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Everything posted by jonmac

  1. PS; the emoticon in the middle there was actually a "b" followed by a bracket!! Jon
  2. Hi ICA members ... Especially those confused by the appearance of the RED "Concertina World #451" on their postal label. I have to admit the fault is all mine - I printed out the all red labels and then moved onto printing out the labels for those who were fully paid up - ie the BLACK labels. This is I did by simply changing the text colour in the label printing program I use - since the magazine said if your ADDRESS was printed in RED then you needed to pay that is all I did - I did agonize for a few moments to change the rest of the label black - but at the time my computer was showing signs of instability - with the display doing strange things - so I printed out the labels without further changes - hoping that a) I could print out the labels and that people would understand that it was the address that mattered! As it was I managed the printout and it wasn't until an hour or so later that the display collapsed completely requiring a visit to the computer shop for nearly a week and a cost of over £200 to get it working again!! So, if you were alarmed that your subscription hadn't arrived or been credited to you - please accept my profound apologies - it was an expensive act of expediency and not a malicious act on my part. I shall ensure that I do not allow the same error to happen again when I'm printing the labels - so NEXT time your label is RED ....!!! The only comfort I can get from the situation is the concern that so many of you expressed regarding your subscriptions - sometimes the Committee do wonder if there is "anyone out there" and if we are, in anyway providing you with what you want from us. I see Kautilya commented on the music in the supplement - Paul Gitlitz was quite charming about us using his music in the supplement - to the point of suggesting tunes to include - it made a very difficult job easy - or I would have had to try to play through all 270 tunes to make a selection! Might I suggest if you enjoy his music - drop him an email to say thank you - and of course if you include something on your next recordings - pay him his royalties! Kind regards Jon McNamara (Chairman/ICA)
  3. Hi... I'm never quite sure how to reply to these things - probably one of the reasons I don't come on the site too often! ICA AGM: Friday 6th: we have spoken to Russ Hughes of Croppers Folk Club and early arrivers on the Friday would be very welcome to join them. There is no admission charge. The club is apparently "mainly a singers club" but would be happy to hear some concertina playing! They meet at 8:30pm in The Priory Inn, Whitechapel Road, Cleckheaton BD16 16HR (tel. 01274 874 108) Saturday 7th: at The Music Room, Cleckheaton (check their web site for the address - sorry I've lost it!) The Music Room opens at 9:30. We can use the front door this time. The meeting will be held on the first floor. 10.00 : meet and greet with coffee 10.30 Workshop with Keith Kendrick on (I think!) "Derby and Winster tunes" 12.30 Break for lunch 14.00 AGM (keep it short!!) 15.30 Concert with Keith Kendrick 17.30 Leave the Music Room There may be a "Session" in the Wickham Arms in the evening time? More details on the day. All the time are only aproximate. The workshop and concert are open to non-members Naturally we encourage any any one attending to use some spare time exploring and maybe purchasing items from our hosts "the Music Room"!! Hope this helps Kind regards Jon McNamara
  4. It is being held on Saturday, 7th November, in The Music Room, Cleckheaton. Fuller details should be available on the ICA's own website regards John Wild Hello Michael. I tried replying to your PM but got the message that your inbox was full. Committee members Roger Gawley and Jon McNamara participate in the CNet forums and possibly a PM to one of them might help. Re family locations - in my Grandfather's time the family was mostly around the Stockport area regards John
  5. Hi Alan I simply have to agree - the Hawkwood Band CD "Marches and Tunes" is a real surprise to my ears - the music is fresh and exciting, the production stunning and rather than just being an echo of the past - it feels like the start of a new adventure. I really loved the whole thing - and it kept me calm and entertained yesterday as I sat for three hours in various traffic jams! I have to admit that I was expecting more of a brass band sound but am delighted to say that it is uniquely a concertina sound. Anyone who loves the instrument should add a copy of this CD to their Anglo International and English International collections. My greatest admiration must go to the creators of this wonderful work - not just for their playing but for sacrificing a week of their holidays to go to a working residential week at Hawkwood (at their own expense) to make the project possible ... I really do think concertina players are very special people. I happily urge concertina players everywhere to buy this CD - if you don't, you really won't know what you are missing! Jon McNamara (Chairman: International Concertina Association)
  6. Hi David ... Try Melody Assistant or Harmony Assistant (a Google search should find them) - very reasonably priced (even free if I recall) - you can import ABC files - view them as music, edit them, add chords, transpose - print them out - and export the music back to ABC in a different key - or into various other music formats. The programs are not my favorites for setting music (I use Mozart 9) but they are very high on my list of essential suppor programs. Kind regards Jon McNamara
  7. Hi Chris ... Interesting question - Chris Timson asked if I cared to comment - so here goes ... Personally I have, I think, five English system instruments - and a number of the cheaper Anglos in the house that my wife once took an interest in! Sorry to sound vague - but some of the Anglos have been loaned and are "back home" as far as I know. Of the English (A Wheatsone metal ended, a Lachenal "New Model" and an Edeophone - a baritone which may be a George Case - and my two most played instruments - a Morse treble and baritone). The Wheatstone is a favorite but doesn't get out too often - it's big and bold and shows up all my mistakes ... both the Laschenals are out on loan trying to encourage others to join the "cause" - while the Morse's get played almost every day! Why, because they are robust - and more important - they are light in weight - I bought them some years ago when I was suffering from my wrists being damaged from over use of the computer keyboard - and it was impossible to hold and play a vintage instrument. But the Morse, coming in at just on 1Kg each - with the added support of a neckstrap proved to be the saving of my hobby - now my wrists are much better I still use them because I just enjoy them. I suppose I'd consider the important part of that statement is "the Lachenals" are out on loan. My connection with the International Concertina Association means that I actively try to promote the playing of the concertina in all it's various forms ... my lack of ability means that it is normally only the English System I can promote - and what better way than actually allowing people to try one for weeks/ months - whatever is needed. The Lachenal New Model is currently with a young lady who is developing a great interest in music - she was introduced to a Jackie at Sidmounth - and was allowed to borrow one from the WCCP. I have nothing against the Jackie - they are wonderful starter instruments - but have their limitations ... the day I loaned her the Lachenal it was like all her birthdays had arrived at once. What the loan really does is allow the student to determine if they really want to play the instrument - and her parents to determine that it really is worth paying out the money to buy her a good quality instrument of her own. The other Lachenal is on loan to a local Music Teacher who was fascinated by the instrument (and possibly from quite an early age - she persuaded her parents to buy her a concertina in her teens - but was not overjoyed by the Hohner Anglo she was given one Christmas and abandoned the "Dream"). My hope is that by encouraging her to play we may find ourselves with a real Concertina Music Teacher ... and the ICA with some advice to pass on to Music Teachers everywhere as to how they might be able to help/teach the aspiring player. Within this question of "How many instruments does any person need?" - to which the real answer is "as many as I can get my hands on"!! there is the problem of "what happens if my only instrument breaks and needs to go to the concertina doctor?" and "do I let my daughter practice/learn on my instrument leaving me without one to play?" - and the thousand variations on this theme! Currently we are starting to explore the possibility of identifying companies who might be willing to loan/hire instruments - as I say - we are just starting - so if you have any useful information I would be delighted to hear from you. We have considered buying instrument for loan by the ICA - but the problem we have is insuring the instruments against loss or damage ... again any information would be very welcome. I can be contacted off topic at chairman@concertina.org Kind regards Jon McNamara
  8. There will be a lot coming your way Jon when all my projects are completed. Al I look forward to it Al - I'd better buy a bigger box!! Kind regards Jon
  9. Have to put both hands up and say I have a treble and baritone Morse (how greedy is that) bought as a "matched pair" from Richard Morse/Button Box some years ago. The money came from selling a 56 button tenor/treble which I was unable to use due to damaged wrists (caused by years of keyboard use). They were absolute life savers - allowing me to continue my attempts to play. Wrists are better now - but they still remain my "first" instruments - my vintage concertinas tend to only come out occasionally! What music do I play - anything slow and simple - but that's not a reflection on the instruments - only on my fingers and my brain/lack of knowledge!! Kind regards Jon
  10. I used to own a Bastari Hayden, which while a far sight from a good instrument was still not hard to play at all. I learned a lot of fun tunes on it before I converted a big McCann to Hayden. I'm curious as to what Stagi did to the instrument when they took over the company to make it so much worse to play. I find it is worth making a good investment in a musical instument. A "starter" instrument like the Jackie will do the job for a while, but won't give you half the playing satisfaction of a more expenisve instrument. Skip that and go for the Albion or something equivalent. You'll still get your trade in, and you will find the reward of playing a better instrument will dramatically increase your learning rate. and if you decide it isn't for you, you will get real money back for it since the demand is very good for these instruments. I have a student with a Rochelle, which as far as I can tell is the Anglo equivalent of the Jackie, and while it gets the job done, I always wince a bit to watch her work against the over large instrument and it's slow response. A beginner shouldn' have to fight the instrument as well as the difficulty of developing the skills in the first place. I would have to agree with the above - the Jackie, while an excellent starter for minimal cost - and endorsed by the mighty AA himself (a good sound but hard work) - for a mere ten times the cost (!) I'd go for a Morse Albion - light weight, fast and very playable. It might lose out a little in "sweetness" to a damn good Vintage instrument - but what you lose on the sound you'll probably gain on the action. Kind regards Jon NB: I have 2 Morse instruments plus vintage - and I normall play the Morse
  11. Hi ... ICA "Sound Archivist" hat wearing Secretary of ICA here ... This sounds really interesting ... Since the analogue recording is very much more vulnerable to physical accidents than a digital recording I would suggest the tape is ripped (electronically) to .wav format on CD Rom - without any manipulation - and then make a few copies for people who want to help "clean it up" if it needs it. Store the tape away safely after the one play through. Once we have seen and heard what is on the tape a better evaluation of what to do with it can be made. If there is a problem doing that - I am quite happy to oblige - and will even return the tape along with a CD of the recording. As for "helping out" with the project - I would be delighted to do so. My weapon of choice is Adobe Audition (used to be Cool Edit). Personally I'd be delighted to have CD's of any tapes of concertina music ... or indeed ANY concertina recordings for the sound archives Kind regards Jon
  12. Hi Dirge ... Don't panic - the suggestion to "scan" the whole library was made (by our librarian) a couple of years ago - for all the reasons stated (mainly money) we had to abandon the idea. Mind you at that time we were considering the physical scanning of the material ... my very quick experiment earlier this evening indicates that it is perfectly possible to take a passable picture that could be transmitted electronic! The cost of a camera these days is not unreasonable - I suspect we would need some sort of "rig" to allow successful pictures to be taken - I have a number of digital cameras so will explore how high a resolution picture we need. Storage and transmission in .gif format (rather than .jpgs) would be best - as far as I know they are compatible with Apple Macs as well as Windows PC. Kind regards
  13. Hi Everyone ... After posting my last reply at quite a early hour of the morning - I had "further thoughts" very much along the lines of Rich Morse and Woody (thank you for your suggestions) . I shall go away and experiment - a very quick attempt indicates that it is highly possible (though we might need to create some means of holding the music flat! It would be the digital equivalent of a microfilm! I'm certain it would be possible - how usable is an interesting point. Oh - and my desire for .tif is simple - the software "sharp eye" uses .tif at 300 dpi - but in truth .gif or .jpgs could be used - they would just need to be converted
  14. Don't ever "wish you'd kept quiet" - new boy or not - rock the boat - how else are we going to see new ideas, evaluate new suggestions - or even re-evaluate old ones? A quick look at the price of A3 scanners suggests that the lowest price one is about £70 - but I wonder if the scanned image is worth the effort - the next price bracket seems to be about £800 (and the really posh ones costing about £2,000+). So, assuming we are convinced that the money is worth spending - for the amount of use it will get - we could consider such a purchase (of the £70 one!) but I would need to be convinced that the image would be of value! There is another small matter to consider - I am given to understand that David B's home is cluttered enough with the library contents and photocopier - and I'm not sure how popular a A3 flatbed scanner would actually be! I can just imagine what my wife would say if I tried to bring such an item into my home - a frightening thought! Kind regards Jonmac
  15. .. and as archivist (documents) I have to hold my hand up! But the photocopier *was* supplied by the ICA. Going back a little to this event, Librarian Dave B. said he'd prefer a copier to a scanner. There are also other considerations not immediately obvious - for instance, back in those days of yore when the music was published, A4 paper size wasn't standard, so the music is usually too big to fit on a standard scanner. And also at the time we got the copier, broadband internet wasn't yet on the horizon, so the obvious 'just email it' of today wasn't a real option as mailboxes were small, and sending large emails terribly slow. It would be nice if the ICA could supply the latest technology to all its officials, but its only got a few hundred members, and as Al indicates in the thread starter, a lot of our funds go straight back to the members in the form of newsletters, music supplements, and printed PICA. best wishes ..wes Dare I stick my head over the parapet - oh what the hell - getting shot down doesn't hurt all that much!! Hello Dirge - and welcome - I'm sure I can work out who you are without too much trouble - but not to worry. I appreciate what you are saying about having the music library in a scanned form - and Wes has given the main problems we faced when we considered this matter a couple of years ago - the physical size of the scores means that before we could scan the music - we would have to reduce it's size on the photocopy machine - and then scan that! My personal experience is that the scan that is then produced is often pretty poor quality - and honestly it was better just to supply the photocopy! To get around this we explored the idea of having the entire library scanned professionally - but it isn't a very cheap process (if I recall, someone did suggest that they would pay for the scanning - but the price to the ICA would be that all the music would then be placed on the internet for free access to everyone ... rather a matter of chucking out the baby with the bathwater!) Even if we could afford to have the scanning done - and it would have cost something like the total income from subscriptions for a number of years - there would be the other small problems like storage of the images and the creation of a good quality database to service it - since with out the database the scans would be less use than the library. I also think that that scary word "Copyright" croped up a couple of times! An interesting "cheap" alternative would be to divide the library up into small selections and have individual members scan them ... but oh the time to organise such a project - probably inversely proportional to the chance of it actually working! So ... in our defense - we did consider the possibility - but reluctantly discarded it for most of the reasons I've listed above. Now, if there is anyone reading this who can tell us how to change a library of scores into a database of clear usable electronic images and a negligible cost and even less effort - please, please tell us! More so if they know the copyright rules well enough to convince us that we wouldn't be breaking the law. Just to make it a little harder - I would like the images to be stored in .tif format, be of good contrast black and white with the stave strictly horizontal - so that I can use my music OCR software directly on the image.. ...and while I'm here, may I thank Al for his kind comments - our next publication PICA 4 is currently being set out and contains some very interesting items (I haven't had time to read them all yet!) - including - we hope - a review on the new English International - the three CD set due to be launched in the very near future as a follow up to the woderful 3 CD set Anglo International.. For those who are members of the ICA - or are thinking of joining (please do) remember we, the committee, are only a small collection of volunteers - and while we are all crazy keen (OK I talk for myself) - we don't have a huge organisation of paid staff to do the work for us - it's all done by the same few crazy keen volunteers! At the moment we are running as hard as we can to stay still - so along with ideas, kicks, praise we are always looking for helping hands. An organisation like the ICA is only as effective as the collective enthusiasm of its members - and seemingly small contributions can produce great benefits to all - for instance the last two music supplements were essentially created by two members - Roger Digby and Peter Dyson - the latter being in the USA Kind regards
  16. One of the neat things about abc is that the files are platform-independent. That is, the same abc files can be read on Windows machines, Macs, Linux, or what-have you. But the software that works with the files is generally not platform-independent. In this case, it would have been helpful to mention that Abacus only works under Windows. As a Mac user, I get pretty much everything I need abc-wise from a program called BarFly. It shows you the notation as you type the abc, plays it back with the full pallette of QuickTime instruments (or output either to MIDI or sound file), produces very nice printouts or PDFs via a link with abcm2ps (included). It also proofreads your code, expands guitar chords, transposes, etc... Yes - you're right - I should have said it was Windows dependant - it never occured to me that anyone using Barfly on a Mac would want to use anything else! I saw/used it once on the Mac platform and have lived in slight envy of you all ever since ... Kind regards Jon
  17. John, I'm very interested in this Widows Explorer Software.... Can you give me a link to download?? Isn't it Windows Explorer? - I wouldn't know - I've used Firefox for a couple of years now - smaller, neater and less prone to attacks by code creeps. Guess I should have said "Microsoft Internet Explorer" (the blue "E" thingy) - I think it ships with every version of Windows that I've ever used ... so just a slip of the keyboard!- I hope I'm allowed that! But thanks for the correction - I appreciate it - I don't mind being wrong now and then - which is probably a good thing since I often am!! On the otherhand - if you're still using Explorer (which ever version) do have a look at Firefox (and Thunderbird for your email) - in my opinion - very much better than the Microsoft products ... and free as well! Kind regards Jon
  18. Can I chuck in a few words here ... I'm in the middle of processing music for the "Concertina World" Music Supplement - mainly related to session tunes. It took me a while to define a simple working strategy - but I include it below for what interest it might provide. The abc element uses Abacus which is a really neat program - if you want to generate music in abc it gives you a real time music display to go with your text! Abacus can be obtained from Bryan Creer http://members.aol.com/abacusmusic/ For only a few pounds - support concertina players - Bryan plays a mean English System!! Using the Internet to find a tune ... Software required : a Web browser : e.g. Firefox or Widows Explorer. A text editor : e.g. Notebook An abc music program: there are many - use your favourite : I favour "Abacus" (written by Bryan Creer) and "Harmony Assistant" or Melody Assistant. Optional : a Music editing program : I favour "Mozart 2005" as it allows me to edit the music into the graphic format required for this Music Supplement. I think Noteworthy is well worth investigating! Open Goggle and search for "tune finder abc" - select the first "hit" in my case "JC's ABC Tune Finder" (this has an address of :http://ecf-guest.mit.edu/~jc/cgi/abc/tunefind) Enter the tune name you want and click the "find" box. Depending on your success you may find a page or two of hits all based on your search input. On the left side there are hyper links to various music formats. Personally I tended to use the "abc" format choice. Using the "Tune information" to select different versions of a tune I would open a "abc hyper link" (there is a delay function in the program to protect the data from "web bots" - if the data doesn't appear, use the "back arrow" to return to the search results page and try again). When the data appears - highlight the code and copy it - then open notebook and paste it into the opened page. You can copy as many versions - or indeed tunes - into Notebook. When satisfied - save the Notebook data as "filename.abc" Open Abacus and using the File/Open command open "filename.abc" - you should find a tune list - select the tune you want to listen to (Ctl L - will re-open the tune list in Abacus and allow very quick switching between tunes). click the play button ... and off you go! (I have no intention here to go into the fine details of Abacus - which I personally think is one of the most usable of the "abc" programs ... however, one small warning to anyone using a computer with the Operating System "Windows XP" - Abacus doesn't like the silver colour scheme! - it looks very smart - but the music displays as black staves and notes on a black background! To process the music further - having selected my "version" using Abacus - I open that version in "Harmony Assistant" (I prefer Harmony to Melody as the standard score display is better) using the "Import / abc" function. To transfer the data into Mozart I export a midi file (Midi1) out of Harmony Assistant - and then import it into Mozart ... edit and save as required. Needless to say at this point you can use your own personal favourite Music editor. Kind regards Jon McNamara
  19. Sorry - I don't often get the chance to read through all these wonderful messages. One piece of software I haven't seen mentioned is "Mozart" (http://www.mozart.co.uk/) - which is one of the cheapest Music Desktop Publishers I know - with good midi output - currently costs £65 for the fully licenced version - but there is a trial version (30 days?) to see if you like it. Personally I find it very easy to use - but then I have been using it for some years now! The best aspect of it is that the output is of publishing quality ... and it has been used to create the "Concertina World" Music supplements for some years now ... It also has one other advantage - it can import .niff files from Sharpeye (http://www.visiv.co.uk/) a music optical character recognition program - and while it is a bit pricy ( over £100) - it is brilliant. Want to learn a page of dots - and have no idea what they sound like - OCR it with Sharpeye - pop it into Mozart - sit back and listen - a task I've managed to complete in less than 10 minutes on occasions! (nb: this does depend on the quality of the input/ complexity of the music etc.). I also sometime use Harmony and Melody Assistant (the latter being adequate - and cheaper!) Noteworthy, Midinotate composer and various other (expensive) options - but always return to Mozart for speed and simplicity with a quality output ... but as they say - horses for courses! The other thing I like about Mozart is that there is a discussion group where help is almost instantanious - and more often than not - provided by David Webber - the chap who wrote the program. Also, if things are found to require changing (bugs etc.) David is often in there with a patch/ update in days ... it's worth buying the program just to enjoy the service!! Kind regards Jon McNamara
  20. Hi Peter (and Dick) It wasn't a "dig" at you Peter - after all I do have some idea just how long it takes to process music tapes - a friend produced a one hour CD from a live recording in the Folk Club - told me that it took over 100 hours of process time to complete! I look forward to receiving your archive with a sort of excited dread - but I can wait a while!! For the record (since I have the record - and very nice too) Martyn Bradley recorded on the Greeneich Village lable (GVR 205) which, if I recall, was part of Sweet Folk All Recordings - Joe Steads "Empire"! Clues that might help tracking him down - the LP was co produced by Paul Downes - and I've also found references to a Martyn Bradley performing with a Warwick Downes - who is also on the LP. And while there is probably no connection - I have found references to a Martyn Bradley as a geologist working for the Warwick Centre for Life Long Learning! So, any clues to a contact would be good - the LP might have been made in 1979 - but it's never too late to gather stories and biographies of "yesterdays players" - preferably while they are still alive! Kind regards Jon
  21. Hi Nils ... Thank you for the question ... I was alerted to it's exsistence by John Wild and, like him, had never heard of Martyn Bradley ... I now simply haven't heard him - yet! Your question caused me to do a little searching on the internet where I found that a copy of Martyn Bradley's "Time Can't Stand Still" being sold for under £10 - it was delivered to my front door this morning ... essentially to satisfy my curiosity but also to become part of the ICA Sound Archive! The Archive is something I'm working on "slowly" when my time isn't drowned by doing other things for the ICA (Currently preparing PICA2 for the web site). So, thank you for your question ... while I must admit an unplayed copy of an album sounds "interesting" I'm not sure I'd want to buy it ... well, how could one bring oneself to actually play it! DO I think this sort of item should be purchased for the ICA Archives - the answer must be "Yes" - but even better if people donate them! My attitude is that, as "Sound Archivist" I shall (do) purchase what I can for the archive with the intention that when I "pop my clogs/ close my concertina case" my family will pass them onto the ICA! My family place the music of the concertina (even played by better men than me) very low on their lists of enjoyable sounds! What I would ask anyone who reads this to remember - is that I am aware there is a whole history of recordings that occured long before I even became aware of the existance of the concertina ... so if you know of ANY recordings that strongly feature the concertina - please let me know - at the best you'll improve my education - at worst we'll generate a real discography for the instrument(s) (or do I mean the other way round!) Kind regards Jon
  22. She is indeed a delightful Lady ... and if you are anywhere near Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire on April 6th this year - you can see Martyn Whyndham Read - hopefully supported by Iris in the local Folk Club : see http://beerfordbury.com for details Kind regards Jon
  23. What sort of time frame are we talking about here? I would be reluctant to "part with the tapes" before I've captured them to CD - for safety. I know it will take me a little time to do the transfers (that's the trouble with being retired - far to much work - and no excuse not to do it like "Sorry I'm in the office 9 to 5"!! On the other hand - having some sort of "deadline" to work to will actually help me by raising the priority of the project! In the meantime I will consult with the committee - most of them are probably reading this anyway! Dare I say - as a player of the English system - that I really enjoyed the Anglo International - and if you can do the same for the English/Duets I shall be delighted Kind regards Jon
  24. Hi Alan, Everyone ... I guess I should stick my head above the parapet - (even if there is a danger of getting arrows in my hat! ) and make my small contribution to this topic. For some years now I have been the nominal “Sound Archivist” of the ICA - mainly because I was increasingly concerned that no-one was apparently collecting “archival” sounds of the concertina. As a result I have a small collection of recordings that have been passed on to me (with more promised - thank you Peter). The collection does require cataloguing! - and from listening to some of the tapes (the Mildred Stringer interview by David Ball in April 1999 for instance) there are some recording problems to be sorted out (Microphone rumble etc.). Given enough time I have always hoped to transfer the recordings onto CD and make them available to ICA members - in much the same way as we make concertina music from our library available. However, I also see no reason why the recordings shouldn’t become part of the resource for Alan to consider in his compilation task - assuming that there are no insurmountable objections from the committee or the members ... In the meantime - if anyone has interesting (or even dull!) recordings of concertina music - played on any shape or flavour of concertina - that they are willing to donate (a copy of) to the Sound Archive then I would be delighted to accept them! Kind regards Jon
  25. Witney unfriendly - rubbish! Scarey - Yes! Hard work - Yes! but never unfriendly!! (Well hardly ever!) Now maybe this is because the first time I turned up at Witney with a poor quality English concertina and an over estimation of my ability to play it - I discovered a Friday evening session in the School where I was welcomed with a warm smile and a cup of coffee ... the deflation of my ego was very gentle as I rapidly discovered I really had no idea what I was doing there! But come on - you've got to start somewhere ... and Witney got me started and I've returned every year since - very much "the beginner"... and every year Dave Townsend looks with some alarm as I stumble into his workshop - and every year I go away a better - and hopefully wiser - player (still not wise enough to give up!). But - unfriendly? No I really don't think so - purposeful? Yes! Concentrated on aspects of playing? Yes! Now -I must admit I don't go to Witney to make friends - I go to learn how to play the concertina a little better - not that I haven't found and made friends there - it sometimes seems that everyone knows me and wants to chat, go for meals, buy me pints or just ask questions ... as if I know anything. I'm not grumbling - I love it and look forward, each year, to another busy, exhausting and enlightening weekend - making and remaking friendships ... it's simply a brilliant weekend. I guess if I want a relaxing "friendship" weekend then I'd find time to attend Kilve, Swaledale, Mexborough, Lewes (regularly), the East Anglian band day etc. - or the local Folk Club - or Folk Camp or any of the many other weekends that offer relaxation, food and good company ... But when I want to learn concertina - Witney is tip-tip top of my list - and a weekend I wouldn't want to miss. As an aside - I feel sorry for the player who wandered lonely around Witney on the Saturday evening - why didn't they go to the concert in the school - a concert which to be honest is worth the value of the weekend by itself! SO - could Witney as a formula be improved - personally I don't think so ... it could be changed - but then it would lose some of its purpose. Would I suggest that the organisers modified the formula to make it "more friendly" - never - there isn't time enough in the Saturday and Sunday program to fit in "Social sessions" - I recall I ran a "play round the room session" for Dave one year - people seemed to enjoy it - but I nearly choked on my lunch! It might be possible to add to the weekend - and I hesitate to suggest that it might be possible that an organisation like the ICA (International Concertina Association) could run an "information table" at coffee time - to try to answer new attendees questions - if indeed we can supply the answers! A message board might be a useful addition (with a supply of postcards and pens) to allow people to make contact with each other! Even strangers could post messages like "Jon , English system Player from Hertfordshire would like to meet other lost souls to share a meal time, talk concertinas and in general - be friendly" ... well - it might work! My overall comment would be that Witney is there as a workshop/concert weekend - I makes my choice, pays my money - and that's all I expect ... and that is what is served up brilliantly. The friendship aspects - I think that's up to me ... on the other hand - if you go to Witney and see a white haired bloke who answers to the name of "Jon" wandering around looking lost and lonely - take me to the pub and buy me a pint!!
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