A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Sunday, 9 March 2014

IVFDF 2014 Recap, part 1

Last year, an event called IVFDF was mentioned in one of the Ceilidhs I went to as a weekend devoted to folk dancing. I decided to go along, and had a brilliant time (despite some infuriating bureaucracy relating to train tickets) so I was determined to return this year. The event circulates around the country, and this year it was held in Edinburgh. Again I had problems with my train tickets, although this time I can't really blame anyone else - in order to get there with some time to spare on the Friday, I had intended to miss an economics lecture which turned out to be a test worth 30% of our mark for the module, and missing it would entail giving up about 1.7% of my degree. Instead I rebooked my ticket and headed across on a later train, arriving after the dancing started but not to late to dance for most of the evening.

The first Ceilidh had music by Norman Mackay's Ceilidh Experience, and was set in South Hall at Pollock Halls. It's hard to imagine a better venue for a Ceilidh - a large, elegant, moderately lit hall with a side stage for the band, tables around the outside and a flight of stairs at one end from which I was able to take a few photos from above of the dances in progress. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all of the photos on my phone and can't find any online, so you'll just have to imagine it. The dancing was great fun, and there were some excellent beard/kilt combinations on display.

At about 10:30 PM I headed across to the South Side Community Centre, where at the Hobgoblin Stage the Climax Ceilidh Band were performing. The place was a town hall of the sort I assume they stopped building in the 50s, replete with outmoded decor. There was a large seated area behind the band and there were chairs around the outside of the dancing area. The band seemed fairly good - in particular, I remember a jig version of Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know. I headed off to get to bed before the end of the Cielidh in order to avoid wearing my legs out at the beginning of the weekend, and in order to plan for the next day without needing to keep people up with the light.

A dance in progress at the Hobgoblin Stage, taken from where the band would have been. Note the wheelchair, it'll come up again later.

The traditional way to stay at IVFDF is indoor camping - last year I spent two nights on a church floor, this year in a sports hall. There were showers, which was a significant improvement upon last year.

The next morning, I headed off to Teviot Hall for a session dedicated to playing folk music from the Auvergne, taught by Duo Mistral. The session was enjoyable - I don't remember much of the music now, and I've asked them to email me a copy of the recording of the session which they took but it has yet to come. After this I walked to Pleasance for a Latin-American dance workshop. I only attended the first half of this, bowing out in order to buy the largest water bottle I could get, but in that time we did an Incan or possibly pre-Incan dance for couples, a religious rite whose purpose I forget. It was very improvisational, the only constant being that the dancers were circling around.

Following this, there was a session on wheelchair dancing - how to dance in a wheelchair, and how to dance partnered with someone in a wheelchair. This had numerous amusing moments, beginning with an attempt to Thread the Needle, leading to an attempt to Duck and Dive (couples stand in a queue, lead couple facing all the others; all couples join hands, and the lead couple walk down the line alternating between arching over the approaching couple and ducking under an arch formed by the approaching couple - in wheelchairs, this manifested itself as a two-way slalom) and culminating in a Suicide Square, in which the tops and bottoms of the square gallop into the middle before retreating, and have to be certain to be out in time for the oncoming side couples.

After grabbing lunch, I headed into town in order to observe something of the Morris-Dancing tour of the city and to visit the city centre myself. Morris Dancing is something which I thought was silly until I actually saw it live for the first time, at IVFDF 2013 in Sheffield, and now it is something I really want to try. After watching the dances which happened outside the Scottish National Gallery, and taking a few photos of the dancing, the inner-city gardens and the Scott Monument, I had a look round the Scottish National Gallery, which had more worthwhile paintings than I have the time to find pictures of. Here are just a couple of the paintings I enjoyed:
Sir Henry Raeburn

Arthur Melville

William McTaggart

After this I had intended to go to Greyfriars Kirkyard in order to visit the grave of one of the great Scottish poets, inspired by a friend of a friend who had also recently visited. Unfortunately, the gate was locked, so I had to just give up and head over to Teviot where there was a concert being given by various local singer-songwriters, plus a group of pseudo-Georgian bellowers.

The first performer was The Muldrew, performing three songs from his new LP. I thought his production held him back - that is to say, his use of live-recorded sounds prevented him from doing much of interest with the music - it would just be the same two or four chords played repeatedly for several minutes, with the mix changing a bit over time. It also sometimes added up to  rather unpleasant sound. That said, he demonstrated proficiency on the guitar (if not on the keyboard, which was nothing but bass chords). In the end, I didn't enjoy it and didn't feel enriched by it.

Next up were The Eilidhs. Consisting of harpist and singer Eilidh Munro and fiddler Eilidh Steel, they were my favourite act of the concert. They performed a variety of traditional songs, and also had an LP coming out soon although it has yet to appear. Munro performed the finest singing I can remember hearing. Needless to say, when the LP does come out I will be getting hold of it.

"You know Bacon Numbers? Well, I have a folk music number of two." With those words, Charlotte Repton introduced her brand of baritone-ukulele light-comedy (?). I don't have a particular desire to listen to her again, but it was a perfectly reasonable way to spend half an hour of a Saturday afternoon. If you want to listen to her, I'd recommend starting with either Clockwork Heart or Alley Creepin'.

Finally, the pseudo-Georgian bellowers. Actually a group of Edinburgh men who happened to enjoy Georgian mountain songs, it fit pretty much exactly the description of Ogre music from Warhammer Fantasy. I didn't enjoy it, but I do feel enriched for having heard it. And at least it's killed my interest in composing a piece entirely of shouting, which had been mulling around in my head for quite some time. The group can be found here, and here is an excerpt from a piece which they sang in this concert.

Following on from this, I had a terrible meal in the Green Mantle pub - if you are vegetarian, avoid that place because all they have is some rather unpleasant soya. The complete absence of salad did little to help the already dubious culinary reputation of Scotland. After this, I headed off to the evening dancing.

To be continued... hopefully.

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