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Palestine Festival And Concertina Squeeze-in

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We had an excellent set of workshops, great sessions, and very fine time at the Palestine Old Time Music Festival and (third annual) Concertina Squeeze-in, last weekend in lovely Palestine, a small lumber and railroad town in east Texas.


The dogwoods were out. Three nights of American old time music concerts...a very enjoyable hodge podge of acts. Fiddles, banjos, dulcimers, mandolins, autoharps, singers....and concertina. Jody Kruskal astonished the old time music crowd with his playing; in addition to his superb musicianship, I think some of the general crowd were surprised to see anyone play that instrument in so rhythmically appropriate an old time style. We had some really nice workshops with Jody, concentrating on old time American tunes with an emphasis on rhythm and dynamics. He worked us over, but it was lots of fun. Jody is one of a very few who plays anglo in a style that is, on balance, particularly 'American' in phrasing and style, as opposed to Irish or English (though of course he shares the English 'chords left, melody right' way of anglo playing), so it was fitting that he was at this particular venue.


The festival is just the right size and nicely laid back; the performers were friendly and approachable, and there were lots of workshops besides concertinas. Again this year, lots of us sat in on the shape note singing workshop and helped raise the rafters. We concertinas together played a nice old time waltz at one of the concerts, with some folks dancing to it. Harold Herrington and his new apprentice Jim Overturf ('chainyanker') both had some exceptionally nice newly built concertinas to show off. Rhomylly went around interviewing folks... I think she is writing a piece on the festival for some folk magazine. Nice jam sessions. The usual mix of BBQ, Mexican food and antacid tablets....


Here is a group photo of most of the concertina folk:

Seated or kneeling, L to R: Gary Mayo (in back); Jim Overturf; Rhomylly Forbes; Fritz Lang, Nancy Bessent.

Standing L to R: Jim Bayliss; Kurt Braun; Harold Herrington; Mike (?); Jody Kruskal; Dan Worrall; Steve Mills


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Wow .... What a great festival! Nice setting...

Very kind people....Great chit chat!!

Learned more in one session...than I`ve learned all year.

Such wide diversity in styles & interesting squeezeboxes.

Well worth the trip. Definately "A MUST DO EVENT!"

Dan...Very organized event ..... thanks!

Jody.... You`re the master!!! :)

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Here is a group photo of most of the concertina folk:

Seated or kneeling, L to R: Gary Mayo (in back); Jim Overturf; Rhomylly Forbes; Fritz Lang, Nancy Bessent.

Standing L to R: Jim Bayliss; Kurt Braun; Harold Herrington; Mike (?); Jody Kruskal; Dan Worrall; Steve Mills


Holy Haydens!


I just had a good look at that picture, and I see two Hayden concertinas in the pile that bear comment. Actually, I was looking for the Wheatstone Hayden that Jim Bayliss (top left in the picture) bought from Robin Harrison some years ago (I brokered the sale, and the instrument is a twin of mine) but I don't see it there. But to my surprise, I see:


The monster 82-key Hayden that I described last September here seems to have found its way to Texas. There it is, 2nd from left on the bottom (there can't be another one like it, can there?). Did Jim buy it?


And what is that at the right end, on the floor? An octagonal Hayden. A Tedrow (how many has he made, anyway)? Was there another Hayden player there or is that also Jim's?


Inquiring minds want to know!

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Indeed, Jim has the megaHayden. An absolutely beautiful instrument, and it sounds great in Jim's hands. The octagonal Hayden was built by Bob Tedrow for Stephen Mills, who was also present. Kurt Braun brought his Crane. Missing this year was Gary Coover and his Jeffries Duet. Always great to have them all around...these duet folks march to a different drummer!




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Here is a duet perspective on Palestine.


The very few duet players I have been privileged to meet appear to my eyes to be more eclectic musically than the anglo and English folks. Two years ago, Jim Baylis and I spent about an hour sharing and reading songs at Palestine. We surprised each other because we both knew and played that sappy 50’s song “Venus.” Gary got lost and didn’t show up until late in our mini session – but he could do some interesting things on his duet also. I think Jim is comfortable playing more traditional (Irish and Morris). I’m really not.


This year, Steve and I (step in here Steve) shared a couple of pieces and perspectives. He was working on “I’m Confessing That I Love You.” Now I am too. It is not what you would consider a typical concertina piece – so that might be what Dan means by “different drummer.”


Old Time Music is fun. I used to play dulcimer and autoharp so I know some of the tunes. Old Timers also share my like for old time southern hymns. The shaped note singing was a blast!


My main problem with old time music is that the songs seem almost too easy and I get bored. One of the good things about Palestine is that the string players are good at making the songs interesting and anything but boring.


Enter Jody! I got a lot from Jody. Here are three things:


1. He mixes things up and never seems to play the same thing the same way the next time through.

2. He does this fantastic pulsing thing that I had previously thought was an artifact of anglos changing bellows direction.

3. He (and other old time players when playing with others) are very sparse in their harmony. This makes learning a new song, at least compared from the way Steve and I were approaching “I’m Confessing That I Love You,” much easier.


Jody is the consummate music educator. No matter how down into the notes we went, he would always bring us back to the music.


There was some English playing going on. Not much mention here, but Mark Gilston is a remarkable player and incredibly knowledgeable musician.


Palestine was really fun and enlightening.

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What a fine festival in Palesteen! I want to send my thanks to Dan Worrall and all the participants with their various kinds of concertinas. A very friendly bunch and diligent. I worked them hard and got no complaints. You can read all about it on the Tune of the Month blog page April entry at my web site: www.jodykruskal.com


I’ve included mp3 files and photos from the trip.


The festival took place in a very interesting building, The Museum of East Texas Culture. This used to be the local high school but now all of the classrooms display unusual and ordinary artifacts from bygone days. Each room has a theme and you can see and even touch the old stuff. Some of the examples are: pharmacy, dentist and hospital equipment, school supplies, yearbooks and lots of athletic awards, railroad ephemera like actual old tickets that you can punch, cameras, rooms devoted to local personalities and much more. What a great place!


There was also a beautiful hall with very good acoustics for the concerts. The other non-concertina musicians were very welcoming and there were many fine sessions aside from the programing. The organizers Jerry and Margaret Weight throw this party every year in Palestine, and the fact that they have included the local concertina contingent at an old-time festival is unique in my experience. Go to their web site and read what Jerry has to say about welcoming beginner musicians and you will get a sense of their commendable inclusiveness.


Bravo Palestine!

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Another good SW Concertinafest at Palestine. Good eye, David Barnert. I knew the HyperHayden wouldn’t escape your notice, but also, yes, that is my Tedrow Hayden. Bob told me mine was about his 7th Hayden, back in late Aug, 2005. Jim’s Wheatstone is back with Dickinson for a little tweaking.


A few of the highlights, in no particular order, include:

1) performances by the concertina headliners. These were the best concerts all-around of the 3 years I have attended, and our guys held their own. Mark Gilston is already well known there - he usually plays more dulcimer than concertina and he played only dulcimer in concert this year. I heard many favorable comments of his playing; on the first night he played Parson’s Farewell in a brief set where 3 performers each played only 1 tune each, but all memorably.


None of the non-concertinists had a clue as to what to expect from Jody – I sensed a certain anxiety on the part of the organizer, who ordinarily does not invite performers (or instruments) with whom he’s not well-acquainted. Jody proceeded to get the crowd well into it and left them buzzing. It was the perfect opening performance for those who followed; the crowd was well-warmed up and appreciative and the concertina would not step on the toes of the traditional instruments they played.


2) Jody’s workshops. I have both Kruskal albums and Grand Picnic, but those leave you unprepared for the real experience. The degree to which he infuses every aspect of his playing with his rhythmic ideas was eye-opening.


3) An impromptu slow session, in one part of which we learned Tombigbee Waltz from Nancy Bessent, English player from Austin.


4) The duet session where Kurt and I swapped tunes (literally, removing and exchanging sheet music) and Jim showed off the Haydenzilla. If you’re not familiar with I’m Confessin’ (see Kurt's post), and I wasn’t until about a month ago, it’s an old tune made famous by Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt.


5) Good times playing and dining with the old and new concertina buddies, and some of the non-concertina musicians.


I can’t close without special thanks to Dan Worrall, who began this venue and has taken on all the considerable labor each year.

Edited by Stephen Mills
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