A Caper at Christmas

I’m currently mid way through organising my first caper, it’s a Christmas Ceilidh Caper! The caper idea came from wanting to show my students more than just the inside of a music studio every week and call that music. I need them to see what its all about, because otherwise it just becomes me telling them what to do every week. Music is a language or maybe more a dialogue between your internal and external world. Anything that bridge or gateway can convey can influence the music you play.

In my studio on the 3rd floor of Northern Music Centre there is a power dynamic between me and my students, I’m there to shepherd them and show them which gates to go through or when the grass looks a little greener than it actually is. Problem is these are my fields – my gates, my grass! My students need to know that they have their own fields and grass to cultivate. Could be a different hill even and that their grass will grow greenest when they learn how to look after it themselves. So I needed to get them out of my studio and making music with lots of other people from beginners to pros all in the same melting pot or err silo?

Metaphor has gone to far now.

So far I’ve transcribed, put chords to and arranged six sets for different ability levels. It’s been interesting seeing how best to do this in terms of a performance. I’ve had to think that people are going to pay money too come to a gig and how to get the best out of my students so that they aren’t over-whelmed and that it is a positive musical experience. There’s a fine line here and I’ve realised that things I found easy maybe aren’t so easy to everyone. The other thing I’ve realised is how much people can be pushed when they are focused on a goal instead of focusing on themselves. I’m proud of what they achieved already.

The caper is also turning into a regular music group I’m going to run on a Monday evening which is exciting and something I should probably go and organise right now….

So right, My first Ceilidh Caper – it has a lovely set of tunes

Bouree de Montford – a french style tune written by Jo Freya the saxophonist from Blowzabella, I picked it up from Alpine McGregor through an old flute teacher of mine from Newcastle University Martin Dunn. Hopefully their group will perform at one of my ceilidhs in the future.

Last Chance Bouree – Shamelessly pilfered from the great flute player Sam Partridge the leader of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. It’s written by Michel Pichon also of Blowzabella fame.

Battered Hake Polka – I first heard this played in Bar Loco on one of their regular Thursday night folk sessions – always worth a visit (9pm-1am ish). I think the melodionist Dave Grey might have been playing at the time, possibly.

Pipers and Poly’s – Amy Thatcher wrote this one for a class she was teaching and it stays in your head, this time in A usually in E. It’s named after some very interesting accommodation The Shee had at a house concert in Canada.

Drummond Castle – Learned this from a hundred different sessions, Amy told me the right notes though. She does that.

Naga Jig – Great Jig by the legendary Flautist Sylvain Barou. Was first introduced to him when he played in a band called Comas who I went to see with another legendary flautist Tom Oakes. What a players they are!

Jig of Slurs – I brought this one in after hearing it for the first time in absolute ages at a session in Rothbury where there was the aristocracy of Northumbrian traditional players like Alisdair Anderson, Andy May, Ian Stephenson, Martin Dunn, Ruth Ball, Sophie Lynch. I think I have a set of Rants lined up for the next one! I think I remember hearing it when I first started Uni in Newcastle when there was a lot of trad Northumbrian Repertoire being played because of the efforts of – Folkworks Summer School which was lead at the time by Kathryn Tickell. Something else I have to thank her for.

Myra’s Jig – Ian Lothian legendary Scottish accordionist from the borders. I always liked hearing this one in sessions and saw it written down in Amy’s old Fosbrook’s book of tunes they used to play, so thanks Liza Austin Strange. Fosbrook’s is a unique dance group in Stockport who produces some of the best folk musicians on the scene and the funny thing is its just based in one school and in one catchment area. Just goes to show what can be a achieved. Also in the back it is signed by Tim Dahling!

Kieran’s Waltz – This first tune I wrote on Alto Sax which transfers to flute quite nicely and the first time I’ve really tried to write a counter melody.

Peacekeeper – A tune I wrote whilst spending a year with Whapweasel playing mando. It’s named after their genius sax player Stu Finden a good friend and mentor for my own sax playing. Lovely bunch of lads and lasses!

Superfly – an absolute belter and classic of a reel by the enigmatic Kev O’Neil. I used to play this nearly every Tuesday at the folk session I ran for over ten years at The Cooperage (funily enough with Ross Cooper), Bob Trollops and The Hotspur. I listened to it on Treacherous Orchestra’s Grit album to transcribe and realise I’ve been playing it wrongly for a very long time, sigh. It’s right now though.

Looking forward to the 21st, which I’m not kidding when I say that I turned down playing at Sting’s Christmas party for. Seriously. Hopefully its going to be worth it 🙂 See you there kx

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