As a long-time folk musician duo, with my husband, John, playing Button accordion and me 5-string viola, we have enjoyed the camaraderie and open-hearted welcome wherever we take our music. It feels like a passport to an ever-growing group of friends.
Here in UK the folk scene revolves around open air festivals from April until September and in many indoor venues over winter. As well as hired artists performing on stages at these festivals (on both small and very large platforms), there are endless pub sessions where musicians ‘drop-in’ to join the ‘craic’ as it’s known in Ireland. This continues all year round in villages, small towns and inner cities wherever there’s an interest in Folk Sessions and a pub landlord who is willing to host. There is also such an eclectic selection of musicians and range of talent in musicianship. The scope of sounds and performances is endless and sometimes mind-blowing! Tunes Sessions tend to be quite frenetic as one tune ends and another leads on by someone who makes a link and everyone follows. Other sessions can be a little more formal where playing in turns is the pattern for musicians and singers while others enjoy or join in when they feel they can.
The natural development from our involvement in these country-wide sessions and experiences was for us to take our music on many of our international travels. When living overseas in New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and subsequent holidays in The Falklands, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, our mantra was ‘have instrument will travel’. We were hosted most graciously, fed and felt refreshed in all corners of the world by like-minded folkies and who still enjoy its significance that we share.
The launch of our very own festival in a nearby village of Kimpton, Hertfordshire, five years ago was a highlight in creating an event for a summer gathering on the village green with a stage for free performances and some indoor workshops for punters to learn singing, playing spoon, ukulele and Slow Jam to play your own instrument slowly by ear. It would end with a big finale concert in the community hall with some top Folk Acts from around the country.
A feature of this festival and Folk Event was to create an Outreach program We created workshops for school children with special needs taking our music, percussion instruments and signing into their setting so they could feel involved in the folk scene. The rewards from this are multi-layered and we continue working in adult dementia programs welcoming the opportunity to play and sing with families involved with the condition.
This festival continues as we now step down from Trusteeship and leave it in the hands of the next generation. But we will always await the next opening in the Folk Scene.
June Rowlands writes of herself: A teacher who changes the style of what she teaches would encompass who I am. By taking my music to school children, special needs settings, festival workshops and general entertainment in pubs and currently in lockdown in our garden, I continually evolve in creativity and grow my skills. Seeing other people’s enjoyment and pleasure is rewarding and inspires me continually to grow and develop.