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Blowout 2011 – a hurdy-gurdy player's perspective

Ruth Bramley:

I always look forward to the Blowout, and this year was certainly no exception,

especially because I knew that the hurdy-gurdy workshops would be extremely good. This was my first year of running the box office, although I have assisted Robert for several years, so I wanted to get to Polesworth quite early on Friday, armed with all my paperwork, tickets for collection, etc. Almost as soon

as we arrived, people started asking me for tickets, or wanting to pay for previously booked tickets.

Anyway, back to the review… Once the tent was pitched we met up with Chris Allen and Mike Gil- pin, who were to do the gurdy workshops over the weekend. Mike and Chris are very good friends of ours: Mike was my teacher when I first started playing and it was through him that we met Chris. Both are hurdy- gurdy makers and I have had the pleasure of attending the Over the Water hurdy-gurdy festival in Seattle a couple of times, when they have been teaching there. I had found out that it was Chris’s birthday so had baked a big chocolate cake, complete with dark and white chocolate barber-pole edg- ing, in pseudo-hurdy-gurdy style. I knew that Chris would be embarrassed if we announced his birthday in the hall, so instead we had a quiet celebration with those in the vicinity, with just enough cake to keep us go- ing until dinner time. Dinner was, as usual, delicious and a truly sociable event. Julian Goodacre then summoned us all to participate in his planned discussion on the “standard chanter” – or how

to construct a chanter using a wooden standard lamp and an enormous reed. He invited people to drill finger holes, which caused much hilarity. A number of brave souls volun- teered, including Sean Jones, Dominic Allan and Chris Allen. Very soon the sessions were underway and the beer was flowing freely.

After a healthy breakfast, the workshops commenced, with the hurdy-gurdy play- ers trooping over to the refectory where Mike and Chris were getting ready to lead the workshop for the morning. As usual there was a mix of abilities, and gurdies in both G and D, but Mike and Chris were well-prepared. They decided to concentrate on just one tune, Bourrée de Glux, a traditional tune from the Morvan area of France. Mike and Chris had cleverly arranged the tune in two parts, one part for the G and the other for D instruments, but both parts equally interesting, with enough challenging bits for the more advanced players, but without being too daunting for those not so experienced. The morning flew by as we all worked on getting our fingers to go in the right places, and very soon it was time for lunch. In the afternoon hurdy-gurdy workshop we continued to work on the same piece, now adding the trompetting. I think we all came away from the workshop feeling that we had learnt a lot. It was good to see so many in the class, with at least ten participants attending both workshops.

After dinner we made our way over to the church for the concert, where Paul Martin and Rémi Decker played magnificent sets. I was also very impressed by the group from Tony Purnell’s workshop who opened the concert. We rounded the evening off with a few pints of beer (well someone had to do it) and lots of dancing in the com- munity hall before crawling back to our tent.

There was some interest in continuing the gurdy workshop on Sunday, and Chris said that he was willing to do so. As the refectory was theoretically available from 11.45 we headed over there, but weren’t able to get in until a little later. In the short time we had we revised what we had learnt the previous day, before heading back for lunch. As always, the final concert was a very intimate and delightful end to another enjoyable Blowout. All too soon it was time to bid farewell to our friends, many of whom we may not see until next year’s Blowout.