Potted Folk Biography: Colin & Sonja Andrews
Colin first became interested in folk song in 1964, and started up a folk song club when he went to University College, Cardiff. On returning to his home town of Shoreham-by Sea in Sussex in 1968, he joined the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men, danced regularly at local folk dance clubs, and performed at folk song clubs around the Brighton area. Together with Eddie Upton, and David & Maggie Robertson, he formed 'The Trugs' , a four-part unaccompanied harmony group who established a good reputation locally and were beginning to make an impression on the folk scene nationally when David & Maggie moved to another part of the country.
The Trugs made a record (And Boldly Go To Sea, TSR 005) for Traditional Sound Recordings after a chance meeting at a folk club in Macclesfield.
Soon after the group disbanded, Colin & Sonja, who had met at a folk club in Brighton, got married, and moved to Devon. There, they quickly became active in the local folk scene, performing unaccompanied songs in harmony at folk clubs in Crediton, the Jolly Porter in Exeter, and elsewhere. Colin joined the Exeter Morris Men, and served as their bagman for eight years from 1974. Sonja became membership secretary for the Devon District of the English Folk Dance & Song Society and edited their bulletin & diary dates. Colin also became a member of the District Committee and has, with a short break, remained a member until the present day. Until 2018 he was also actively involved in the editing and production of the Devon Folk magazine, What's Afoot since its launch over thirty five years earlier . Colin served for a couple of years on the National Executive Committee of the EFDSS in the mid-80s
At various times, Colin & Sonja have travelled to Sweden, Denmark, & Germany as singers, folk dancers, Morris dancer/musician with Dartington Morris Men, Isca Folk Dance Group, and Muddiford & Milltown Morris. Colin has also visited France, U.S.A., Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Estonia, Italy & Ireland with Exeter Morris Men , Winkleigh Morris, Exmoor Border, Tinners or Chameleonic Morris Men
Whilst still maintaining strong contacts with Sussex during the 1970's, Colin researched the life and songs of Michael Blann, a Sussex Shepherd, whose handwritten notebook of songs had been discovered in Worthing Museum (where it can still be viewed) during the Trugs' singing days. Colin's book Shepherd of the Downs was published by Worthing Museum in 1979 and reprinted in 1987. An extensively revised edition, with an accompanying CD is now available.
In 1978, the idea of starting a folk dance band was mooted by Rod Ballard, then fiddler with Exeter Morris Men. Colin was invited to be the caller (though had no previous experience of calling !) and Sonja provided percussion. Over thirty five years later, the band, Home Brew, is still going strong, with a line-up of instruments that has remained remarkably constant despite several changes in personnel. Colin & Sonja, however, are the only original full-time members of the band, though the original bass player has re-joined after a few years break. The band's first CD is still available. He also calls and plays with the Winkeilidh Band
Enthusiasm for experimentation with folk dances led to the publication of two books of original dances by Colin during the 1980's. A further compilation followed several years later. Colin and Sonja have also produced an album, Season's Greetings featuring Christmas carols and seasonal songs. Colin has recorded two CDs, Gleanings, and more recently, Ever Remembered, with songs acquired from various sources over the past forty years together with some of his own tunes and songs. Colin's first novel, A Matter of Degree, was published by Troubador. in 2011. He published a book of original poems, songs & short stories, Who Gives A Hoot in 2014, and his second novel, Shattered Pretensions, has just been released. One Degree Over, the sequel to A Matter of Degree was published in 2018
In 1990, Colin was approached by the Community Education Coordinator at Chulmleigh Community College, with a view to running an evening class in Morris Dancing, following a request by the landlady of a pub in a nearby village who had signed up a number of her regulars. From an unlikely beginning, Winkleigh Morris was born. Twenty eight years on, the pub has closed but Winkleigh Morris are thriving, though none of the original 'conscripts' are still with the side. From January 2010 until the end of 2015 Colin was Newsletter Editor of the Morris Federation, the largest of the three national organisations for Morris dancing and related activities. He is currently working on setting up a national database for morris dances
During the 1980's there was of necessity a cut-back of their folk activities following the birth of their son, Gareth, in 1981, but in the new Millennium, Colin and Sonja are still actively enjoying folk music in even more ways; folk dance band, pub song & music sessions, various singing and speaking engagements & folk clubs, Colin with Morris Dancing and calling with other bands, Sonja with West Gallery Choirs. Gareth is now married, with a baby daughter, and currently working in Sydney in a senior position with an advertising agency.
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