Summer in Sheringham

@ the Sheringham Mo

EATMT were involved in two collaborative events in July and August with a delightful FolkArt exhibition “Time on their Hands” running June-October and curated by the The Mo at Sheringham Museum.

Our first event took the form of a lunchtime talk which took place on Friday 26th July in the glorious exhibition room at the Sheringham Museum.

Several years ago, the museum had been donated a dulcimer which was owned by Sheringham resident Jack Basham and then later his daughter Vera.  It was donated after their deaths by the family and was being exhibited at this FolkArt Exhibition.  The Trust was approached by Lisa Little, the Museum’s curator to provide someone to talk about Dulcimers at one of their lunchtime talks. We invited Norfolk Dulcimer expert, Richard Blake to speak.  Richard was welcomed by a good crowd in the museum and on hand to assist were Trust volunteers Tony Langford and Sue and Adrian Carlton.  Local Friend of the Trust and photographer Chris Gill came along to take pictures and also to film the talk which was instigated by the Non Such Dulcimer Club who thought the talk might make an interesting feature in the club’s forthcoming newsletter.  Richard kindly agreed and you will be able to view this here shortly.  A short film of music in Norfolk was played during this 4 month exhibition made by Jeff Link for Norfolk Community Films.

Photos courtesy of A Carlton

Photos courtesy of C Gill

Saturday 31st August was our second visit to the Sheringham Museum where the Trust put on a day of traditional music.

We were delighted to have over 20 musicians who volunteered their time and enthusiasm over the day. During the morning three separate spaces within this wonderful space were occupied by musicians keen to share their experience and encourage people to have a go.

SqueezEast Concertinas kindly joined us with eight of their players – smartly attired in their purple T shirts. The variety of concertinas that these musicians played meant that as they sat in their room for the morning (The Wind Farm – Sheringham Shoal-Centre), there was a beautiful sound of a concertina orchestra trickling around the unique shaped museum – baritone, anglo, English, Duets – which when all played together made for a delightful sound and people interested were given an opportunity to have a go.  Our musicians in return were given a fantastic vista of the North Sea.  Both SqueezEast Concertinas and EATMT run an instrument hire scheme so SqueezEast promoted their concertina hire scheme and EATMT promoted their melodeon hire scheme. A perfect collaboration!

In the main exhibition room a floor above the concertinas, Vintage Squeeze arrived with bags of enthusiasm and equipped with the Trust’s D/G hire melodeons, they set about trying to recruit wannabee players.  Vintage Squeeze are a “self help” group of melodeon players from Norfolk who have invited Norwich based melodeon player Jill Parson to assist them with their playing and improving.  They are new(ish) to playing and they meet regularly to share tips and to play together and they jumped at the opportunity to share their love of this instrument with potential new players.

In the museum’s space dedicated to Norfolk photographer Olive Edis, Dulcimer player Richard Blake set up two dulcimers. Olive was a photographer – particularly known for her portraits of politicians, royalty, influential woman and Norfolk Fishermen.  She set up her first studio in Sheringham with her sister.  The gentle ‘hammering’ of the dulcimer strings enticed visitors to see this unique East Anglian musical instrument.  Richard’s second dulcimer was set up to encourage passers by to have a go.

At lunchtime, taking advantage of the beautiful day and the wonderful large balcony which looks out to sea, our musicians joined together and struck up an impromptu session. Jig dolls appeared and added to the mix perfectly.

6 piece Norfolk based band Hushwing arrived after lunch and set up in the Exhibition Room for an afternoon performance. Joined by Rita Gallard on her Jig Doll, the audience filled the room and we were treated to tunes and songs collected from Sheringham and the local area in a thought provoking programme of music.  We were introduced to tunes and songs learned from musicians from days gone by – the likes of Harry Cox, Molly Whitaker, George Craske and Bob Jackson.

Keyboard player, singer and researcher Alan Helsdon introduced us to the Sheringham characters whom Ralph Vaughan Williams met in 1905 and explained potential links in the missing chain of events that weren’t recorded at the time.  Alan has conducted much research on Vaughan Williams’s song collecting in Norfolk and so he included some interesting background to the two songs he sung – Dearest Nancy and Stowbrow.

Alan had searched for the words high and low for Dearest Nancy that would best fit the tune that Vaughan Williams had noted down, because he had only notated, as he mostly did, the tune. His second song, Stowbrow had been sung to Vaughan Williams by a Mr Emery. Through further research, Alan thinks Mr Emery was the Mr Robert Emery who appears in the Sheringham mural on the sea wall.  Robert Emery was a boat builder and Alan surmises that at the time of Vaughan Williams’ visit to the Crown that lunchtime, the fishermen would have been out at sea catching up on their lost days following a huge storm that would have prevented them going out to sea in the days before.

Fiddle player Chris Holderness  added to the local history and spoke about Stepdancers and talked about Sheringham Steppers Eric Wink and Charlie Harrison and of the tradition of Stepdancing found along the North Norfolk Coast. Hushwing’s performance rounded off the musical day perfectly.

Jeff Link and Mhairi Campbell captured some of the morning’s event and you can see the delightful short film they made here.

Over the day, visitor numbers reached 118 and feedback to the musicians, Trust and museum was very positive.  “The music brought the Museum alive” was one lovely comment.

The Museum and the Trust are conscious that there are several connections to both of these organisations which makes it conducive to work together again in the future.  This was not a collaboration that for the Trust was a money earner.  It was more an opportunity to have a presence in an area that we know has a rich heritage in traditional music and to indicate to supporters that the Trust is working hard to continue promoting the musical traditions of East Anglia across East Anglia.  The museum took a few copies of our publications “Before the Night Was Out” and “The Brightest of Entertainers” to sell in their shop which gives the Trust another retail outlet to use and keeps the name alive in the town.

We were very grateful to Lisa Little and her staff at the Sheringham Museum for such a warm welcome and also to all of our musicians, volunteer Tony Langford and to the audience which was a mix of EATMT supporters, museum supporters and holidaymakers. To anyone who hasn’t visited the museum, you should! It’s a real gem of a place.

Photos EATMT.