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I’m not sure how your winter is going, but there are icicles dripping off my barbed wire fence today. Yikes. Time to think about warm Spring days, dogwoods, azaleas, and the 2017 Palestine Old Time Music Festival, with a very special Concertina program this year! It is our thirteenth such gathering, and occurs March 23-25 in the small east Texas town of Palestine, a bit over an hour’s drive east of Dallas. Concertinas: This year, our concertina workshops will be graced by not one but two skilled and renowned teachers and performers from the other side of the pond: a repeat appearance by Ann Kirrane, of Tuam, Co. Galway Ireland, and a first time visit by Roger Digby, of Fordham, Essex, UK. Both will give multiple workshops as well as perform in concerts. Ann Kirrane is a member of the famous Droney family of traditional musicians from Bellharbour, north County Clare. She plays Anglo concertina in the same style as her father Chris Droney and grand-father Jim. Her father Chris is now in his 92nd year, still playing, and is known the length and breadth of the country and beyond. From the age of seven Ann learned to play and won at the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil on three occasions. While she continues to play, these days her clear, soaring voice is her primary instrument. She is a rare performer whose return visit is eagerly anticipated by both the concertina players and the Palestine festival crowd in general. Ann and her father Chris Droney conferred recently on what she should teach at her three workshops this year, and came up with six tunes from the Droney family’s vault: two polkas, two jigs, a hornpipe and a reel. The workshops are accessible to all types of concertinas, not just the Anglo which she plays. Roger Digby has been an Anglo player for over 40 years, well known for his performance and knowledge of the traditional dance music of rural England, ‘English Country Music’. He founded ’Flowers and Frolics’ in the mid-70s, a band at the spearhead of the resurgence of interest in ECM and continues playing in that style today with ‘The Valiant Dance Band’. With the young, supremely talented, fiddle player Liz Giddings he has formed a highly respected duo playing a wider range of traditional music. He also gets together with Liz and Michael Sheehy once a month and plays the Sliabh Luchra music that Michael has taught him and he still, very rarely, recreates his long-standing musical partnership with Bob Davenport, now an octogenarian and regarded as one of the greatest living traditional singers in the UK. He is an experienced teacher and workshop leader. This is Roger’s first trip to the US since he took up concertina playing 40+ years ago….a rare treat for us. Roger will give two workshops. The first involves left hand techniques for accompaniment and rhythm. Like many players of English Traditional Music on Anglo concertina, Roger tends to keep the tune on the right hand, and use the left hand to support and accompany that tune. His first workshop looks at the main ways of doing that. The techniques that it explains are available for players of other styles should they wish to use them. It is aimed at both Anglo and Duet players, and although based on English music this is not a workshop which is solely for players of that musical style. The second workshop will involve bellows control. Roger believes that the use of bellows is by far the most important aspect of playing the concertina. This workshop explores the different effects that can be achieved by bellows control and, most specifically, by change of bellows direction. It is suitable for all concertina systems and all stages of learning. Concerts: Ann Kirrane will Emcee and perform at a gala concert on Thursday evening, 7pm, which will kick off the weekend. The music will feature a mix of related tunes and songs from America, Ireland and England. Ann Kirrane as well as Roger Digby will play tunes on the concertina, and will be joined by members of the Wright Family of Kennard Texas, as well as and Steve and Sheryl Hartz of Nacogdoches, all of them very accomplished in American traditional (“old time”) music and song, playing a variety of stringed instruments. Ann will be accompanied in her songs by Bill and Emily Galbraith of Houston. Some of our local concertina talent may even show up for a tune or two. It will be a fun evening! Ann and Roger will also have brief appearances at the festival’s other concerts on Friday and Saturday, noon and 7pm. The Festival: All this occurs in the midst of an old time music festival with friendly sessions and twice-a-day concerts. Performers and teachers, on all manner of stringed instruments, come from all over the Southern States and Midwest. It is a small festival, meaning that one can readily access all the performers, and all the sessions are welcoming. There is more information on the festival (including accommodations as well as the concertina portion) at http://www.oldpalmusic.com . Registering for the concertina workshops and obtaining the workshop music package: The standard price for the weekend is $80, which includes all concerts, workshops and sessions. There are reduced fares for spouses and family members who do not play instruments. The concertina community taxes itself an additional $35 per person in order to help defray travel costs of our workshop hosts, Ann and Roger. That extra fee is collected beforehand or at the workshops. Those who confirm their attendance by emailing Katie Meeks at email@example.com, will receive early access to the workshop tunes and/or sheet music prepared by Ann and Roger, prior to the weekend. Please let us know you are coming! Katie can also answer questions about accommodations and the like, and is herself chairing a workshop for beginning Anglo players. Who comes: We get a friendly group of players of various skill levels on a wide variety of concertinas, from Anglos to English system and most types of Duets. Moreover, if you are a beginner, you will find friendly help from any of these folks. Just let Katie know ahead of time, and we will organize an introduction to a player who can help you. And Barbecue, don’t forget the barbecue….. See you there! Dan Worrall
Places still available on the OAIM Concertina Retreat. Come to the idyllic coastal village of Liscannor, Co. Clare and be part of a small group of concertina players for the week. Take daily classes with Ernestine Healy and enjoy afternoon workshops with Timmy Collins and Edel Fox. Check out: www.irishmusicholidays.com for more details.