Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Photo reproduced with permission Paul Denga

Photo reproduced with permission Paul Dengate


Glashin is a popular folk duo formed by Paul and Jo Dengate who are well known in Hastings and further afield. HOT’s Sean O’Shea talked with them about their backgrounds and influences, the evolution of the folk music scene and their involvement with the Hastings Folk Festival.

Could you tell us about your personal backgrounds and how you came to Hastings?

Paul: My great-grandfather left the Dengate family farm in Peasmarsh near Rye to move to Hastings. I was born in Hastings and have lived here more or less all my life.

Jo: As a teenager, I moved with my family to Hastings from Hampshire and have remained here ever since. Since starting to play Irish music, I recently found out that my grandmother’s grandfather was from Ireland! Given the amazing variety of music and song, and musicians, from traditional to contemporary, living and performing within Hastings, we would not want to live anywhere else.

Could you say a bit about your musical journey/s and your musical influences?

Paul: My family was very much involved in the Salvation Army. My grandfather was bandmaster and taught me to play the cornet when I was about five years old. I got my first guitar at 11 years old. I started to become interested in traditional music through early Fairport Convention and Pentangle recordings and would often go to the Black Horse Folk Club at Telham. At the same time, I was also enjoying Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and Yes.

In my early twenties I started playing with a Country and Rock & Roll band, gigging in many pubs, clubs and holiday camps. The two strands of trad and rock/blues continued side by side; founder member of both Mad Jacks Morris and The Catsfield Steamers, folk-rock band Better Days, 4AM, Ritz, Jukes, Chaser, etc. I have also been a sound engineer at many events including the Black Horse Music Festival which provided insight into varied musical styles.

In the late 1990s, a freelance job as a computer programmer involved spending each week in Slough where I found that the B&B was not far from a great Irish pub, the Herschel Arms. Every Monday night for the next three years was spent listening to great music from respected players and I was invited to join the musicians on a couple of trips to the west coast of Ireland organized by the landlord. From then on, Irish music became a major interest for me.

Jo: My musical journey started in my early 20’s when I started to attend the regular Sunday night tune sessions led by the Catsfield Steamers. I hadn’t planned to start playing a musical instrument but had always loved the sound of the flute. So when the opportunity to borrow a flute came, I started teaching myself to play the tunes I had been hearing at barn dances and sessions. Through this, my love of traditional folk music developed alongside learning to play the traditional barn dance tunes and, with their encouragement and support, I became a member of the Catsfield Steamers.

As my interest in learning and playing traditional folk music continued, I went on to play for a number of local Morris sides, including playing at folk festivals and the local Jack In The Green festival. From that time, through barn dances and local folk music sessions, I have continued working to improve my technique and expand my repertoire of folk music.

In 2005, I started to develop a greater interest in Irish traditional music and was lucky enough to go to Ireland to both hear and begin playing some of the traditional Irish music. This has helped influence my current flute style and has increased my Irish traditional repertoire. In respect of Irish music, my main influences in recent years have been Lunasa (Kevin Crawford), Liam O’Flynn, John Skelton, John Wynne and other traditional Irish players.

When did Glashin came about and how did you arrive at the name?

Paul & Jo: We were both playing in the Catsfield Steamers. For some reason we can’t remember, we were asked to play at the church service that is a regular part of Jack in the Green. Ever since, we have learnt a special piece to debut at the service. For a long time we were playing occasional gigs as “Paul & Jo” but eventually we decided we ought to have a name. One of the pieces we had learnt for the Jack in the Green church service was an Isle of Man tune called “Song of The Kelpie” and we thought “Kelpie” would make a great name – a kelpie is a creature in Manx mythology but research showed it had been used already by a band. A quick review of Manx mythology produced “Glashin” – “a hairy goblin or sprite … said to frequent lonely spots, and is useful to man, or otherwise, as the caprice of the moment leads him”.

How would you characterize your musical style, and could you give readers an idea of the kind of repertoire they might expect at your gigs.

Paul: We enjoy playing tunes and songs mainly from Ireland, Scotland and England, generally traditional or of a similar style. I adjust my guitar style for variety using appropriate almost classical finger-style accompaniment on some of the melodic tunes, but playing in a much heavier rhythmic plectrum style when driving the faster tunes along. I like a full sound from my guitar when using a PA system and make use of a “stomp box” for a bass drum effect on some numbers.

Jo: In recent years, I started using a wooden headjoint on a classical silver flute which gives me flexibility with the tone I get from the flute. It allows a range from the more classical sound through to something more approaching that of an Irish wooden flute. Musically, I have a flexible style that can suit both slow haunting melodic tunes and the faster Irish jigs and polkas.

We have a large repertoire of English, French, Scottish and Irish tunes and songs to draw from. This allows us the flexibility to tailor our music to cover gigs where background music is preferred, or, when playing pub gigs, to include jigs, polkas and popular Irish pub songs.

You play in a variety of contexts including small intimate settings as well as for larger audiences and at ceilidh dances. What are some of the challenges of performing in these different contexts, and have you a favorite milieu?

Paul: I think that together over the years, we have built up sufficient repertoire and experience to be flexible and adjust according to the circumstances of the gig, and to enjoy whatever opportunity we have to play. Personally, I’d rather play for hours than just the odd tune or song – to properly settle into playing rather than simply trying to hit top form at the start of a single piece or short selection.

You play with other groups formally and informally and are also involved in teaching and music production. How do you balance all these interests and commitments?

Paul: To me, it is all interconnected, using knowledge of the music and my instrument, but most of all my ears! Generally I get a nice balance of activities that suits me well.

You have travelled a lot in the UK and Ireland. Are there differences you’ve noticed between the two countries in regard to the music scene?

Paul & Jo: Traditional music is very much a part of Irish culture and therefore many will at least be aware of it in everyday life, whether they enjoy it or not. In England generally, however, traditional music is a special interest part of the world of “folk” music. We are lucky enough in Hastings to have regular access to all sorts of events involving traditional music so in some respects not unlike parts of Ireland. What we don’t have is a lot of the facilities and resources that Ireland has for the young to gain an interest in playing their traditional music and developing their skills on their chosen instruments. The new Hastings branch of the Irish Comhaltas organisation is doing something to help with this through its teaching, sessions and Fleadh.

Folk music seems to have the capacity to evolve and renew itself. How do you view the current health of the tradition and its prospects?

Paul & Jo: There are concerns that many participants are aging, but fortunately in Hastings there are many young people taking at least an interest in folk music and traditions. It would be no surprise if the long running Hastings Jack in the Green event has done much to generate and maintain this interest locally. But participation is the key and hopefully Hastings can continue to provide the opportunities.

You are very much involved with the organisation of the upcoming Hastings Folk Fest, Tuesday 3rd May to Sunday 8th May 2016. Could you tell our readers about the origins of this festival and what musical and other treats may be in store for them in May?

Paul: I heard that there had been talk in the Stag that it was a shame that the Jack in the Green weekend didn’t continue on through to the end of the next week – that Hastings needed a full blown folk festival. We went along to the meeting to support it and lend our help to ensure that traditional music would be included. My previous involvement in the Black Horse Music Festival provided me with some relevant past experience. After a few meetings of interested people, it settled into a small team who could take things forward.

Our current aim is to encourage pubs, venues and promoters who regularly put on “folk” events, to have these events during our festival week. We then organize the publicity. We are also doing what we can to add events that help create the festival ambience, such as the workshops and sessions. Hopefully we have a solid base on which to build over the years.

So, whether you enjoy traditional Irish music, singer-songwriters, folk-rock, Americana, the sound of medieval instruments, Parisian café jazz or just like to listen to any good relaxed acoustic music, there is surely something for you among the events in the annual Hastings Folk Fest. There are a few ticketed events but most are free, taking place in the pubs and cafés around Hastings Old Town. All venues are within a short stroll of each other, making it easy to wander from venue to venue and sample the music on offer.

What about your hopes for the future – any new projects, CDs on the horizon?

Paul & Jo: We hope to continue enjoying making music with other people for as long as we can, and to continue learning new pieces and new techniques. Glashin will continue to gig and incorporate new items in our already extensive repertoire. We have a demo CD that we recorded a number of years ago, but have been talking about a new CD to incorporate some of our current music – watch this space! Our demo recordings and some videos are on our ReverbNation page.




Posted 18:23 Sunday, Apr 3, 2016 In: Music & Sound,SOS

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