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From Chris Reid, Chairman

Tess and I started playing concertinas in September 2018, joined WCCP and now I am Chairman.  How did that happen?  Until this year we had thought that the Halsway weekend would be too advanced for us, and certainly the Band option would have been, but with all of the positive feedback from previous events we decided to enrol for the English system option.  I grew up in West Somerset and regularly visited Halsway for evening Ceilidhs so it was great to return as a resident and experience this fantastic venue in its wonderful Quantock setting surrounded by friends and with a Ruby anniversary atmosphere.  

We expected to find the English tutoring challenging and were not disappointed although the Friday evening'meet the tutor' session with the fantastic Michael Jary did not prepare us for what was to come later.  We enjoy regular evening pub sessions at home and the evening bar sessions did not disappoint with many familiar tunes and songs we could join in with.  I also joined the choir to sing 'The Rhythm of Life' with the band group and found this to be a moving experience, marvelling at the ability of Claire Wren to bring around 15 musicians and 10 singers together to produce a dynamic performance.  

WCCP is 40 years old this year and the Halsway weekend was the first of the themed events.  The WCCP organising team did a great job with bunting, balloons and an evening reception with sparkling wine.  We all dressed in black and red and toasted the founder members of the club.  Brian Tilley, a founding member, joined us for the evening and Mike Long owned up to the longest continuous membership.

Around 30 members stayed for the Sunday night and this enabled some of us to walk up onto the Quantock hills behind Halsway on Sunday afternoon.  The view across to Minehead and Exmoor was fantastic, and with the steam train meandering along below the scene was little changed from 60 years ago.  Staying also gave us another bar session to enjoy with a more relaxed and varied mix of music and song.




 Our tutor Andy Turner provided a fascinating mix of tunes for this year’s Anglo workshops. Including two tunes from the John Malchair manuscript of the late 18th century,  French Schottisches, Irish Marches, English Jigs and even a dance tune from New Mexico.  

Having the tunes in advance allowed us to gain some familiarity with the melodies ; and we were then able to spend the workshops during the Halsway weekend developing accompaniments to the melodies.  Hard work - but great fun; and some excellent new tunes to take away for our repertoires..


This was Michael Jary’s first time tutoring at a WCCP event but I’m sure it won’t be his last. We started with simple tunes and built up to playing with 2, 3 or even 4 notes at once. Michael took us out of our comfort zones, our pinkies out of finger rests and made us experiment with alternative ways of playing. Several people passing through on their way to the library, were intrigued and stopped to watch & listen. We came away with plenty of ‘homework’ to practice, confidence to give it a try and above all - we had great fun!


Our tutor, Gilbert Carrère, travelled from France and brought a fresh slant to Duet playing. The music scores were provided in advance which gave everybody an opportunity to try them in before the weekend. Gilbert also played all the arrangements on YouTube, also in advance, so we could hear them as they should be played. Sadly, Gilbert did not tell us he was doing that so some players missed out on that. The music was a wide range of French tunes, dances, and songs and was very challenging, hard work, but enormous fun. The challenge after the event is to practice them till they sound French.


As always, the music for the concertina band workshop was diverse. It was challenging and very enjoyable. As usual the music was sent out in advance so we had a chance to get to know it before we arrived. A highlight this year was playing whilst a small choir sang Rhythm of Life. This was a new experience to all in the band. It was very exciting playing in a band of 25 other players. 


 We were very disappointed that Dave Elliott was too unwell to attend the weekend this year and hope his forthcoming operation will restore him to good health.

We were very lucky that Steve Dickinson agreed to step in at the last minute provide a running repairs and advice service. He also gave a talk entitled "Zen and the art of concertina maintenance." (It's not enough to build a concertina that works, you have to make it "play"). 

He explained the physics of the instrument - frequencies, pitch, harmony, resonance. What Wheatstone was aiming to achieve, and how this related to concertina maintenance and repair. 

Steve attended the evening bar sessions and enjoyed the weekend so much that he decided to join the WCCP! 


 Click here for Paul Hardy's photos of the weekend