Triple Bill at The Canopy Theatre

Hannah Scott, Ross Burkitt & Ali Ward and Stuart Mack


An evening of great acoustic music featuring a triple bill of artists with strong connections to Suffolk.

 Hannah Scott 2 Stuart 2

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Dots or No Dots

by Simon Haines

It can be a controversial question in folk circles. Should we play music from notation – the dots – or should we remain true to the tradition and learn everything by ear – in keeping with the so-called “oral tradition”?Screenshot 2021 09 24 at 11.27.51

If you went into a pub session, you be rightly horrified to see accordion players, fiddlers and flautists playing from sheet music. There are those who say sheet music cannot capture the essence of folk music especially dance music. I’ve been to dance events where dancers have been unable to dance “properly” if a tune is played by musicians playing from the dots; it may be too slow, too fast or not quite the best rhythm.

Another angle on the subject is illustrated by this conversation I once had with a fiddle player at a session. It went like this

Fiddler     Do you know Harvest Home?
Me          Yes, of course.
Fiddler    It’s in D
Me          I play it in G.
Fiddler    No, it’s definitely in D – look it says so here. (pointing to sheet music)

So playing from sheet music can lead to people to think that tunes, are in specific keys and that the melody is absolutely fixed. You only have to listen a range of musicians playing their versions of a particular tune to know that this is just not the case. And of course, the truth is that any tune can be played in any key that is within the scope of the instrument - and some instruments are more limited than others!

On the other hand, I also know plenty of great musicians who learn a basic melody from sheet music and then re-interpret the tune in their own style when they play it, adding their own ornamentation, changing notes they don’t like or that don’t work so well on their instrument. As a melodeon player, I have always avoided a particular note in the C part of Horses Brawl, because I don’t have that note on my instrument; even if I did, I would not play it because I don’t like what it does to the sound of the tune. Others will object and insist that if I don’t play that note, I’m not playing the tune correctly.

A situation where sheet music is commonly used and can be very useful is in music workshops where the leader plans to teach specific tunes. Many participants will expect the sheet music to be distributed in advance of the workshop so that they can learn the melody beforehand and then focus on style or ornamentation during the workshop itself. Leaders may also provide simple recordings of their tunes for those who prefer to play by ear. So all participants are catered for

Personally, I don’t read or write music, but I can learn quite quickly by ear. However, I have composed lots of tunes and from time to time people ask me if I can send them the dots. I know someone who can do this for me and I ask them. If it’s a two-row melodeon tune, which it usually is, I ask my scribe to add the chords. This works well for everyone concerned.

This can be a controversial area, but I would plead for tolerance and understanding on both sides of the argument. In fact, when all is said and done, there doesn’t need to be an argument at all.

Mick Graves (1949-2021)

A personal memoir by Adrian May

          I first met Mick Graves, along with his wife and musical other half Sarah, in the 1970s. They were a mostly traditional, mostly instrumental duo at Chelmsford Folk Club and I was a songwriter and resident singer at the Blackbirds and Chestnuts clubs in Leyton and Walthamstow. They were one of the first to ask to cover one of my songs, The Old Wood Fire. They seemed a bit serious to me, if likeable and bright – also very good musicians. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Peter Booth, guitarist and humorist, phoned me in Halstead to offer me a gig playing bass with him, Mick and Sarah, who were doing English barn-dances as the Metric Foot Band. I borrowed a bass and an amp. The gig was good and they played well. After a while, Pete and I changed their rather passive on-stage presence to loosening up, having a laugh, posing ironically and actually praising each other’s playing when merited. Mick was always brilliant but shy. Sarah was brilliant too and actually fearless. I loved playing with them. We quickly started doing songs. I remember Pete’s enormous presence, standing posed on his tiny amplifier, like a giant on a transistor radio set and everyone laughing.

Read more: Mick Graves (1949-2021)

The Shackleton Trio


 Shackleton TrioFrequently referred to as one of the hardest working bands on the scene, The Shackleton Trio are gaining significant UK and International exposure, becoming an “in demand” name on the folk circuit.

They have been featured on Mark Radcliffe's Radio 2 Folk Show and BBC Radio 4, with 5* reviews, and an appearance on Cambridge Folk Festival's main stage alongside a host of UK and European festivals and international tours.

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The East Anglian Traditional Music Trust is putting on three events this Autumn.


    EATMT Evening of Song 2021EATMT2

Flying Folk

According to June Thaine, a small group has been working on the future of Flying Folk Club. Everyone concerned is 100% positive that the club should continue and there has been a good response from those willing to source a venue and to host a night initially.

The date and venue we now have for the celebration of Geoff and Myrtle’s lives are
Saturday 25th September at 8.00 pm. at The Norfolk Lurcher, Highhouse Farm Ln, Colton, Norwich NR9 5DG.

Thereafter, we are looking to set up nights not too far out of the city during the rest of the winter months, planning to venture further afield as the weather improves in 2022.

Flying Folk belongs to us all, and when we meet, please come forward with ideas of how you can contribute to ensure its success going forward. It is almost impossible to comprehend how we will manage this without Geoff at the helm, but manage it we must.

To opt into future communications re Flying Folk, please send your email contact address to Louise at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. I am hopeful of a smooth handover and remain contactable while the new contact address takes hold.

We are also looking to set up a Facebook page for Flying Folk, where other similar folk events may be posted.

One of Geoff’s great strengths was his inclusivity which helped us build Flying Folk over the years, so, in the same spirit, every one of us is included in its future. Naturally we are all at the mercy of Covid restrictions and obviously, these will dictate the future. So if we can, lets all meet up on September 25th at The Norfolk Lurcher and give Geoff and Myrtle a superb send-off.

It is hoped that we can hold an annual Geoff Day each September and also it is considered important to keep the Boxing Day tradition alive. To that end, The Lurcher has kindly offered to be available to us from 1.00 pm to 6.00 pm this year.


This interview I did with Tony Hall appears in the current issue of Living Tradition magazine. It's a timely reminder, I'd say of Tony's various creative talents.
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