Dick's musical c.v.

Dick with melodeon (16k)Dick Wolff learned classical piano from an early age, and was a shaky lead second violin in the school orchestra. Having been brought up through the United Reformed Church (of which he is now a serving minister), choral singing was at the heart of his social life through to his late twenties. He admits that what kept him going to church was the girls, and impressing them by improvising bass lines to hymns. (He later discovered to his chagrin that he's a tenor.)

The church had a large youth group, which, inspired by one of its members (Roger Moon, a jazz musician and all rounder) performed a wide range of music - from madrigals and Stephen Sondheim songs through to Vivaldi’s Gloria, complete with orchestra. Best of all was the opportunity to sing Roger’s barbershop arrangements with Dick's brothers and sister. One of these, Lazy Bones, has made it onto Plain English.

Getting a guitar at age 13 helped him break out into folk music, which he had been introduced to anyway by mother and grandmother. He recalls being one of the several floor singers to perform ‘Streets of London’, badly, at Uxbridge Folk Club aged about 15. Clubs in those days were extremely tolerant and encouraging. (They still are - try the Oxford Folk Club, for example. Ed.)

In his late teens he had a mind-expanding experience on hearing Planxty for the first time and took up the whistle seriously. He was a regular at sessions in the Liverpool Irish Centre in the late seventies, and at Irish sessions in Oxford later. During his second university career he did a stint as President of the late lamented Heritage Society (the University Folk Club), following (at great distance!) in the footsteps of June Tabor and Tony Rose. In those days Dick was known as a guitarist and singer, who also did several gigs with an ‘a cappella’ group including Andy Turner (now of the Geckoes), covering Sacred Harp hymns and English traditional material.

On moving to North London, the traditional music scene centred around the morris. 1981 saw Dick embracing the melodeon, and shortly afterwards a very crummy anglo concertina. During ten years in Coventry Dick fronted the local Rum Elk Ceilidh Band and depped regularly with the Aardvark Ceilidh Band. Dancing with Coventry Morris was usually a prelude to a cracking music session with associated musicians like Pete Grassby, Martin Trewinnard, and Dick's own brother Nick (who appears on Plain English). Dick took up the hammer dulcimer in the mid-90s. A brief encounter in the 80s with a Crane Duet concertina reasserted itself when the opportunity came recently to buy a superb Wheatstone instrument from a deceased church member's family.

Back now in Oxford, Dick is a regular stand-in with the Aldbrickham Band from Reading, and dances and plays occasionally for Oxford City Morris.

Over the last fifteen years Dick has arranged a suite of O'Carolan tunes for piano which he has hopes of publishing.  He thought he was the only one doing it until he came across the work of Michael O’Suilleabhain in the mid-90s.

Dick's listening tastes have always been dominated by rock music. A regular at the major rock festivals of the late 60s and early 70s, the essential core of his inspirational music includes most things by the great white bluesmen (Peter Green, Eric Clapton et al), King Crimson, Free, and Talking Heads. He claims the rock music scene is still producing great things in the shape of Massive Attack, Radiohead and Björk.

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this page updated 16/5/200