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Concertina Workshops at the Palestine Old Time Music Festival, East Texas, March 24-26, 2022

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The “Old Pal” old time music festival at Palestine Texas will return on March 24-26, 2022, after a two year Covid lapse, and the concertina workshop, a staple since 2005, will again be part of it! Old Pal is a three day-long celebration of all sorts of old time music and song, with twice-a-day concerts by a large number of performers, constant jam sessions, and workshops involving fiddlers, banjo, dulcimer and mandolin players, guitarists, singers, and, of course, concertina players. It is a small, very friendly gathering in a classic small Texas town, replete at that time of year with blooming azaleas and dogwoods.


This year, Ann Kirrane of Tuam, County Galway will return to both perform and to lead a number of concertina workshops. She is a lovely traditional singer, and plays Anglo concertina in the style of her late father, Chris Droney, who was a much-loved figure among those who follow Irish traditional music. Ann’s workshops will focus on learning tunes from Clare and beyond in the sparsely ornamented, highly rhythmic and melodic Droney/north Clare style. She is a fourth generation player in her family, and her great-grandfather was among the earliest in Ireland to play the instrument. Although she plays the Anglo, her workshops are open to players of all systems who have advanced-beginner to advanced skills (meaning that you have reasonable proficiency at learning tunes by ear or with sheet music).


Also this year, we will be joined by Gary Coover of Honolulu, Hawaii. Gary is well known to us, as he was a stalwart of the initial Palestine concertina workshops before being lured away from Texas by swaying palm trees and iced mai tais. He is internationally known as an author and publisher of numerous instruction and tune books for concertinas, under the Rollston Press label (https://rollstonpress.com/ ). He plays the Anglo but also the Jeffries duet, the English concertina, and the melodeon, concentrating on what might be termed the English harmonic style. He has promised us some workshops that include the harmonic style on the Anglo, and another – for all systems – on playing and singing sea shanties! He will no doubt also bring some books for the festival shop.


Yours truly will be there, and if any are interested I’ll give a side workshop on old-style octave (double) style playing on the Anglo. With Gary’s help I am publishing a new version of ‘House Dance,’ a 2011 celebration of old-style Anglo playing, with 200 rare recordings of early twentieth century players from England, Ireland, South Africa and Australia. It was released initially as a CDRom by Musical Traditions in England, but the general use of CDRom technology to marry text and recordings never took off. The new version will be in book form and will have text, illustrations, and lots of imbedded QR code squares, so that readers can point their phones at the codes and instantly hear an audio recording of the example being discussed. Gary plans to bring some copies to the festival shop.


We will also hold tutorials for beginning players of various systems 0n an as-needed basis; contact Dan or Gary either before or early in the weekend to arrange.


The overall festival has a website here with more information: https://oldpalmusic.com/   The festival charges a reasonable fee for the weekend’s activities. On top of this, there is a $40 surcharge for the concertina workshops, which we concertinists have always charged ourselves in order to defray travel expenses of our concertina headliners. If you are interested in attending, please send Dan Worrall a pm on this site, with your email address, and you will be included on the email list for workshop notices and for pre-festival releases of workshop sheet music and/or recordings.


Hope to see you there!

Dan Worrall


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Plans continue for the concertina workshop at the Palestine Old Time Music Festival in East Texas, March 24-26! As mentioned in the earlier post, we'll have a number of workshops by Ann Kirrane (daughter of the late Clare concertina great Chris Droney, and a wonderful player, singer and teacher in her own right) and by Gary Coover, who needs no introduction on this website. Gary will hold a workshop on playing the Anglo in the harmonic style, and another one on shanty music and song for all systems. He'll bring some of his many publications for sale. Ann will concentrate on County Clare music in the melodic and rhythmic style of her family....she is a fourth generation of Droney concertina players. All systems are welcome to her classes (she plays Anglo). She will also give a workshop on Clare songs.


We've had requests for a beginner's workshop on English concertina, with several new players coming for that. If there are other beginner requests, let us know and we'll see what we can put together.


The weather should be lovely in late March....the dogwoods and azaleas will be out in force, and by then all the current omicron surge should (fingers crossed) be well in the rear view mirror. Non-concertina spouses can find much to do, with noon and evening concerts by a wide variety of old-time performers, workshops on a variety of instruments and styles, a shape-note singing session, and local barbecue. 


I'll be sending out some concertina workshop music soon for those who have confirmed attendance by sending me a PM via this site. Main festival website is here. We hope to see you there...our 16th concertina workshop!

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Shep's BBQ, 'nuff said. 


There will be some concertina book giveaways, plus opportunities for any one-on-ones. I'll be bringing my Wolverton Anglo, also EC and Jeffries Duet, and if all goes according to plan I'll spring my Lachenal contrabass out of storage.


Old Pal is always a great place to share tunes and compare instruments, the Sacred Harp singing at the festival is an awesome sound to behold, and there are endless old-time sessions that crop up everywhere. It will be good to meet and hear Ann Kirrane and meet up with other players!



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For the harmonic-style Anglo workshop, in addition to basic chord patterns we'll have fun working on "Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos", "Bobbing Joe", "You Are All I Have", "Hard Times Come Again No More", "Weeping Sad & Lonely", "Eleanor Plunkett", "Lumps of Plum Pudding", "I Wish I Was Single Again", and "Namida no Regret".


For the sea shanty workshop: "Drunken Sailor", "Roll the Old Chariot Along", "Roll Alabama Roll", "Santiano", and "Leave Her Johnny".


A very full slate to be sure, but attendees get the music with tablature in advance along with QR code links to concertina and/or original recordings in the same keys. Muscle memory takes a long time to develop, so I won't be teaching these from scratch to finish, more like tips and techniques. These are some of my favorite tunes to play, so hopefully others will enjoy learning and playing them too. Several can be played on a 20-button instrument, others use a lot of the buttons on the third row. 


Having said all that, if it turns out the group is mostly rank beginners we'll just take something simple like "Oh Susanna" and show how to work it up a million different ways - single-line melody, block chords, oompahs, octaves, key changes, etc.


There's always plenty of time for one-on-ones, plus jam sessions at this 2-day festival, so there is no shortage of musical opportunities, including meeting other players and trying instruments by different makers. There are lots of old-time music sessions too, but I'm proud to say the concertina session a few years back outlasted them all until the night janitor politely informed us he would like to go home!



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