Listening to trees, conversations in Ventnor and other stories. . .

11th May 2014 Hello,

My it’s been right busy here., . punctuated with some very tranquil moments and, just for a change, I’m on the move again (still IOW) and packing up a few boxes and sifting through stuff either looking for things I’ve lost or seeing if I can rationalise what I have.

I found a copy of the first SWAP CD a few days ago. I really like the fact that a lot of the music I have made in my life makes me chuckle, brings back memories, learning curves and thoughts of amazement that I wasn’t ex-communicated by the music police.

Perhaps I was.

I think all creative people have an innocent notion that something they create at some point will change the world, however small their perceived ‘world’ is. We can get terribly het up about it (me especially), because it matters soooo much. There are moments in music such as when I played a duo gig with Ian Carr (one of our last concerts before deciding to concentrate on the band SWAP) at a Museum in Falun some years ago (which I think was recorded by the radio) which was life changing for me and made me laugh my socks off at the time – pure musical fun and a very silly form of musical conversation between us. I remember Ian was ‘on form’ that day, both in his playing and chat. I can also cite many tracks recorded by people such as Maria Kalaniemi or Bill Evans or Stevie Wonder or Carina Normansson, a bowl by Paul Bradley in Nailsworth or the portrait by Gustav Klimt I saw last year that leave me breathless and have changed my life or perception or how I then get inspired. So perhaps it’s not about changing the world but perhaps the little details that move us or that touch individuals or even one person?

I was sent this clip by Daniel Barenboim; it put me in mind of a great presentation I heard by Ale Moller on ‘listening to music’. . .

I was out and about earlier in the week with Paul Sivell listening to Eucalyptus trees to hear sap rising. We went to Ventnor Botanical Gardens which is really magnificent just now (and has instigated cheaper deals for residents) and found that the young trees were the most gurgly. Paul inspires me tremendously and his work is all round the island.









He told me that once, when he was working at Kew Gardens, they amplified some of the trees so that people could hear the sap rising! Now there’s a new take on ‘listening posts’. . .

I’ve been enjoying being in Ventnor; my stint at East Dene is over and a pile of new music has been started. I’ve met the local shoemaker, spent some happy hours in the library and next weekend Karen Street, Alan Young and I are hosting an Accordion Party at Holy Trinity Church in Ventnor.












It promises to be quite a night with music from the 40s and 50s alongside jigs and

reels, some newly composed accordion music and hopefully illustrating how versatile, mad, elegant and wonderful my instrument of choice really is.

Holy Trinity Church are raising funds for their organ renovation and we’re also raising awareness and funds for UKAAT (the UK Association of Accordion Teachers).
I was there last week to hear the Bournemouth Male Voice Choir and The Nightingales – a recently formed IOW choir from NHS staff. Super event!

Then, on Sunday 18th May Karen Street and I are hosting a Creative Accordion Day and I’ve already had a concertina player enrol and on the

last a harp player. Although the course is designed for accordion players, what we are teaching are principles and ideas that can be applied using any instrument and East Dene (the venue) is a very uplifting place to be. For the full schedule see

Oh yes – last weekend was the Isle of Arts Festival in Ventnor which was packed with events. I missed the beginning as I went to hear Gordon Giltrap at the Quay Arts in Newport (IOW) and he was stunning. Considering there wasn’t an accordion or copy of the Beano in sight, I was totally mesmerised by his music, hilarious banter and his ability to make everyone feel as though we were in his kitchen. He is a very fine composer and uses his brilliant technique appropriately and not just because he can. He is also one of the few performers I know who makes a point of really honouring those he has played with and learned from. The concert was a real highlight for me this year.

Back to the Isle of Arts – Tim Kliphuis played at St Catherine’s church (I’d been to have a peek round St Catherine’s lighthouse 2 days beforehand – I must remember to tell you all about that in another missive) and as his band he played with local musicians, the Jim Thorn Trio. Tim was, as ever, precise, lyrical and effortless in his Grapelliesqueness – Jim Thorn’s trio were remarkable. Apparently they only met a couple of hours before the concert and even if they had organised the whole concert by email in advance, the musical sensitivity and underpinning to compliment Tim’s music live was breathtaking. As the evening wore on and everyone started to relax, the music really took off. I’ll be stalking Jim Thorn’s trio in future. Gloriously understated and magnificent playing.

Oddly, that afternoon I had wandered into Annik Cullinane’s Workshop 97 where she was exhibiting her textiles and pastels, to meet a French lady who had had the honour, at 15, to enjoy (the newly discovered) Django Reinhardt play at her birthday celebration. She held fond memories of the event and said he was the sweetest man. You never know who you’ll bump into in Ventnor.

So. Just as you may think it’s time to laze about on Sunday, guess what? Those splendid VFringe people are starting off their series of ‘Sundays Re-Imagined’.
From 11am today (Sunday 11th May) and just about every 2nd Sunday of the coming months this year, Ventnor will be alive with debates, workshops, talks and discussions with a grand ceilidh to finish off. Oh and a communal roast lunch.









I’m doing ‘The Lost Art of Letter Writing’ at the Library (12 noon), a bit of accordion serenading over lunch and playing for the ceilidh with Mark Hickman (guitar) and caller Ian Watterson at 6pm; there’s a Pop Up Record Store, Table Top Puppet Making, Altered Stories, Sunday Scrabble, a talk and guided walk of St Boniface Down with IW National Trust Head Warden Robin Lang, an introduction to Greek Philosophy with Mark Vernon, a debate entitled ‘Russia, Ukraine and the West: Will Things Get Worse?’ by Marc Berenson and a Big Sing with the Dollymopps.

Come on down!!! See for details.

I’ve been listening to the Dollymopps new CD ‘ Wight Cockade’ which is great – they are seriously researching the vocal traditional repertoire of the Isle of Wight and these songs are sung mostly accapella and arranged beautifully. Do check them out on

I’m looking forward to taking part in both the Old Gaffers ( and Ryde Festivals ( this year. I’ve been collaborating with Mark Hickman (guitarist / songwriter) and with Anna Sacchini (harp / sitar / voice) who have been keeping me on my toes. I’ll be back with more details and dates soon.

And (as I noticed there’s a distinct lack of accordion news this time), on Sunday 8th June at 5pm there is ‘Bellows Across Borders’ – 2 of Europe’s leading Accordion Orchestras join forces to give a mighty concert in St John’s Smith Square concert hall, London SW1P 3HA. The Morley Accordion Orchestra present the World Premiere of ‘Flight’ by conductor Ian Watson, as well as ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ with West End composer / pianist Jason Carr. Then the Nurnberger Akkordeonorchester will perform for the first time in London with Holst’s ‘The Planets’ and Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’ like you’ve never heard them before. Crikey! For more information see

OK – time to resume reading ‘So Bright and Delicate’ – Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne. I’ve finished Ingrid’s (Bergman) autobiography and have started the unofficial biography of Elton John. All fascinating stuff.

Here’s an excerpt from Mr Keats; Fanny’s letters back didn’t survive as they were buried with him :

Isle of Wight,
Thursday (Postmark, Newport, 3 July 1819)

My dearest Lady,
. . .I am more reasonable this morning. The morning is the only proper time for me to write to a beautiful Girl whom I love so much: for at night, when the lonely day has closed, and the lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber is waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre, then believe me my passion gets entirely the sway, then I would not have you see those Rhapsodies which I once thought it impossible I should ever give way to, and which I have often laughed at in another, for fear you should (think me) either too unhappy or perhaps a little mad.
. . .For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. . . Though I could centre my Happiness in you, I cannot expect to engross your heart so entirely – indeed if I thought you felt as much for me as I do for you at this moment I do not think I could restrain myself from seeing you again tomorrow for the delight of one embrace.

. . .Do write immediately. There is no Post from this Place, so you must address Post Office, Newport, Isle of Wight. I know before night I shall curse myself for having sent you so cold a Letter; yet it is better to do it as much in my senses as possible. be kind as the distance will permit to

J. Keats

Sincerely. . . xK