April 29 – A wedding gig…

http://genevalunch.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/chapatte//british_royal_wedding_announced_chappatte.jpgI’ve managed to avoid paying much attention to the Royal Wedding. To be honest this media feeding frenzy is a bit of a bore. Intellectually I support the idea of a constitutional monarchy as it acts as a brake on the political side of the government, as well as being sort of a ‘super’ ombudsmen.

The problems of a politically appointed, or influenced ‘head of state’ was well demonstrated by the Australian political crisis in the mid 70s when the Governor-General – who is the Queen’s representative but appointed by the Australian government – sacked the elected administration and installed the opposition. You can see full details here.

Tonight's band...

Anyway, I shouldn’t complain about the Royal Wedding as it made my journey to tonight’s gig – also a wedding – a real doddle. The M25 is usually pretty much of a parking lot on a Friday afternoon as all the suits try and take a POETS day (‘Push Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday’). The gig is in a lovely converted barn near Petworth in Sussex and Liz Scholey (the caller) is on fine form as usual. The rest of the band is made up of Debbie Chalmers on fiddle, Tom Fairbairn on bass and Sam McEvoy on drums.

Tom is the band leader for this gig and has decided that we’ll be doing a lot of the new arrangements which involves a certain amount scrabbling about finding the dots for Debbie and correcting the pad. I’ve spent a fair amount of time earlier in the day sorting out the music pad. I’m finding that my new Android tablet is extremely useful for this type of gig apart from the fact I can’t scribble corrections on the sheets. Luckily I’ve printed out copies as a backup which means that I can take a note of the changes for when I get back. I’ve set it up so that I can velcro the device to my RAT music stand which makes it very stable and can be placed in a convenient, but unobtrusive location on stage. The 10″ display is just large enough for the chord charts (or lyrics if it is a song gig) to be visible and the back light means that I don’t need to sort out an extra light if the stage is dark. This piece of technology has been quite a good investment – it’s not as fancy as an iPad, but it is about a third the price. I got mine from Amazon in the UK (see here). 

A lot of barn dance / ceilidh musicians don’t like doing weddings but I differ. Weddings are usually fairly hard work, but the results are usually a great time for a lot of people, many who’ve not had much contact with social dance (if any). If you have a good enough caller / band combination then you are giving the happy couple a day to remember the rest of their lives.

I reckon that the ceilidh / barn dance – either wedding or other social event – is the last example you’ll find in our society of real ‘folk’. My definition of ‘folk’ here is that it is music (or dance) that fulfils some social function and actively involves the participants – i.e. they are not simply a supine audience. With social dance the ‘audience’ are part of the activity. Even if you have a professional band, the dancers are vital to the whole event.

So things like morris dancing is not ‘folk’ by this definition as you have a small bunch of people providing a display for  entertainment. By contrast, a wedding ceilidh has the dancers and musicians are working together as one unit. As a dance musician – and a ‘social’ dancer – I am very aware of this synergy – and can event make use of this in the tune arrangement. Basically, you can regard the dancers as part of the rhythm section.

By the way, speaking of wedding ceilidhs, I’ve created a website which is a sort of ‘fact file’, FAQ and general resource for anyone who wants to find out more about haveing a ceilidh (or barn dance) for their wedding. You can find it at www.weddingceilidh.info.

Anyway, I get back about 1:30am and realise that I have managed to miss the royal event completely.

About Brian Heywood

Brian Heywood is a free range musician who specialises in edgy roots / country / celtic fusion music. Previous work has received comments such as "... aggressive, top notch fiddling set off by periodic guitar explosions." - Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine (USA), "Just when it seemed as if newer electric British roots bands were getting thinner on the ground - Very welcome and very good." - fROOTS Magazine (UK) and Steve Barnes Fairbridge Festival Artistic Director (Australia) - "... a rocking band - I was delighted with the audience response."
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