impressions of the 2008 ACE
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Impressions of the 2008 ACE

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Arran 2008

by Helen Graham

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Just got back from the ACE weekend!

ACE food – ACE company – ACE tunes!

Phil and I had booked on the 3.15 ferry so arrived earlier than the others. We made the most of the time by walking up to see the Glenashdale Falls, coming back by the Giants’ Graves – a prehistoric burial mound. One thing about Arran, when the weather’s fine it’s great – and it was!

We arrived at the Kilmory Bunk House to find Samantha and Paula (our brilliant chef) organising the dining room – and our supper. The arrangements were just completed as the next ferry brought the rest of the party – except for Stuart (or was it Nathan), who had missed it as there had been an accident on the road. Nigel saved the day by going to meet him, and when they arrived the Arran Concertina Event started!

There were 12 of us altogether, including Samantha’s husband (our band master), and two other non-concertina playing spouses. Eight of us stayed in the bunk house, and one couple opted for the nearby hotel. This year Anglos were in the ascendant, with only two English concertina players in attendance. As in previous years Sam sent round three sheets of paper for us to fill in – what we wanted to learn, what we could teach, and what we could share. From this she developed a provisional timetable which included work on reels, Dutch tunes, Spanish tunes, band practice, simple harmonies and work round the rows on the Anglo. The day ended with a play around, beer, and early (in the morning) bed.

Saturday arrived with rain – a lot of it – but intrepid spouses enjoyed trips round the island and walks on the beach while participants listened to tracks of different players’ interpretation of reels, which we then tried to copy by playing a tune in different ways. This was followed by band practice where we worked on a three part setting of Planxty Irwin, and a four part setting of a Bach Chorale (who said Anglos don’t do Classical?) We also tried Liberty Bell in three parts, but this proved a little problematic. After Supper our leader led us through the pieces and helped us to work more as a band – we were so engrossed that we didn’t stop till after ten, when the beer, and other beverages, called. A further session, where some of us found out some things about playing the mandolin, saw us off to bed at about two!

Sunday – fine today! Time for group photographs, band practice and a recording for the net. We also had a look at some Dutch tunes that evoked the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain (and I’m sure England was in there somewhere!), and tried a tune from Spain just to round it off! Finally, being a bit concertina-ed out, and to take advantage of the weather, we all went for a walk on the beach, having lost three of our number to the ferry and other commitments!

The day, and the weekend, was rounded off by a trip to the local Folk Session in Brodick – where a good time was had by all, despite the local Folk having all gone on holiday, leaving us with just one other participant and a German couple, who were a very good audience! On returning it was of course necessary to finish all the alcohol to avoid the necessity of packing it up and taking it home. Genever and cheese are definitely the food of choice for a post-pub session!

Sadly, Monday dawned – wet again! Samantha and Dave came to see us off – those going for the early ferry were waved off and people going for later departures helped to put the tables back and take Sam’s belongings back to her car, then the weekend was over for another year.

Thanks to Samantha, Dave our intrepid band leader, Paula our great chef, and her two helpers, and thanks to all the other participants for making it a great weekend – particularly Nathan!

Book early for next year – the first weekend in October – the one after Witney!

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