Eastbourne International this year was a success acclaimed by all with Scotland, England, Ireland, Russia and France all being well represented. The majestic Queens Hotel opposite Eastbourne pier was a fabulous backdrop to the festival having high vaulted ceilings that give great character and excellent acoustics for the host of accordionists that invaded the venue. The weekend officially kicked off on Friday afternoon with Music supplied by Harry Hussey and didn’t stop until late Sunday night.
The Paris Moscow duo (Roman Jbanov & Domi Emorine), Gary Blair, Sammie Catling and Malachy Cairns all contributed beautifully on Friday night. The highlight of the evening was the much anticipated performance of the Paris Moscow duo. Solos and duets from their home countries of Russia & France with a few extra classical numbers held the audience spellbound. The night finished where the festival had earlier begun with Harry Hussey back in the bar. He took requests when asked for and topped up the set with ‘standards’, all played in his own inimitable way and seemingly with chords he didn’t have enough fingers to play. Considering how far everyone had travelled it was a surprise to all just how late it was when the last ones disappeared off to bed!
As always at a Carillon festival, Saturdays & Sundays start with an early breakfast as the first orchestra begins at 9.00am, although there were a few that didn’t show their faces until much later in the morning! Four orchestra’s ensued as well as a jazz masterclass and so accordion music could be heard just about everywhere in the hotel function rooms.
Trade Stands are a vital component of any festival and Scotland Accordions, Acorn Instruments, Birmingham Accordion Centre & Harry Kipling’s “Accordion Treasures” were there to display their musical merchandise. Unfortunately ‘The Accordion shop’ was unable to attend the festival due to a second break in at their Sunningdale shop. Chris Lovell sent his apologies to all explaining this was the first Carillon event he had ever missed (more to come on this in a future news item).
Scandalli accordions took much of the limelight at the festival with both historic and current models being extremely well represented. There were four Super VI models present, which are reputed by many to be the greatest accordion of all time, along with a display of brand new Scandalli accordions on the Scotland Accordions stand.
Each of the four Super VI models had its own story to tell. One of the four belonged to Brian Forrest who not only plays in a band but was also Sales Manager for many years at ‘Clinkscale Accordions’ of Melrose. He had recently acquired a Super VI which had been specially manufactured with grill mutes and a special microphone system resulting in a different grille design. By coincidence, it turned out to be the Super VI of Rosemary Wrights’ father, Francis. Rosemary who is an extremely well known performer and accordion teacher in he own right was present at the event and discovered the instrument. She spent time playing the accordion which held many sentimental memories for her. She played the Rosemary Wright Two Step which had been named after her and written by well known family friend, the late Sir Jimmy Shand (Jimmy also wrote the Francis Wright Waltz for her father). The accordion dated from 1961 and Rosemary could recall many details of her father playing this accordion. In another coincidence the Box and Fiddle magazine published an article in 1983 about Rosemary and it was written by none other than Jimmy Clinkscale.
Even Jean Hangers vintage orchestra got in on the Scandalli act which featured several of the manufacturers accordions – including a superb looking vintage model finished in red and owned by Andy Lear. Jean herself spent some time on the trade stands trying different new Scandalli accordions and was particularly keen on a beautiful double cassotto in the ‘Air’ series. Not to be out done Harry Hussey, Robin Hyland and even festival organiser John Romero got into the brands captivation. Harry playing jazz on a sweet ‘Intense’ model, Robin fell in love with an ‘Air 2’ double cassotto (which he tried many times during the weekend) and John favoured the fabulous top of the range ‘Super VI’.
To be fair it has to be said there were many other brands in attendance during the weekend, its just that all the interesting back stories seemed to be around one make!
Saturday afternoon featured the guest concert and with a couple of numbers for each player, a whole hour few by. Gillian Poland, a pupil of Tony Compton, was commended during the concert for having made such a marked improvement in her playing. The stand out moment of the afternoon though was when Roman Jbanov unexpectedly joined in to play a duet with Stan Shakespeare, playing ‘Those were the days’ much to the delight of all. Roman then went on to play a classical solo of his own that was deeply appreciated by all in the room.
Saturday evening kicked off with the Scots. The Jimmy Blair Accordion orchestra conducted by Gary Blair turned in a Stirling performance enjoyed by all and much of which can be found online in various Youtube videos. Ewan Thomson & Robin Hyland carried on the good work on behalf of the Scots before handing over to David & Angie Lukins. The Lukins pair played several duets and then invited their son Andrew (the shows sound & lighting engineer) to join them for a number. David then continued with his solo set that included ‘Tango pour Claude’ and ‘Dizzy Fingers’. Then came the star act again. John had been practising surnames all day so when it came to The Paris Moscow duo he managed with just the slightest hesitation with Roman jbanov and Domi Emorine (just in case you were wondering Romans surname is pronounced Shbanov). They were again devine and held the audience entranced. Roman was a little braver and funnier this time with his English although Domi kept telling him off for leaving the microphone in the wrong place and not turning it off, something that amused the audience greatly.
The concert room music finished largely where it began with the lilt of Scottish music as Gary came back to play for a Ceildh. As with the first night he had the help of drummer Jim, a first class percussionist and one of the best to have ever attended Eastbourne (there have been a few over the years). A great time was had by all with both guests and artistes joining in the fun. All good things must come to an end however and on Saturday night… umm… more like Sunday morning, quite a number of guest decided the only thing to do was to stay up. Malachy brought a real touch of Ireland to the bar with his spot which included instrumental and vocal numbers. John Romero gave him a little break when he had a go on Malachy’s Elka 83 and was overheard to say “I used to have one of these” and “that brings back some memories”. John’s wife Jackie said “That was the accordion John had when we first met and during our first summer season together before we got married. I remember his opening cabaret number at the time was Toccata”.
Sunday started much like Saturday only with a few more sore heads. As it was a nice day a few were brave enough to try a little walk along the prom. Gary Blair came back saying he had got to the end of the pier but it was colder than his recent Siberia trip and he wasn’t going to try that again in a hurry. After the orchestra’s had another session, lunch came and went and the guests now had their orchestra concerts to perform. First came Jeans vintage orchestra, then Gary followed by Angie and Sammie. All were well supported and achieved good applause from the audience.
Sunday night always comes around too quickly and this was no exception. Angie & David Lukins kicked things off again and David finished the set with two big solos, Katiusha & Carnival of Venice (the Frossini arrangement). Roman & Domi played another concert spot performing several requests. Next up, raffle time. John & Jackie have supported the Winstons Wish Charity sine they started their own festivals and prior to the event were at a running total of £12,712. It was hoped they would break the £13,000 barrier this festival. They didn’t quite make it however a fabulous anonymous donation brings them close and hopefully they will make the total at the end of March in Blackpool.
With the raffle over, parish announcements made and thanks given to all that had helped, it was time to get back to the music. Gary played another 30 minute solo concert and then asked several of the Scots to join him. So it was, the jam session began and what a great way to give everyone a brilliant send off. After a set of Scottish numbers Harry and Malachy were next to join in and it wasn’t long before Roman and Domi couldn’t resist getting in on the act as well. David, Sammie and Rosemary also joined in making a full dozen (with Jim the drummer) on stage. A complete assortment of musical styles followed and lord only knows how many pictures and video clips were taken. It was an amazing end to a stunning festival.
On Monday there was an unexpected twist to the festival as four accordions tried to elope. It would seem that the rebellious four managed to get on board the transit van that was taking the JBAO instruments and cases back to Scotland. Suspicion is they were trying to get to Gretna Green. Organisers John & Jackie Romero were tempted to let them go and see if it might lead to a number of baby boxes coming back next year however the owners were so distraught as to the disappearance of their beloved instruments they called the driver (who had almost got to London) and asked him if he would mind returning the delinquent accordions. He agreed and everyone involved was extremely happy apart from the poor drivers wife, who was still in Scotland and had wanted him home early. John & Jackie are extremely grateful but are a bit worried as they haven’t heard from him since he got home. All involved hope his wife will let him out again!