One of the UK's most high-energy contra dance bands, Vertical Expression are well- known for delighting dancers at festivals and dance series across the UK, Europe
and beyond! Their driving double bass and guitar foundation, layered with rhythmic fiddle and melodeon tunes and foot percussion, makes them one of the most danceable bands around. They excel at picking just the right tune for the dance and maintaining the connection between dancers and music.
We are delighted that two brilliant musicians are teaming up to play for the Playford and English dancing at Lichfield this year.
John Hymas, violinist, divides his time between writing, performing and teaching music. His musical background has involved being a violinist in symphony orchestras to fiddling and accordion playing in various genres including jazz, folk, tango and experimental music.
His string playing and writing can be heard on recordings by bands as diverse as The Psychedelic Furs, The London Community Gospel Choir and his own folk crossover band, Hoover the Dog. He is also a member of roots band, Little Rumba and of the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra.
Since moving to the Welsh borders he has written scores for Diversions Dance Co., Theatr Powys, Presteigne Festival and numerous community projects. John started playing for dancing about ten years ago working primarily with Paul Hutchinson and Andrew Shaw.
Denise Bearon has now worked with John on several occasions, delighting dancers with her skilled variations on piano keyboard. No tune is too much for her, moving as she does between the challenging classical pieces and lyrical waltzes.
Denise has been the musical inspiration behind most of Andrew Shaw’s dance books. She has taken the manuscript music from the dances he has selected for interpretation, and made them suitable for publication. This is no easy task, requiring a knowledge of musical notation practices of the period.
She and her husband Norman are keen dancers themselves, and play together as a duo, augmented by family on occasions as D.N.A. Norman and Denise will also be leading the Festival Come All Ye on Sunday, together with the workshop to prepare for that.
Based in Bromyard, Herefordshire, The Falconers English Folk Dance Band was formed in 1975, initially to play for the fortnightly folk dance club that still meets in the town, but quickly playing to a wider audience, especially after appearances at the Sidmouth and other Folk Festivals.
The band is now usually a duo, with Roger Wilkins — founder — on accordion, and Maggie Percy on flute and whistle. Roger and Maggie have played together virtually from the inception of the band in 1975, and are the regular line-up for outside bookings. In recent years their commitments have included Chippenham, Whitby, Sidmouth and Bromyard festivals, plus occasional weekend dance events and, of course, dances over a wide area.
Whilst they have never pretended to be the most technically proficient musicians in the world, no-one tries harder to give dancers the "lift" which is so important. The band covers all genres, including Playford, Contra, Patter, Singing Square, English Traditional, Welsh and, on an occasional basis, Scottish.
Roger continues to provide the resident music for the Falconers Folk Dance Club, with various friends and family joining in.
3D is Chris, Julie and Nick Dewhurst, our very own local Lichfield band! They have a busy schedule playing for English and Scottish dance events and festivals up and down the country, and they manage to divide their time pretty much equally between the genres. Their roots in folk music go back many years, but they have played as a family band since 1997.
The band is equally at home playing romping reels and sensitive slow airs, strict Scottish and purest Playford (well, as pure as you can get with two accordions, drum kit and trumpet!) They enjoy bringing the music to life with their own unique interpretations, drawing on many different musical styles, but their aim is always to fit the tune perfectly to the dance, and to provide that essential 'lift' to help keep dancers on their toes. They also have many CDs – ask them to show you – the latest is Razamatazz – pure joy!
Marni Rachmiel hails from Ann Arbor in Michigan, USA. Two years ago she moved to the UK with her husband, who got a job in Cambridge. She has played regularly for contra dances and English Country dances around the US and Canada. She also had a little acoustic house concert series, and was on the boards of several folk music organizations. She is still serving on the board of the Country Dance and Song Society of America (www.cdss.org). Her background is in Contemplative Psychotherapy, where she attended grad school in Colorado.
Marni has been playing flute and saxophone for Contra and English Country dancing for over 30 years. Her varied musical background also includes Early Music choir, Javanese Gamelan, and Gilbert and Sullivan in Michigan, and Panto and Moisture Festival bands in Seattle. Her US dance bands included Contra Sutra, the End Effects, and Reverie. She loves matching tunes to dances to create maximum dance bliss.
Dave Bartley is based in Seattle, USA, and is a professional musician playing guitar, mandolin, cittern, and several other stringed instruments. He has played many styles of music over the years and continues to range over several genres. He has performed throughout the US and Canada, and in England, Australia, France and Greece.
It is difficult to count the number of bands in which he plays. UK dancers will be familiar with some of his combinations, eg Roguery, with Anita Anderson, KGB, Contra Sutra and with Rodney Miller’s band. Dave has composed over 300 dance tunes, many of which will be familiar to dancers, and choreographers also pick his tunes as inspiration for their new creations.
Alan Brunier is perhaps best known to dancers as the superb and versatile accordionist in Contrasaurus, and also the Dance Director for the Chippenham Folk Festival. He is also a part-qualified patent attorney with a strong background in physical sciences, having completed a PhD in the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick.
Together, this band has decades of experience playing both English Country Dance music and for Contra, and we look forward to them delighting us at Lichfield.
More on one more band to come……