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Old-timey concertina style


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#1 crism

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 01:24 PM

Iíve been playing tenor English concertina for about three and a half years. Iím comfortable with Irish tunes, but recently fell in with a group thatís half Irish stuff and half old-timey music. There doesnít seem to be a lot of old-timey concertina or even accordion stuff out there, so Iím trying to cast a wide net for any style resources: anyone have pointers to any recordings of old-time stuff with concertina playing along?

Thanks in advance!

#2 gcoover

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 01:34 PM

Iíve been playing tenor English concertina for about three and a half years. Iím comfortable with Irish tunes, but recently fell in with a group thatís half Irish stuff and half old-timey music. There doesnít seem to be a lot of old-timey concertina or even accordion stuff out there, so Iím trying to cast a wide net for any style resources: anyone have pointers to any recordings of old-time stuff with concertina playing along?

Thanks in advance!


Check out the playing of Jody Kruskal (Anglo), Bertram Levy (Anglo) and Rick Epping (English) - all are are excellent players in American oldtime style.

You also might want to think about coming to the Old Palestine Concertina Weekend in East Texas, usually the last weekend of March (www.oldpalmusic.com).

Gary

#3 Kurt Braun

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 09:44 AM

Iíve been playing tenor English concertina for about three and a half years. Iím comfortable with Irish tunes, but recently fell in with a group thatís half Irish stuff and half old-timey music. There doesnít seem to be a lot of old-timey concertina or even accordion stuff out there, so Iím trying to cast a wide net for any style resources: anyone have pointers to any recordings of old-time stuff with concertina playing along?

Thanks in advance!


Also check out Mark Gilston on Youtube and around here. Great player! Mark is always at the Palestine festival that Gary mentioned.

Kurt

#4 crism

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 09:17 AM

Thanks, Gary and Kurt! I know Mark Gilston; unfortunately, while I can find plenty of examples of his concertina playing and of his old-timey playing, I canít find any examples of him playing old-timey tunes on a concertina. Any pointers?

Jody Kruskal definitely proves itís possible; Just ordered his Poor Little Liza Jane; are there any recordings anyone would particularly recommend? His brother Tom was also recommended to me.

Will think about Old PalestineÖ Iím only living in the South for one year, so it might make sense to do this year.

#5 ceemonster

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 06:51 PM

bertram levy just released a new oldtime-ish concertina/fiddle duet CD BL plays anglo, but you can do it on EC as well, no prob...just study where in the phrasing the player is stopping the air so you're not to smooth or legato...

#6 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 10:33 PM

Thanks, Gary and Kurt! I know Mark Gilston; unfortunately, while I can find plenty of examples of his concertina playing and of his old-timey playing, I can’t find any examples of him playing old-timey tunes on a concertina. Any pointers?

Jody Kruskal definitely proves it’s possible; Just ordered his Poor Little Liza Jane; are there any recordings anyone would particularly recommend? His brother Tom was also recommended to me.

Will think about Old Palestine… I’m only living in the South for one year, so it might make sense to do this year.


Dear Crism,

I hope you enjoyed Poor Little Liza Jane. My brother Tom Kruskal mostly plays English morris and sword dance tunes and not much Old-Time. If you are looking for more old-time concertina then you should check out the Paul & Jody CD. We do play other traditional music on this CD, but old-time is mostly what you will hear on this fine recording.

As for Old Pal... it's a very nice little festival with some very friendly folks and a strong concertina involvement. I was on staff for 2012 and other years in the past and I am likely to be back again in March 2013, though that is not yet confirmed. If I'm there and you are there we could meet up and I'm sure it would be a very fine thing.

If you want to join the old-time band, be aware that concertina is not on the A list for instruments of that genre, to say the least! My advise is to emulate an instrument that is, such as the fiddle. I've also had some success being the guitar or banjo, or both at once! Another instrument to emulate that has some history with old-time is the harmonica. Give a listen to the many examples out there on the web.

My learning of old-time mostly involves playing one-on-one with fiddlers who understand what's what and trying to match up with what they are doing. Find yourself one of these players and play tunes with them. There is so much more than just the notes and you have to hear it to know it.

Best of luck with your playing.

Edited by Jody Kruskal, 09 August 2012 - 10:50 PM.


#7 crism

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 04:02 PM

Thanks, Jody! I did enjoy (and am enjoying) Poor Little Liza Jane. I had been working on ďAngeline the BakerĒ while living in the Stephen Foster neighborhood; neat to learn he wrote the song. Iíll look at Paul & Jody, too.

I have been trying to emulate the fiddle; for the English concertina, it seems a better fit than the harmonica or banjo. The English system lends itself well to the open fifths and other fiddle self-harmonies. So far the other musicians seem to be putting up with me pretty well, so weíll see how it goes. (-:

#8 ceemonster

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 06:42 PM

http://bertramlevy.c...-and-the-bow-cd

i see that in some instances on BL's new oldtime concertina/fiddle cd, the concertina is playing backup/chordal/harmony support to the fiddle, which is less what i'd be interested in doing on concertina, and in other instances the concertina is playing melody a la the fiddle, which is more what i'd be interested in doing. the concertina often does both in the same tune, which i like so long as the trading off is equal parts between the free reed instrument and the fiddle. i don't like opening a cd of klezmer, balkan, french, etc, only to find the accordion or concertina relegated only to support rhythmic/harmony duties....

crism, what kind of tenor EC do you have? i am researching acquiring one. i play anglo but wish to play EC as well, and tenor is the range i like best, for a variety of reasons....is yours a morse tenor? or a vintage?....

Edited by ceemonster, 15 August 2012 - 12:27 AM.


#9 ceemonster

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 06:43 PM

i was just listening yesterday to mark gilston's scandinavian outing, "Troll Road." great tunes, great title, great cover art... :rolleyes:

#10 crism

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 07:07 PM

http://bertramlevy.com/concertina/the-bellow-and-the-bow-cd


Thanks for that pointer, ceemonster; Iíll add that to my shopping list.

crism, what kind of tenor EC do you have? i am researching acquiring one. i play anglo but wish to play EC as well, and tenor is the range i like best, for a variety of reasons....is yours a morse tenor? or a vintage?....


Mine is a Stagi, Italian-made, probably mid-1990s. I bought it used (and refurbished) at the Button Box in 2009. It has a few minor issues, and the volume of different keys is a little uneven, but itís a decent beginner box. I would love to upgrade to a Morse at some point. (You can see mine if you squint really hard at my profile pic.)

#11 ceemonster

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 12:27 AM

i've been wondering about that post-wwii wheatstone tenor currently listed in the for-sale section...

#12 Dan Worrall

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 07:30 PM

Iíve been playing tenor English concertina for about three and a half years. Iím comfortable with Irish tunes, but recently fell in with a group thatís half Irish stuff and half old-timey music. There doesnít seem to be a lot of old-timey concertina or even accordion stuff out there, so Iím trying to cast a wide net for any style resources: anyone have pointers to any recordings of old-time stuff with concertina playing along?

Thanks in advance!


I was holding back a bit....not wanting to get involved in discussions of style, but decided what the heck I'd weigh in. How to advise depends on what you mean by 'old timey'---do you mean 'old time'music as session players of today play it? Or music that the old timers actually played, and played the way they did it? Those are two different things.

The simple truth of the matter is that no one knows what anyone in the US who might have been playing 'old timey' concertina sounded like, so that is that. Anyone playing English concertina in the late 19th century was almost for sure not hanging out with minstrel musicians and backwoods folks....they were playing fancy parlour music. As for Anglo, it was not as popular in the US as it was in England and Australia.

Musicians of note today who play 'old timey' music may sound great, and have much to commend in their musical approach, but it is not the case that they play in the style of the old timers, no matter what country. I can say this with conviction because I spent a fair amount of time researching that topic, and gathering archival recordings from around the world. Those recordings are all available on my "House Dance" CD-Rom, along with a lot of dissection in text of what they were doing musically and socially. Anglo players mostly played for dancing, and had a simple style. Not usually "along the row" as a lot of not too well informed folks will tell you, but often in octaves, typically using both of the two bottom rows of Anglos. Polkas, schottisches, waltzes, etc. Have a listen...they have much to show you about how 19th century folks approached music, three quarters of a century before the 'folk revival.'

Today's revival musicians tend to have a different take. Either much fancier, or much quicker, or more cerebral, or all three. This has resulted from a general lack of dancing, and playing instead for pub sessions and concerts and contests and the like. And perhaps from a certain amount of gentrification of 'traditional' music.

There are some serious Anglo folks today working on 'old time' American music for the Anglo, but they are doing different things from the simple styles of our anglo ancestors. Bertram Levy has some very solid credentials with old time music, having helped revive the genre in the 60s with his banjo playing , when the group he was playing with (I think they were the Hard Rock String Band) were reviving the fiddle music of old time fiddler Henry Reed, among others. Once Bertram discovered the Anglo, and especially now that he has rediscovered the Anglo, he has worked to make a fiddle out of it. His new tutor is a work of pure genius, with amazing depth of thought on a unique way to approach the instrument....but his goal is not to mimic the old timers, as neither he nor anyone else ever saw an old timer playing the Anglo in US old time music. He is an inventor, and I mean that as a great compliment.

Jody Kruskal has another take....playing old time music for the mix of dances up in the northeast (contras and the like). Old time music has more swing than the older types of contra music (compare with Dudley Laufman in the 1960s), so it is a nice idea. His style is full of chords and rather difficult (and beautiful and wonderfully rhythmic)...but again, not the 'real deal' if you are looking for any old time authenticity of approach.

There are however recordings of old timers playing 'old time' American music. About a fifth of the old time dance repertoire in Australia and England (and even in Ireland) in the late nineteenth century was American music. Stephen Foster isn't globally known for nothing. Minstrel music is everywhere. A significant part of Ryan's Mammoth Tune Book (available for free on the ITMA site) is of minstrel origin - Ryan even included their names as composers. At any rate, look at House Dance and you will see some of those old time tunes played by Aussie and English and Irish old timers. Dooley Chapman playing 'Old Dan Tucker.' William Kimber playing "Getting Upstairs," with a distinctive off beat emphasis that mimics the banjo. Or George Bennett plaing 'Dick Cripp'-it sounds just like a banjo. And on and on. If you want to get an idea of how the old timers played American music, start with the Aussies.

Most of what we hear and read about these days is from the perspective of folk revival players, who came about this with a rather gauzy view of music....a bit too nice and pretty and maybe a bit antiseptic. The old guys I see in the archives were country folk, a bit rough, and simple in their ways. They liked a good dance tune, and didn't give a hoot if it was 'traditional.' Try to approach your goal from a historical perspective is my advice. That is, unless you are only too happy to play whatever at your local revival session; there is nothing wrong with that either! I like all types of concertina music, but hold that of the old timers in special reverence.

#13 ceemonster

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 08:47 PM

i don't think any of the posters in this little chat, nor any of the players we've mentioned, has been claiming a contemporary free-reeder's take on old-time, or old-time-EY free-reed efforts, is "the," or "the original" iteration of "oldtime." as a practical matter, how could they, given that vintage or archival examples of free-reed playing in what is now loosely known as "oldtime" are scarce to say the least.

to move on,

i remembered that the ensemble Simple Gifts have two CDs of instrumental dance-based folk music featuring concertina player Rachel Hall. Their efforts range from eastern european to scandinavian to, yes, oldtime-EY. Rachel Hall plays both concertina and piano for contra dance and is a lovely interpreter of oldtime-EY and other genres....

One is "Other Places, Other Times,"
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sgiftsmusic3
The concertina is not on all tracks....on a few, Hall switches off between concertina and piano!

The other is "Time and Again,"
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sgiftsmusic4

#14 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 02:00 AM

Playing "Oldtime" music on the English is something that I have become involved with recently too. Strange though it might appear because I live in France.

The proprietor of a local Bar/Restaurant has been very interested in playing, singing and dancing American folk type musics for a long time. Recently he has organised a Square dance club and has been teaching people the dances. He has got a bunch of musicians together (Banjo, Guitars and Fiddles) and I've started joining in with concertina.

With very few examples to draw on I have been experimenting to find what I could add to the sound. Playing the fiddle parts is a start, adding vamping chords to this and then playing all this an octave above at times to emulate the Mouth Organ. My main aim was not to just be another Fiddle but to find some things that were a different perspective which I could add to the sound.

For this I am using an old Wheatstone Treble that has lots of Bite when played strongly. It is a small instrument and thus when Bellows changes are made or a jerky push or pull is used the dynamic effect is instant. This allows notes and chords to jump out and pronounce rhythms in a very effective way.

Getting up and out from the Banjo range is to me an important step because the concertina is then heard in its own right. Droping back into the Guitar backing by playing in the lower octaves then provides the band with more variety of sound scape.

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 16 August 2012 - 02:02 AM.


#15 crism

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 03:00 AM

Thanks, Dan. My primary goal is not to be ostracized by the group with which Iím playing, who are very much in the modern-old-time fashion. I myself am an originalist whenever I can be, but I recognize the limitations to that approach. Your style notes are very much appreciated.

Likewise, Geoff, your points are very useful about distinguishing between different ranges. One of the reasons I like playing the tenor instead of the treble is the ability to drop into a pseudo-bass role for tunes I donít really know, but youíve helped me make more concrete in my mind the effect of changing registers.

#16 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 04:52 AM

I did try out my Baritone with the band but it just does not have the punch when needed especially for playing acoustic and outdoors as we did yesterday (it being a national holiday here in France) at a Rodeo.

I feel that the String players are happy to have me there jambing along especially as the concertina gives a different sound to the group. I was tentative at the beggining, not wanting to horn-in on their sound, as well as being unsure of some of the tunes, but they all said no no, play up it's good!

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 16 August 2012 - 04:53 AM.


#17 sidesqueeze

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 11:59 AM

I also share the goal of being able to play with old-timey musicians in a way that will fit. I've always enjoyed these Southern fiddle tunes, and I've played them on several other stringed instruments (including the fiddle).

Last week I played my anglo with some friends on fiddle, guitar, and clawhammer banjo. I did some of the tunes from Bertram Levy's new book, and a couple that were not in that collection. I tried to emulate the fiddler, but played more quietly. I punched the off-beat rhythms in the melodies with him, and fortunately I did little stumbling or stopping. Above all, I tried to blend rather than to dominate.

It went very well and they told me they're looking forward to hearing more from me in future old-time sessions!

#18 ceemonster

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 10:38 PM

i took an anglo to an oldtime festival near where i live to play between classes spaced a few hours apart (i was taking a couple of clawhammer banjo classes with visiting wizards--dan gellert, yay!), and started to play it during some jams, just picking up the melody after listening a couple rounds and then playing the melody a la fiddle, and people looked around and nodded and smiled, so at least one gang of players didn't object to the free-reed sound...



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