impressions of the 2010 ACE
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Impressions of the 2010 ACE

Harry explains the blues

Arran 2010

by Helen Graham

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It doesn’t seem like two years since we were on the 3.15 ferry to Arran, yet here we were, just on time (thankfully). We found Henk in the bar, and James, Samantha’s brother was also on the 3.15 ferry. We drove through the ‘scenic’ route to Kilmory – across the island, and arrived slightly after James and Henk, and found several ‘early birds’ there as well. Harry was to arrive on the last ferry and Alex was expected the next morning.

Friday night (after a great meal, as usual) was spent catching up with old friends and playing tunes. This year, although as usual anglos held sway, there were examples of every type of duet concertina apart from Jeffries – even a Russian – built Hayden of Samantha’s that didn’t really get played, but was interesting to look at. Also this year there were more than the usual number of singers, accompanying themselves on English (Dave and Russ), Crane Duet (James), MacCann Duet (Lynne), and Anglo (Harry). Repertoire ranged from Folk to Jazz to Music Hall to Blues!

On Saturday morning Sam worked out the weekend programme which included a talk on Scottish tunes by Dave – thanks Dave, I now feel a little less intimidated by written down bagpipe tunes; a workshop on twelve bar blues from Harry (one day I’ll get it – great stuff, Harry!); a trip to the Arran Distillery; Sunday night session at the Ormidale Pub in Brodick and two band sessions led by Sam’s husband Dave – and of course, a walk on the beach!

It can’t be easy playing in a band if you’re an ear player (the majority of us), but Dave managed to pull us all together into some sort of order for Lark in the Clear Air and Nellie the Elephant, but the Bach nearly turned all of us barking – and of course we had all practised hard before we arrived-I don’t think so. Sorry Dave! This year we also had two baritone anglos, one baritone English, a baritone-treble, and two large duets so there was plenty to choose from for the lower parts, even though there were no basses!

Those of us who didn’t want to go to the Distillery stayed at the bunk house and chatted, watched Alex taking his concertinas apart, and went for a walk on the beach – it was very windy but sunny, although Ailsa Craig didn’t show herself very much at all the whole weekend! Food again was great thanks to Chrissie who has taken the job on – Well Done – oh,yes, and there was plenty to drink!

We had a session of our own on Saturday night – Phil took charge and let us know when it was our turn – it was a great mix of all sorts from songs (Great stuff James, Harry, Lynne and Russ – and Phil) to tangos and Playford (nice one Ann), to Irish (cheers Henk and Jim) to Spanish and Gaelic (Well done, Peter – like the new concertina!), and Scottish from Dave. I fell asleep through most of it – sorry everyone – jet lag, although I did manage Tom Tolly’s in a rare moment of wakefulness!

Sunday dawned bright and a bit less windy and a walk on the beach was timetabled in. Those of us who had been the day before stayed in and shared some tunes, repaired concertinas, changed flat tyres (good job the spare was a real tyre – it lasted us till we got home!) or just chatted till lunch time, after which we had another band practice. Good job we weren’t going to perform the pieces at the Ormidale, but it was good fun, and thanks to Dave for being so long-suffering with us all! Talking of the Ormidale, I think the session we had in there was probably the best I’ve ever been to – the repertoire was so varied, and it’s great to hear the local harpists and other musicians – thanks everyone!

Still, all good things come to an end. Monday dawned fine again and we set off for our ferries. The general impression we were left with was that it was a great weekend as usual, although there were perhaps fewer workshops. We met new people, and there were some really good players and singers – a great mixture this time of all sorts of styles, concertinas, and everything – and no nicknames anymore – not sure if I’ll miss Mildred, but it’s time she went!

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