Kilve Concertina Weekend - March 2002

I recently returned from a most enjoyable and educational trip to the annual concertina weekend hosted by the West Country Concertina Players (WCCP) at Kilve in Somerset (UK). There were about 125 players there, of experience ranging from beginner to expert. This is a summary of the event from my point of view. Click on any of the small pictures below for a bigger version.

The event was a bit special, as it is the bicentenary of Charles Wheatstone, inventor of the English concertina. The tutors included some of the top players in each of the types - Alistair Anderson on English, John Kirkpatrick on Anglo, and Iris Bishop on Duet. This was my fourth Kilve weekend, but I think the best so far.

The event at Kilve is held in Kilve Court, a residential education centre, which more normally hosts groups of schoolkids. As a result, the accommodation is a bit basic (dormitory bedrooms with 8 beds), but the surroundings are pleasant and the staff are very helpful. The barmaid composed and recited a poem about how much she liked the concertina weekends, and drove her family mad by humming tunes! The house is about two miles from the sea - a rather muddy Bristol Channel, but with a beach with interesting fossils and industrial archaeology (oil from shale). Behind the house rise the Quantock Hills - tempting to explore, but no time - the music beckons!

Masterclass Alistair Anderson gave a series of masterclasses, which were well worth attending. He concentrated on each volunteer in turn for 20 minutes each, with others sitting watching. I think the watchers gained a lot (perhaps more than the volunteer, as they could watch both participants).

I also attended Iris Bishop's excellent session on how to accompany singing, which I had previously considered an impossibility, but now at least I understand the basics. Doing it is another matter!

Ali Anderson Ali Anderson, the rest of the tutors, and other various gifted musicians, such as David Cornell and Paul McCann, also played in the bar sessions, which are always one of the highlights of the weekend. There was also a ceilidh on the Saturday evening with a scratch band of concertinas supplemented by other instruments (such as Colin Dipper on Serpent!).

Bar session The bar sessions also included a wide variety of concertina music, as well as recitations, songs, and performances on many different instruments, including (shock, horror!) other kinds of squeezebox such as button accordeon or melodeon! As well as solo efforts, there were several good communal bashes at old session favourites (Galopede, Dorset Four Hand, Speed the Plough, Salmon Tails, etc).

Symphonium On the Saturday evening, there was a fascinating talk on Charles Wheatstone and his inventions (the electric telegraph, the Wheatstone bridge, his mystic lyre, etc), by Stephen Rowley who specialises in giving after-dinner talks about him. Others on the panel of experts included Colin Dipper who described the predecessors of the concertina, including the Symphonium - a mouth organ with buttons following the English layout. I may be able to give a better description of this event when I get back my minidisk recording that I have lent to the organisers.

bicentenary_band The evening concert started with a moving set of four pieces composed and directed by Claire Greenhow, and played by the "Bicentenary Band". The pieces were White Horse March, Lanacre Bridge, The Search (a restless piece in 7/8 time), and Moonlight on Cadwith. It was good to see Claire again after her illness.

Brian Hayden Other concert highlights included Brian Hayden playing Handel (or was it Haydn?), and John Kirkpatrick playing a piece while carrying out wild swings of his concertina over his head, in a parody of Alistair's playing style!

There were always more parallel sessions to choose from than I could want. I (and about thirty other players) took part in the "Intermediate Band", ably conducted by Beryl Whitehead. I was one of four in the Baritone section. We did four pieces (Shepherd's Dance, Intrada, a Handel March from Rinaldo, and A Trip to Paris), and performed three (not the Handel) at the Sunday afternoon participants showcase.

It is very rewarding to be around such a mix of people who are steeped in concertina music, history, technology, and art. Colin and Rosalie Dipper were on hand to perform surgery on recalcitrant instruments, and to dispense valuable advice on care and maintenance. Glad Thorp was as usual helping English system beginners, and endangering us all in her new wheelchair!

edeophone I confess that I succumbed to the temptations of the shop, and bought another concertina! I had warned my wife beforehand that I felt I could benefit from a better class instrument and would really like an Aeola or an Edeophone, so she was not amazed when I returned with a very nice Edeophone Tenor/Treble. This is from about 1925, but by its look must have spent most of its life in a box in someone's attic! It needs playing in, but my current reaction is very positive.

All in all, a very worthwhile weekend, and I recommend the Kilve events to anyone struggling with the concertina. If you want to go to a future Kilve event, contact Beryl Whitehead on 01803 521259. I returned exhausted but exhilarated and enlightened, and vowing to practice the techniques I had seen and heard.

Paul Hardy, v1.2 of 25/10/2007, updated from original of 26/3/2002

Back to Paul and Margaret Hardy's Home Page