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Fiddle Trek

How we got on at the Merlin Summer School, Abbotsford, August 2018

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The Merlin Academy Summer School began with registration at 5 pm on Monday 13th August 2018, and immediately John & I were dismayed to discover that the full group would have to meet in a marquee, instead of in a hall at Abbotsford as we'd expected. I raised the issue with Iain Fraser the next day, and he reassured us that we wouldn't have to spend all our time in the tent, but still, we did spend most of our time. There were lots of problems - the back 'wall' blowing in on me as I played, poor acoustics, a cold damp atmosphere, drips of water from above, no lights at night, uneven ground so that I had to prop a chair leg up with a packet of paper hankies...

Once the horrible venue is taken out of the equation, the summer school was, like last year, a fab experience musically. The new tutor Ian Lowthian, an accordionist we'd met at Durham Folkworks, was excellent - such a good teacher and musician, improvising lines and chords on the spot, and always helpful at explaining, plus he has a delightful sense of humour. Every so often we broke into groups - John was with Ian Lowthian and other accordionists and learned a lot from Ian about keyboard accompaniment.

I enjoyed the fiddle groups with Iain Fraser, though I felt that he spent too much time on riffs and rhythmic bowing experiments rather than on anything very solid that I could take away and build on. But he is, of course, a great fiddler, a thoughtful teacher, and a very nice person.

However, the experience of working on tunes and song accompaniments as a group of musicians and finally performing the pieces at a concert was very valuable and also great fun. John and I also opted to perform in the Talent Show on Thursday evening - we made a few glitches, and my notes on the e string twice didn't sound, probably because of a damp patch on the string, but it's always good to have to play in public as it helps build confidence. That concert had to be abandoned because of lack of light, but we started with it again the next day and there were some very enjoyable 'turns' - our favourite was the man who sang the song about an estate agent -
Would you like to live in Dunbar,
And get yourself a wee car,
Because Edinburgh's no very far -
Or would you rather live in ... (Ayr, Fife, Skye, Leith)...
Unfortunately the cold wet talent show the previous evening had given us both a lot of catarrh and coughing and John is still suffering.

Perhaps the highlight of the week was the tutors' concert - it was much better and longer than last year, and the most brilliant performer was Iain Lowthian. He seemed a catalyst for the others too, who surpassed themselves. It was fabulous.

Will we be going next year? Well, only if it is going to be held indoors - not in a tent!
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Updated Aug-20-2018 at 21:09 by Ingélou