There has recently been a discussion on melodeon.net about the antiquity (or lack of) of the D/G melodeon, which of course nowadays is the dominant melodeon system in England. It makes interesting reading (and includes a contribution from our resident polymath, Stephen). Here is the nub of it:-
Now I am aware that the G/D system for the anglo hasn't been around for all that long, and that most of what are, are conversions and retunes. But I would be very interested to know what the history actually is.Howard,
Reply to : mitch the bass
Some years ago I asked Peter Kennedy to relate the story of the introduction of D/G melodeons into England as his name always seems to come up.He said something like:In the 1950s most melodeons were based in C with either F or G as a second row and the half row, often in the club format, to give more chromaticity. He was collecting songs and tunes in Northumberland and found strangely that much of the repertoire played by fiddlers in particular was of Irish origin and in G or D and sometimes A. He investigated and found that an anomolous reception of Radio Eirrean (sp) occurred in the NE and local players were picking up Irish tunes for their repertoire from the radio.
Now Irish melodeon players had adopted chromatic instruments based on C with either B or C# as a second row to enable them to play in other keys but this was not generally popular in England and the local melodeon players couldn't join in with this repertoire. So to help local melodeon players Peter arranged for Hohner to produce a batch melodeons in G/D, I believe that they were stocked and distributed by Bells of Surbiton and the EFDSS shop.
This would fit in with what I have found out on the subject, though I hadn't heard the story about players in Northumberland before (and most Irish accordion players had yet to solve the problem of playing in what they would term "concert pitch"). Certainly Peter Kennedy seems to have been behind the general introduction of the system, though I have been told that it originated with a couple of players on Dartmoor who had had their accordions converted to play in D/G. However, I can take the introduction by Peter Kennedy back a few years earlier, as the following announcement appeared in "English Dance & Song" for March 1949 (Vol. XIII, No. 2):
The New E.F.D.S.
The Society have been fortunate in securing a licence from the Board of Trade for a limited number of Club Melodeons, to be sold only to Members of the Society for Folk Dance work. These instruments are to be manufactured by Hagstroms, at Darlington, and will cost about £19. Many members have already placed their orders for these instruments, and it is suggested that any more people who want to order one should write to the Sales Department as soon as possible . . . These particular melodeons ordered by the Society have Italian reeds keyed in G and D ; these keys are considered the most useful for Folk Dance work . . . . PETER KENNEDY
Due to post-war rationing and import restrictions, not to mention that German and Italian manufacturing needed to get going again after the war, it was not possible to buy a new accordion in Britain until the Swedish manufacturers Hagstrom's set up a factory in Darlington (and my friend Nils Nielsen came with them as a young tuner)in the late '40's.
It was not possible to buy a new Hohner accordion until about 1951 and they seem to have soon started to supply models in D/G (hence Reg Hall bought the first one from the second batch, about 1953). However, it is perhaps significant to note that a 1957 article (Playing for Dancing - III ; What you can do with the Melodeon, by Roger Marriott) in English Dance & Song (Vol. XXI, No. 4) doesn't even mention the system, so it was still not well known amongst players at that stage.
- Was it around before the 1950s?
- If not, when did it first appear?
- Who introduced it?
The rapid rise to dominance of the D/G melodeon in English music hasn't been paralleled by the G/D anglo, there are plenty of C/G players around, but it is now a very popular system. As a G/D player myself I would be very interested in whatever history it has.
Sounds like a job for Stephen...