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Anglo Concertina Buyer's Guide

By Paul Schwartz
Note: a lot of the info here is now seriously out of date. It can still be useful as an overview of where the makers came from and where they're going, but for up-to-date information, please consult the forums! Thousands of messages and photos there tell a much more current story of the state of the art in the concertina world! --Paul

Table of contents:


I've also always loved Irish music, and somehow at some point I made a connection between Irish music and the anglo concertina, although it's still pretty rare to see anyone play the concertina, Irish-style or otherwise. Over the years I had called around to local music stores a few times, but nobody had ever even heard of the instrument. One day I finally typed "concertina" into a web search engine and there it was!

There are a number of good pages dealing with concertinas, but the concertina FAQ is probably the best place to start. It has a very good "Buying Advice" section, and this page is not meant to replace it. It's full of great advice, but geared more towards checking out various concertinas personally in a shop -- something that may simply be impossible for you, as it was for me. I put together this info partly to make you a little more comfortable with buying a concertina "blind" as I had to. Once you have your box, be sure to check out David Glenn's great site dedicated entirely to the anglo. Just be sure not to let his excellent but perhaps overwhelming fingering charts scare you too much. I won't go into button layout here, as David's site and the books cover the topic quite thoroughly. It's easier (at least to begin with) than it looks -- really! But these sites still left plenty of unanswered questions (at least in my inquiring mind.) Which style do I really want? What are the real differences? How much should I really pay? Well, it turns out that there are quite a few very knowledgeable concertina folks hanging out in the rec.music.makers.squeezebox newsgroup. They were very patient and helpful and answered all my "newbie" questions without making me fell as ignorant as I really was (am?).

Well, it turns out there are really two main types of concertinas. "English" and "Anglo-German" (known just as "Anglo"). Okay, there are really quite a few more types, but these two are the only one's you'll see mentioned much these days, for better or for worse. The concertina is a "free reed" instrument, like an accordion or harmonica, but it has a sound and character all it's own and actually quite different from the accordion (it's NOT just a little accordion!) For the full details, check out the FAQ and Don Nichols' concertina pages which also contain several excellent concertina history articles, but basically, the English concertina plays the same note on the pull and push of the bellows, while the Anglo plays a different depending upon whether you push or pull on the bellows -- like blowing or sucking on a harmonica, an instrument which, by the way, sounds kind of like a concertina. Sort of.

Just what does a concertina sound like? I usually describe it best as a nice "honking" sound. This may sound strange, but it's really quite different from an accordion. Not that I have anything against the accordion -- I just like the concertina better. So no, it's not just a "small accordion". It really is a different instrument. Paul Groff described the sound a good Jeffries makes as a "growl" which I think is a good description of the difference between an anglo concertina sound and an accordion sound. Not all anglos sound the same of course, as there are many variables (reeds, construction, metal vs. wood ends, etc.), but it's still a unique and clear sound that in my mind, multi-reed instruments sacrifice in exchange for the nice "chorus" effect you get with multiple reeds sounding at the same time (accordions usually have two or more reeds that sound at the same time for each note -- a concertina always has only one reed per note). The Anglo, by virtue of the constant changing of bellows direction also lends the sound a very "bouncy" feel, which makes it great for traditional dance music including Irish music.

For the type of music I wanted to play, everyone was pointing me to the Anglo. You can also play Irish music on the English concertina of course, and both the English and Anglo are fully chromatic (technically, you can play in any key on either instrument), but since the Anglo plays a different note on the push and the pull of the bellows, that means it needs fewer buttons to play the same range, so the instruments are smaller which is something I appreciate after years of playing and lugging around keyboards. So I settled on an Anglo. But how many buttons? A 30-button concertina is fully chromatic and is the standard for Irish music. You can play nice tunes on a 20-button, but you'll be very limited in terms of which keys you can play in, and all the books deal with 30-button models. You can also find models with 40-buttons or more, but I'm not sure why you'd really want or need more. The finest players usually use 30-button models in the "Jeffries" layout. The "Lachenal" layout is slightly different, but not enough to worry about, especially for a beginner. The books can be used for both layouts. My first concertina, being a Lachenal instrument, was naturally in the Lachenal button layout. See below for more details on what to look for when you're ready to shop.

Purchasing a Concertina

At first, while looking through the few catalogs I found which listed concertinas, I was very tempted by the Italian Stagi brand instruments. I could pick up a brand new 30-button Anglo for under $800 (all prices quoted here are in U.S. dollars), or a used one for maybe $500.

So I asked the people on rec.music.makes.squeezebox newsgroup. The responses I got were interesting. I had originally planned on spending no more than $800 U.S.. Most people said that I should be able to get a "vintage" Lachenal 30-button anglo for around $1000 and that I would be much happier with such an instrument. A few said that I wouldn't be able to find a good vintage instrument in this price range -- they were wrong. I started to wonder -- why would I spend that kind of money on an instrument that might be almost 100 years old? The answer is simple. As silly as it sounds, they really don't make them like the used to! There are no more concertina "factories" outside of the Stagi brand Italian models. Concertinas used to be more popular than they are now. Before TV and radio, people used to actually sit around and entertain themselves playing music, singing, and dancing. From what I gather, the concertina was a popular "parlour" instrument around the turn of the century, being both portable and capable of playing loud enough to be heard above singing, clapping and dancing. I know this to be true from playing at birthday parties for nieces and nephews!

Okay, now for the good stuff! Exactly which concertina should you actually buy? This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on budget, personal preference as to the sound, look and age of an instrument, and unfortunately your decision will also be determined somewhat by something completely out of your control: delivery schedules. Most good makers have long waiting lists -- anywhere from one year to 5 or more years. This is very bad news if you're looking for your first concertina. Also, there's still a lot of guesswork and uncertainty involved in purchasing a concertina, as most people I know don't have the time or money (or both) to actually travel to see, play and hear the different types and brands of instruments. And until you actually know how to play, it would all be pretty meaningless anyway.

Ken Coles wrote in with some opinions which help put the whole emphasis on expensive instruments in perspective. I am of course guilty of some of this "instrument snobbery", but only out of enthusiasm for the instrument and the music, but this doesn't always come across on web pages and in e-mail so keep these thoughts in mind before you get too depressed or obsessed with finding the "right" instrument -- sometimes the "right" instrument is whatever you can play and enjoy NOW without it becoming a financial or psychological burden.

Instruments for Beginners
By Ken Coles

My first encounter with serious (Irish) concertina players was at Bucksteep in Sept. of 1997. Some of the advanced students/players laid a very heavy trip on me about jumping to top-notch equipment as soon as possible. Let me note that I don't think they do this on purpose; they're just proud of their nice instruments, after struggling to find them, and they talk about that a lot.

I found this a little depressing, having just spent nearly $300, which *I* think IS a lot of money. The prices they were mentioning would buy you the best guitars made, or even a nearly new Steinway console piano. I also knew that 30-button fingering systems vary (Lachenal, Jeffries) and my 25 years as a player of trumpet and French horn have taught me that changing fingering is a very slow process, at least for me. So I just started on my 20-button and did OK, thank you. I can attempt anything in C and G, and some tunes in D if they lack that C#. I find that I have a lot I can learn right now and many things that I have not mastered even on my measly Italic box. So for now I am going to stick with it. I don't think it limits me at present, other than the missing notes. I'm not good enough yet to appreciate fast action, etc.

By way of analogy, consider the brass and woodwind universes... Many young band musicians aspire to nice instruments at a young age, but many, including me, do fine by working hard and putting off that big purchase until college. Similarly, a new guitar student shows up with a Sigma (couple of hundred bucks), not a Collings ($2500) or even a Martin, and I, at least, don't see other guitarists do anything but offer encouragement and realism. So, if you're an expert and meet a beginner, put off the advocacy of expensive concertinas for a while, or wait until they ask about it.

Naturally I hope to gain some buttons in the future (maybe I've lost all of mine) but having no choices under about $ 1200 to $ 1400 in new instruments that anyone seems willing to recommend, it will just have to wait a little while -- roof repairs come first! This search for a used instrument sounds like fun if you have lots of time, but right now I don't, and again, I would rather purchase after trying them in person. That limits my shopping to one or two trips a year.

Instruments for Beginners, Chapter 2

A year after I wrote the forgoing, fate offered to sell me a Lachenal for a typical current price ($1500), so I bought it. Yes, I did try it in person first, and had an expert look at it. Of course it is a big improvement. Still, I don't regret my 1-3/4 years on a Stagi. It prepared me, in terms of coordination and psychologically, to spend the $$ for a better instrument.

Interestingly, if you ask around, many of the folks who advise you to start with a Lachenal admit, when pressed, that they started on a Stagi/Bastari for the same reasons I did. I won't mention names here, but you'd be surprised at who some of them are!

If you have $ 200, your only choice is an Italian 20-button instrument; maybe you should go ahead and try it. If I had $ 700 and were starting out, I would consider a 20-button Lachenal rather than a 30-button Italian instrument -- it would at least hold its value and teach you more. Happy learning!

Here is a discussion in the General Forum with more opinions on how a vintage 30-button instrument may be a good choice for a budget-conscious beginner.


Stagi 30-button anglo

Italian Concertinas: Stagi, Bastari, Riccordi, Gremlin

So does this mean that you shouldn't buy a Stagi (these used to be called "Bastari" -- a term you'll still hear sometimes) if that's all you can afford? Of course not! You'll probably still get years of enjoyment out of a modern Italian concertina. It's just that it won't last as long as even a 100 year old Lachenal, it won't play as well, and it won't sound as nice. Stagis use accordion reeds instead of real concertina reeds and construction techniques and so don't really sound like a "real" concertina. This doesn't mean that they don't sound nice though -- I've heard from several people who actually preferred the sound of a Stagi, which they've characterized as nice and mellow. Remember not to let "instrument lust" keep you from getting a cheap concertina and having fun! I bought my daughter a $19 Chinese button box and I can play all kinds of nice Irish and other songs on it. Here's a tidbit from Allen Garvin (earendil@faeryland.tamu-commerce.edu) who just bought what I think is probably the bottom-of-the-line Stagi anglo. Keep in mind that he only paid $100 for it (new)!

Here's my brief experience with the concertina: "I got a dirt cheap Stagi 20 button anglo 2 days ago. I wasn't expecting a quality instrument, but it was such a cheap price ($100, half price at HMT) that I couldn't turn it down. The ends are thin plywood and the bellows are thick paper instead of leather! The buttons sometimes get stuck under the endboards, and then I'm forced to unscrew the end to straighten them up. Still, cheap instruments are sometimes said to build character... I keep repeating that as a mantra *8-)."

Note: I think the Gremlin brand concertinas sold by Hobgoblin are actually just house-brand Italian Stagis.


German Concertinas: Klingenthal

These things are often similar (or the same probably) to the really low-end huge 20-key Italian concertinas. There are loads of these showing up on eBay, most of them being described as "wonderful", "fabulous" and "super for playing or display". These are okay if you want to just fool around for well under $200 and to maybe get an idea for some basic fingering, but they really are just accordions shaped like concertinas. They (usually) even have 2 reeds per note so that you get that same chorus effect you get from many accordions. Not that it's not a pleasant sound mind you (if the tuning is anywhere near decent), but it's just not a concertina sound or action or bellows! Just because it has 6 sides doesn't mean it's a concertina. These are very large concertina-shaped-objects, with huge multi-fold bellows (needed to feed those hungry accordion reeds), non-adjustable hand-straps, and lots of accordion-style decorations applied to various parts of the instrument. Most were/are made in East Germany (or whatever the heck that country is called this week), though many are also labeled as being made in Italy.



So you really want a top quality new or recently made concertina? Well, they do exist, but they're not cheap and you're pretty much limited to ordering a custom-made concertina from C & R (Colin and Rosalie) Dipper in the UK, Steve Dickinson of the Wheatstone brand (also in the UK) or Jürgen Suttner. Here's what I've dug up them, but keep in mind that when you get into the high end like this, information gets very subjective. At this level, only YOU can decide which has the action and sound you're looking for at a price you're willing to pay, so the best advice is still to try them out if at all possible.

Wheatstone

Steve Dickinson (in the UK) now has rights (and what remains of the original machinery and parts) to the Wheatstone namey. I have now heard from a few people who own Dickinson-made Wheastones (Chris Sherburn also plays one and loves it), and they're supposedly second to none. UK concertina dealer Chris Algar of Barleycorn concertinas also mentioned to me that Dickinson anglos are extremely fine instruments, with a very consistent and high-quality (fast) action, great sound, and top-notch construction. But at this time delivery is not reliable and so I would not recommend ordering a new Wheatstone.

40-key wheatstone 40-key wheatstone

After bugging everyone I could about exactly WHAT made something like a Wheatstone or Dipper or Jeffries that much "better" (and expensive!) than for example my "mid-range" or "student-grade" vintage Lachenal, John Kalinowski -- who has owned both a Lachenal and a top-notch vintage (not Dickinson) Wheatstone anglo -- had this to say:
"Two things the Wheatstone has over the Lachenal. 1. Hinged action instead of the Lachenal "fork & level". Much quieter and smoother action. 2. Much better reed response. I suddenly was able to sound quick ornaments (a-la Noel Hill) which tended to sound muddy on the Lachenal, only because you need to hold a note longer to get it to sound."

The drawbacks? Well, you're not going to get one cheap, and you're going to wait quite a while. I recently (May 7th, 1998) called and spoke to Steve Dickinson. He was very friendly and helpful. He offered two basic styles of anglos: a 31-key hexagonal with "standard" reeds and an octagonal 40-key high-end model with "longer-scale" reeds. Both are available with any number of options including special tunings and metal or wood ends and just about anything else your heart desires. These really are NOT assembly-line instruments. Your concertina will be made to order, to your exact specifications and needs. He said he wouldn't be able to deliver before 4 years, but you might wait longer -- quite a bit longer if you order anything outside of a very standard box, according to people who have such instruments on order. The basic hexagonal model was £2400 (about $4000 US) and the octagonal model was £3490 ($5800 US).

He mentioned that a number of people have contacted him after a few years to change their order from the hexagonal to the octagonal model, and this sets their order back even longer, so he said to think about what you're going to want 4 years from now! If you're seriously considering a Dickinson Wheatstone, give him a call. The order drill is similar to all custom-made instruments: he said to call him for details, then write a confirmation letter along with a £100 deposit. Then when he begins construction of your instrument he asks for 1/3 of the balance, with the remaining payment due at completion and prior to shipment.

Steve Dickinson, trading as C Wheatstone & Co Ltd
21 Bridge Street
Stowmarket
Suffolk
IP14 1BP
England
Phone (as dialed from the US or Canada): 011 44 1449 615523
E-Mail: concertinas@wheatstone.co.uk
Web site: www.wheatstone.co.uk



C & R Dipper

A name one tends to hear more than Wheatstone in the anglo world is Dipper. Colin and Rosalie Dipper (in the UK also) make what are probably some of the finest anglo concertinas available. These are beautiful instruments with exceptional action and sound. I've often heard Dipper and Jeffries mentioned in the same breath. You're also going to spend some serious money for a Dipper, and you'll probably wait at least two years, though I've heard of some people waiting longer for anything out of the ordinary. I spoke to Colin Dipper on May 8th,1998 and he was very friendly and helpful and honest about delivery and suggestions for order options. I've been dreaming of owning a Dipper anglo almost since I first found out about them when I bought my Lachenal. For some reason, their little (only 5-5/8" across) "County Clare" 30-button metal-ended metal-button model which they make especially for Irish music really appealed to me, but the prices I saw listed in the retail catalogs were breathtaking and so I was turned off.

When I spoke to him (1998), Colin said the Clare model 30-button metal-ended anglo with metal buttons and 6-fold bellows was 1500£ (around $2500 US, plus duty and shipping) which was a very pleasant surprise. He said he could probably have it ready in about two years, and people have e-mailed who have received this exact model in about that same amount of time, so I tend to believe it (although I know I'm being optimistic since you can never tell with this sort of thing). As with the Dickinson Wheatstones, everyone I've spoken to who owns a Dipper is extremely happy with it. If at all possible, it would of course be best to try both a Dipper and a Wheatstone and decide for yourself which one you just can't live without.

If you want to order, the drill is that you speak to him to get a basic idea as to what you want, then you send him a letter confirming the order along with a 200£ deposit. When he gets ready to start construction on your instrument, he'll call you to confirm the details. Once it's done, he'll ship it once he gets full payment from you. Price at time of order is not guaranteed, since materials prices can go up, but he said that he tries to keep it as close as possible to the original quote. Everyone who's dealt with him says he a very honest guy and every time I've spoken to Colin or Rosalie on the phone I've come away very impressed both by their knowledge and open and friendly demeanor.

As with Steve Dickinson, there's a long waiting list for a Dipper, and anything out of the ordinary is likely to dramatically increase order delays and cost, but of course each instrument is still made to order, so you can get just about anything your heart desires and your bank account allows. I've also heard that as with Dickinson, it's best to call, not write:

C & R Dipper Concertinas
West End House
High Street
Heytesbury
Warminster BA12 0EA
England
Phone (from the US or Canada): 011 44 1985 840516

Review of a Dipper Cotswold Anglo by Bill D'Ambrogio


Still can't decide between a Wheatstone and a Dipper? Rich Morse of The Button Box had this to say (thanks Rich!), which while illuminating, doesn't really solve the dilemma so you're still just going to have to call these guys and get the details and specific options and prices directly from them (or contact The Button Box for their opinion and prices)! Also, keep in mind that I don't know where the "low end" anglos mentioned below fit into what Steve told me (see above) when I spoke to him May 7th, 1998.
Steve [Dickinson, of Wheatstone] does make very nice anglos - we've had a few of them come through our store that we've thoroughly checked over. Though they were his "lower-end" instruments with loop action, plastic buttons, short scale reeds, etc., they were very responsive and had a great tone. His better grade instruments are noticeably better however and truly superb concertinas.

There is quite a bit of difference between Steve's "lower-end" anglos and the Dipper's standard ones (which is markedly higher). Steve's uses a radial reedpan layout with incrementally varying depths and the shorter scale reeds while Colin uses a parallel layout with deeper chambers and long scale reeds. The result is that Steve's boxes are sweeter sounding and more even and uniform in tone and response. Colin's are louder, clearer and really honk (a good thing, if you are into that as most Irish types are). The only other major difference are the bellows. While they are both extremely well made, Colin's is a bit more robust, a bit more flexible and may last longer. Construction quality seems to be on par, though I would give a slight edge to Steve's design and craftsmanship over Colin's.

Keep in mind that the only anglos I have seen of Steve's are his lower-end ones. I assume that his better ones would be in keeping with the qualities of his better Englishes, with better bellows, action and long scale reeds. Such an anglo would be correspondingly better and I would imagine on par with Colin's.

[followup regarding reed pan layout and sound]

That's true that the radial layout engenders a more uniform tone. But that's assuming that the reeds in those chambers are also graded from low to high as they go around from the largest to smallest chambers. This is easy to do with an English layout of keys, with them in the center of the instrument and already located with the low notes on one end to the high ones on the other. Anglos have a problem with linkage lengths, pad travel AND radically differing tones being adjacent to one another. Fitting an anglo to a radial pattern is a poor fit, but cost-effective as Lachenal already had the design and tooling for the radials.

All the Jeffries we've seen have the parallel layout. A lot of the honkiness has to do with the fact that the chambers HAVE parallel sides AND that this enables the reeds to be size-optimized for response. On the downside, this means that the lower reeds will always be much louder (and overwhelm the treble side). Not much of a problem when playing linear tunes in the Irish style, but gets in the way when playing left backup for a right handed tune. Englishes are usually made with the lowest few notes undersized just so so that they are intentionally not as powerful (to help the balance), and also so that they can physically fit in the instrument (having 96 reeds in a typical English vs 60 for the typical anglo). Small wonder Lachenals (and other predominantly English makers that put together a line of anglos) have a mousy lower left!


Connor Concertinas

Apparently John Connor in the UK used to make concertinas for the Crabb company before it went out of business in 1989. I don't know much about Connor concertinas, but Pete Gibbons (usapete@aol.com) has one of their Jeffries copies and had this to say about it [edited by Paul]:

Connor anglo When I decided to buy a really good concertina, I contacted a cousin in Ireland whose daugher is an all-Ireland champion for her age group. He recommended that I purchase what he called a "Connor-Jeffries." It's a reproduction of an early Jeffries manufactured by John Connor in England. My cousin agreed to try and get one for me so, after several months, Connor's sole agent brought him several. The daughter tried them out and selected the best for me.

It cost me $3000, I think, including enough for dinner for my cousin's family, and he has asked for the opportunity to buy it from me, should I decide to sell.

It is identical in outward appearance to a Jeffries, but I think it may be heavier. As for the sound, it is a lot more pleasant than my Stagi-type box, and much louder. It has the same mechanism as depicted in your photo on your concertina page.

Pete Gibbons


Feb. 28, 1999: Comments by Raymond Kefford (r.kefford@hud.ac.uk) (edited by Paul)

"The Connor is a delightful instrument and solidly built of the best materials. For an instrument of its weight it is surprisingly lively and can keep up with all except the very best (and they are rare indeed). The tone is just right for playing a variety of music and it is so responsive to changes in bellows pressure that it has a wide dynamic range. It is not quite as loud as some Wheatstones but will definitely play a lot softer than them when you want it to. Controllability and expression matter more to me than sheer volume so I think I got the right instrument for general use.

It responds quickly and the reeds sing out but as it is still fairly new it is still changing and I don't yet know how fast it will eventually be. It's already comparatively quick and could improve a bit yet as it wears in. I did try all sorts of Anglos before I settled on the Connor, though, so I had a pretty good idea what I would be getting. Well, you do when you are spending that amount of money, don't you? I do, anyway, and people were very co-operative and quite happy to put their instruments into the hands of another player.

John Connor worked in the Crabb factory until its closure. He has continued under his own name since then and the instruments are clearly apparent as coming from the same designs, methods of construction, etc. However, he is on his own so he doesn't make many instruments per year. If he gets lots of requests for instruments there will be a long queue.

[...]

The Connor I have is a 30-button C/G Anglo in Wheatstone layout. It has metal endplates, the wood is ebony outside with birch inside and sycamore reed pan. The bellows is pigskin rather than leather and the whole instrument is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. The tone is clear and fairly loud as you would expect in a metal-ended instrument, but not shrill or strident. It was made to my requirements for things like button height and travel but I did say that I didn't mind if it was plain black as long as it was fast and responsive. That is exactly what I got! The action is all of riveted brass levers, and the reeds are quick to respond. It is a bit heavy but that doesn't matter at all if the weight is resting on your knee.

Most of the really good players of the Irish style (lots of notes really fast, but only one note at a time) round here seem to be using Wheatstone layout rather than Jeffries. I only used Wheatstone to avoid changing to another fingering pattern, but it does allow chording in the left hand as long as you have two fingering patterns for each chord so that you can change bellows direction. I actually have the very top A on the draw and the F on the push so that it fits better with the left hand chords, but Connors are normally done that way anyway. I didn't know at that time so I requested it specially when there was really no need to.

I have tried a Connor Jeffries copy, since I bought my Connor. It was a beautiful instrument and a very accurate imitation of the original Jeffries, even being decorated to match the lavish Jeffries appearance. I found it awkward as I tend to play across the rows whereas the Irish style is to go 'up and down the middle' and the Jeffries have 'pin' buttons where I have lower buttons that allow me to 'slide' from one note to the next. Also it was very loud and needed to be controlled sensitively. Still it was a joy to play as it had such a beautiful tone.

My reed chambers are all parallel, but there are differing views on that too. Steve Dickenson told me that it was simply a matter of construction method, depending on how you secured the reed pan while cutting the rebates for the chamber divisions. I think it improves the tone, but he reckons that Wheatstone's original calculations show that it is better to avoid parallel sides. Some larger Wheatstone English models have a mixture so maybe even Wheatstone himself was prepared to use parallel sides when it suited the layout of the instrument better. "


Connor anglos are apparently very good. From what I've heard from people who have tried them, they look and sound very nice, but the action isn't always the greatest, and the price seems to have crept up over the years. I've only tried one of his concertinas which seemed to be loosely based on a Jeffries. It was quite nice, with excellent construction and bellows. I didn't give it much of a workout, but I'd say it was a fine concertina for the price (which I won't repeat here, but it was in line with the other prices I quote for new concertinas).

Connor Concertinas
30 Eastbury Avenue
Rochford
Essex SS4 1SF
England
Phone (from the US or Canada): 011 44 1702 546745


Button Box Concertina

The Button Box Concertinas

Nov. 6, 1999: The Button Box 30-key anglo concertinas are finally shipping! Check out Chris Timson's review here: http://www.concertina.info/tina.faq/reviews/trillium.htm. It's a fine-looking concertina, and probably a very good value. I'm looking foward to trying one! I like the fact that it has wooden-ends. I have a feeling it might help sweeten the sound a bit over the other metal-ended accordion-reed concertinas. The photo sure looks pretty!

June 2000: Ken Coles got a chance to try a new R. Morse & Co. "Ceili" model and reported the following:

"The concertina (serial number 035) was nicely finished and solid as others have reported. But the real eye-opener was playing a few tunes that I can perform rapidly. I had one of my Lachenals with me, in reasonably good shape and only a little leaky. Going back and forth made it very clear the Morse was much faster and more responsive. It was also more growly in tone than many other accordion-reeded concertinas I've tried. So if everything else on concertina.net hasn't steered you to English or Duet, or to songs and tunes other than Irish; if you just gotta have that speed and arcane fingering and join all us bug-eyed players of Irish music; if the inflated market for used anglos has you down, then in my opinion you couldn't do better in this price range than this concertina."


Crabb Concertinas

The Crabb concertina company was around for a long time, although for some reason you don't see a lot of Crabb anglos floating around these days (at least not compared to Jeffries or Lachenals). There are rumours that early Jeffries anglos were really built by Crabb and just remarketed by Jeffries, but besides some similarities in construction, I'm not aware of any real evidence to support this. Crabbs have a reputation for varying widely in their quality. The best Crabb anglos could equal many a Jeffries, but sometimes they aren't so great (like many Jeffries for that matter!). Crabbs can fetch prices a bit lower but often quite similar to a decent Jeffries. The Crabb Concertina Company ceased operation in 1989 following the death of Neville Crabb, son of Harry Crabb.


Marcus Music Concertinas

I don't know anything about these concertinas, but Chris Timson (the maintainer of the Concertina FAQ) in the UK had this to say (May 1998):

"Yesterday at Chippenham Folk Festival I came across a stall manned by Marcus Music, who were showing off their new anglos. These are rather nice looking metal-ended 30-button C/Gs with leather bellows and a very nice action. Cost is UKP750 - UKP850 depending on the model (say $1250 - $1400) including case.

This is a very good price, and like most instruments in this bracket use accordion reeds rather than concertina reeds (in this case, made by Antonelli). The tone, while not quite that of the better traditionally- made instruments, is very acceptable and does sound like a concertina rather than an accordion. I think they will make excellent first instruments (I personally define a good first instrument as one which will last a player for quite a few years before they feel the need to upgrade, if ever). Their address is Marcus Music, Tredegar House, Newport, Gwent, Wales, phone 01633 815612.

With people like Marcus and Harold Herrington about I feel much happier about the situation with regard to anglo players. I now have somewhere to recommend new players go to. Now if we could only get them to make some Englishes and Haydens..."

From David Graham:

"I was in Birmingham recently and went to see Mr Tedrow. While there I played a Marcus, and found it to be a lot of things my Bastari isn't: well put together, tight, sounds good -- I mean it doesn't sound like a Jeffries, but not bad -- responsive. I think it's a great choice for a first instrument, maybe an only instrument (especially considering that when one upgraded, one could actually sell the Marcus). Not for me, though, as I've already ordered a Suttner. Besides, I'm enamoured of the in-your-face honk of Noel's instrument. I trust a Suttner will approach that. Anyway, I think you ought to get your hands on a Marcus, or have someone you trust do that. I think they're worth a look.

My Bastari is one that Tedrow rebuilt/retuned, with his new improved buttons -- something else that you should experience. I mean, it still sounds like a Stagi (albeit in tune), but it's a little quicker, and at Bob's prices, a bargain."

Marcus Music
Tredegar House
NEWPORT
Gwent
NP1 9YW
Phone: (01633) 815612
Web: www.marcusmusic.co.uk


Andrew C. Norman

From Andrew Norman:
"Regarding A.C.Norman & Co. concertinas, we make about one a week for retailers, but are quite happy with direct sales. Hence we can alter the designs slightly to suit specific requirements. For such bespoke work we require a deposit of 100 pounds sterling (approx. 155 US dollars), and the lead time is 3 to 4 months from the date of receipt of order. Our retail outlets charge around 750 to 800 pounds sterling, and include Gremlin Music and Hobgoblin Music - selling under the "Ashdown" name; J. Sheils, who sells our "Clareman" model; and West Country Accordions, who sell them as "A.C. Norman & Co.". Other retail orders are due at "Diatonic" in Germany and Homewood Music in the USA.

At the moment there are three of us working here and I hope to increase production. It would be nice to have our concertinas readily available, at a reasonable price, from many shops and dealers. Incidentally, there are some differences between models supplied to different dealers.

We also offer a full spares, repairs and restoration service for most free-reed instruments specialising in concertinas, for both trade and private customers. We probably make and repair more instruments than anyone else in the UK."

Bob Tedrow, of Homewood Musical Instrumets in Alabama USA wrote in (Nov. 1999) to let me know that he is now the exclusive dealer for Norman concertinas in the US. Andrew Norman will refer inquiries from the US to Bob. The price in the US is $1675.

A.C. Norman & Co.
"Old Stables", Nursery Lane, Nutley, Uckfield
Sussex TN22 3NR
Tel. +44 (0)1825 713551
andrew@acnorman.co.uk
http://www.acnorman.co.uk

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