Press Release, 6 May 2016
The Music at the Heart of Teesdale project was set up in 2011 with the aim of reviving the folk music, song and dance traditions of the dale, working with young people in particular. “But we never thought,’ said M@HoT project co-ordinator Neil Diment, “That we might also help revive some of the old folk instruments that once played that music!”
Dr Margaret Bradshaw, better known as an eminent botanist for her work with the flowers of Teesdale, donated her old violin to the project. She said, “I have really admired the work Neil and the M@HoT project has done with young musicians in the dale to develop their musical talents and create the youth folk band, Cream Tees. So I sought a new life for my violin amongst the people of Barnard Castle and now it is with Cream Tees enabling other youngsters to learn to play and, I hope, appreciate its history and quality. I am really pleased that I passed the old violin on to have a new life creating wonderful sounds. Though, in my heart it will still be mine, and I will always be interested in where it is and who is playing it.”
When Cream Tees performed the première of their “Rooted—A Teesdale Suite” to great acclaim at The Witham in November 2014, it was a wonderful touch that we were able to have some other historic folk instruments on the stage with us that evening for the whole concert. M@HoT Researcher, Mike Bettison, had discovered recordings of quarryman Mark Anderson singing and playing a flutina, a kind of concertina, in Teesdale in the early 1950s. “Cream Tees had been inspired by his music and the landscape of Teesdale to create their own tunes,” said Mike. “So it seemed only fitting that, although Mark himself had long since passed away, his flutinas and fiddle should be on the stage with us. His music, along with his instruments, lives on.”
Mark’s instruments were loaned to us for that special occasion by Moss Anderson, the wife of his grandson, Floyd. But two other dale residents have, like Margaret, donated instruments to the M@HoT project. Mrs Drewe, from Middleton-in-Teesdale and Mrs Thomas from Barnard Castle, have known one another for over 35 years, since they were neighbours in fact when Mrs Thomas lived in Middleton-in-Teesdale. They have both had a life-long interest in music.
Mrs Drewe’s husband was very musical and played several instruments. Roy Thomas used to played with the Middleton and Teesdale Silver Band for many years, and before that with West Auckland Silver Band. They had talked about wanting to help others, particularly youngsters, to take part in music making, especially within the dale. And they both had instruments which they played rarely. Mrs Drewe had several recorders of different sizes, and Mrs Thomas had an electric keyboard.
“Music is such a gift,” said Mrs Thomas, “It brings pleasure to the player and the listener. We are very happy that the instruments will be used, that’s why we have donated them to the M@HoT project. And,” she added, “It’s really good that they will be of benefit to young people in Teesdale.”
“Having instruments donated is really useful,” explained Neil Diment. “The M@HoT project doesn’t have money to buy its own instruments; the youngsters who play in the band have to have their own. Now, thanks to this gift, we can include someone who may not be able to afford their own instrument, as we can now provide a recorder on loan.”
“We are always happy to receive any unwanted instruments, especially folk instruments with a Teesdale connection. If possible, we will get them refurbished, like with Margaret’s old violin, and pass them on to a young musician in the dale who can breathe life into them again,” he added.
“If anyone else has an instrument, no longer being played, please consider passing it on to Cream Teas or a Silver Band or another music group,” echoed Margaret Bradshaw.
“And if anyone is interested in learning to play the keyboard, thanks to Mrs Thomas, whether or not they want to join Cream Tees, we now have very fine keyboard available to loan them!” Neil added. “We also have a zither banjo, donated to us by a neighbour which he used to play in a skiffle band in the mid-1950s. If anyone wants to have a go with that, please do get in touch with me!”