Well here I go and late as usual and catching up with the time that has fairly whizzed by. As the saying goes “ Time Flies “ to which the response should be “ You can’t their flight is too irregular “ work that one out and all answers on a postcard addressed to whoever you would like to send it to, I am sure that they would be delighted to hear from you.
Dan and I have put our place in France, La Jeusseliniere, up for sale so most of the summer we have been dividing our time being there here and everywhere and although we reluctantly had to call a halt to the La Jeuss Experience courses, we were delighted and over the moon when Alison Benn said that she would like to continue the courses but at her place La Grand Gennerie which is about 7 or 8 miles from La Jeuss.
Alison and her young daughter Harriet were very much part of the concerts that we had at the end of each course on the Friday night. This year she had three courses during the summer and featured Mike Silver, who is worth his weight in gold, Harvey Andrews and finishing in early September with Bill Whaley and Dave Fletcher. We know from the reaction that we have had from everyone who attended what a success and great time they all had. Alison is truly the perfect person to take these on and beware of all false imitations!!!
In July Stan Graham, along with the lovely Julie, organised the most fantastic La Jeuss reunion up at The Benmore Centre in sunny Dunoon, Scotland. Both Stan and Julie had done a great deal of work to ensure that this weekend was a resounding success and so it was. The Benmore Centre is the most wonderful of settings and the staff who run it, under the leadership of Andy, are terrific and so very hospitable. We are hoping to make these La Jeuss reunions an annual event and even have them once a year. We had Stan doing his usual brilliant song writing workshops, Sylvia Barnes enthralled us all with her song workshops and wonderful singing, Sandy Stannage and Frank McLaughlin were fantastic with their guitar workshops and Iris Bishop was her usual brilliant self on concertina and accordion. Vin and Pat Garbutt were with us throughout the weekend and this made for a memorable weekend. During the weekend Dan, along with some of the other wives and ladies who were maybe not involved with some of the musical events, held deep and meaningful conversations in the guise of Loose Women. Dan also excelled herself with a very informative and entertaining Desert Island Discs session with Vin Garbutt which was in reality far too short and could have easily gone on for the duration of the weekend but other things got in the way like eating, singing, walking, concerts sessions and generally all being together. We had a great session teaching and playing a whole batch of Australian tunes, some of these coming from the playing of No Such Thing in Kiama N.S.W. Australia. If you ever get the chance to buy their CD Going To The Barndance I do suggest and urge you to buy a copy. They are also producing a book of these Australian tunes and you can contact me if you need any help with this and I would be happy to assist. At the moment I have sold all the copies of their CD that we brought back from Australia but I will be getting more along with some books. So once again a great weekend and many thanks to each and everyone of you who were there and we value your friendship so very much and we missed those of you who were not able to make it, next year perhaps or we will see you at Alison’s.
I know that this is a commercial cliché but truly next years courses are booking up well so contact Alison or us and any information or help will be willingly given. Next year, which is only just round the corner, in order of the weeks she has Mike Silver, Craig Morgan and Robson, Johnny Coppin, Reg Meuross, Mike O’Connor, Iris Bishop and myself. We are all looking forward to the summer next year.
So the summer went by with trips back to England for bookings at folk clubs which I still so enjoy and in August we were at sunny Whitby for the folk week which is always one of the highlights of the year for Dan and I, not only for the music and friends but also for staying and being with the effervescent and eternal Mollie Grove. Sue Houston, one of the organisers for Whitby, had asked me to come up with any ideas for concert / workshops and I immediately came up with two. The first song that Graeme Miles wrote was actually a poem which he later on wrote a tune for, Sea Coal. For some reason or other I have it in my mind that he actually wrote this in 1949, and as I say the tune later on. Other people claim that it was written in the early 1950’s so just call it poetic license on my part. But going back to 1949 this would make it 60 years since he penned it so definitely something to celebrate along with all of the other magnificent songs that Graeme has written and contributed to our rich folk song heritage. I really strongly feel that Graeme should be recognised for this valuable input and this was a golden opportunity to demonstrate this.
I made contact with Robin Dale, a long standing, and sitting down, friend of Graeme’s and told him about the idea I had of presenting Graeme with something to show him the feelings that so many people have for his songs. The plan was to approach a mutual friend, Anna Lawson, and ask her if she could create something for this auspicious occasion. She was, and is, just brilliant and she contacted a friend Ian Corrigan the pipe maker, and between them they created the most apt, wonderful, fantastic award for Graeme. They arranged for people to go out on the beach at Hartlepool to collect some sea coal, for this was where Graeme was inspired to write the song. Pieces of sea coal were then mounted on an exquisitely made base by Ian and so it was ready.
Dan and I had thought about how we could do a concert honouring Graeme and his songs and the solution was to approach other like minded singers and for us all to combine and do the concert together. I asked Stan Graham, himself such a great songwriter, if he would compere the concert and talk a bit about Graeme, we could not have had anyone better to do this. The performers would include Craig Morgan and Robson, Bill Whaley and Dave Fletcher, Gracenotes, Robin Dale, The Wilsons, myself and Iris Bishop and the icing on the award was none other than the inimitable Vin Garbutt. The idea was for Vin to present the award to Graeme at the end, and for The Wilsons to finish with their terrific singing of Sea Coal, but sadly Graeme was unable to be there so Robin Dale accepted on his behalf.
The other concert / workshop idea I came up with was such great work to put together. I do a song called I Don’t Go Shearing Now which was originally a long Australian poem by John Drayman and I have taken lines out to reduce it a bit and using his words have made it into a shorter poem and then wrote a tune for it. Basically it is about an old shearer talking to a young lad who is just about to go off shearing. So the plan was to construct an hour and a bit of songs stories and poems and anecdotes to do with all the different aspects of shearing and the life that the shearers led in the old days and the not so long ago days.
While Dan and I were over in Australia on tour earlier on this year we were at The National Festival in sunny Canberra and met up with Ken Prato. Ken himself is a retired shearer, note the skilful avoidance of saying an old shearer. Ken has written a very good book on his experiences around the shearing sheds and working with sheep and to this extent the book is called Sheep Shit on the Brain, please excuse my use of Australian colloquialisms. Once again if you are interested in this book I can easily put you in touch with Ken himself. This term refers to people who get together and just talk about sheep. They would say “ Oh mate you’ve got sheep shit on the brain “.
So Dan and I were at La Jeuss just before we came back to head up for The Whitby Folk Week and I was sitting there just adding a few more bits to the content of I Don’t Go Shearing Now, and I thought it was such a shame that Ken Prato was not over for this as we could have performed and talked about everything to do with shearing and Ken could explain some of the nuances, but Ken was in Australia.
I can visualise this next bit as it happened: I was on page 11 of his book when the mobile rang and it was none other than Ken Prato himself. I was truly astounded and when I asked him where he was he said, London, I was then threely astounded and next on saying what he was doing there he said he was on holiday to which I was fourly astounded. I then said where are you going to be on holiday and he said Yorkshire was one of his destinations to which I was fively astounded. Any way to cut a long story short if that is possible for me. Ken came to Whitby and we were most grateful to Ken and Marion Hall for so kindly and at the last minute accommodating Ken, as Whitby is well booked out with the folk week and the regatta. I so enjoyed doing this workshop / concert and even if I say so myself it worked so well having Ken there along with Iris Bishop.
A couple of things that seemed to punctuate the summer for us and others as well. Firstly the sad news of Johnny Collins passing on and his always cheerful face will be sadly missed. One thing that I found to be extraordinary about this was that a few years ago Johnny and Graham Knight visited Dan and I while we were at La Jeusseliniere and hosting a course run by Stan Graham. As always it was good to see them and after a good and substantial lunch we were sitting outside enjoying the summer afternoon sunshine and hearing Stan’s students singing away on songs that they were working on, when glancing at Johnny’s car, low and behold we noticed it had a puncture on the passenger side front wheel. We went off and fixed this with no real problem. The reason I say this is that I think to our knowledge this was the only puncture incurred at La Jeusseliniere. A few days after we had the sad news about Johnny, I was sitting outside at La Jeuss and looking at the car noticed that we had a puncture, the same wheel and on the same spot, where did that come from ? I can only surmise that someone was poking a sharp pointed stick up from underground rather than from above ? !!!
We had had such a good concert at the end of June as a farewell to Eric Bogle and John Munro and it was Johnny Collins who had started the evening off and it was just such a good concert and well done to Tim Frost for putting this on in sunny Watford. Eric and John are superlative performers and maintained their high standard of performance throughout their mammoth farewell tour here in Great Britain. Although we may well not see them as performers on the stage again what they have left behind is immeasurable. Dan and I have so enjoyed their CD and the DVD with such a great choice of songs , Good On Yas Both.
Derek Schofield sent me a 10 CD set of all Australian songs by Warren Fahey for me to review called Australia. Folk songs and Bush verse and I have enjoyed this immensely. Each track has been approached with a very different musical slant and keeps the listener interested right from the start. I have reviewed this most favourably as you can imagine and this will be out in the EFDSS magazine in December and no doubt will have details of how to obtain it. Warren had the unblinking backing and support of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the ABC, and so very good to see the Australian culture being promoted by the ABC.
Lastly but not leastly, if you have a look on the website you will see that we have displayed some dozen or so of Dan’s cards for anyone to purchase. Even if I say so myself, Dan is such a good artist and the pictures are just brilliant and I have purchased a complete set just for myself. It is so good to be able to send short notes to people with such exquisite pictures, just have a look for yourself. There is a good choice and so useful to send notes to any one even with the Time Flies answer !!
So that’s about it for now and please do get in touch about anything that I have said that you feel you would like to get in touch about, both Dan and I value the contact.
Keep well and take care. Martyn and Danni
PS .I was on tour in Australia in March, April and May and when writing about this I got a bit carried away and it is about 3 pages long, so if you would like to read this drop me an e-mail and I will send it to you. Martyn ‘of the over enthusiastic typing fingers’.