SqueezeEast 2005

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What follows is mainly a record. It might seem a bit protracted when read as an entertainment.

Many of us have been to a ‘play in a concertina band’ event. Have you ever stopped to think what it might be like to run one (not asked of those we all know and respect from established annual venues)?

For a few years now in the peace of rural Norfolk a small group of 8 or 9 of us have been meeting every month to play a few concertina ensemble pieces. So delightful are these evenings that even journeying to be there from next-door counties too, is well worthwhile.

Paul Barrett is a masterly arranger and seeker-out of tunes to play, so the tradition has been established that it is usually in their house at Mattishall that we all meet. Except for one Anglo baritone we all play various English system concertinas. Our pieces range from early English, through Light Classical, Music hall, and Traditional.

Last year, fired up after the usual visits to Witney, Kilve, and similar venues, we discussed again the idea of hosting our own Band Day and decided this time that we would attempt to plan a day for mid 2005.  E-mails were soon flying around. Should our tiny group be blessed with a name, if so what? Would ‘Anglia’ be confused with Anglo? Should it be prefixed by East, and should ‘Anglia’ end with an ‘n’ anyway? These weighty matters were resolved eventually (with due deference to our good friends in the West Country) by calling ourselves, with great originality, ‘The East Anglia Concertina Players’.

Where could we hold this musical day? Much of the delight in living in deepest Norfolk stems from its backwater situation away from principal transport routes but that was not helpful to our plans. “Stamford!” exclaimed David Nind, one of our more distant enthusiasts, “I always wanted to have a Band Day in my home town. It is right next to the A1, has a railway station and lots of facilities and the rest of you can all drive over to where I live for a change”.  So, we were ‘sorted’ as they say, and David was duly appointed as prime mover, and to choose a Sunday date when car-parking in Stamford would not only be easy, but free too.

How many would turn up, fifteen, fifty, or who knows? Almost everything follows the answer to that, and room size in particular. The Stamford Arts Centre, well into the spirit of things, offered David various options but said if we chose Sunday June 19th we could have ‘The Ballroom’, seating up to 100, for the special price of £100 which we promptly accepted. Later they also offered at no extra charge, the use of an adjacent room as well, useful for ‘party piece’ practice. Our start time was planned as 10.00 am, finishing at 4.30 pm, allowing us to be clear of the room by 5 pm.

Advertising and publicity were clearly going to be important in persuading players to come to our day. The event should have a name we thought, and as monthly meetings make for slow progress more e-mail debates took place resulting in the title ‘SqueezEast’ and a wonderful poster from David apparently depicting two typical characters from our group. As well as putting the poster and background details on David’s website which we used as a point of focus and information, we also advertised in ‘Mardles’ (Suffolk and area folk magazine), circularized the ICA e-mail list, put up posters at events such as Kilve (March), and Swaledale, and generally plagued and nagged as many concertina playing friends and contacts that we could think of.

Meanwhile Paul spent many hours choosing and arranging pieces specifically suitable for ‘SqueezEast’.  Many were arranged for 2 or 3 treble concertinas, plus up to 2 baritones and a bass (in both treble and bass clef) and included ‘Loch Lomond’ ‘O Waly Waly’, ‘Carolan’s Concerto’, and Liberty Bell’. He also adapted an ‘outside’ arrangement of ‘I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair’. Some of these we played briefly at monthly meetings for the purpose of trial and adjustment but we deliberately avoided ‘rehearsal’ so that we ran no risk of discomforting our guests on the day. The one piece we did rehearse was ‘Andante Tranquillo’ which we planned as an ‘EACP party piece’ (yes we were already using the abbreviated title). For manuscript we decided to print about 20 copies of each treble part, 10 of baritone, 5 of bass (treble clef) and 3 bass (bass clef).

In-house food on the day was a step too far we decided, especially as places to eat in Stamford are plentiful. We would just provide tea, coffee, soft drinks, biscuits etc which would be prepared and served by press-ganged members of David’s family. If we charged everyone just £5 each, and also held a Raffle, we calculated we would just about be successful in covering our costs.  

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