The Rhythm Rascals

School Accordion Band

By Kathryn Betts

I can remember being ill at home and ... an accordion arriving from school. I don't know who arranged it for me.  It was very pretty, a pale grey mother of pearl/marble effect. I think it belonged to Mr Harding's daughter. My father, who had had an accordion band years before, showed me the keys and buttons and how they worked and I was off! Of course the band wasn't even an idea then and no-one else at the school played. I must have gone back to school with my new skill, and the band followed. 

The music of the 1960's was rocking and twisting and doing the Hippy Hippy Shake. However, this was difficult to play on an accordion, so our tunes were a medley of Daisy, Daisy and I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles, The Isle of Capri, a song called The Village Band, and Cruising Down the River on a Sunday Afternoon plus any other sing-alongs that we could learn. 

When I left the Primary School in 1967 the Rhythm Rascals continued without me - happy memories!
-
Julie Handscombe, pupil at the school from 1960 to 1967

 

The headteacher Mr Harding, who could not read music, developed a novel system of teaching the accordion using alphabetical note names. The band played at lots of events in and around Cambridge and became so popular that Mr Harding had to refuse some requests for its appearance.

Perhaps the accordionists will remember an excellent performance at Orwell Village Hall, playing for someone's birthday. The children had arrived before me and some bright spark had given them a glass of champagne before they went on stage! Never did they play better!
- Ron Harding, headteacher from 1964 to 1981

The Rhythm Rascals, 1965

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph courtesy of Janet Newell

Back row, from left: Alison Chalkley, Valerie Cocks, Julie Handscombe, Kevin Thomas, Julia Emery

Second row, from left: Janet Newell, Janet Bidnell, ? Stephen Harris

Front row, from left: Richard Harding, Susan Bowden, Elizabeth Findlay, Patricia Chinery

End of Term Concert - July 1966

According to a newspaper report of this concert, "the small accordionists were most gifted and lent much to the enjoyment, as did the Recorders and Melodicas. The dancing troupe in "The Lady of Spain" song played by the accordionists was the most colourful part of the concert. The troupe really put their whole heart into the dance."

A Junior Choral Evening - December 1967

As reported by the Royston Crow newspaper, "many feet were tapping as the famous Meldreth children's accordion band swung into musical numbers like "Robin Hood" and "Elizabethan Serenade".  The accordion band had about twelve children in its top group and these are mostly ten year olds.  Among the many songs played by the children were several by soloists and duettists. Among those worthy of notice were Susan Bowden, Elaine Handscombe, Richard Harding, Valerie and Pat Chinery, Susan Haywood, Janet Bidnell and Valerie Cocks."

Concert at the Guildhall, Cambridge - 3rd February 1968

The Rhythm Rascals - Valerie Cocks, Elaine Handscombe, Julie Emery, Alison Chalkley, Richard Harding, Kevin Thomas, Susan Bowden, Karen Rogers, Susan Haywood, Pat Chinery and Janet Bidnell - performed to an audience of 700 at the Guildhall in Cambridge at an event which included a personal appearance by Percy Edwards. 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph courtesy of Meldreth Primary School

The Rhythm Rascals, 1968

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph courtesy of Meldreth Primary School

From left to right: Elaine Brinkley, Mark Clark, Pauline Mander, Jane Crowther

 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph courtesy of Meldreth Primary School

From left to right: Susan Haywood, Alison Chalkley, Janet Bidnell, Elaine Handscombe, Deborah Benefield

The Rhythm Rascals, 1970

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph courtesy of Meldreth Primary School

Back row, from left to right: Mark Clark, Jane Crowther, Hilary Gipson, Helen Burling, Elaine Brinkley

Front row, from left to right: Jennifer Saunders, Suzette Betteridge, Janet Newell, Pauline Mander


The Rhythm Rascals, 1970-1973

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph provided by Lindy Thomas

Back row, from left to right: ?

Front row, from left to right: Lindy Thomas, Linda Saunders, Elaine Brinkley, Mark Clark

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Rhythm Rascals' page

Photograph provided by Lindy Thomas

Back row (standing), from left to right: ?, Belinda Sutcliffe, Susan Berry, ?

Middle row (seated), from left to right: Lindy Thomas, ?, ?

Front row (kneeling): Suzanne Dummett

This page was added by Kathryn Betts on 04/01/2011.
Comments about this page

Hi - great site! My sister (Jane Crowther) attended the school in the late 1960s. Just picking up on a typo - in the second photograph you have named the person on the right as Deborah Bonefield. She was actually Deborah Benefield (from Nebraska USA). She lived opposite us in the Grange and I believe her Dad was based at RAF Alconbury.

By Steve Crowther
On 21/05/2012

Great photos.  I'm on the 1970 photo -  in the middle of the back row.  I remember it with such fond memories.

By Hilary Gipson
On 28/01/2013

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