Dave Townsend Biography

DAVE TOWNSEND has been performing, teaching and researching music for more than thirty years. From a background in literary research, further education and publishing he plunged into a full-time musical career in the early 1980s with various dance bands, the short-lived but influential folk-rock band Jumpleads, and the creation of The Mellstock Band, the result of research which also led to his pivotal role in the foundation of the West Gallery Music Association. Around the same time his first book of English dance music appeared, still in print and followed by many other publications.


He evolved a formidable technique on English Concertina, carrying it into technical realms scarcely explored since the classical virtuosi of the nineteenth century and bringing new sounds to traditional music. He also turned the piano-accordion into a rhythmic powerhouse, and explored the neglected area of traditional English fiddle style.


From 1986, as well as performing as one half of the duo The Blades, with the much-missed Dave Parry, he appeared in stage productions at The Royal National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and The Royal Theatre at Northampton, working with Dame Judy Dench, Hugh Bonneville, James Bolam, Robert Hardy and Sir Peter Hall. He has also played and appeared on television and film, including both BBC and ITV versions of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and the classic version of Pride and Prejudice, for which he also provided the dance music arrangements.  


He has toured across Britain, all over Europe and in Africa and the U. S. A., appearing at festivals and concerts, supporting the work of the British Council, leading workshops, and being part of stage shows like the Boston Revels. He has made numerous recordings, solo and with various ensembles, many with his own label Serpent Press.


Dave is in regular demand as a teacher and workshop leader, on instrumental skills, traditional music and its background, band playing and harmony singing. He has led workshops and classes for Sidmouth International Festival, Whitby Folk Week, the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, the Three Choirs Festival, Oxford School of Drama and many others. In 1991, with Jenny Cox, he started Hands On Music Weekends in Witney, a series of courses for people already making progress on their instrument and wanting to extend their skills and knowledge.

He has played for dancing for many years, and took up calling when the booked caller failed to turn up one night. He first started morris dancing with Oxford City Morris Men in the 1970s, was one of the initiators of the 1980s revival of Eynsham Morris, and currently dances with Headington Quarry Morris Dancers of which he is the Squire.