The No.1 Ladies

Leek Arts Festival and walk to a hidden jewel  18th-20th May 2012

Close on the heels of a whole weekend rehearsing in Wickwar at the beautiful farmhouse of one of the lovely Ladies,  the No 1 LAO  met a week later at yet another  splendid location in a remote barn somewhere between Buxton and Leek, where  at least twelve of the No 1 Ladies tumbled out of various vehicles with accordions, hot water bottles, all things fluffy, and baskets piled high with an impressive array of speciality teas, coffee and bread, regional cheeses, home-made dishes, chocolate(obviously!),  and ... huge slices of their own charming idiosyncrasies!!!!

Following a day’s intense, yet rewarding, rehearsal under Karen’s disciplined eye, the group performed their colourful repertoire to an appreciative audience in St Edward’s Church, Leek, as part of the week’s Arts Festival. Opening with the Ladies walking at a fairly brisk pace from all corners of the church playing the beautiful tune  'Josephine Butterfield', followed by a quick change of mood into a lively tango, the Ladies continued to demonstrate the instrument’s great versatility,  swinging from the French flavour of the beautiful  textured arrangement of the theme from ‘Amelie’, to the piping tones of their Scottish set, the soft sensitive tones of ‘In Another Life’, then into big band mood, with the fabulous melody of Glen Miller’s Moonlight Serenade, plus  polskas, waltzes and old time favourites to suit all tastes .  One of the great triumphs of the concert was the performance of a debut piece, The B minor 3, which includes the beautiful haunting ‘Roseneath’, written by one of the members, Anna Pack. This was the orchestra’s most challenging piece so far, and brought sighs of relief, when everyone finished at the same time......AND huge smiles all round at the end of the evening, when booked for next year’s festival by an extremely enthusiastic organiser. Hurrah!!

Aglow with music and friendship, and a rare Sunday treat of warmth and sunshine, the Ladies, who incidentally ALL feel at home in a pair of walking boots when not squeezing, took full advantage of a beautiful local circular walk of about five miles to the mystical and legendary Lud’s Church - a deep dark chasm of dripping grasses, mosses and ferns, said to be the setting of the legend of Gawain and the Green Knight, then at a later stage, used by the Luddites as a secret  hideout.  Possibly lots of good tunes inspired here, too. 

The walk can be extended to include the spectacular crags of The Roaches, and Hanging Stone, and it’s such an area of peace and quiet beauty, that if you’ve never been, the LAO can fully recommend it - from the heights of the moorland and grit stone, with evocative ‘Lark Ascending moments’, to the lower woodland slopes of silver birch, oak, rowan and bilberries. The perfect end to a splendid weekend, and a special thanks to Tracy, as passionate route marcher and map reader.

A huge thank you to Karen for her inspirational leadership and organisational skills in bringing together lots of enthusiastic players from all corners of England, plus all the committed members who being such a creative, energising bunch of interesting women, make it an absolute privilege to be part of such an amazing musical experience.

by Helen Roe