18 August 2019

Sore Fingers - the future, 2019-20

Thanks to John and Moira Wirtz, organisers of the UK's Sore Fingers Summer Schools, which over the years have benefited many pickers from Ireland, for their mid-summer news update:

As we write this, anyone could be fooled we were in the middle of November, gales, heavy rain... But it’s still August, and as the festival season takes a short break before Didmarton kicks it all off again, time for an update!

October Weekend 2019
Bookings for October are open and the forms are available from the website at this link: http://www.sorefingers.co.uk/booking.php?id=19. Bookings are steady and we are pleased to report that the Improvisation class is booking well. So if you want to get onto that, please book without delay. Plenty of places left on other classes. See website for courses and tutor bios.

Easter Week 2020
See below for the buildup to Twenty-Five Years of Sore Fingers Week! Yes, it’s been twenty-five years since we last spent Easter anywhere other than Kingham Hill School! Yes, by the time we close out on 17 April 2020, that will make twenty-five Sore Fingers Weeks and close to 150 different tutors from across the pond will have travelled over to teach you good bluegrass and old time music! They were ably supported by nearly forty individuals from the UK, plenty of talent there too. Quite an achievement, we think.

Dates are 13-17 April 2020, and the forms are now up on the website ready for you.

The really good news is that we are able to hold our prices and not apply an increase for 2020. That will be good news for everyone.

We are reintroducing Songwriting with the highly talented Wil Maring and may extend the Improvisation course into a week-long class next Easter.

So far, we have confirmed a few tutors with the remainder to follow when we secure their services. As usual, it’s building up to be another great lineup. You can look forward to the usual high standards of music and teaching. This is how it looks: Autoharp – Les Gustafson, Bass – Missy Raines, Banjo – Ned Luberecki, Dobro – TBA, Fiddle – Becky Buller, Guitar - Peter McLaughlin, Mandolin – Mike Compton (TBC), Old Time Banjo – TBA, Old Time Fiddle – TBA, Singing – TBA, Songwriting – Wil Maring

Keep checking the website for updates and see you in October!

Heading for the 25th Sore Fingers Week
Sore Fingers Summer Schools is about to enter an interesting twelve-month period. The Easter 2020 Sore Fingers Week will be the twenty-fifth event and even though we say this ourselves, it’s quite a milestone to reach! Back in the early days, I remember reading an article in Bluegrass Unlimited about the Augusta Heritage Workshops - which inspired our predecessors Mike and Andrea Preston to kick off a similar event on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. They were celebrating their thirtieth event. I thought at the time, that we had an awful lot to do to put Sore Fingers on the worldwide bluegrass map.

We all have to be grateful to Mike and Andrea for having that vision back in 1996! Moira and I have been involved since the very first Sore Fingers Week, initially as the sound crew. We remained with the event to this day, taking over the reins in 2003.

Naturally, due to its location on this side of the pond, the event has been most significant to people living in the British Isles and Europe. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the country where bluegrass emerged as an influential art form back in the 1940s. Sore Fingers Week is rated as one of the choice bluegrass and old time camps worldwide. Quietly makes us proud.

We are running the usual October weekend and we have assembled a stellar line up of musicians to come and teach. It should be amazing! We also have a new course: IMPROVISATION. This will be taught by the fantastic Andy Mackenzie who is perfectly qualified to take your instrumental skills to a higher level, towards ability to improvise breaks for all occasions. This new course is largely the brainchild of regular student and SF Scratch Band mentor Trevor Hyett, who has been running Improvisation electives to great acclaim at previous Sore Fingers Weeks. This has just got to be a runner!

Funding Initiative
It is vitally important to introduce new and young people to bluegrass, old time, and acoustic music. The future depends on it! Since the very beginning in 1996, SFSS have actively encouraged the presence of young people at its events. Several have gone on to professional careers in the music business and of course, some have become established tutors in their own right. A very worthwhile cause and the young people bring energy and creativity to Sore Fingers, we love them!

For many, funding is an issue and parents already burdened with lots of costs are sometime unable to justify the fees. So, SFSS contribute towards their attendance and we actively seek funding from outside parties and individuals. Over the years, folk have been very generous. A quick word of thanks to all those who have helped and we hope this continues.

Earlier this year, we ran a very successful appeal for contributions to our sponsor student fund and several generous people came forward to help. With added funding from Sore Fingers itself, we were able to assist several highly talented young people from various backgrounds to enjoy Sore Fingers Week 2019 and learn a lot too. Many people volunteered to contribute for next year’s event and we have identified a bank account for this purpose. The details are below and include data to enable a international transfer too. Please reference all transactions as follows: 'SPONS firstname lastname'. Then we can make sure the funds are properly allocated and we know from whom they came.

Bank details are: Sort Code: 30-93-40 – Account Number 27110368.
If transferring from abroad, you will need the following data too:
IBAN: GB61TSBS30934027110368 - BIC: TSBSGB2AXXX
In these unusual times, with uncertainty over so many aspects of life from food prices to job security, from the cost of flights to exchange rates, there is understandable caution… some folk are thinking twice about what, where, and how they spend their hard-earned cash. Despite these external circumstances, way beyond our control, we are determined to see SF through these difficult times and continue to offer the best value-for-money, high-quality learning opportunities over here in Britain and Europe.

If you share our belief in what SF has done for the scene and can continue doing the same for a long time into the future, support us by booking early and continuing to attend these amazing events until we return to better times. And anyway, where else can you get served a fine cup of tea by the inimitable Ron Block!

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