Back in Maine, grateful for UK musical experiences

Back in Maine after 3 months in England with my British husband David, I’m recovering from jet lag and seeking balance, the better to focus my energies to serve the greater good in these challenging times. I’m also gratefully reflecting on my musical experiences across the Pond.

I’m steadily developing an instrument collection there. Over the past few years, I’ve brought over a Marxophone and pianolin (a type of violin-guitar), bought a guitar at Gear4Music in York, and acquired other items on Ebay, including accordion, harmonium, and several fretless zithers – Meinhold’s Auto Harp Miranda, Faudel’s harp zither, harpeleik, Lion Zither, and Jubel Töne zither. This year I got another of London-based Faudel’s zither models. It has some structural issues, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts:

I’d been lacking a hammered dulcimer to play in the UK. I resolved that with this beautiful compact Middle Eastern santur from Ebay. The tuning system is different, which took some getting used to. The sound is full, rich, resonant, and evocative, and I love it!

Speaking of instruments, I’m fascinated by the English tradition of bell ringing. This year we visited ringing practice in the tower of St. Mary’s (eight bells, the heaviest weighing almost a ton!) in Barnard Castle. Thank you, ringers, for making us feel so welcome!In the US, my musical work includes playing in nursing homes, especially for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. In England, I take part in the local Singing for the Brain sessions, community-based singalongs for people with dementia and their caregivers, friends, and families. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people there, plus had glorious fun learning some vintage British popular songs!

I’ve also enjoyed hunting for songbook bargains in charity shops. One interesting find was the “Daily Express” Community Song Book, published to support a British community singing movement in the 1920s.

Our musical home base is the weekly Richmond Folk Club singaround, but we also went farther afield this year, to the Black Swan Folk Club in a 600-year-old pub in York, and the Hoy at Anchor Folk Club in Westcliff-on-Sea. Great people, great music! The Black Swan Inn is pictured here.

We are fans of the area youth folk group Cream Tees and the Music at the Heart of Teesdale project. We had great fun producing a benefit concert for them at Boldron Village Hall (great acoustics!). A highlight of the evening was an opening set by young musicians Rachel and Fiona Todd of Cream Tees.Finally, I was privileged to present and perform for the Music Appreciation Group of the local chapter of the University of the Third Age (U3A), “an international movement whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community—those in their third ‘age’ of life.” (This final photo is actually from the Boldron concert, but will have to do!) I so look forward to our return to Teesdale in November!