, AngleTwitch Morris are looking for new dancers to join them. In my experience they are a very friendly and welcoming side and are definitely worth checking out. There is a Facebook Group for AngleTwitch Morris. If you do, perhaps I'll see you at one of their practise sessions or performing in the streets around Barnstaple or camping out at a festival soon :-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How I discovered Cornish music and dance at free joining in sessions in the bar of the Kings Arms, Luxulyan, Bodmin, Cornwall 2nd Wednesday of the month

Cornish dancing led by Ian Bruce & Jaz Hicks
Although generally I've been aware that something rather special has been happening recently in Cornwall on the Cornish music and dance scene, exactly what all the fuss was about had rather passed me by. So, when I discovered that some top Cornish musicians and dancers were meeting up regularly (2nd Wednesday each month from about 8pm) to play their music and share their dancing expertise completely free of charge at the Kings Arms, Luxulyan, Bodmin, Cornwall, it seemed a great opportunity to learn more so I jumped into my aged ford transit campervan and shot off down there to join in the fun!

I've been twice now and it's been brilliant both times. The Cornish musicians and dancers in the session  have been very friendly (link is to previous article and visit) and Sharon and Steve, proprietors of the Kings Arms, Luxulyan, Bodmin, Cornwall  have been wonderfully welcoming too. Sharon and Steve always seem to be able to keep serving up drinks at the bar and meals to the diners with a smile however busy it gets... and it seems to be getting increasingly popular as the news of this free to all music and dance session gets around.

Although there is no formal tuition during these Luxulyan music and dance evenings, expert Cornish dancers and dance teachers Ian Bruce and Jaz Hicks generally lead the dancing and keep the dances quite straightforward and social so that anybody can join in. I have to confess that, although I usually stick to being a musician and playing my saxophone, last time I was there, the exuberant Cornish tunes quite got to me.

Kings Arms Luxulyan Cornwall - Cornish Music & Dance session
Before I knew what was happening I was up and joining in with the dancing. It was really easy. I just followed the person next to me who was holding my hand! (A rather lovely young lady, I recollect!) It's good exercise, though, and I was quite glad to get back to my seat afterwards to recover my composure, rejoin the music playing and admire the amazing demonstration of advanced Cornish dancing that Ian Bruce and Jaz Hicks put on while the rest of us recovered our breath.

On the musical front, anybody in the bar is welcome to listen but also any acoustic or acoustic volume musician is also welcome to join in. Of course, because it is a Cornish music and dance evening, the music is different to that usually found at most pub sessions in the UK. It is also generally quite spirited and syncopated to match the amazing Cornish dance steps. All of which provides a great musical atmosphere in the pub for the listeners and dancers but however does present some challenges to musicians new to the repertoire. I am quite an experienced dance band and sax musician (and member of BarnBuskers Ceilidh and Folk Dance Band) but I've had to spend quite a few hours over the last couple of months working hard to get to grips with this new but exciting repertoire.

Cornish dance music session at Kings Arms Luxulyn Cornwall
Fortunately, many of the musicians at this session are from top Cornish bands and this enables newcomers to Cornish music like myself to quietly play along and learn the repertoire as we go.

Kyt Le Nen Davey who is a member of top Cornish band Dalla leads much of the music at this session with his immensely talented brothers and family and has also kindly put tunes relating to this and other sessions in Cornwall on a website called Kesson (it means harmony) where Cornish audio and musical scores can be freely downloaded to help musicians wanting to learn the Cornish session and dance tunes.

However, what I am discovering is that Cornish music and dance is amazingly flexible. It can take place almost anywhere that there is enough room for a few people to wiggle about and stamp their feet so it is extremely social. The dances can be easy and straight forward for those new to them or athletic and technically challenging for those like Ian Bruce and Jaz Hicks and their students who, in their demonstration dances, elevate it to a fabulous art form.

As Ian Bruce says of Nos Lowen (the most social type of Cornish dancing) in their dancebook:

'I attended my first Nos Lowen in Grampound village hall in 2010 not knowing what to expect. Having spent most of my life in big cities and the anonymity that goes with it, it was a bit of a culture shock for an emmet. Everyone was welcoming and helpful. I looked around and saw all ages, all sorts of people and everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves. After a nervous start, I was soon joining in the dancing and was made to feel part of the whole experience.... The Nos Lowen dances are fairly straightforward but that doesn’t mean everyone finds them easy. However, if you simply come to a Nos Lowen and leave smiling that is good enough.'

Ian Bruce & Jaz Hicks in Cornish dance demonstration
Jaz Hicks adds:

'I met Ian at Dydhana in 2011 and we both had a zeal for dance and often compared ideas and variations. Ian was making notes to help him remember the dances, I had notes on the music and soon the idea of putting all the notes together to make a ‘Nos Lowen Dancebook’ was born. It was just an idea to help other beginners at Dydhana but encouragement from other people in the Nos Lowen scene soon turned it into what you have in your hands now.'

As well as the Nos Lowen Dancebook, there is lots more information on Cornish dances and Cornish dancing, including detailed descriptions of dances and Cornish dance class timetables and venues on Howl ha Loer which is the name of Ian and Jaz's informative website. Alternatively, I'm sure they would be happy to let prospective Cornish dancers pick their brains in the Kings Arms at Luxulyan.

Finally, above all, what I have discovered about Cornish musicians and dancers in the short time I have been involved with them is that they are all about passion. Although many of the musicians and dancers at the session in Luxulyan have achieved very high standards in their music and dance leading to professional careers in leading Cornish bands and dance troupes, it has been their passion to share their wonderful social art form with the world that has driven them on to set up this session. Hopefully, it will continue but it is always worth telephonong the pub before travelling or incurring expense to make sure it continues to take place as circumstances often do change. Certainly, for as long as it continues, I'm hooked! Perhaps I'll see you at the Cornish music and dance free joining in session at the Kings Arms, Luxulyan, Bodmin, Cornwall session one day :-)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Traditional ceilidh dance, barn dance and folk dance band music at the Loose Knit Band Sidmouth Folk Festival winter reunion

Loose Knit Band Big Session Winter Reunion

Traditional ceilidh dances, barn dances and folk dances are a great way for people of all ages to get together and have fun.

Whether it's for a wedding, fund raising event, family birthday party or any of the many other occasions when people of all ages like to get together, the jaunty jiggy tunes of traditional folk dance music always seems to set every generation's feet tapping and quickly put a smile on everyone's face.

With the summer coming and the weather getting warmer, the season of fetes and weddings is rapidly approaching so it's an ideal time for ceilidh, barn dance and folk dance musicians to get together over a weekend to celebrate their music and for those musicians in bands to rehearse tunes together at the beginning of their busy season. There is probably no bigger gathering of traditional English folk tune musicians at this time of the year than the Loose Knit Band Sidmouth Folk Festival reunion when musicians that have played together during the Sidmouth Folk Festival in the Loose Knit Band Big Session get together again to play the tunes they love throughout the whole weekend!

Since prominent member of the Loose Kit Band, organiser of the weekend and talented piano accordion player Martin Hughes is also the band leader of BarnBuskers Ceilidh and Folk Dance Band, in which I feature as soprano saxophone player, and with at least two other members of BarnBuskers Ceilidh and Folk Dance Band also being present, it was an ideal opportunity for us to join in and share some tunes while having lots of fun with around fifty other traditional dance musicians.

Saturday pre-session carvery at the Balfour Inn, Sidmouth
What a great weekend it was! The Balfour Inn, Sidmouth did us proud, not only providing lots of room for our traditional barn dance, ceilidh and folk dance music big session but also serving us a really tasty carvery on the Saturday evening to set us up for our evening's music playing.

All too soon it was over but I'm sure we are all now looking forward to meeting again for the Sidmouth Folk Festival week in August 2014 when we will again be playing traditional English ceilidh, folk dance and barn dance music at the Balfour Inn in a big session.

So if you are a musician that enjoys playing mainly traditional English music and are looking for a friendly big session during the Sidmouth Folk Week this August 2014, why not check us out. Whilst many of us play in professional ceilidh, barn dance and folk dance bands, the Loose Knit Band Big Session particularly welcomes newcomers and less experienced musicians too. Just buy a drink at the bar and join in. You are sure to be made welcome. (See my Facebook account for more photos of the 2014 Loose Knit Band Winter Reunion). See previous articles on this blog about Loose Knit Band Big Sessions).

If you are looking for a barn dance, ceilidh dance or folk dance band for your wedding, fund raiser, birthday party, fete or other social gathering, I'm sure Martin will be delighted to help in his capacity of band leader of the BarnBuskers Ceilidh, Barn Dance and Folk Dance band by checking our diary and discussing arrangements. (See contact information on the BarnBuskers.com website).

If you just love listening to the jiggy, jaunty sounds of traditional English folk dance, barn dance and ceilidh tunes, we always love to have an audience at the big session at the Balfour Inn. Perhaps we'll see you there next time we get together for the Loose Knit Band Big Session during the Sidmouth Folk Week in August 2014 or at the 2015 Loose Knit Band reunion at the Balfour Inn, Sidmouth.

If all that seems too long to wait, Martin Hughes (link to personal website) usually runs a very friendly traditional tunes session at the Bell Inn, Ash, Martock, Somerset twice a month (check with Martin or pub before attending to avoid disappointment as circumstances can change). Acoustic musicians are all welcome, just buy a drink at the bar and join in or listen as we play. (They tell me meals are good there too). Perhaps I'll see you there   :-)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Acoustic folk music session entertainment at Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley, Exmoor with AngleTwitch Morris and musician friends

David Orton, proprietor of Hunters Inn, Exmoor & friends
Ian Hudson - acoustic music session Hunters Inn Exmoor
Exmoor acoustic music session at Hunters Inn
Music entertainment at Hunters Inn near Lynmouth

With the Upton Folk Music Festival rapidly approaching where I will be playing my soprano saxophone with AngleTwitch Morris, the regular acoustic folk and country music session at the beautiful Hunters Inn in Exmoor's secluded Heddon Valley provided a fantastic opportunity to get in some pre-performance rehearsal playing time and a great excuse to be reunited with some wonderful musicians and friends. It also gave me a chance to meet up again with David Orton, ever welcoming proprietor of this unique hotel, restaurant and rural bar whose warm personality, for me, gives Hunters Inn Exmoor such a wonderful character and ambiance (see photo at top)

We had a great time. Session host Ian Hudson (2nd photo) is not only a fine portrait and landscape artist and teacher but is also a talented guitar player and singer who leads the acoustic music session At Hunters Inn Exmoor with a gentle touch thoughout the evening, responding sensitively to the singing and playing talent of all present and filling in with his own music and song when needed.

Hunters Inn (see Facebook page) nestles in the secluded Heddon Valley between Exmoor and the Bristol Channel and is always a favourite place for me to visit. Unfortunately, to get from Minehead in West Somerset to Hunters Inn, my ancient campervan would normally have to negotiate a series of picturesque but extremely steep and long hills. Porlock Hill leads out of West Somerset and onto Exmoor. Countisbury Hill, usually covered with sleeping sheep on the return journey, with its picturesque views of Lynmouth and Lynton on the way down, is long and very steep followed by a no less steep hill out of Lynmouth past Lynton towards Barnstaple.

Then, after a few miles, there is more  hilly driving to do as a narrow and twisting lane leads down into the marvellous Heddon Valley where Hunters Inn nestles like a jewel (and then of course back up at the end of the evening). All of which, sadly, is the reason why I rarely take the risk of my old campervan having a terminal driving experience brought on by me making my way to this acoustic folk and country music session. Fortunately, on this occasion, I had the opportunity of cadging a lift from another local musician who has a much better vehicle so I was able to enjoy the journey and party thoughout the evening.

Cosy bar at Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley, Exmoor
However, if you are looking for a unique Exmoor hotel restaurant and bar located in superb scenery and approached by spectacular countryside, in my experience, Hunters Inn is well worth checking out. If you approach it from the Barnstaple direction, you still have beautiful countryside and fewer hills.

If you are an acoustic musician or enjoy listening to a bit of folk or country music, home-brewed in a charming rural ambiance, Ian Hudson's music session on 2nd and 4th Sundays is worth checking out too. As always, phone ahead to make sure it is happening because changes to schedules are always possible. I'm sure that friendly proprietor David Orton will be delighted to hear from you. Perhaps I'll see you there  :-)

Folk and country songs & music at Hunters Inn Exmoor



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spiritual Cornish light, shanty choir singers, a secretive Cornish songstress and wonderful traditional Cornish community folk music sessions in Perranporth and Luxulyan


As I drove into Cornwall last Tuesday on my way to some traditional folk music sessions in Luxulyan and Perranporth, to my surprise, suddenly, the light seemed to brighten all around me as if I was entering a very special place. Now, I'm by no means a religious person but, even to me, a hard nosed sceptic, the light seemed to have almost a spiritual quality. It had a radiance that made me want to smile as I streaked along in my rusty old campervan ... at about 50 miles per hour.

Fancifully, I wondered if the beautiful light was a sign of wonderful things to come over the next few days. As it turned out, I wasn't to be disappointed. The traditional Cornish music, singing and dance sessions rocked and my Cornish trip was given a perfect ending with the voice of a young Cornish songstress whose singing had a spiritual quality perfectly reflecting the light I had experienced as I entered Cornwall.

My first port of call was the Seiners Arms in Perranporth where on Tuesday evenings for many years some excellent Cornish musicians have been meeting up to play traditional Cornish folk tunes. Armed with my soprano saxophone and several weeks of practising Cornish tunes from the Seiners session page on Kesson.com and a certain amount of trepidation, I joined in.

Tuesday evening Cornish music session Seiners Bar Perranporth

To say that the music rocked would be an understatement. It practically rocked the foundations of this Cornish town beachside bar. I've seen some Irish sessions that were fast and furious but I must admit the speed and virtuosity of the musicians in that bar on that night equalled anything I've ever seen before. Yet it wasn't all fast and furious. The Estren waltz was played gently with an immense lyrical quality and the Newlyn Reel was started more slowly than I've ever seen it played before. It had feeling and grace, only gradually increasing in tempo through many repetitions until finally it devolved into a frenzy of sound and rhythm that could only have uplifted the spirits of even the most hardened of diners.

Local shanty choir singers at Seiners Bar Perranporth
Later, a local choir that had been rehearsing in another part of the pub joined us and they were still singing their repertoire of traditional shanty songs when I left at the end of the evening to find my camping place for the night.

The next day, after saying hello to friendly publicans Sharon and Steve who have been running the Kings Arms in Luxulyan since September 2013 (link is to their Facebook page), I enjoyed some of their tasty lunchtime food and a chat with one of their regular customers who it turned out had played piano accordion for many years locally and now even had a son who was teaching music locally in Cornwall. Later, as I walked through the beautiful Luxulyan valley during the afternoon, I wondered if there was any end to the talent in this county that seemed to want to be a country judging by the many Cornish flags that were dotted around.

2nd Wednesday Kings Arms, Luxulyan Cornish music session

The second Wednesday of the month Cornish music session (Facebook Group Prys Ton) had only started the previous month in February and, in my experience, sometimes people turn up for the first session to give their support but then numbers can fall off with subsequent evenings. However, this was not to be the case with the traditional Cornish music and dance session at the Kings Arms, Bridges, Luxulyan. Indeed, there were even more musicians than last time (see my February 2014 article on Kings Arms Luxulyan) - somebody said they counted 22 - and even more dancers too. Where joining in the Seiners session was rather challenging for my limited Cornish music repertoire, the Luxulyan session at the Kings Arms I found very accessible. Yet the music flowed well throughout the evening and the dancers were on the floor most of the time. The pub was packed with a real party atmosphere. In short it was a great evening. 

Later, tired but content from all the music playing (and I even got up to dance myself at one point), there were just a few of us left in the bar relaxing with friendly Steve the proprietor and playing the occasional tune to illustrate various musical points. I said how impressed I was with all the music and dance talent I had found in Cornwall; the traditional sessions, the shanty songs sung by the folk choir at Seiners Arms, the amazing traditional Cornish dancers and musicians at the Luxulyan session.

Cornish songstress - amazing yet modest talent
Then somebody suggested a lady who had quietly been playing guitar with us all night should give us a song. She wasn't keen but was eventually persuaded. What followed then was the perfect counterpoint to the beautiful light that I had experienced as I entered Cornwall. Whimsical, mystical and melodically fascinating, her voice rose and fell like the waves on a Cornish beach. I'm not a great fan of singing. I prefer a good tune but, like the amazing qualities of the Cornish light I'd seen the day before, the qualities of her voice shone through and bathed me in a sea of sound and feeling that made a perfect ending to my day and my visit to Cornwall. I discovered her name is Kim Guy (see link to her music below) and she has lots of music online. If you are looking for a present for somebody who has everything, consider giving them one of her CDs then they really will have everything.

In my view, based on my all too short experiences, Cornwall has what lovers of folk culture and community are looking for ... wonderful traditional Cornish music and musicians, Cornish community dancing, fabulous countryside to explore with a glorious heritage ... and even a secret songstress to delight your senses called Kim Guy. (Link is to her music on Soundcloud - well worth checking out)! As session schedules do change regularly, however, before travelling or incurring expense, it's always worth phoning ahead to confirm it is taking place with the session venue. Perhaps I'll see you in Cornwall sometime :-)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

4th Wednesday Appledore Devon session singaround folk music entertainment at Coach and Horses kicks off to fine start

Coach and Horses Appledore Devon folk session singaround
Appledore community pub music was at its best last night when I joined in with a brilliant mainly traditional English folk music session singaround entertainment at the Coach and Horses, Appledore, Devon organised by friendly local retired fisherman and well known musician singer Glenn Bower.

It has been some years since I have been down to visit Appledore and I certainly realised it has been too long as one excellent local performer followed another throughout the evening.

Of course, it depends on who turns up on the night but Glenn said to me he would like there to be an even share of singing and traditional tunes.

video


The Coach and Horses was looking good too with a very nice open fire burning at the end of the bar and an appreciative audience just there to listen. Glenn's traditional session is on the 4th Wednesday of each month but the other Wednesdays in the month are reserved for different styles of music with different hosts. More information is available from local Appledore Rocks website. Without doubt, a treasure trove of music to enjoy!

So, if you enjoy a nice evening joining in with singing or playing mainly traditional English folk music and can get to Appledore in Devon on the 4th Wednesday evening of the month, Glenn's session / singaround is well worth checking out. It's completely free, just buy a drink at the bar and join in or just listen. As always, schedules do sometimes change so it is worth telephoning ahead to the Coach and Horses to confirm the session / singaround is taking place, especially if you are travelling far. Based on my experience, I'm sure you'll get a warm Appledore welcome. Perhaps you will see me there :-)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cornish traditional folk music session and dance rocks at the Kings Arms, Bridges, Luxulyan, Cornwall



After a couple of weeks preparation and practise, I finally got a chance to try out my newly learned traditional Cornish tunes at a folk music session of traditional Cornish tunes and dance at the Kings Arms, Bridges, Luxulyan, Cornwall Wednesday (19th Feb 2014) ... and I'm hooked!

Traditional Cornish folk music session at Luxulyian
What a great session it was! the proprietors Sharon and Steve are local people and have only just taken over the pub but have already made it a wonderfully friendly place to hang out and have fun. On the evening of the music session, we musicians were treated to extremely tasty Cornish pasties and I returned the day after to enjoy a wonderful lunchtime meal of local duck which went down a treat.

The traditional folk music session rocked (as you can see in the video above) with some of the foremost exponents of traditional Cornish music leading the selection of tunes and it was a huge bonus having the dancers with a great and appreciative audience from Luxulyan and surrounding areas.

Traditional Cornish dancing at the Luxulyan folk music session
Friendly proprietor Steve (2nd from right at bar) and Sharon
The brilliant news is that the proprietors and organisers of this Luxulyan session would like to make it a regular event. If they do, I could see it becoming a major traditional music venue of Cornwall on Wednesday evenings. Luxulyan is quite close to the sea and benefits from the Luxulyan Valley which is a beautiful place to explore with intriguing old disused water wheels and a stunning aqueduct. I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to high places but the aqueduct is wide enough to walk across in the middle and not feel too intimidated with quite high walls providing protection from the vertiginous drop.

So, if you are a traditional folk musician and would like to try something a bit different from the usual traditional English or Irish repertoire and you enjoy a good session, the Kings Arms session in Luxulyan is well worth checking out. Before you do, it is very worthwhile getting some Cornish tunes added to your repertoire as the organisers seem to prefer it to be authentically Cornish.

One of the leading exponents of Cornish traditional music and member of Cornish band Dalla Kyt Le Nen Davey (accordian, mandola, vocals), has set up a website of Cornish tunes specifically for the Luxulyan folk music session to help musicians not familiar with local Cornish tunes to come along to the session prepared which I found was absolutely invaluable to my enjoyment of the evening as a soprano sax and flute folk musician.

So, if you are visiting Cornwall in the UK and would like to take part in a traditional folk music session with tunes from Cornwall, or if you would like to just come along and listen, based on my experiences Wednesday (19th Feb 2014), the Kings Arms traditional Cornish music session in Luxulyan, Cornwall is well worth checking out. (More photos of the traditional Cornish folk music session at Luxulyan on my Facebook account). 

Update (5th March 2014):

I now hear that future sessions are to be on the 2nd Wednesday of the month which is brilliant news!


As always, venues and schedules can change with time so telephone ahead to ensure the traditional session of Cornish music and dance is happening. I'm sure the proprietors Sharon and Steve will love to hear from you. Perhaps I'll see you there :-)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

En route to playing traditional folk music in Brittany, France - my return visit to the pub folk music session at The Bell Inn, Chittlehampton, North Devon

Bell Inn Chittlehampton traditional pub music folk session
My new years resolution for 2014 was to escape my home area of West Somerset, England and spend more time in Brittany, France where my researches indicate there are lots of traditional folk music sessions.

Since practicalities, including my limited means as an old age pensioner have so far this year prevented me living my musical dream in France, my plan B in the mean time is to return to my old habits of travelling extensively around the UK to pub sessions wherever I can find them.

One of the top pub sessions on my list was The Bell Inn at Chittlehampton, Devon where I have always found a good traditional folk music session with friendly and very able musicians playing mainly a mixture of traditional English and some Irish tunes to an appreciative audience.

It's been a while since I travelled across Exmoor to Chittlehampton which is near South Molton in Devon and I had forgotten the mists and low cloud that can make driving my aged campervan a bit of a gamble in the areas above Exmoor's Simonsbath at night but the journey was definitely worth it with my welcome being as friendly as ever by the Bloatertown Country Dance Band that forms the core of the music session there and their friends. The audience too was on form, dancing energetically in front of  bar to some of the jigs that we played.

Fortunately, as I have frequently found crossing Exmoor, the mists or low cloud had disappeared when I returned after the music session to West Somerset in the early hours of the morning and I was able to collapse into bed with a smile on my face to regenerate my energies for tonight's (14th January 2014) pub music session at another Bell Inn but this time at Ash near Martock in Somerset. It will be another long drive, which in the UK these days is horribly expensive (roll on electric driven vehicles) but the traditional tunes session run by Martin Hughes piano accordion player par excellence at Ash is always in my experience a good one.

By the way, at the Chittlehampton session, I was chatting to Rob, a very friendly member of the Bloatertown Country Dance Band and telling him about a website I had found that listed lots of traditional sessions in Brittany and France. I've not yet been to any, of course, and have no idea even if the sessions are current so, as always it's best to check first before visiting but it's the most comprehensive list I've yet found. In my browser, on the home page of this web site, you have to click on the third button from the left at the bottom to get to the session information.

It may only be my plan B but in the absence of being able to get over to Brittany, France, traditional pub music sessions in the UK can be a lot of fun. Perhaps I'll see you at one soon :-)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Bye bye busking and hello Sidmouth folk music sessions for a musician's meetup

Busking on Minehead sea front
After much thought and prevarication, I've decided to give busking down on Minehead sea front in West Somerset a break and instead spend some time at the various festivals that are taking place at this time of the year starting with the Sidmouth Folk Week.

It will be wonderful to see all my musician friends and join them in playing music at the many sessions and in particular the gathering at The Balfour pub in Sidmouth. This is the information I received recently from Martin Hughes about the Balfour folk music sessions:

'The evening sessions will be running in the big room from Friday 2nd August through to Thursday 8th August inclusive, starting at 8pm. Stevie's music licence runs until midnight on Friday and 1am on all other days (not sure about Sunday though). Richard, the resident chef, will be cooking food in the evening but the menu will be reduced from six pages of choices to three pages.

There are other acts performing in the pub during the afternoon (fliers will be available) but the covered garden area may be free for those who want to arrange other activities at the pub.

As in line with previous years the Loose Knit Band and friends will also be busking outside The Life Boat Station on Tuesday 6th August 2013 at 12.00 noon.'

If you would like some more information about this excellent folk musician's meetup, follow the link to my post about the winter reunion of the Loose Knit Band big session. Perhaps I'll see you there :-)