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Peter Eillis, R.i.p.


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A mighty concertina player and all-round musician and folk dance expert has passed away in Australia. Peter Ellis died last night of cancer; Rob Willis sent me the very sad news.

 

For those of you not fortunate enough to have known Peter, he lived in Bendigo, Victoria Australia. He has been a contributor and leader in the folk music and dance community there for decades. He began the Bush Dance and Music Club of Bendigo as well as the Emu Creek Bush Band, playing both anglo concertina and button accordion. He was a prolific author of all sorts of books and CDs on Australian music and dance; there were few to none in that scene in Australia that did not enjoy his cheerful friendship. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2012 for his lifelong contributions to that country's music and dance heritage.

 

My wife and I had the great privilege to meet him and travel around the country with him in 2012. I had hoped to go back for another meeting with Peter, but now that shall not happen. Rest in peace, Peter. They may not allow accordions in heaven, but surely there will be concertinas there!

 

Dan

Edited by Dan Worrall
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I just heard this sad news this evening and wondered if there would be some mention here. I didn't know Peter as I've not been very involved in the folk scene over the years but recently met when he played for our Concertina Convergence concert at the National Folk Festival this last Easter. He thrilled the audience with a swinging concertina piece, round and round, back and forth at arms length. We were very lucky to have enjoyed one of his last performances.

 

You're lucky to have known him Dan, I wish I had.

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Peter introduced me to the concertina, in fact to the whole folk scene.

 

Among a multiplicity of other activities related to Australian music and dance, he was a fixture at the Nariel Creek Folk Festival where he called the old time dances, played for hours on concertina, accordeon, whistle, harmonica and the occasional stringed instrument. He was absolutely inclusive of everyone, good musicians, beginners, and those inbetween. His laughing mirth, his wit, his absolute zest for all things Australian folk and total commitment to his friends will be very sadly missed. We were so lucky to have Peter amongst us and this year at Nariel, and all the other places dancers and folkies gather, there will be a sadness, but also a recognition that but for Peter and his efforts many of the tunes played, the dances danced and the proliferation of folk instruments playing that music, would not exist.

 

A true gentleman who has made an incalculable contribution to Australian folk music and traditional dance, a superb folk musician never short of a merry tune impeccably played in the Australian style and a man who personified the joy, community and friendship that comes from dancing and playing music together. And a prolific author who has ensured that through his writings and especially his collected music out tradition will live for years to come. A very great loss for us all, and we can be sure there will be at least one concertina player in heaven.

 

 

David Hornett

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A few more things about Peter.

 

Memorial service

 

Guest book

 

A nice concise description of Peter and folk dance and folk dance music in Australia

 

A Youtube of Peter playing a polka mazurka. Peter's playing was technically straightforward, often on a single row as in this piece, but that simplicity belies a strong understanding of and commitment to playing for old time dances. Peter was among a rare number of modern concertina players in Australia to primarily play for dances in an old style that eschews the showiness of modern session music, and instead highlights rhythm for the use of dancers. Peter had a deep knowledge and love for these dances - ones that seem so remote today: polka mazurkas, varsovianas, the Pride of Erin waltz, Gay Gordons, cotillons, and on and on. Most session players today would be hard pressed to give clear tune examples of each of these various dance rhythms, let alone play them rhythmically well enough for social dances....not for lack of technical skill, but for lack of experience in playing these instruments in the way in which they were used 150 years ago. Peter and others in Australia have labored long and hard to keep the practice of traditional social dance alive. We can hear CDs of people like Dooley Chapman and William Kimber and Mary Ann Carolan, but having Peter around was a living bridge to their time. He will be missed.

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One last thing about Peter. There is a sizeable group of Aussie players who have a new sort of email network called the Concertina Convergence....sort of like a facebook page but thankfully not on facebook, and not a blog. At any rate, this was the letter sent out on Peter's untimely death. There are really deep feelings for this man.

That's it from me!

Dan

 

Note to Concertina Convergence group:

 

Dear concertina players,
This week we have lost a friend and legend in the world of Australian concertina dance music, with the death of Peter Ellis after a very short illness. Those of you who got to our Concertina Convergence Concert at the National Folk Festival were lucky to catch Peter doing a wonderful act of demonstrating, in his inimitable way, the use of the concertina as a one-instrument, old-time dance band. As well as pumping out those lovely old tunes, he showed the technique of forcefully ‘swinging’ the concertina vertically or horizontally to accentuate parts of a tune and make the sound travel in interesting ways. Peter contributed enormously to this year’s ‘National’ in his usual busy festival schedule of workshops, concerts, dances, and sessions, but sadly, just weeks after the festival, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Not only was Peter a legend in playing dance music on concertina, but also in inspiring and encouraging others, by generously sharing music and dance in so many ways. He loved dancing, and was a sought-after dance caller, and with his fascination for music history, a collector, researcher and thorough acknowledger of old tunes, songs and dances, as well as a producer of dance music books and recordings, and coordinator of dance bands, singer of interesting old songs, ....and the list goes on....and on. In fact, Peter was a veritable walking, talking, playing, dancing and singing encyclopaedia of Australia’s social dance history. He was a generous contributor at the Bush Traditions gatherings and dance weekends in NSW, as well as many events in his home State of Victoria.
Peter’s concertina was a force to be reckoned with in those mighty sessions, but he was always one of nature’s gentlemen. The Victorian folk music world, we of the Concertina Convergence, and the wider world of Australian social/bush music and dance will sadly miss him, but we’ll always remember his smile and infectious enthusiasm at the joys of sharing music, dance and song, and a good story or two.
VALE Peter.
Keep playing beautiful music,
from Carole, on behalf of the Concertina Convergence team
Edited by Dan Worrall
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A true gentleman and a grand player, ever willing to share his knowledge and his enthusiasm.

It was a pleasure to have known him, and folk festivals in Oz will never be the same without his presence.

We, in Australia, owe him a great deal.

Farewell, Peter, and thank you for the music. It will live on....

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