1) The warm and friendly atmosphere and welcoming vibe within the group, everyone smiling and excited about their music-making. Everyone can take part no matter what their standard. You feel at home as soon as you arrive at their group.
2) The venue which is full of character. West Midlands Concertina Group rehearses upstairs in a room above the Plough Inn (154 Bridgnorth Road, Wollaston, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 3PD), 2-5pm, on the first Saturday of every month. There is a social dimension of the group and that helps people make new friends even before the music starts, and lots of the players ate together before the rehearsal downstairs!
3) Learning first-hand about the instruments in all their beauty, craftsmanship and their different designs! Some are French, some are English, and no two looked the same to me. The players are full of knowledge!
4) Nothing happens when you lift your arms as the conductor! The players don't lift up their instruments like in a wind band or orchestra, and that takes a while to adjust to. It's hard to see the instruments because of the stands if you are standing up as the conductor.
5) I wrote a composition down for the players to enjoy during my visit! The piece was called 'Frivol'. It was an honour them giving it a go for me and enthusiastically so! They had big enthusiasm for playing new music.
6) The range and variety of the music played in the meetings. From traditional brass band compositions arranged for concertina band (brass bands and concertina bands once co-existed in equal strength all around the country with joint concerts and national competitions) to traditional folk and modern music. They are very much 'up' for giving anything in music a go!
7) The teamwork and hard work at the meetings which was very satisfying to be around! By the end of the meetings they improve so much and everyone is buzzing!
8) The sound of a concertina band must be heard. You can't describe it in words, and we should look for our nearest concertina group and support it.
9) Witnessing what happens in the meeting room if you say the word 'accordion' (I'll never say it again!). They have a great sense of humour!
10) Hearing all the players' stories and their enthusiasm for their concertinas and each other's concertinas too. Also learning more about the great story of concertina bands. Players are proud of everything the heritage - rightly! Concertina bands are a big part of Britain's musical heritage, but they can be part of the future too!
Let's have more concertina bands and opportunities!
Iain Masson HonBC has enjoyed working as visiting conductor of the West Midlands Concertina Group in Wollaston, West Midlands.