5th Sept | Morris Men – a talk by Mike Garland

Mike Garland talkingI had always believed that Morris Men were part of ancient British traditions, and that the costumes, music and dances associated with them were full of mystic symbolism and folklore.

Although some of this is true, much of it is not – and it was down to Mike Garland, ex-Squire of East Anglian Morris Ring and our speaker on the subject for September, to clear up some of these misnomers.

The oldest known records of Morris Dancing date from the 15th century and are associated with East Anglia. Caister in Norfolk has a medieval tapestry showing Morris Dancers, and there are cups from Bury St Edmunds with Morris Dancers on. At the Royal courts in Tudor times Morris dancing was enjoyed and performed, and Queen Elizabeth I even joined in energetic dances of this kind! Churches allowed Morris Dancing, and Craftsmen’s Guilds used it in their ceremonial processions. Even agricultural labourers performed dances in their villages, and sometimes for the local lord at the manor house, in order to boost their own wages by passing the hat round at the end!

Other known records of this style of dance come from the European courts of the fifteenth century when “moreys daunce” was a regular court entertainment. This may have been the dance form known as “morisco” on the continent, and it is easy to see how the name was changed over the years to what we now call “Morris Dancing”.

Mike Garland dancingOver the years and down to the nineteenth century, English Morris Dancing had all but died out, but the Victorian revival of folk songs, traditions and stories also included a new interest in it, and concerts were held in which both boys and girls performed dances which had been collected from researchers travelling the country to discover them. The many kinds of Morris Dancing countrywide included different costumes, different footwear (such as clogs), and using sticks, swords or handkerchiefs to show off the various moves and emphasize the rhythm of the music. Musicians played on the fiddle, the tambour, a three-hole pipe or an accordion.

Mike Garland’s talk not only told us about the origins of Morris, he actually performed one or two dances for us, including a very lively jig using handkerchiefs! It certainly proved that the dancers have to be fit! He was accompanied by his fellow Morris member Mick on the melodeon accordion.

Essentially, people enjoyed both taking part as well as watching these folk dances, and it was all in the name of FUN! No mystic connections or symbolic meanings – just simple fun and enjoyment that everyone, young or old, could appreciate! And that’s it – so why not find out where you can see Morris Men performing somewhere and go along to watch! For more info check this website:  www.eastsuffolkmorris.com

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1st August | BBQ at The King’s Head, Stutton

IMG-20190802-WA0008We held our Summer BBQ at The King’s Head, Stutton, where we couldn’t have been made more welcome! There were only a few of us, but just the right number to fit into one of the summerhouses in the pub’s garden. It was a delightful setting, with coloured lights decorating the garden, and the barbecue foods and multiple side dishes were a feast to behold! Service was excellent, we simply stayed put and the food was brought out to us. The only downside was that there were such generous servings we couldn’t finish everything! We’ll definitely be back on another occasion! Thank you to all the staff for their warm welcome and delicious food!

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20th July | Capel Fun Day

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Fun Day (re-arranged) turned out bright and breezy with an odd shower or two – but by and large it was a sunny afternoon. Capel Ladies’ Stall, entitled “Home-made & Home-grown” and selling plants, cakes and jams, as well as paperbacks and pre-loved jewellery, made a grand profit of £236.94 towards club funds.  This included Linda Evans’ ‘Planted Tub Raffle’, which made £108.00, the previous sale of plants (which were meant for the postponed Fun Day) by Sue Maynard, which raised £26.40, and the stall itself on the day raised £102.54!

Thanks to everyone who helped towards it!

18th July | “My Life in Music” – a talk by Hattie Bennett

hattie-bennett-and-her-cello-e1564804595116.jpgMusic has certainly been an important ingredient in Hattie Bennett’s life, and as proof of this she brought along her favourite instrument – a cello – when she came to speak to Capel Ladies Club in July.

What a fascinating life she has had, too! Born into a musical family, with both her parents members of the Halle Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli, she grew up always hearing music around her. Her father played the cello and her mother the double bass.

From the age of four she was encouraged to learn to play first a child-sized cello, and then a piano, while her brother learnt the violin. By the time she was ten years old she had progressed to the cello, following in her father’s footsteps. They lived in Manchester and her parents were constantly travelling around the country playing in orchestras and concerts wherever they could. At the age of twelve her father took Hattie to play in the Stockport Youth Orchestra, and she absolutely loved it! Playing with other musicians was what she wanted to do, and at nineteen she seized the chance to go to Scotland with her cello to join an orchestra there. Whilst there she became engaged to a trombonist whom she married three months later. They moved to London where she studied at the Royal Academy of Music.

Music was in their blood, but in order to earn enough money to make a living and support their children the couple had to find somewhere economical to live, and in due course they ended up moving to a house in Felixstowe which had an acre of land attached. For a few years they lived self-sufficiently, just like in “The Good Life”, and while Hattie stayed at home and looked after the family and their smallholding her husband went off countrywide playing in orchestras and concerts, and teaching music at local schools.

However, after a few years Hattie’s yearning to get back to music herself inspired her to start an organisation called “Music in Felixstowe”, now in its 23rd season, which brings top musicians to Felixstowe audiences. Part of her mission is to promote talented young local musicians, and she has also launched a string group in one of the town’s primary schools. which puts on an annual performance featuring over 100 local schoolchildren working with professional musicians. There are also a number of concerts in local churches and even occasionally in the open air, some of which are free, but all of which showcase the talents of skilled local musicians. Hattie herself was awarded a B.E.M. in 2016, much to her complete surprise, and the organisation she founded is now a registered charity!

Hattie’s talk was lively, amusing and at times sad, but it was a joyous experience listening to her – particularly as she illustrated the different periods of her life with little ‘taster’ tunes on her cello, including “Old McDonald Had A Farm” and “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” to name but two!

To discover more about Hattie and for information regarding her music concerts see the website: www.felixstowemusic.com

4th July | ‘An American in Suffolk’ – Orchard Players’ show

Our first meeting in July was a visit to the latest show by The Orchard Players in Capel Community Centre. As usual the show didn’t disappoint!

Set in a small Suffolk village during World War II, wartime romance blossoms when local girls Charlotte and Jane fall for two American pilots from the newly-built airbase nearby. Charlotte marries her sweetheart and moves to New York, but Jane is left pregnant and in limbo as her pilot is reported missing in action.

Ten years on and Jane, now widowed and with a son, decides to visit Charlotte in NYC, and while she is there a chance meeting in the bar run by Charlotte’s husband puts her life on track again, and everything is resolved.

The original story, conceived by Orchard Players’ members, and scripted by Bex Nicholls, flowed effortlessly along, accompanied by Big Band style music, songs and dances, all seamlessly merging with the action.

With a cast of over 40 performers, including around 15 children, it must have been a huge undertaking to organise – and every single performer earnt their place on the stage! The singing was brilliant, (to a pre-recorded sound-track) as was the dancing – by ALL ages and abilities, and the costumes were amazing! How that large cast managed to bring it all together so well without a single hitch was just incredible – the team of backstage helpers did a stunning job!

All I can say is – if you didn’t get to see it, you missed a fantastic show! Well done again Orchard Players! Please reserve me a ticket for next summer’s show too!

20th June | Visit to Little Hall, Lavenham

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Little Hall is a beautiful half-timbered building in the centre of Lavenham, which is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in England, founded on the wealth of the wool industry in the middle ages. Built in the late 14th century for a rich merchant clothier as a personal status symbol, the Hall gradually deteriorated over the years along with the popularity of Lavenham cloth, and by the 19th century was sub-divided into six tenements occupied by 27 local labourers.

In 1924 the Hall was bought by two brothers, whose military careers had seen them travel far and wide and who were both interested collectors of art and artefacts. They restored the building back to its former glory, and filled it with their collections of art and antiquities, and it eventually passed into the hands of the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust in 1974.

It is now open to the public as well as for guided tours, and this is where fourteen Capel Ladies spent a very interesting afternoon in mid-June.  Their guide John showed them round all seven of the rooms and their contents, and told them that the whole history of Lavenham was mirrored in this very place, from its rise at the peak of the cloth trade to its decline as the Lavenham cloth industry diminished.

After their guided tour the ladies looked around the pretty back garden of the hall, and then went across to the Guildhall Café where they had a delicious cream tea, arranged for them by committee member Linda Evans. What a charming end to an enthralling afternoon!

6th June | Summer Social

The theme for this year’s Summer Social was, appropriately enough, Europe, and our members had all made the effort to produce plates of food for the buffet with distinct continental connections! Flags and bunting were strewn across the tables, and there was a rather tricky European Quiz, devised by Rose Chiverton, our chairlady! She even managed to ask some of the questions in various European languages! The quiz was won by Di Barker who received her prize of Belgian chocolates! The tasty food and lively chatter made for a very jolly evening!