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.
We are sad to annouce that Paddy Butcher passed away on 21 January 2024. Many of you will have met Paddy in different musical contexts over the years. He will be sadly missed by his friends and by the many musicians who have played with him.
Paddy Butcher is a familiar face in the world of folk music and is often to be found in the folk clubs of East Anglia and beyond. A loyalsupporter of local music sessions, he brings a wealth of good quality songs and tunes and also a folksome gravitas that comes with modesty, humour and good cheer.
Skiffle music was Paddy’s inspiration in his teen years – a fan of Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber - he even made a sawn-off tea chest bass for The Rebels an early skiffle band with friends. Although he started off taking piano lessons, Paddy moved on to the guitar and later joined the newly formed Bury St. Edmunds folk club in 1964 at what was then The Cricketers. The club hosted many top folk performers of the day and he became interested in traditional folk music starting Triad with Brian Francis and Bridget Danby. During his involvement with the club they booked Peter Bellamy and Paddy struck up a long-lasting friendship with the folk singer even once singing on stage with him at Cambridge folk festival. It was while Paddy was performing regularly on guitar doing traditional songs as a resident singer at the Bury club that he bought a melodeon and played with the short-lived St Edmundsbury Morris Men. Around this time he was also playing guitar with Geoff Singleton and Tony Preston in a band called Oakenshield.
Serious interest in the melodeon began during Paddy’s sojourn in London in the early 70s where, for a short while, he was MC and resident performer at the Shakespeare’s Head folk club in Carnaby Street. As well as appearing at other local South London clubs he danced with Blackheath Morris but Suffolk called and in 1973 he returned to help form Hageneth Morris Men and join John Goodluck’s band Trunkles. After this came The Suffolk Bell and Horseshoe Band with John and Katie Howson as well as being involved in the formation of Bury Fair Morris and playing trombone for The Haughley Hoofers.
It was when Bury Fair Morris side got invited to a local school to meet a French Dance group that a dance exchange to Angers was arranged. Paddy then embarked on a new phase in his folk music – he was inspired by a French band called Ellebore to take up the hurdy gurdy and started playing French tunes. After many festivals in France and elsewhere he eventually, in 1984, constructed his own instrument. This awesome building project was completed during a year under the watchful eye of gurdy guru Bill Molen (a player and a fine gurdy-maker). Having passed that one on he is now the proud owner of a second self-made hurdy-gurdy which is still going strong. Shortly after 1984 Paddy formed Champetre playing gurdy, along with Bill and others in that band for many happy years.
Video by Bill Johnston
His involvement in a band called RSVP started in the late 80s and continued until recent years. He has also been playing with Bof! since 2000 performing French and Breton dance music at many gigs in the UK and festivals in France. The Bury Folk Collective is proud to have this eminent folk artist and multi-instrumentalist as its patron and is fortunate enough to enjoy his performances at many local club events as well as the annual Bury Folk Festival at Nowton Park – he’s doing a gurdy workshop there this year. Paddy’s musicianship and warm stage presence continues to delight audiences in the region as he sings fine songs and plays guitar, melodeon, hurdy-gurdy, cajon, cas-cas and even occasionally, rumour has it, the trombone.
Hidden away in the North of Suffolk near the legendary Wissett treacle mines is a young talented, traditional singer and musician who has a growing reputation, both locally and nationally, for her pure voice and fine, clear singing style. At 24, Megan Wisdom is Suffolk through and through, she was born in Ipswich but moved at an early age to the north of the county. She went to school in Halesworth and Bungay and while there she started to develop her interest in music.
At the age of 7 she was taught at school to play the ocarina by her teacher and traditional music enthusiast, Judy Andrews. The ocarina is an unusual instrument known historically for around twelve thousand years and is a type of vessel flute. The English version of the instrument has 4 to 6 holes and is often produced in a pendant style and is easily portable. Megan remembers the first song played on the ocarina was the ‘Skye Boat Song’.
She was steeped in traditional music from an early age, as both her parents used to sing and play together as a duo. Her father, Paul, is a leading member of Rumburgh Morris and also sings and plays a concertina which he has designed and constructed himself. Her mother, Tracey, is also a local singer and a fine fiddle player currently playing with Harbour Lights Band amongst other projects.
Megan had many opportunities to develop her musicality. At Primary school she learned to play the descant and treble recorder and at middle and high school moved onto the alto saxophone. She was fully involved in all the school music activities: choirs, a wind and jazz band and school musicals.
Outside school, partly due to family influences, she developed a more traditional musicianship. She taught herself the whistle and used that in a local session that followed the Morris meetings in the Rumburgh Buck. Encouraged by her parents the first song she sang solo was ‘Red is the Rose’.
After going to this year's Stepdancing competition at the Blaxhall Ship, and witnessing first hand the brilliant dancing of Doreen West-O'Connor, I decided I'd interview Doreen to find out a bit more about what she does and how she does it. This is my interview with her. (It's obvious, I know, but my questions are in bold type and Doreen's answers are in italics.) Simon Haines
Thanks for agreeing to talk to me Doreen. Can I start by asking you how you would describe the step dancing you do to someone who had never seen it? Well, it’s a free-style dance. I could learn you a basic step and then at the end of the day, obviously when you’ve learnt that if you like to add something else in to it, then you can. It’s mainly about rhythm – you know. I always say it goes from the head to the feet. You know that’s the way I describe it to myself.
Who taught you? I was self-taught.
But you must have seen someone else doing it, did you? Yes, I’ve seen it hundreds and hundreds of times. My husband, Percy, inspired me more than anything - he was such a wonderful dancer. And he’d been dancing since he was eight. He had his own style – most steppers do have their own style.
Born in Palestine, raised in Beccles, Suffolk, Tony, now 75, came upon his first melodeon by accident in the very early 1950s. His Uncle Sam visited from America (yes, Uncle Sam really was his name) staying with Tony, his two brothers, mother and father, and left the family his two-row diatonic Hohner instrument on his return.
At the time there were no other instruments in the family home, and Tony was the only one to show interest in Uncle Sam’s melodeon. He proceeded to teach himself to play by listening to a whole spectrum of music of the day mainly on the wireless, particularly that of Jimmy Shand, developing his own unique style of playing what he heard, unconstrained by academic musical conventions. He says modestly, “I could play the mouth organ, and it was the same system, except for bellows instead of lungs!”
In his own understated way, Tony characterises his style of playing as slow and lazy, while being gentle with the instrument. All of this is true to a degree, but, thanks to his exceptional musicality and supreme talent, he coaxes much more from the instrument than others, ‘painting’ rhythmic, multi layered musical ‘pictures’ of melody, counter melody and harmony with both treble and bass ends in a relaxed and apparently effortless manner; it’s as if he were playing with two pairs of hands at the very least. And his repertoire doesn’t simply comprise English, Scottish, Irish, American and French Canadian folk music either; thanks to his early, eclectic, musical influences he is as adept at playing the likes of the Trumpet Voluntary as the Trumpet Hornpipe, or accompanying himself singing anything from Sea Shanties to South American Blues. On top of this he pens and performs his own well-crafted songs and tunes, the former ranging from the hilarious to the hugely poignant.