‘Sharp’s Appalachian Harvest’
This really took off during 2015 and 2016, both in its original format as a duo show with Jeff Davis, and also as a solo performance. Jeff and I received a grant from the Country Dance & Song Society (North American equivalent of EFDSS) to tour in the USA, the highlight undoubtedly being a performance for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington DC in July 2015. This was admittedly a near disaster when Mr Professionalism here found he’d left his laptop containing the slide show behind, but a copy was found on a pen-drive in my pocket (always carry a back-up, children!), the day was saved, and we were very happy to get a standing ovation. Over the subsequent year we took the show to Connecticut, New York (City and Upstate), Virginia and North Carolina, and also gave several performances in the UK when Jeff visited, including The Sage, Gateshead, and the Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax (review of that show here). This year, with the centenary of Cecil Sharp’s first visit to the Appalachians falling in July, I was approached by EFDSS about presenting the show for their ‘Appalachian 100’ week of themed events. Unfortunately there was no chance of Jeff getting across the ocean so I offered a solo version of ‘SAH’, blithely glossing over the absence of my accomplice’s major contribution to the show on banjo. What to do? Only one option, really: learn to play clawhammer. So I’m now the accordion player that needed a more unpopular instrument to play, and settled on the banjo. Dream ticket, eh? Anyway, the solo version of ‘Sharp’s Harvest’ went sufficiently well that I managed repeat performances at Sidmouth and Whitby in the Summer.
Next year 2017
I have to admit that these days I’m happy not to spend quite as much time on the road as in days of yore, but there’s enough coming up in 2017 to keep things interesting. An event just confirmed, that I’m quite excited about, is the TradMad Week at Pinewoods Camp on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in late August. Organized by Heather Wood and Joy Bennett of the New York Folksong Society, it’s going to be a great week of teaching and music-making at which Jeff Davis will be joining me on staff along with our old friend Dave Ruch. Can’t wait to see who else is booked.
I’ll be back at Chippenham, one of my favourite festivals, over Spring Bank Holiday, and it looks like I’ll be back in charge of the ‘Songshops’ series of workshops on the theme of (would you believe) ‘Song’. I set up the very first set of Songshops in er… about 20 years ago (?), and they’ve been going strong ever since, under the guidance of a series of talented co-ordinators - it’s a really valuable institution, unmatched by any other festival, and well done Bob and Gill Berry for dreaming up the idea and supporting it for so long.
‘Sharp’s Harvest’ (solo version) will be at Warwick Folk Festival, and ‘Liberty to Choose’ at Music on the Marr, both in July, there are the usual folk club dates in various necks of various woods, and plenty of other things being talked about but yet to be confirmed. At some point I’m going to have to find time to write up my paper on Cecil in Appalachia as well. All good fun - bye for now.