By Betsy Everett
Popular with folk musicians, but not an instrument you generally hear a lot about, the melodeon drew around 100 visitors to Hawes last week from as far away as the USA, Sweden and the South of France.
The Dales Countryside Museum played host to a weekend of workshops, sessions and concerts for and by players of the instrument, organised by Bob Ellis from Gayle.
The melodeon is, says Bob, a type of accordion on which the notes are sounded by pressing buttons rather than piano keys. Eighty players attended the Melodeons in Wensleydale weekend event, sponsored by Outhwaites Ropeworks of Hawes.
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The weekend started with sessions in the Fountain Hotel and the museum itself, which were also attended by local folk musicians playing a range of instruments, with melodeon workshops held the following day.
There was an evening concert in the museum’s exhibition hall, headlined by John Spiers, well-known in the folk music world as one half of Spiers and Boden and as one of the leaders of the folk ‘supergroup’, Bellowhead.
Other performers included Mel Biggs from the well-respected female trio, Moirai, Issy and Dave Emeney from Somerset, known for their harmony singing and innovative playing, Steve Dumpleton, a proficient player and teacher of the melodeon from Sheffield, Theo Gibb from Newcastle who not only performed but also repaired melodeons and advised people how to do their own repairs, and Rees Wesson, a Welsh player, singer and manufacturer of high quality melodeons.
There were further workshops on Sunday, culminating in a showcase concert where participants played a piece that they had been working on during the day.
Said Bob, who taught a workshop on tunes local to the Yorkshire Dales: “The event attracted around 100 visitors, many of whom had not been here before, so it not only raised the profile of upper Wensleydale among people who were unfamiliar with the area, but also provided a boost to the local economy. Many commented on how impressed they were with the beauty of upper Wensleydale and by the museum itself, which some thought to be one of the best small museums they had ever seen.”
He hopes to repeat the event next year.