The story so far

by Sally Barrett

It was after tutoring for The West Country Concertina Players (WCCP) for several years at their workshops held alongside Sidmouth Folk Festival and at their annual ‘beginners’ weekend held at Kilve Court in Somerset that I thought it was time I did something about my ambition to start a new group here in Norfolk. My experience was in teaching very-nearly-absolute beginners, through to those becoming a little more confident, post-beginners/intermediate players.

Together with my husband, I had previously belonged to The East Anglia Concertina Players, a group formed in the early 90s with members travelling here monthly from as far away as Ipswich and Stamford, but this group had diminished in number and eventually folded. The group had, however, set up and run an annual ‘Play in a concertina band for a day’ event called SqueezEast, held in Stamford Arts Centre, and conducted by my husband, Paul.

To cut a long story short in early 2013, I invited about eight concertina players, mostly in the early stages of playing, in both Anglo and English systems, to our house for an afternoon of friendship, playing and a little tuition. It went well and we arranged to meet about once a month. Over the next few months new people came and others went, but we gradually consolidated into a group and began playing ‘in parts’ with accompaniments or counter-melodies, always from printed music.

To skip another step, some of the new group went to SqueezEast, the eleventh, and was likely to be the last one........ we thought we might be able to take it on, consolidated ourselves a bit more, pinched the name, and in early 2015 SqueezEast Concertinas was born! We quickly affiliated to the English Folk Song and Dance Society (EFDSS) and through that have Public Liability insurance cover. Some of us are also members of the ICA, (the International Concertina Association), and we retain strong links with WCCP.

We have a name, a logo, an eye-catching purple ‘kit’, a website and Facebook page, and an aim: To promote concertina playing in EastAnglia 

As well as successfully running SqueezEast, (booking is now open through our website) we have led beginners’ workshops and performed at FolkEast twice, the first Aylsham Festival of Music and Dance, and at The Anteros Centre in Norwich as part of a joint venture with a local community choir. We have also played at a local nursing home, at our village Christmas Tree lighting event four times, been busking, played at Coff ee Plus, a monthly music cafe event in Dereham, and appeared at The Forum, Norwich.

We have grown to twelve regular players, currently from Norfolk and Suff olk but have had previous members and visitors from Essex and Cambridgeshire. We have recently moved out of my front room into a small hall, and now meet twice a month, one Thursday evening and one Sunday afternoon. We play all sorts of music, mainly but not always what we think of as folk, but always from the music and in parts, which makes it all the more interesting.

Thanks to the generosity of the WCCP we have sets of music for duets, especially written to support early-stage players, We raised enough money from busking to buy several second-hand tutor instruments, both English and Anglo, (mostly from WCCP) which we have available for hire at very reasonable rates. Although at the moment we cannot off er any regular tuition, if anyone is interested one or two of us may be able to help on an ad hoc basis.

We welcome enquiries about all things concertina and will help out if we can. Do take a look at our website.