Kick Shins Barn Dance Band blog

Wedding 12 Sep 15

We played at Heron's Barn, near Pangbourne for Nicola and Vincent's wedding.  The barn is a very nice venue in the middle of the countryside.  Half the guests were British and half were French, making for an interesting calling experience.  Even though I had called in French at a gig in Moissac my instructions in French obviously left a little to be desired.  But we managed to struggle through and we really enjoyed playing for such and enthusiastic (if a little puzzled at time) crowd.

What is a hurdy-gurdy?

Ray plays the hurdy-gurdy. It features on many of the tunes that we play between dance sets, as well as for some dance tunes.

Many people think that the hurdy-gurdy is some sort of old organ, played with a monkey sitting on top.  Actually it's more like a mechanised violin.  Imagine a violin with a wheel that comes into contact with the strings instead of a bow.  You are halfway there.  Instead of using fingers to make notes, as on a violin, there are keys that press down on the strings.  But there are two more pieces that give the hurdy-gurdy its unique sound.  The first is the drone.  There are one or more drone strings that add a resonance to the overall melody.  The second is the buzzing bridge.  When the wheel is turned slowly the drone strings play normally, but when the wheel accelerates it introduces a rhythmic buzzing.  Skilled players can produce a strong percussive sound as they are playing the melody.

Ray made his first hurdy-gurdy and played that in the band for some time.  He now plays a newer model made for him by a specialist hurdy-gurdy maker.

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Gig in Moissac, France


In September 2014 Stuart, Andy and Erica (half of the band) played at a gig in Moissac, France.

Moissac is a delightful town on the River Tarn and the Canal Latéral à la Garonne.  The town held a music festival and some of us boaters got involved.  Tony and Rita from barge Kanumbra managed to bring their steel pan band all the way from Australia to play at the festival.  Not wishing to be outdone (even though we were) half of Kick Shins made it for an afternoon gig.

The barn dance was on a terrace overlooking the river Tarn.  The weather was fantastic and the main problem that we had was in persuading everyone to put down their glass of wine, stop admiring the view and come and dance.

There was a complete mixture of English speakers (mostly people from boats) and French people.  I tried calling in both English and French with reasonable success.  Because we did not have a full lineup we enlisted help from other musicians.  The drummer from Pans on Fire played the first half of the set.  Three French musicians (viola and two fiddles) played the entire set.  To our surprise we had some tunes in common.

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West Illsley pre-fete dance



On Friday 3 July we played at West Illsley pre-fete dance.  What an idyllic setting - on the cricket field opposite the pub, at the end of a great summer's day.  We even had dramatic lightning to guide us home down the A34 at 01:00 the next morning.  We had a lively audience who came dressed for the 60s themed night.

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60th birthday party

On 29 August we played for a 60th birthday party in Purley Barn, Purley-on-Thames.  If you are looking for a good venue in the west Reading area this is it.  There is a large barn, with lots of space for dancing, and a separate room for a bar and food - something very close to a band's heart.

Saturday's was a very livley gig.  It's great for us when everyone gets up to dance.  The atmosphere is infectious and the audience and band gee each other along.

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Arrival in Norway

We flew to Torp airport, south west of Oslo, where we were greeted by Alastair bearing this large sign, much to the bemusement of the locals.


Travelling home


Ray, Alan, Andy having coffee at Torp airport just before departure.


Stuart doing the same.

Norwegian fjord

The hutte that we visited was alongside a small fjord.


Hutte at fjord

Landing stage

Gig in Skien, Norway, near Oslo

From 5-8 December 2015 the band travelled to Skien, near Oslo in Norway.  We had a great time, hosted by Alastair and Hilde.  We played for a 60th birthday party in a local hall, visited Hilde and Alastair's hutte on a fjord and ate more food than we normally do in a month.  Travelling to Norway with a cut down PA packed into suitcases was a challenge.  Despite all the moans you normally hear about Ryanair we followed the rules and managed to pack a mixer, loads of cables, microphones and a melodeon into 2 x 15 kg suitcases.  Ray's hurdy-gurdy and fiddle got the top treatment - a seat of their own.

A short video clip and other photos and videos are shown in other posts.


Some of the band trying to understand the speeches.

Skien video



We played for a 60th birthday party.  It was an interesting night.  We were due to play from 21:00, but the speeches (in Norwegian of course) overran by a long margin and we did not get on until well after 22:00.  The drink probably added to the length of the speeches, and it rather slowed down the comprehension of English style barn dancing.  We finished at about 01:00 and by the time our maxi taxi had transported us and all the gear back to the house it was well after 02:00.  A few drinks later and it was 04:00 before getting to bed.  Luckily the return flight was not until 15:10.  Despite our best endeavours, including asking the Hollies' tour manager, we were unable to locate a drum set for hire in Norway.  So Alan had to carry his copper, Turkish drum in hand luggage.  As we headed off to the gig we passed a music shop with his favourite Gretsch kit set out in the window.