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Alf Edwards' Concertina Sold On Ebay


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#19 allan atlas

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 10:23 AM

STEPHEN: OK. . . . and your system would be good. . . . .i think that one can generally do more with the bellows on the draw. . . . . .allan

#20 Robin Harrison

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 12:14 PM

i think that one can generally do more with the bellows on the draw. . . . . .allan

Are you applying this to the English Concertina, Allan ? Do you plan phrases of music around the "draw" rather than the "push"?
Regards Robin

#21 allan atlas

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 01:49 PM

ROBIN: yes, i am speaking about the English only. . . . . .i have no experience on any other kind of concertina. . . . .

as for planning phrases. . . . .i almost always begin a piece or section thereof with the bellows going out. . . . (i can count the exceptions on the fingers of one hand). . . . .moreover, if along the way there's a rest of some length, again i'll try to get back intio the music with the bellows going out. . . . . .i just find that drawn bellows can be more expressive and capable of articulations than pushed bellows. . . . .i wonder if anyone out there finds the opposite to be true. . . . .and i suppose one can say that a player ought to be able to do anything with the bellows going in either direction. . . . . .but that's not quite the same as being more comfortable one way or another...............thus one might play a sequential passage (the same figure repeated a number of times) with the bellows going first one way and then the other way. . . . one might play them equally well in both directions. . . . but still, one might feel more comfortable in one direction than the other and choose to start the alternation in one direction or the other..............

i will say that at least in the instrument's original victorian repertory i spend more time trying to figure out what to do with the bellows than anything else. . . . .it is truly astounding that none of the music -- including that of the concertina virtuosos themselves -- was published with indications of bellows. . . . .to be sure, regondi has some labored exercises in using the bellows in his tutors, where he signals for changes in direction in meticulous detail. . . .but i've yet to see a real piece of music by him or anyone else of the period in which the bellows indications are present. . . . . .

at the risk of some horn blowing. . . .i think the only real discussion of what one might do with the bellows is in my Contemplating the Concertina. . . .where there's an extensive (relatively speaking) chapter about the possibilities. . . . . allan

#22 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 03:17 PM

Allan,

I'd compare it to the difference between a harmonium (which works on pressure = push) and the more expressive American organ (which works on suction = draw).

#23 Richardcarlin

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 03:24 PM

HOW did you find this, Stephen???? HOW did you recognize it?? It's clear to me that you are finding way too many cool things on Ebay, and should be required to donate every 10th item to a deserving collector (I can help you compile the list!)

Regarding a possible Alf Edwards CD set: I am working with Smithsonian Folkways with the hope that we can produce a virtual LP of some time that will be available "on demand." I'll keep the list posted as I hope this develops.

#24 allan atlas

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 08:01 PM

STEPHEN: but is the greater expressivity a result of that difference. . . . .plus the mechanics of the instrument don't feel more comfortable with one than with the other. . . . .and look, there might well be some players who feel more comfortable on the push. . . .i don't. . . . but in the end, it's an individual thing, i think..........allan

#25 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 01:09 AM

HOW did you find this, Stephen???? HOW did you recognize it?? It's clear to me that you are finding way too many cool things on Ebay, and should be required to donate every 10th item to a deserving collector (I can help you compile the list!)

Posted Image

Posted ImagePosted Image Hi Richard! Posted ImagePosted Image

Posted Image And I suppose your name might be at the top of the list??? (Or would it be a "list" of one?) Actually, I got an email, a few days after the auction, from a certain well-known collector (I'm sure you'll know who I mean ;) ;) ;) ) who thought it might be one of the Fayre Four's instruments, but of course this one was made "gilt", not modified at a later date like theirs.

How do I find such things? By spending far too much time glued to eBay usually, and thinking like a librarian when it comes to search terms (maybe you should ask somebody very close-to-home about that? ;) ) But truth to tell (and I probably mentioned it to you in Kilrush/Kilkee this year?) I haven't had much time for the internet over the last few months, with my new house and all... However, though I haven't been making my bigger eBay searches (which produce thousands of results to sift through) lately, there are certain more specific ones that I still do make occasionally.

How did I recognise it? One clue was that it was in Worthing, where Alf died, though my first thought was surprise that Paul Davies hadn't managed to find it when he lived (and advertised for concertinas) there, but then the seller thought it was an "accordian" anyway! But as the idea that it might be Alf's grew in my mind, I only had to reach across to the bookshelves beside my computer and lift his tutor down to see good photographs of it, and when I put my glasses on I could even make out the serial number.

Regarding a possible Alf Edwards CD set: I am working with Smithsonian Folkways with the hope that we can produce a virtual LP of some time that will be available "on demand." I'll keep the list posted as I hope this develops.

That would be absolutely brilliant, I'd certainly like a copy and I know a few other people who would be interested.

#26 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 01:14 AM

STEPHEN: but is the greater expressivity a result of that difference. . . . .

Allan,

I think it's at least part of the story, but I do find it easier to play tricky passages on the draw too, maybe something to do with the workings of my hand?

#27 Dirge

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 02:12 AM

On a big duet I find no difference in or out played on the knee, but controlling the bellows playing standing on the push is much, much harder than on the draw, the bellows want to sag, and that's where I lose it (and go back to the chair!) Perhaps with a smaller box you're aware of this but the effect is much less so you've never pinned it down?

#28 PeterT

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 03:59 AM

On a big duet I find no difference in or out played on the knee, but controlling the bellows playing standing on the push is much, much harder than on the draw, the bellows want to sag, and that's where I lose it (and go back to the chair!)

The Music Hall musicians, who played large duets, obviously had to overcome this problem. Hand orientation is the key to bellows control, and good bellows contol is vital. The bellows should be operated like a fan being opened and closed. Some of the YouTube videos show just how much bellows operation varies from player to player. Whether seated or standing, a similar technique should be adopted.

Hope that this helps.

Regards,
Peter.

#29 Chris Ghent

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 04:27 AM

i just find that drawn bellows can be more expressive and capable of articulations than pushed bellows. . . . .


I find the draw more controllable also, and can think of a couple of theories which might cover it.

1) When drawing the fingers on the buttons have only to play the notes. When pushing, the fingers on the buttons are having to do two jobs, aid in pushing the concertina closed and play the notes.

2) Notes on the concertina are more precise on the draw because the pads are sucked shut rather than held open by air passage. This allows more control...

Chris

#30 cnrobinson

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 12:34 PM

With regards to Piazzolla, from the one time I saw him play and from the interview on the DVD I've got, he seemed to play almost exclusively on the draw, using the air buttons on both sides to close the bellows sufficiently at the end of a line, so to speak. In the interview he demonstrates how to play a scale - all on the draw - and then explains that the layout for the notes makes push/pull quite awkward for his style of playing.

Chris

#31 m3838

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 01:52 PM

With regards to Piazzolla, from the one time I saw him play and from the interview on the DVD I've got, he seemed to play almost exclusively on the draw, using the air buttons on both sides to close the bellows sufficiently at the end of a line, so to speak. In the interview he demonstrates how to play a scale - all on the draw - and then explains that the layout for the notes makes push/pull quite awkward for his style of playing.

Chris


Mexicans are playing their 3 row accordions on the draw. To a point, that often they remove the bass reeds and use the bass buttons as an air valve. Which suprizes me, because by now they could have figured out to remove all the "in" reeds and make instruments lighter, or make they unisonoric, since every draw button on a 3 row is duplicated on the push. Speaking of which, one can probably contemplate an Anglo-Duet, where a 36-40 button Anglo can be unisonoric.
As for Piazzola, I guess he was not only crafsman, but also a showman, and fanning bellows on the draw looked more sexy in comparison to playing sitting, with a cloth on the knees, pulling far apart, with legs moving out-in. He needed to look perky. I'm sure he had no problems playing the same thing on the push entirely with most of us not noticing the differrence in expressiveness.

#32 JimLucas

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 02:49 PM

...one can probably contemplate an Anglo-Duet, where a 36-40 button Anglo can be unisonoric.

Didn't Jeffries already do that? B)



#33 JimLucas

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 03:43 PM

i just find that drawn bellows can be more expressive and capable of articulations than pushed bellows. . . . .

I find the draw more controllable also, and can think of a couple of theories which might cover it.

1) When drawing the fingers on the buttons have only to play the notes. When pushing, the fingers on the buttons are having to do two jobs, aid in pushing the concertina closed and play the notes.

I find that I generally prefer the press to the draw. To reevaluate that, I just experimented a bit with both push and pull. I find that -- for me -- it's easier to play smoothly on the pull, but for sudden dynamic emphasis -- for "punch" -- I get much sharper emphasis and control on the push.

And contrary to what I think some others have said, I feel that I have better control of the orientation and movement of the ends on the push. I find this to be especially true if the thumbstraps are even slightly loose, since there is then some play in the connection between the thumb and the strap. That play isn't there on the push, since my thumbs are always pushing against the end of the instrument itself.

2) Notes on the concertina are more precise on the draw because the pads are sucked shut rather than held open by air passage. This allows more control...

If the airflow does actually have a noticeable effect (something I question if the pads are good and the action properly adjusted), on the draw it should assist in closing the holes and stopping the notes, but then on the press it should assist in opening the holes and starting the notes. Six vs. half a dozen? :unsure:

#34 Chris Ghent

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 07:47 PM

If the airflow does actually have a noticeable effect (something I question if the pads are good and the action properly adjusted), on the draw it should assist in closing the holes and stopping the notes, but then on the press it should assist in opening the holes and starting the notes. Six vs. half a dozen? :unsure:


Nope, not even close... In one direction, the pull, there is a finite end point, the pad board. The pad hits it at full speed and stops dead. It can't start at full speed on the push, pressure will need to build however briefly, and as it does the pad will come off the board. The pad certainly will accelerate to full speed quickly but it not the same thing. The condition of the action and pads is relatively immaterial.

Chris

#35 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 11:28 AM

When I first took Alf's concertina out of its case, it was a bit reluctant to speak after 22 years of silence, but after a little playing it is starting to find its voice again. The sound is becoming decidedly "trumpety", despite the fact that an overhaul (especially replacement of the valves) is badly needed.

And after playing it every day since, the tone seems to have become fuller and the instrument has revealed an incredibly wide dynamic range. It will now play at anything from a whisper to a trumpet, and (when you want it) there's lots of "honk". I'm really enjoying having it! :) :) :)

#36 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 10:22 AM

For those who don't know, maybe I should add that Alf was "of the fourth generation of a musical family connected with the theatrical and circus profession for a hundred years". As well as the concertina (on which he first broadcast in 1928) he also played the violin, piano, Saxophone, clarinet, bagpipes, ocarina and (in some famous dance bands) the trombone.

In the meantime, I was fortunate enough to buy a copy of Alf's American LP recording The Art of the Concertina (Prestige International, INT 13060) off eBay in the US (it's just about unobtainable on this side of the Atlantic, though it was recorded in London), and it throws further light on him:

He was born in 1903, a fourth generation-member of a family of itinerant musicians. The family records go back to his maternal-grandfather, a Spanish Jew, who, during the mid-nineteenth century, toured Europe as the leader of a family of musical clowns. Following the tradition of the French 'Augustes' they played a variety of musical instruments while performing elaborate mimes and acrobatic feats. Their stage was the circus ring and the popular music hall. His mother who, among other accomplishments, performed dances on the tightrope while accompanying herself on the fiddle, married a musician who had joined the act so as to help out with trombone, piano, great-highland-bagpipe and several other instruments. Alf was their third child, and by the time he arrived, they had deserted the circus for the music-hall and the variety-stage.

"I was born into the act", says Alf, "and as a kid all I wanted to do was to copy my parents." Apart from a two-year spell, during the first world war, when the family settled down for a time in Bedford, Alf spent the first twenty years of his life 'on tour' with the family; twenty years of of theatrical-boarding houses, rehearsals, early morning calls, railway timetables and the stale daytime smell of theatres. Twenty years of hard practice!

"I was about five years old when I started to learn the concertina. I'd already had a spell on the fiddle, you know ... learning the family tricks, playing it on top of your head, behind your back, between your legs ... all the tricks that had been in the family for thousands of years ... well, four generations anyhow." He confesses that he never took to the fiddle, maybe it was because his teacher whose methods included corporal chastisement, maybe he thought there were enough fiddlers in the family already. "Actually", he says, "my mother wanted me to be a ballet-dancer so that I could enhance the family act by dancing on my toes and playing the fiddle at the same time. Fortunately I was a failure as a ballet dancer." This did not mean, however that that he was exempted from training; the necessity to learn new instruments was always there. "My mother was a hard taskmaster, she never lost the habits of the circus, practice and rehearsal were as important to her as food and drink. She used to give me sixpence to learn a new instrument."

In 1918 the family act was reformed and they set out on the road again, father, mother, daughter and son (Alf), 'The Four Toldinos', "a multi-instrumental act, the finale of which consisted of us all waltzing around and playing fiddles behin each other's back." During the next ten years the family toured throughout Gt. Britain and Ireland, working 'the coal and cotton circuits', the wool towns, the coastal resorts and the industrial cities like Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow. By this time, Alf had added the trombone, ocarina, alto-saxophone, clarinet, piano, great-highland-bagpipe and drums to his repertoire of instruments. "I also did a bit of 'hoofing', you know stepdancing. Oh yes, and by this time I was writing out parts for theatre orchestras, you know, simple arrangements."

In 1926 the family, along with many other people, fell on hard times, or rather on harder times, unemployment was widespread, the 'talkies' and canned-music were taking over from the old music-halls, and the outlook for musicians was bleak. During this period Alf and his family were sometimes driven to busking on the beaches at seaside resorts. "I didn't mind playing but I hated taking the hat round. I always felt that a musician shouldn't have to beg after working."

In the early thirties, Alf and his wife, a dancer who had joined the act, abandoned touring and the variety stage and settled in London. In the period which followed, he played in almost every type of orchestral combination, in dance bands playing trombone and alto-sax, in radioorchestras playing concertina, drums and trombone, in film orchestras playing anything that was needed. "I never got around to a string quartet," he says, somewhat ruefully.

He can still blow a mean trombone but in recent years he has returned more and more to the concertina. "I always come back to it;" he says, "it fascinates me in a way no other instrument has ever done." It fascinates others too, the young afficianados of the British folkmusic revival who are moved by the simple purity of its voice, and the older generation of professional musicians who say it is "the most versatile instrument of them all", and others, like the old studio engineer who, after a recent recording session said: "Alf can get more music out of that little squeezebox than most people can get out of an entire bloody orchestra."






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