FOLK FOR ALL: Folk round-up from the Bury Free Press of Friday, September 25

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wolf folk club: At our last meeting there were two autoharps in the room, a relatively unusual occurrence and a fact which made me think. They don’t figure largely in the British folk music canon. The received wisdom of the folk music world these days sees them as an American instrument with no place in British folk. But the Autoharp used to have an important place in British music making way back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 
It was invented in Germany by K. A. Gutter and patented in Britain in 1883. There was around that time a big interest in creating new musical instruments from which the concertina, melodeon, harmonium and mouth organ first saw the light of day. Around the same time it seemed almost every house had a banjo as a result of the popularity of minstrel shows.
The Victorians made huge reforms in church music, phasing out old village band sounds and bringing in the organ. But lots of smaller churches could not afford posh organs and opted for the less expensive harmoniums to accompany hymn singing. Those who couldn’t afford that expense opted for autoharps or Angel Harps, as they were called. 
You can still find old autoharps in auctions or antique shops from time to time and they used to be quite common. There must have been thousands of them and their related chord harps and zithers variants in churches and households years ago.
The British folk revival of the 1950s was largely driven by the American recording industry and the guitar was king in that period. Lots of old folk instruments were pushed aside but managed to creep back in later as folk got a bit wiser. The fiddle, concertina, harp, hammered dulcimer, smallpipes, and many other folk instruments made it back into favour but the autoharp has remained relatively neglected. But then, not many people are too keen on the demands of tuning an instrument which has about 36 strings.

And finally, I had a leaflet from Hands on Music who run weekend traditional music courses for folkies at Henry Box School, Witney, Oxon. Concertina September 25-27, strings October 23-25, melodeons November 13-15. Full course details and online booking at www.handsonmusic.org.uk. Roger runs the Wolf Folk Club at the Wolverton Social Club in North Norfolk. Contact youngroger235@gmail.com.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 25 – MILKMAID FOLK CLUB: Constitutional Club. 8pm. Friends £10 non £12. Artisan supported by Stef and Ron.

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27 – BLACK FEN FOLK CLUB: 7pm. Check before going.

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 28 – GARDNERS P.H. Tostock: 8.30pm. Free. Traditional sing around. Contact Dave 01359 241554.

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 29th - POETS ALOUD: Bay Tree Cafe, St Johns St. 7.30pm. £2 on door. A sympathetic platform to local poets. First time readers very welcome. Contact Rob www.poetryaloud.org.uk/01284 701947.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 30 – ELY ROYAL FOLK CLUB: The Kings Arms, St Mary’s St. 7.30pm – 11pm.

THURSDAY OCTOBER 1 – CIRCLE DANCING: United Reformed Church, Whiting St. 2pm-3.30pm. Contribution £5. Contact Jen Larner 01284 705548.

HORNINGSEA FOLK CLUB: Plough and Fleece. 8pm-11pm. Contact Tony 01638 741743. Check before going.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2nd – MILKMAID FOLK CLUB: Constitutional Club. 8pm. £8 members, £10 others. Harpeth Rising supported by Kelly and Woolley. Recommended.

COMING SOON: Bury Busk in association with Folk For All and Oakes Barn. Fund raising event. Watch this space.