June 20th. Midsummer dawned cold and wet. Such a shame when so much was happening that day. Jerry, my husband set off for a vintage bicycle event in the Peak. My son was going to a Music Jam in Kimberley.
I went to the 2nd Horticultural Show in Heanor at Mundy Junior school. It was an event with marquees of vegetables and flowers, chickens and rabbits with rosettes for winning first prize, craft stalls, bouncy castles, races, Beautiful alpacas with fleeces so soft you could barely feel them.
Last year a pupil from our school won a prize for a 9 foot long knitted snake. Also present were lovely gentle triplet calves, their unusual birth had made the national news and people had come as far afield as Cumbria to visit the fair. A quartet from our orchestra played at the tea stand (the whole orchestra could not play this year as our conductor was attending his brother’s wedding near Crich) but you could barely hear them above the noise of the generators and the other amplified music that was going on.
I left the bustle of the Show to open the school shop at the music festival at Michael House. What a contrast! When I arrived the festival was just beginning. Ian and Sybille and Florian were setting up the hall and the first performers were just arriving. Julie and Rob drew up in their camper van and set up the barbecue to sell burgers and falafel, true music festival fare, and filled the playground with smoke, which actually only lasted until the barbecue got going.
Next to arrive was Chris Ehrenzeller in his camper, to provide circus skills entertainment for the children.
Unfortunately I missed the early afternoon performances as I was serving in the shop. The takings in the shop were not great as there were so few visitors but I did manage to sell a few fossils and earrings to the Chinese children on the exchange visit, to take home as gifts to their families.
Luckily as it was not so busy I was also able to take part in the ceilidh. The music was provided by the Red Lion Band, the number of players nearly outnumbered the dancers! Everyone was needed on the floor to make up the sets, young and old. Mrs Tipper was in her element dancing with Florian. People not normally given to dancing were dancing. Parents with their young children whirling about and doesy-doeing, the sun now streaming in through the windows and into the hall.
More people arrived for the evening’s entertainment. Julie Russell, a former parent here, danced a splendid clog dance and then sang unaccompanied in a wonderful pure voice, folk songs about the cuckoo, of inconstant lovers, of mill workers. Her sister played a harp equally beautifully, haunting melodies. At the request of the audience they sang and played together. A real treat!
The Michael House singers performed conducted by Mrs Tipper. “June lovely June, Here comes the summer over the fields” … a real Michael House song. I have sung this in the Kindergarten with Diane and heard Michael Bearder singing this in the mini bus on the way to the Olympics. The second song I was told afterwards was really difficult to perform, a sort of French round, especially as none of the men were ever together at the rehearsals at the same time. However they seemed to perform this with ease. “Il est bel et bon” a song about farmers’ wives talking about their husbands, they do the washing up and feed the chickens and do not even beat their wives…. Where does Mrs Tipper get these songs?
We are very fortunate to have in our midst two professional musicians; Nicola Dunne and Adam Saunders. Nicola is a trained opera singer and Adam a composer of film music. Adam accompanied Nicola on the piano and together they gave an amazing performance. Nicola dressed in evening dress sang such songs as “Summertime Autumn Leaves”, which made me cry, and “Mein Liebe Herr” from cabaret. Amazingly she was not distracted by the children who were running in and out of the open doors of the hall, coming in to eat waffles prepared by Sybille. Adam is a very accomplished pianist and the combined effort of these two musicians was alone well worth the £10.00.
We were also very privileged to hear the last performer, Pete Morton, a folk singer from Leicester. He had a powerful voice, full of emotion as he sang of his son and of his mother who had passed away just two weeks previously. His songs were also amusing, inspired by a visit to Twycross Zoo, and also tragic as he sang of the plight of the boat-people, leaving the shores of Africa to find new life in Europe.
He did not seem perturbed by a broken string, he continued sing about the history of Britain while mending the string of his guitar, or by the lack of audience. I counted just 20 people. He sang as if there were a thousand and twenty. He felt that Michael House was a very special place. He had been with us all day, taking part in the ceilidh eating the food coked by Rob and Julie and observing the happiness of the children enjoying the freedom of the day.
Talking to him afterwards, in the kitchen as we washed up the final things he was very impressed by the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the school and was thinking of sending his son to a Steiner school in London. He went home to spend the night with Ian and Sybille in their warm and loving home. They had already given so much to make the music festival the beautiful event that it was.
The audience numbers were not great. Was this due to competition with all the other events going on at midsummer? Was the ticket price too high? Was there some confusion on the poster, did people think it was compulsory to bring 3 teenagers to the festival, how do you drag them away from computers or skateboarding to come to a folk festival? We can ponder the reasons.
I know that the performance of Live music is really important and even more so in this age where everything is recorded and is digital and can be played again and again. Live music is transitory but it reaches deeply into your soul. This was the first music festival, it had tentative beginnings, I am sure with the support of the rest of the community it will be first of many to be held at Michael House.
As I walked home at 10.30 I could see the bats fluttering as the sun set, I could see firework displays in the valley in Langley mill, celebrating midsummer. I felt very happy to have been part of this special event.