MEET THE BAND
Cut the Mustard has played for 100’s of weddings and parties over the last 30 years to the delight of beginners and experienced dancers of all ages.
Below you can read profiles of some of our band members.
Roger is a multi-instrumentalist and accordion player with the band who originally hails from Birmingham. He has played traditional music all his life after being inspired by the accordion playing of Christy Hannaly from County Roscommon in Ireland and that of the great Jimmy Shand.
Over the last fifty years, Roger has played with various bands, but mainly with the infamous Hodge’s Dump from Malvern, Worcestershire who have played at many Folk festivals up and down the country.
In addition to leading Cut the Mustard, Roger also plays with a group of musicians who have taken their music abroad to places as varied as Colorado, USA, Berlin, Brittany, the UAE and Spain.
Roger makes regular trips to County Clare in Ireland to play for the craic and says he has been very fortunate to play with the talented musicians he has met in his life. Long may it continue!
Jo started playing violin at the age of four and continued to study all the way through to her degree at Birmingham University. She then spent four years playing violin and keyboards with a band called Jinrai.
Jo has trained as a music teacher and is now Head of Music at a Birmingham comprehensive that specialises in the performing arts.
As a child, she learned to play traditional music by ear and this created a love for folk tunes. Her parents had albums of the Cheiftans and the Boys of the Lough which inspired her love of traditional music.
In 2006, Jo attended a wedding at which Cut the Mustard was the band and she decided to ask whether they might need another fiddle player. And here she is!
Helen began playing the violin at school. She was inspired by her Great Uncle Jim who played Scottish folk tunes. Later she discovered folk sessions and festivals which were a great way to have fun and to have the chance to play traditional tunes by ear.
At university in Carmarthen, Helen joined a Welsh folk dance group and she spent several summers travelling to festivals throughout Europe. There, she played for the dancers and meet musicians from many different countries. Since then, Helen has been a member of several local bands, playing folk, rock and American music in pubs, ceilidhs and at parties.
Helen has known Richard and Roger for a number of years through the Worcester music scene and has been a member of Cut The Mustard for the past twelve years.
Originally from Sheffield, Richard joined his first band, Kangaroo Alley, in Norwich in the late 1970’s. A self-taught guitarist, after taking advice from his fiddle playing busking partner, Ruth Clarke, to learn to read music, Richard began a formal study of the subject at Middlesbrough College of Technology, which unlocked previously inaccessible music styles such as jazz and classical.
After moving to Worcester in 1991 to embark on Higher Education at what is now Worcester University he soon got involved in the local music scene, playing for country rock outfit Powderfinger and sixties revival bandThe Score.
His first encounter with band leader Roger’s distinctive accordion playing was in 2004 when Roger, short of a guitarist, hired him for a ceilidh gig. They have been playing together ever since.
Richard says of Roger: “He’s a natural musician and a bit of a showman, too – just the thing for ceilidhs (that’s nice; thanks, Rich) and working with Cut the Mustard and its exceptional musicians has, and continues to be, a privilege.”
Helen Wilding Smith
Helen is one of our fiddle players. She began playing the violin at the age of seven and continued through school and higher education. She has balanced a busy teaching career with orchestral and ensemble playing in Gloucestershire and has enjoyed playing folk, jazz and bluegrass with various bands.
Helen enjoyed the experience of living and teaching for a year in Denver, Colorado where she played in various venues. She gained her violin teaching diploma and taught there for a while before moving to Ontario, Canada to live and teach. On her return to England, Helen took up teaching violin and piano in Powys and Herefordshire.
Helen met Roger at a ceilidh at the Salway Arms near Ludlow in 2007. They immediately had a race to see who could play more quickly. She was asked to join the band to continue the contest (it’s still neck and neck).
John is the drummer for Cut the Mustard. He began playing drums at secondary school when he was asked to join a classmate’s band. Later, John joined a band called Ricky Cool and the Icebergs. The band was a great success, appearing on shows such as BBC’s Pebble Mill at One.
John was also a founding member of the Big Town Playboys which took him all over Europe. John has been a big fan of Ceilidh music and as a teenage drummer was mesmerised by the strict tempo of the Scottish snare drum style. John looks forward to every opportunity to play drums with Cut the Mustard and to join in with its great musicians. John also teaches drums in Worcestershire.
Put simply, the caller is a cross between a dance instructor and Master of Ceremonies, and is very often aware of more than just the obvious. In effect he is making judgements that will affect the balance and tone for the whole event, acting as the channel between the band and the audience.
You will find that he has a few tricks up his sleeve to “ persuade “ the more reluctant participants up on to the floor, in full knowledge that some dancers will get things “ wrong“. A certain amount of tactical and diplomatic nous is expected of our callers and even the injection of the odd bit of humour
Cut the Mustard have worked with Chris, Paul and Colin for many years because they are simply THE BEST.
I have been calling for festivals, parties and Ceilidhs for more than 30 years with a wide variety of top name bands.
I believe the purpose of the dance is to have fun, rather than ‘get it right’. It’s a great way of bringing people together of all ages. I aim to make sure people have a good laugh and you’d be surprised what people can achieve with a bit of clear instruction. Most people are better dancers than they realise.
I enjoy bantering with the audience and making sure you have a night to remember.
I originally started as a caller because of my total inability to master any instrument I picked up; my rendition on melodeon, Concertina and guitar were unbelievable!
Inspired by bands such as Flowers and Frolics, The New Victory Band and Umps and Dumps, I took up an opportunity to call for a Stafford based band when their regular caller was out of the country and soon became their regular Caller.
Over the years I have called with a number of bands including, including Hodges Dump and now Cut the Mustard.
My other musical influences are The Stones, Alison Kraus. Beethoven and Mozart.
It was in 1979 that Chris became serious about calling. A new band was forming in Bromyard called City Ditch, they had a booking and needed a caller to do it for next to nothing. Knowing that Chris likes to talk a lot they said “Mulv, all you’ve got to do is to learn a few dances”. That first booking at Whitbourne Hall went surprisingly well and after that “my knowledge of dances grew steadily as did my confidence”. He started calling with a few different bands but principally with Hodges Dump whose members included Roger Champkin and John Williams. Since that first night Chris has called with many fine bands all over the country but he says the buzz and thrill of seeing people enjoying themselves never goes away.
We just wanted to say thank you again for playing at Dad’s 70th on Saturday. It was an absolutely fantastic night and we enjoyed it immensely. It was good to see so many people dancing, including dad himself. The music and direction was even better than we could have imagined, and we are all just so glad and grateful that we came across Cut the Mustard. We will certainly recommend you to anyone looking for a Ceilidh band. Thanks for everything!
Ruth, Grace, Clare and Hannah Bamford