This week I have mostly been rehearsing in one of the best projects of my life (which I haven’t organised – hoorah!!!). It’s Hannah James’  ‘Good Vibrations’ project at Shrewsbury Festival.

Percussive dance (Hannah James (English clog); Nathalia Garcia-Huidobro (Flamenco); Sonia Sabri (Indian Kathak) and US body percussionist Sandy Silva) plus :
me; Suhail Yusuf Khan (Sarangi); Giuliano Modarelli (Flamenco / Indian guitar) and Cormac Byrne (percussion).

It’s been an amazing, intense and essentially joyous meeting of creative minds; some of us had never met before and even Hannah had not met (in person) 2 of the dancers before Monday when rehearsals began  (at the Gateway Arts Centre, Shrewsbury – such lovely and helpful staff – huge thanks to them).

It’s risk-taking / trusting organisers like those at Shrewsbury Festival, Wickham Festival and Colin Hynd (who began Celtic Connections all those years ago) and a few more who allow us these moments of magic.

Hannah has picked a dream team of very humble and incredible people so that the dance, music and voice are as integrally connected as our body parts are.

I started my life in music (on the accordion at any rate), first in a marching band and then primarily playing for dancing – ceili and old time, Irish polka set dancing and so often, throughout my professional career, the highlights have often been the playing for dancing, whether at Folkbeat Derby where SWAP did an impromptu dance set at the bal or when people have just got up to dance at concerts I have played at such as with the Two Duos Quartet or even solo (it still makes me smile to think when Cliff and Jenny Baylis jumped up to dance a tango when I played a tango for an encore at my solo concert some years ago now, at Eastbourne Folk Club).

Alistair Anderson and I talked, many a time, about how it finally makes sense when you play for a dance of any kind.

It’s the music I love best and while it’s great fun to arrange dance music for people sitting down, the energy and massive emotion really starts to hit for me, when there are dancers involved. . . .and Hannah has chosen some world class ones. . . .

Actually, I started to learn the skill of improvisation while playing as a guest in Rodney Miller’s dance band one evening in New England some years ago. Contradance bands follow the John Kirkpatrick philosophy of ‘why-play-a-tune-twice-when-you-can-play-it-15-times (or more?)’

As John says, you only really start to get into the tune after 10 times round and in a contradance band, it’s common, say, after at least the 7th time around, to drop the melody, have the rhythm section play through the tune once and then band members can start to take turns in improvising over the top.

The dancers love it and good dancers usually tune into the dynamics of the music and of course when the band finally rejoin on the melody, it lifts the roof off both musically and emotionally.

It’s such a win-win situation. The dancers dance better and have more and more fun so the band reacts in a similar way.

What better way to socialise, have fun, leave the tv, computer, mobile phones and worries OFF and have a really great time?

It’s a no brainer.

I’ve a few aches and pains in places I didn’t know existed this morning (and I wasn’t even dancing this week!!!) – the rehearsals have been intense, long and everyone had a sharp focus on this 45 minute show to be the very best celebration of dance, music and voice that it could possibly be.

Thank you, everyone – I believe the festival is sold out so for those of you who can’t make it, the show will be live streamed on Monday next at around 2pm.


I’ve absolutely no idea how to ‘livestream’ except that it sounds like a great idea to see the show from the comfort of your own sofa, bed, picnic-table-on-the-downs/moors/ beach.

I’m sure it will tell you on the Shrewsbury Folk Festival Website.

And in the show, I’ve written a tune called ‘Happiness Hannah’ because every time I seem to get together with Hannah, Happiness happens. . .

Sandy Silva is translating (through percussive dance) my ‘My Dear Julia’ composition and a super Finnish waltz written by Tapani Varis (I think it may be called ‘Kuivatusa Luavalssi’) and also my tune for the late singer-songwriter Davy Steele, ‘Steele The Show’.

‘My Dear Julia’ is the first in a suite of compositions for accordion inspired by 12 photos taken by Julia Margaret Cameron. It’s her 100th anniversary this year and so many wonderful events are taking place at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of WIght (her home and now Museum and Tea & Cake Shop.

DImbola also houses a super photographic gallery with changing exhibitions plus it houses the memorabilia from the original IOW Rock Festival of the 70s).

Vic King and Dr. Brian Hinton chose 12 of her photos for me to write music about and the first was of Sir John Frederick William Herschel

A mathematician, astronomer, chemist (amongst other things), he was a good friend of Julia’s and wrote to her from down under, where he was plotting the Southern Hemisphere and suggested that she (in her 40s) ‘got into’ the new science of photography. . .

It’s such a beautiful and warm photo; eminent scientists were never photographed in this way – more the formal, dressed up, hair groomed-type photo was the norm. But this made me think,

‘What type of letter would he write to her, from all that distance. . . and given that this was the late 19th century?’

So I started with the words ‘My dear Julia’ and (as I’m very influenced by Edith Sitwell here. . .) the rhythm of the words dictated the first phrase.

The letter continues (in music form, illustrating his words I can hear / imagine in my head) and ends with:

‘. . .loving wishes from your dear friend John’.

So I play the music and you imagine the letter – just as Sandy has in her movements.

No words.

We have been talking  (what me?), during these rehearsals about silence, space between notes, steps, time and the ocean, the sun, the sea and the stars, and of course energy and nature.

. . .and the fact that dance and music transcend language – in terms of people do not have to share a common language (like English for example) to be able to communicate, because music and dance are so evocative, so emotional.

In this project the dancers are musicians and the musicians perform the music dancefully. It’s all one and the same – a very connected feast.

It’s a really beautiful project and illustrates, to me, the great connection between nature, the elements and people and of course, the ability for all cultures, nations to not only work peacefully and creatively together but to celebrate each others’ cultures.

Peace is every step as Thich Nhat Hanh (great book. . .thank you, Peter McAlinden).

I’d say this project is essential. Everywhere.

I’m sure you’re going to love it.

Last night, I watched Hannah James’ preview of her work in progress solo show ‘JigDoll’ at Shrewsbury Festival.

‘Stunning’ doesn’t even scratch the surface of the iceberg that is the enormity of her creative prowess. It had me speechless, laughing, swooning and in tears of joy.

She’s touring it in the autumn – you need to experience that as much as the New Rope String Band’s farewell tour which is from now until November when this great genius of the UK will be no more.

Historic times.

And lastly, (did I remind you about ‘Eve’s Bonie Squad’ the REALLY superb new CD by Tim Dalling?) it was Michael Lennon’s 40th birthday last night which I had to miss – I heard he painted the village of Tarmonbarry on the banks of the Shannon, very brightly indeed. Happy Birthday, Michael – one of loveliest people in the world and a great box player too. I’m honoured to know you.

He also has great taste in cakes. . .

More later, I’m off to meet Anna Pack (another superb accordionist / composer) at the Blowzabella Dance workshop!

Happy out!


Monday 31st August : KT at Shrewsbury Folk Festival as part of Hannah James’ ‘Good Vibrations’
Percussive Dance Project. 2pm


Thursday 10th September – Sunday 13th September : KT at NEWRY CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL, Newry, Northern Ireland.

Friday 18th Sunday 20th September : THE LONGFORD COLLECTION WEEKEND (in partnership with Karen Tweed’s Great Days. . . .

Friday 18th September : Grand concert with KT (solo) and The Longford Collection
Barney’s Bar and Restaurant. 12 Main Street, Longford Town, County Longford, Republic of Ireland
Tickets : 7€ (advance) / 10€ on the door. 5€ under 16s and unwaged. Under 5s – free.

Available from :

and the Longford Tourist Office, Market Square, Longford Town, County Longford, Republic of Ireland.

Tel : +353 (0) 43 334 2577

Saturday 19th September : WORKSHOPS and TALKS and MASTERCLASSES!!!
Venue : The Longford Arms Hotel and Spa, Longford Town, County Longford, Republic of Ireland.
(we tried to make the address as simple as possible to remember. . .)

Tel : +353 43 3346296

Music workshops from 10am – 4.30pm led by Karen Tweed (piano accordion) and Nick Wiseman Ellis (diatonic button accordion).

Karen will be concentrating on Irish traditional music techniques using repertoire from the Bunch Of Keys Tune Book 1, polkas, slides and perhaps a waltz as well.

Nick will be concentrating on Irish traditional music, French and Swedish music.

Notation and ABC notation will be available at the end of the day; however, you are encouraged to bring a notepad, pencil and recording device. All music will be taught in the workshops, by ear.

NO beginners but everyone else welcome.

Schedule :

10am Welcome

10.15-11.15 Session 1 (KT & N W-E)

11.15-11.45 Tea / coffee break

11.45-13.00 Session 2 (KT & N W-E)

13.00-14.00 LUNCH (not provided)

14.00-14.45 Flute-On with local flautists Tom McElvogue and Noel Sweeney (Talk and Tunes; open only to and free to the Accordion Course students).

This is a ‘Listen and Share’ masterclass with Tom McElvogue and Noel Sweeney (flutes) where they share how / why they play and compose; their musical styles and where they came from; the local music in Longford and their varied lives involving music professionally.

14.45-15.00 Tea / coffee break

15.00-16.30 Session 3 (KT & N W-E)

16.45-17.45 Karen Tweed’s beginner’s melodica class (melodicas provided – no experience in playing or music reading necessary).
This is a beginners’ melodica workshop with Karen Tweed.

Karen started her musical life on the melodica and they are great as they teach you keyboard skills and breathing; so you can then go onto woodwind, brass, accordions etc and the melodicas aren’t a ton weight! Perfect for adults and younger people alike. . .

Tickets : 3€ (Free to Accordion Course students).
All ages welcome.

All above events held at the Longford Arms.

Plus some non-musical-but-very creative talks for those needing to get away from those darned accordions!

Accordion Workshop day 60€.

Accordion Classes student numbers are capped at 20 students.

Tickets : 60€ for the workshop day.

Available from :

and the Longford Tourist Office, Market Square, Longford.

Tel : +353 (0) 43 334 2577

On the Saturday the evening, there will be a ‘Despicable Ceili’ (Round the House and Mind the Minions!!!) with prizes for the best dressed character from any of the DespicableMe Movies and certainly for the best dancer (in the style of DespicableMe).

Music will be by The Longford Collection and many of the dances will be called so no experience necessary!

Ceili, old time, sets and waltzes. Oh you HAVE to have waltzes (don’t tell my Dad though, he hates waltzes!!!)

Fancy Dress (optional) Ceili tickets : 5€ / ‘Family’ ticket (2 adults and 2 under 16s – none of whom need to be related) 10€

Available soon from :

and the Longford Tourist Office, Market Square, Longford.

Tel : +353 (0) 43 334 2577

Sunday 20th September :
Music workshops from 10am – 3.30pm led by Karen Tweed (piano accordion) and Nick Wiseman Ellis (diatonic button accordion).

Karen and Nick will be creating a performance big band (ALL instruments – including woodwind and brass welcome) which will perform in a public concert that day at 5pm.

A kind of ‘Crikey, let’s get a move on!’ pop up instrumental and vocal workshop.

No experience needed; but no absolute beginners on instruments, please.

Bring your instruments and voices, a wee note pad and recorder if you have one. There will be notation for melodies and words for the songs but arrangements will be done by ear.

Tickets : 20€ for the workshop day. Family ticket (you do need to be related for this one) 50€

Available from :

and the Longford Tourist Office, Market Square, Longford.

Tel : +353 (0) 43 334 2577

A lively and fun popup big band created from today’s students and directed by Nick Wiseman Ellis and Karen Tweed.

Expect madness, beauty and fun in music, vocals and spoken word.

Tickets : 5€

Available soon from :

and the Longford Tourist Office, Market Square, Longford.

Tel : +353 (0) 43 334 2577

So if you’d like to come for the whole weekend, book in with the Longford Arms Hotel and Spa – great rooms, lovely food and heaps of free parking. Bang in the centre of town too!

Tel : +353 43 3346296

 NB: The accordion workshops are limited to 20 students (we will split the group so that students get time with Nick and I individually, and some sessions will be led jointly) so it may be worth booking sooner rather than later. If you are coming overseas and wish to borrow a box, email me at


I’m now re-releasing old recordings of mine as downloadable cds from my website (thanks to Tom McElvogue) and we’ve now got :

‘Shhh’ which was originally released in 1995 with Ian Carr (guitar)

‘Fyace’ which was originally released in 1997 with Ian Carr (guitar)

‘Half As Happy As We ‘ Two Duos Quartet originally released in 1999 with Ian Carr (guitar), Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion) and Chris Wood (fiddle – he doesn’t play that anymore, sadly – and guitar and vocals) 

‘One Roof Under’ which was originally released in 2002 with Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion)

‘May Monday’ which was originally released in 2001 with Timo Alakotila (piano)

‘Midnight May Monday’ which was originally released in 2007 with Timo Alakotila (piano)


Round and about. . .

1. Liam Kelly & Philip Duffy are launching their new CD “Sets in Stone” in the Clubhouse, Dromahair, County Leitrim, Republic of Ireland on Saturday, 5th September. Hopefully they’ll have lots of musician & dancer friends to join them in a session afterwards. They’ll play for about 45mins and then hopefully, all hell will break loose into a mighty session of music and craic!


From: Jill Elliot <>
Sent: 27 August 2015 21:35
To: Jill Elliot
Subject: New Rope String Band Last Ever Somerset Performance


Advanced notice of Hibernia Autumn term starting soon on Saturday 5th September – but just thought I should pass this on to you about the New Rope string band playing for the last time locally as so many of you enjoyed the New Rope String Band at the Christmas party last year.

FRIDAY 18th SEPT. Doors (and bar) open at 7pm
COMPTON MARTIN VILLAGE HALL (between Bristol and Bath)
tickets from
Tel: Katie Newlyn (Mobile): 07816 451295



Karen Tweed is represented worldwide by  :
Lorraine Carpenter at Different Strings Agency

+44 117 904 1870 / +44 7929 135744