2008

       George and some of the Workshop Musicians              

 George with some of the participants

 

On May 31st 2008, The Thistle Club ran Milton Keynes’ first Musicians Workshop.  Through the open windows of Acorn House in Central MK, the vibrant music could be heard wafting down to passers by on their way to the shopping centre. Participants travelled from as far afield as Sutton Coldfield and Surrey for this opportunity to be tutored by George Meikle. 

10 musicians attended, including fiddle players, keyboards, flute, accordion, melodeon, concertina and a drummer. One of the participants emailed me the next day and wrote “George did a great job - he created a positive atmosphere right from the start and not only was he a supremely competent tutor but there was also a steady stream of tips, advice and knowledge. There was also some insight into aspects of band life which are probably not obvious to the dancers!” 

Prior to the workshop, some of the musicians had expressed a little disappointment at not having the opportunity to play for a dance in the evening.  Logistically this just was not possible.  George had provided great music for the Thistle Club Dance on the Friday and following Saturdays Workshop he was off up the motorway to play for an event in Doncaster in the evening!    

Following the success of this event a workshop with George, followed by a dance giving the workshop musicians the opportunity to join George on stage, took place on 5th September '09 

Groups: Thistle Club

George Meikle Ventures South (2008)

Off-beat notes by a drummer 

George Meikle is a remarkable musician, well-known for his enthusiastic accordion playing each year t the RSCDS Summer and Winter Schools. George has also put in an enormous amount of work editing, writing and arranging the musical transcriptions for countless recent RSCDS dance publications. “Originally Ours”, the book of original tunes for all the RSCDS dances was I suspect “Originally George’s. It is an indispensable source book for the working dance musician.  

From the Reel I discovered that George was to make 3 appearances in the London area during May 2008 : I was able to go to each! The first was Saturday 24 May at the 75th Anniversary Ball at Ashford Middlesex of the Heston and District Scottish Association. The Ball comprised all the elements needed :good company, good refreshments, slices of celebratory cake a forgiving floor and an excellent church hall. George fielded the Lothian Band with Stuart on the fiddle and Alan Rintoul on the keyboard. The music could not have been better! The programme was a clever mixture of those well-tried favourites that anyone can do backwards or standing on their heads, along with one or two to challenge the dancing experts.

 

Event number two was arranged by Jan Jones of the Thistle Club of Milton Keynes in another nice church hall in Stony Stratford on Friday, 30 May.  It was an occasion of great dancing, good food and friendly company. George played on his own- not that you would have noticed such was the variety and virtuosity of his playing. Some dancers kept telling me what a hard and sticky floor it was but with such a uplifting music I just didn’t notice it. Jan gave us recaps to stimulate the mind and one local speciality dance was walked through so nobody could complain about that.

 

Event number three was in Central Milton Keynes in a somber post-Stalinite office block. There were about 10 musicians from Purley, Sutton Coldfield, Stourbridge and all stops in between. Such was George’s skill in coaching us that by the end of the session, any promoter could have confidently booked this band for an up-coming dance! The music was scrupulously presented and George has a laptop for make any adjustments or corrections to it. Any problems and questions were answered by anecdote or demonstration musically on his box. Many secrets were revealed about controlling tempo, bellows technique and busy moving bass lines. It all seemed so easy. Not everyone brought along an obvious instrument for Scottish dancing. Who would have thought a flute, a concertina or 2-row melodeon could have sounded so good at it?.  It took along my snare drum.  Tutors at such workshops don’t usually know what to do about drums: George explained seriously ‘I dinna use a drummer in my ain band.  It is a popular misconception that the drummer is there to keep the rest of the band in time – that is NOT the case’.  Strangely enough David Cunningham and Ian Muir (Prestwick) made the same observation at previous workshops, so there must be something in it! It turned out to be one of the best musician’s workshops I have attended for sometime.  George tutored us form 10 until 3.30 when he had to upsticks and dash to an engagement in Doncaster that evening.

 

I would urge any musicians to attend these workshops if the can.  There is one annually at Fleet and in London, amongst others.  The tutors are really quite outstanding. It is good to hear how these masters explain and demonstrate what works so well for them.

 

Tom Cooper.

 

BL