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Big Mystery - Decide For Yourselves


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#1 Chris Timson

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 02:54 PM

Hi all,

At Alan's request, here is the Bluebell Polka by the mystery player, as an MP3 of size 745k.

FWIW Anne and I think it is a duet player. The way he/she plays there is always separation into two parts, mostly accompaniment on the left melody on the right, but very occasionally they swap, and that's what really makes me think it's a duet. Anne says this sort of playing on the English, while possible, is pretty difficult.

This is a lovely, sprightly version of the tune. I can well see why Alan wants to use these recordings.

Chris

#2 m3838

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 03:23 PM

Very good tune, and excellent performance. Great sound of the concertina too, very smooth and round. Superb use of the chords. I think it just must be a duet, and a very good one.
I copied it to my Concertina IP (in process) folder. Will add it to my repertore.
Many thanks.

#3 PeterT

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 06:24 PM

I had the advantage of an advance copy. Listening again, I'm still convinced that it is a duet.

The vamped chords (if that's the correct musical term) are played as they would be on an Anglo (which it obviously isn't) or Duet. On an English, to play the full chord, it's likely that three fingers would be required, and, of course, the chords are likely to switch from hand to hand as some point. To me, the melody runs are just too fast, and complex, to be played by just the two remaining fingers.

Regards,
Peter.

#4 Alan Day

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 06:39 PM

Many thanks to Chris for this.It is one example of the playing but other tracks are much more complex.There is about 45 minutes of this CD .I must say that the more I listen ,I am convinced it is one player ,but I would understand from some of the tracks how it would appear almost impossible for it to be one player.
More opinions please.
I am hoping two other experts may come up with the answer.
Al

#5 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 08:34 PM

More opinions please.
I am hoping two other experts may come up with the answer.

Al,

Is that a subtle hint? ;)

I've listened to it over & over, on different players, trying to make out what on earth I'm hearing (not helped by the fact that the recording is rather "muddy" overall). But now I'm sure that many of the earlier tracks are of someone playing a large duet, whilst others (especially the last few) seem to be of a group of English concertina players. It's definitely not all one performance.

Hope this helps! :)

#6 Chris Timson

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 01:40 AM

I haven't got to the later tracks yet; however someone who has heard only the Bluebell Polka track has suggested the English player Gordon Cutty. I've not heard anything by him, though a quick google suggests that Free Reed have had recordings by him. Does that sound possible?

Chris

#7 malcolm clapp

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 01:42 AM

Some of those bass notes are pretty low; and very constant.

I think it is 2 instruments, one playing just low notes, probably a bass English. The main instrument I would suggest is a duet because of the lack of the sort of ornamentation I would have expected from top English players of that period.

If I really had to make an educated guess, it could be Maurice Harvey on duet with his father Jim on a bass English just vamping the low notes. Or perhaps even Charlie Parsley on English as he tended to play the bass parts with the Kensington group.

But I wouldn't put the house on it.... ;)

Is Maurice still alive? He wouldn't be that old, maybe late 60s, and the youngest of the Kensington Group by far. Can he be contacted?

MC

#8 Dirge

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 02:42 AM

I don't think there's anything particularly technically difficult for a solo duet player there, I don't think you need to add extra players to explain it. Furthermore I would rather play the whole thing myself than have to leave pauses for another player to fit in bass notes; much less automatic. Can you convince yourself there are 2 instruments there? I wasn't confident.

#9 Alan Day

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 02:58 AM

If it is two players then at some point one would be slightly in front or behind either during the performance or at the start or finish.No two players can be that spot on.At points in other tunes he /she slightly speeds up at one point makes a mistake the accompaniment follows it exactly.I listened to these recordings for three hours last night (to the George and back) I think it is the same player and only one of them.It is obviously a very large concertina as the range goes from very low.
A name possibility at last.Whoever it is, must be one of the greatest concertina players of all time after listening to some of the other tracks.
Al

#10 JimLucas

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 03:29 AM

At Alan's request, here is the Bluebell Polka by the mystery player, as an MP3 of size 745k.

FWIW Anne and I think it is a duet player. The way he/she plays there is always separation into two parts, mostly accompaniment on the left melody on the right, but very occasionally they swap, and that's what really makes me think it's a duet. Anne says this sort of playing on the English, while possible, is pretty difficult.

Ah. I disagree.

Assuming it's a single instrument is a trap. It's not. It's definitely (at least) two different instruments, one playing mostly melody and another (the others? I'll get to that) playing the bass-chord parts.

How can I be so sure? The dynamics of the different parts are completely independent. If they were sharing a bellows, they would have to track each other. Also, the two(?) parts have very different tone qualities. Admittedly, that would be possible in a duet (a few were made with one metal end and one wooden one, and one could deliberately voice the two sets of reeds differently), but the independence of the dynamics is the key.

And once it's recognized to be two (or more) different instruments, I'm certain that the melody part is being played on an English. Two reasons for that: First, it flows like an English. Definitely not like an anglo, and in my experience -- admittedly limited -- I've never heard a duet player use that sort of phrasing. I would pay particular attention to both the semi-staccato upward runs and the few ornaments (note, note above, first note again). Secondly, if it is a duet player, then s/he's only using the right hand. I think it's highly unlikely that someone who plays the duet would totally ignore the left hand (unless, of course, they didn't have one).

Now about the bass and chords. The volume on the bass is subdued, making it difficult for me to hear it as clearly as I'd like. Nevertheless: Both the sound sound and the feel of the steady bass notes seem right to me for an English (maybe a bass, but I don't think they go lower than a baritone's lowest), though they could be on duet, or even an anglo.

BUT, once again the dynamics tell me something more. The chords are consistently stronger than the deep bass notes. There could be various reasons for that: It might be a duet, with a single mike set at the right-hand side and so picking up that end more strongly. But it could also be two different instruments, sounding different because they're at different distances from the microphone and/or because they're played by different people, with slightly different styles. Also, if it's two different instruments, part of the effect could be the different response of the reeds in the different instruments.

While I'm not absolutely certain that the bass-chord part is two separate instruments, there are still other factors that lead me to suspect it. The tone quality of the bass seems to me different from that of the chords. (In particular, compare the sound of the deepest bass notes with that of the final chord.) As I noted above, that could be just a difference between the ends of a duet, but the qualitative difference that I think I hear would be more likely from two separate instruments. And I once again invoke dynamics. It seems to me that the chords are fairly consistently given more "punch" than the deep bass (just a few of the bass notes seem to be given more punch than the rest). Ordinarily I would expect that if a single player were playing the two parts with different emphasis, it would be the bass that would be given more strength. So I suspect that the difference in this case is due to differences between either players or instruments or both, and that could only happen if there are two different players on two different instruments. (Or at least two different instruments. I've been assuming this recording wasn't done with multi-tracking of a single player. :))

One other possibility might be that the bass-chord parts aren't played on a concertina at all, but on some sort of accordion, since then the different internal construction of the two ends could result in different response... if the bass were played by the left hand and the chords in the right. I'm more inclined to think that what we have here is three separate English concertinas, but just listen to that final chord... doesn't it sound suspiciously like some "accordion" reeds in there? :unsure: B) :)

#11 Dirge

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 04:09 AM

Could we hear one of the virtuoso tracks Alan refers to please? (Only as part of the search for the players identity so that he can be duly credited of course...)

#12 JimLucas

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 04:45 AM

If it is two players then at some point one would be slightly in front or behind either during the performance or at the start or finish.No two players can be that spot on.

Sorry, Alan, but that's just not so. People -- groups -- do it all the time. Symphony orchestras do it. Military bands (at least the best of them) do it. Jazz bands and small ensembles do it. Flamenco singers, with their guitarists and dancers do it. So do the best of folk groups. When we say a group is "tight", that's one of the things we mean.

An extreme -- and wonderful -- example was two sisters from Galway that I heard once. They sang in unison, with all the ornaments and rhythmic subtleties of the best sean nos style, yet so together that for the entire performance the only way I could be sure there were two separate voices was when one of them took a breath while the other continued singing, and the quality of the sound changed. If it can be done with voices, then why not with instruments?

On the other hand, even a single individual isn't necessarily so tightly coordinated. Every once in a while one of my fingers is just a little slower or faster than I intend it to be, and there's a noticeable offset from the others. At other times I may even do it deliberately, as a desirable (IMO) effect.

At points in other tunes he /she slightly speeds up at one point makes a mistake the accompaniment follows it exactly.I listened to these recordings for three hours last night (to the George and back) I think it is the same player and only one of them.

Well, I've already weighed in on the Bluebell -- so far the only one I've heard -- that I definitely think it's at least two players, and possibly three, so I already disagree with you. :D Whether the different tracks are all the same lineup I can't judge unless/until I hear them.

It is obviously a very large concertina as the range goes from very low.

Not necessarily as large as you think. If it's a single English, I think a standard baritone would include all the notes. (I think that Chris' mp3 is pitched a half step too low. I'm sure the key should be G, not F#. But if it's a half-step high, a baritone-treble could provide the low F.) If it's a duet, 67 buttons would include both the top notes and the low G; 72 would include a low F.

Whoever it is, must be one of the greatest concertina players of all time after listening to some of the other tracks.

And that in itself argues againsts it being either all the same person or even -- I believe -- a single person on the Bluebell track. Listen to your 78's. If this is a single individual, then he's far better than either Alexander Prince or Raphael. To get all those subtleties out of a single instrument -- either English or duet -- would be superhuman, the stuff of legends.

But where are the legends?! Surely, if there were such a spectacular single individual, there would be legends of him (her?) circulating in the ICA and elsewhere, and they would have been repeated on C.net long before this. Many names have been mentioned, but none have been attributed with such hugely supernormal ability, nor have there been any rumors of such a spectacular "unknown squeezer".

So I think that's another reason to believe that there's really more than one person playing, at least on "Bluebell Polka".

#13 Chris Timson

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 04:45 AM

Could we hear one of the virtuoso tracks Alan refers to please? (Only as part of the search for the players identity so that he can be duly credited of course...)

Alan, up to you. It may be copyright issues that are guiding your choice, but if not I have plenty of capacity on my server and will put up any tracks from the CD you would like me to.

Chris

#14 PeterT

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 04:46 AM

I feel a poll coming on.

#15 Dazbo

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 05:54 AM

I can't access the recording to listen to it (damn firewall at work :angry: ) but is it possible that the concertina player is using a foot operated bass instrument? I would think this highly unlikely but it could mean it is one player using two instruments at the same time. If it is then that might help with the identification of the player.

#16 Alan Day

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 07:51 AM

I would be grateful if anyone has the Free Reed Record
"Grand Old Fashioned Dance" by Gordon Cutty, that they will have a listen to it and compare the posted recording of Blue Bell Polka to the one on record.Jim Ward has this record (what record has he not got) and I am going to have a listen on Thursday.Many of the tracks I have do not appear on this record I think, but I will check this out.
I think a posting of a more complex piece at this stage would add utter confusion.This recording was selected carefully and even now we have alternative views.
Al

#17 malcolm clapp

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 10:24 AM

I'm so pleased with Alan's choice of this piece; it is one of those tunes I never really tire of, even having listened to it more than 20 times today!

I must admit that I hadn't considered the possibility of 3 concertinas until I read Jim's post. Not convinced though. But I agree that there is ceretainly more than one.

Knowing where Alan obtained the recording, and looking at the high likelyhood of this being some of the Kensington Group c1959, there wouldn't have been too many of them with a background in folk music. And there are a number of folk tunes on the tape, along with more clasical items. Maurice Harvey (MacCann system) had some involvement in folk, as did Alf Edwards and Tom Prince. Alf Edwards had of course recorded with Bert Lloyd and Ewan McColl prior to that date, so had had some exposure to folk music, though not specifically folk dance music. The possibility of Tom Prince can't be ruled out, as he was by then playing regularly for English folk dancing.

Then again, good readers, as I'm sure they all were, may not have shied away from folk tunes, even if they had little knowledge of folk music.

My money would still be on some involvement from Maurice Harvey; perhaps not his father, Jim Harvey, as he would probably have been driving the tape recorder at the time.

Trying to find my Gordon Cutty LP....however, I don't believe Mr Cutty had much involvement with the London players and I doubt he would have found his way onto this recording.

MC

#18 PeterT

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 10:46 AM

Listening again, I'm still convinced that it is a duet.

My brain has not functioned quite as quickly as normal in the last couple of days (hot weather?), and I missed the thing that we should obviously try......playing along with the recording.

I've just done this with Maccann Duet. Well, ok, I can't actually play the piece at this speed, but the melody fits the instrument perfectly on the right hand, leaving the left hand free to find the appropriate chords. For a proficient Maccann player, it would be a doddle. So, I now say it's a Maccann Duet.

Would someone like to try the same on an English?




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