Tag Archives: DYCP ROUND 3 AWARD

Benoit Roblin

Benoit Roblin plays the Hurdy- Gurdy for dancing. He taught a masterclass at Gaunts House – he loves to use this particular groove in his playing.


Halsway European Music Weekend

I attended an extended weekend course for musicians to develop ensemble playing skills and make imaginative arrangements that are exciting to listen or dance to. Using music from European folk/traditional/popular music traditions as the raw material to make new arrangements that can go in any direction. The aim was to explore and combine all sorts of influences and ideas to make spine tingling music that is more than the sum of the parts.

The course was fairly intensive and included all day ensemble workshop sessions with the aim of performing all the pieces created together at a public concert on the Sunday night. The course was led by musician/composer/arranger Paul James – saxophones, border bagpipes (Blowzabella, Evening Star), Belgian diatonic accordion virtuoso and composer/arranger Anne Niepold and we are delighted to welcome German harpist, composer and teacher Merit Zloch to the team for the first time this year.

The Team

Paul James is a saxophonist, bagpiper, singer and composer from Newbury who writes, arranges and performs music influenced by English and other European folk traditions. Paul was composer for the critically acclaimed production of John Milton’s ‘Comus – A Masque in Honour of Chastity’ at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and has composed music for TV, documentaries, theatre and contemporary dance, as well as the bands he plays in. He has been a member of the hugely influential folk band Blowzabella since 1980, and plays with his pan-European band Evening Star and the folk dance band The Playford Liberation Front.

Anne Niepold studied in the jazz department of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and attended many courses and masterclasses. As a performer she is a true force of nature – brash, adventurous and phenomenally skilled, she takes the humble accordion in startling directions. Beside her solo projects, she performs with numerous arts companies at home and abroad, and has numerous recordings to her name.

“(Anne) shows us the right way, that of intelligence, respect, emotion and heart. Run quickly listen to her and see her in concert!”
Richard Galliano, Accordionist

Merit Zloch is a harpist, composer and music teacher. She sees herself in the tradition of the itinerant harp players of the 19th and early 20th century, travelling with her harp throughout Europe charming people with her original compositions and arrangements of historical dance music.

She has played in bands almost as long as she has played the harp and is constantly fascinated by the interplay between musicians. She likes to arrange und develop pieces together with her band colleagues and to improvise.

Merit researches historical dance manuscripts and organises musicians meetings, bals and instrumental workshop weekends.


If you have any queries about the course, have a chat with course leader Paul James 0788 794 8853 pauljames.eu@gmail.com

Learning Languages

I’ve been studying Spanish using the Duo Lingo phone App since the summer and have now started to brush up on  my French and German.  I have a  daily routine and my hope is that I will be able to talk to people in their own language when studying the Hurdy-gurdy in France, Spain and Germany.


I do about 40 minutes a day on the app usually first thing in the morning it stops me listening to the news and keeps me in a good positive mood for playing.

The Hurdy-gurdy has a very precise language all of it’s own and it varies from country to country I’m asking people on the Facebook Hurdy-gurdy Community page to fill in this document to help Hurdy-gurdy players understand each other.

word art

Learning should be fun

I’ve been brushing up on my sight reading skills and found this food chart to help me with the rhythms it makes me chuckle every time I look at it. It’s is great fun to play using the buzzes on the Hurdy-gurdy and short melodic phrases that ape the sound of the words. It’s a quick and easy way to brush up on those sight reading skills in a hands on way.

Developing Your Creative Practice Award


I’m really happy to announce that the application to the Arts Council to develop my creative practice has been successful. I’ll be working on my Hurdy-gurdy playing and developing a new body of work. I’ll be working with some of the best Hurdy-gurdy players in the world to develop my skills, refine technique and musicality.

It will take my Hurdy-gurdy playing to a standard that enables me to tour as a soloist performing music that I have composed, laying solid foundations for the development of new solo and ensemble work in unusual and exciting contexts. I will grow a professional European touring and support network to help me achieve this.

I will be mentored by the recognised leading players from the global Hurdy-gurdy community over a year to develop: playing skills; contemporary performance technique; composition; exploration of traditional and contemporary repertory; the use of new technology; looping and effects; recording techniques; professional performance opportunities; a unique musical voice.

For each experience I will write and record at least one piece of music that reflects and internalises the learning gained. I will document techniques taught on film. I will share the story of my musical development as a soloist over the year on a website. I will perform short solo pieces at various gatherings during the process concluding with a solo show.

This will be a life-changing opportunity to develop and refine my solo practice so that I can learn from the best, compose new work and reach new audiences. When I first learnt to play the Hurdy-gurdy, 33 years ago, opportunities to meet with other players were very limited. Now there are more platforms to meet and study performance techniques and repertory with leading exponents of the instrument across Europe on a one to one basis and in group settings. The activity will take place over a year allowing me to digest, internalise and institute these new techniques and music. I will be building my international professional network by meeting and talking with players and promoters.

I will be raising my public profile as a player by sharing my experiences with an online audience through my website and social media. These activities will raise my status as a player and create opportunities for new performance and recording to take place. The process will allow me to develop the skills, knowledge, technique, confidence, flexibility and resilience to be able to work as a soloist in many musical contexts. To demonstrate learning and gain feedback I will present a solo show. I will record and showcase new compositions along the way online using my website, You-tube and Face Book and also at specially-selected events that feature new acoustic music, including festival appearances and concerts.

After the development phase is complete, I intend to record an album of my compositions for Hurdy-gurdy and tour it internationally.