Learning to play the Anglo
...with later additions for all systems
Books, Tapes, Courses & Teachers
Table of contents:
- Book and Tape Tutors
- Anglo system
- English system
- All Systems
features full texts of instruction books for English,
Anglo, and several flavours of Duet concertinas (Maccann
Duet, Crane Duet, Wheatstone Double Duet, and Wheatstone
- Tune books
Book and Tape Tutors
You happen to have an anglo concertina master nearby? Good for you! If not,
you could try some of these books/tape/CD tutors. Many
are available from The Button Box.
You could probably get them elsewhere too, but if you're going to buy a
concertina, you might as well give your support to one of the few shops
in North America to support your instrument.
Also, be sure to check out the anglo concertina course and instructor info
Salvation Army Tutor for the English Concertina (click here to download the PDF)
Alex Cadogan provided this document, with permission from The Salvation Army:
Hi Paul, as per the discussion board I have been able to persuade The
Salvation Army to allow us to post a pdf file of all their Tutors for the
concertina (EC,Anglo & Triumph). In an effort to get this done asap I have
very, very quickly just scanned through my copy of the EC Tutor and made a
PDF file of it so that it can be made available straightaway. Unfortunately my scanner is pretty low quality - so please forgive the quality of the file
- I am hoping that I can make a much higher definition file very soon. But this should keep us going pro temp.
The Salvation Army is keen to see that the tutors should be made freely available for public download. So thank you for agreeing to put these
documents onto the teaching/learning section of the site. Please note that as soon as I can I will make available the files for the Anglo tutor and the Triumph (Duet) tutor as well as, hopefully, an improved version of the English tutor.
I am delighted that I have been able to be involved in making this material much more widely known and available. My hope, and prayer, is that the music within these tutors will be played again. I would also ask any concertina
players who do download these files, not to forget their local Salvation Army centres who, around the globe, are doing a very fine job of sharing the
gospel and undertaking works of compassion with the most poor and marginalised people in every society.
Thanks again & God Bless!
Captain Dr. Alex Cadogan
CO Chesterfield Corps - UK
The Salvation Army
Frank Edgley’s How to play the Anglo Concertina
This is the latest in concertina “HOW TO” videos. Frank Edgley’s How to play the Anglo Concertina is a full length DVD showing topics from “How to hold the concertina” all the way to “Playing with embellishments and chords.” The eighteen chapters are individually accessed by your TV remote control. Three cameras were used in the making of this video with close-ups of each hand, and comes with a 17 page booklet of fingering charts and music. Contact Frank at email@example.com or call 519-948-9149 for prices and shipping details.
Tutor for the Jackie and Jack english concertina / Tutor for the Rochelle anglo concertina
by Wim Wakker, © 2004 Concertina Connection Music Publications
As a professional musician/educator, Wim Wakker has been on the faculty of several music educational institutes in the USA, Belgium and the Netherlands, and holds (post) Graduate degrees from several schools in these countries.
One of his tasks during his 20+ year career in music education was the development of educational programs and materials, including the concertina curriculum for the Dutch Music Educationals Systyem, and the Concertina Bachelors program at the Fontys University.
The `Tutor for the Jackie and Jack english concertina` is written for beginning players with different musical back grounds. It offers several different ´educational layers´ varying in speed from slow to fast, depending on the students ability.
The tutor can be used with any english concertina model. It has been the standard tutor for the english concertina at European music schools and has also proven to be very successful with self study situations. It is available is different languages and is sold world wide.
The `Tutor for the Rochelle anglo concertina` is written for beginning players with different musical back grounds. It offers several different ´educational layers´ varying in speed from slow to fast, depending on the students ability.
The tutor introduces the student to different playing styles on the anglo concertina, varying from single line melodies as found in Irish music, to chord and simple polyphonic playing as found in other folk music styles.
The Tutor can be used with any 30 key anglo concertina. It is available in English and is sold world wide.
Concertina Tutors from Concertina Academy.(Pauline de Snoo)
Pauline says "Volume one of the English Concertina Course has been written during my BMus studies on Concertina at Fontys University and begins at a level for absolute beginners with the aim to make progress smooth and easy. Attention is given to learning to read notes, rhythms and musical terms, playing by ear, playing chords, improvising and the use of bellows, for which exercises are given. Now two CDs are included. CD 2 in fact is Volume two of the course. Both CDs can be used as play-along CD on audio equipment. They also contain several video clips and mp3 files playable on pc and lots of pdf files with advanced exercises for use after and some while working through the book.
Familiar tunes are used to begin with. Also included is a technical appendix by Dave Elliott. The book leads to the level of a Grade One exam. And the extra material on CD 2 prepares for the higher levels. Additional tunes with piano accompaniment and play-along CD are also available in Play-along Volume One. More information on www.concertina-academy.com and in this forum thread http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=2056."
Anglo Concertina Demystified, by Bertram Levy. Comes with 2 cassettes.
I bought this book at the same time I ordered my concertina, and I'm glad
I did. In my opinion, it's a worthwhile tutor. Levy starts with the absolute basics
and teaches proper fingering (from his standpoint -- I should point out that not
all players/teachers agree and I now use different fingering often), accompaniment
and air-valve techniques. I decided not to just plunge in and play by ear with
the concertina as I had done with most other instrument I've played over the years,
as I wanted to "learn it right" and be able to read music better than I could
with other instruments (not well!), so I spend around an hour a day for over six
months going through every tune and every lesson in this book. The tapes really
help, as Levy explains the lessons and plays songs and passages slowly. This is
a real help when attempting accompaniment, which can be a tricky affair on the
concertina, but well worth it. When you're playing a melody with one hand and
full chord accompaniment on the other, you end up with a varied and rich sound
which can be much more pleasing if you don't play with other musicians. The selections
in the book are varied, but most are nice "traditional" tunes, including some
Irish tunes. Keep in mind that Levy's playing and fingering styles will not necessarily
be shared by all Irish players or teachers, but I still think that Levy's tutor
is valuable and worthwhile. Just because the Irish style is popular now doesn't
mean it's the only style you can play on an anglo concertina! If you want to hear
an example from this book, head on over to Bob
Tedrow's web site where there is a sound clip of Bob playing "The New Rigged
Ship" which he learned from this tutor. I can play this tune too, but not nearly
as well as Bob!
(June 1999) Tom Scott sent along this description of a concert by Bertram Levy :
"I thought I'd give you a brief description of the concert by Bertram Levy, onboard the lumber schooner Wawona, as part of Northwest Seaport's Summer Concert Series, here in Seattle.
Bertram was second up in a playbill of two groups, and was well worth waiting for. He brought along his "family" of concertinas, two custom made Dippers, a Stagi, and a beautifully restored Jeffries which, he said, he originally bought for $15.
His selection of tunes was a collection of both nautical and historical influences as he took us on a journey along the path of how music came to the U.S. from the "Old World". Most of his tunes were English, with a smattering of Irish, Scots, and other influences. He also played a few original works of his own.
It was both a pleasure and an education to hear Bertram play. He has a style quite unlike what I've come to recognize as the Irish style. Walking baselines and rythmic accompianments were just a few of the elements that demonstrated his abilities as master of his instrument, and his complete musicianship.
Bob Tedrow, of Homewood Musical Instruments, and I had chance to sit down with him over dinner before his performance. He talked about musical styles, the virtues of various instruments, and the value of becoming a "well rounded musician". He described how the focus of his study has lately been the bandoneon, and the music inspired by that rather intimidating instrument. He said that he's learned much about how to, and how not to, play the concertina, through his study of the bandoneon. He also told us how to correctly pronounce bandon~on. Sort of BandunÑYON.
On of the more memorable moments during dinner was his demonstration of the value of using a pocket metronome to practice with. He says he never practices without it now, and I can easily see why. I'm going to get one myself soon.
Anyway, that was the best part of last weekend. I thought you'd enjoy hearing about it.
Handbook for English Concertina,
by Roger Watson.
Jill M Donan (firstname.lastname@example.org) sent in this short book review:
"I bought the book "Handbook for English Concertina" by Roger Watson. It is a very very basic book, it gives a few chords, the fingering chart for the standard 48 key, and a few songs. It is a very , very basic book. If you have no idea how to read music, it could be helpful. If you can read music, spend your money elsewhere."
Absolute Beginner's Concertina: A new guide to playing the twenty key Anglo concertina,
by Mick Bramich. 2000, published by Posset Press, England, 24 pages.
Review by Ken Coles
Available in North America from Homewood Musical, or direct from the publisher.
If you have worked through one of the other tutors reviewed here, you are probably already beyond the scope of Absolute Beginner's Concertina: A new guide to playing the twenty key Anglo concertina, by Mick Bramich. (Yes, that's a metal-ended twenty-key Lachenal on the cover.) But if you have a friend who wants to experiment with concertina or you are completely new to both musical notation and concertina, this book may be useful.
Bramich starts with a description of the instrument and the makes available (mostly old Lachenals and new Italian instruments in the case of 20 key boxes.) The scales of C major and G major are given along the rows. Then some simple tunes are introduced using a tablature system similar to the one Bramich uses in The Irish Concertina. The book continues with brief discussion of extending the scales, playing chords, related minor keys, care of the instrument, and writing tablature from notated music. A selection of over a dozen varied tunes (given in tab, not notation) is included. There is little mention of playing across the rows, which may make sense given the scope of the book. Page 9, on Figures 4 and 5, appears to have the notes for several buttons misidentified. One of these (highest F# on right-hand G row) is explicitly covered in the text. This is on draw on every box I've used but given as press by Bramich; perhaps he is working from a concertina (Lachenal?) with unusual/altered fingering? I had thought the C and G row layouts were more or less standardized; I hope this is clarified in future printings.
If you are a classically-trained musician, you may want to start concertina with one of the other books that uses conventional notation and covers a lot of ground. If, on the other hand, you're new to music or you already play whistle or fiddle mostly by ear, this book gives you just enough to start finding your own way on Anglo concertina. It is also handy to lend to that curious friend along with your old twenty-button Stagi. They will either give it all up or graduate rapidly to more buttons, as have many of the rest of us. A twenty-button box can be a realistic way to start (as I have editorialized elsewhere on concertina.net).
Irish Concertina: A Tutor for the Anglo Concertina in the Irish Style,
by Mick Bramich. 80 pages including 56 tunes, bibliography and a chord chart.
$20.00, Companion cassette: $9.00
Once I had finished the Levy book, I felt I was ready for more Irish
tunes. This book was a great next step, as it jumped right into "real"
Irish session tunes. While it's billed as a tutor, it's really nothing
to write home about in this department compared to the Levy book/tapes.
The tape (optional, but well worth the $9.00) is just Bramich playing
through the songs (no explanations, no "slow tunes"). He's an extremely
fine player, but if this were your first concertina book, it probably
wouldn't give you the same technical grounding that the Levy book would.
The explanations aren't very detailed, and there aren't many traditional
excercises, but there are LOTS of great tunes, and the alternate fingerings
he lists really help out when you're trying to play in some of the more
difficult keys. I'm still working on mastering many of the songs in this
Learn to Play Irish Concertina
A video Tutor by John
Published by Homespun Tapes
A number of people have contacted me recently to say that as beginners, they found this tape very helpful:
Chris Stevens (email@example.com) reports:
"I got the John Williams "Learn to Play Irish Concertina" Video. GET IT! I'm absolutely crazy about this guy's playing, especially after watching the video. If nothing else, buy it for the tunes he plays coming into and leaving the video on his Dipper (to me, the best sounding concertina I've ever heard) - he's just incredible. His sense of timing and rhythm is incredible, and his playing is full of great ornamentation. Everything he plays seems to come to life and is actually great to listen to, instead of just "interesting". He teaches part of it on an ugly Scholer 20 button, but don't let that scare you away; it's only for 8 minutes out of 65 and the rest is on a Jeffries. He teaches five tunes, note for note; O'ro, Jimmy Ward's Jig, The Kesh Jig, Bobby Casey's Jig, and Last Night's fun. It is generally directed towards beginner players, but it's great just watching him play. It comes with a booklet with the sheet music for the tunes that are taught, and it is well worth the $29."
The Concise English Concertina Tutor
By Dick Miles
Price: 17euro + p&p
"[...] Your members might also be interested in a concertina C.D. which is available from me at the same address, price 17 euro +p&p. It is called 'Boxing Clever', and features myself, Dick Miles,John Kirkpatrick, Tim Laycock and Harry Scurfield, on English, Anglo and Duet concertinas."
Essential Irish Session Tunes, edited by Dave Mallinson. "A collection
of widely-known and commonly-played reels and jigs, with chords" $16.00.
I was devouring the tunes in The Bramich book and I wanted "just the
facts". This book, from the publishers of the Bramich book, contains a
very nice selection of traditional Irish session tunes. Enough to keep
you busy for a long, long time. I've only just started on them. It's a
great reference when you hear a song on a CD or tape and want to find
out how to play it without learning it by ear. I really resisted playing
the concertina by ear, just because I can't read music much for the other
instruments I play (keyboards, flutes), and I really wanted to give myself
the opportunity to read sheet music this time. I'm not dissapointed. Besides,
learning to read music doesn't mean you can't play by ear too -- I think
it actually helped me this time.
"Smoke In Your Eyes - A Compilation of
Irish Tunes Played as Seattle Sessions"
From Tom Scott (Thomas.M.Scott@noaa.gov):
"I thought you might be interested in a tune book that's popular
here in the Seattle area. It's called: Smoke In Your Eyes - A
Compilation of Irish Tunes Played as Seattle Sessions Collected
by Caoimhin Gaimh (Kevin Gow), published in the basement of
The Fish House
3616 Burke Avenue
North Seattle, Washington 98103
The book is in its 3rd edition, and now contains some 625 jigs,
hornpipes, reels, etc. All transcribed by Kevin and friends. It's
well worth the $25.00 cover price."
Some sources for music in the UK
Raymond Kefford (firstname.lastname@example.org) was kind enough to provide some information and contacts for obtaining printed and recorded music:
I have some addresses for you that should be useful to the people having trouble finding sources of music in both printed and recorded forms. Even when I'm so close (compared to your distances) to the source of the stuff I want I still tend to use quite a lot of mail order to obtain it because of the convenience.
In recent years there has been a noticeable tendency to publish collections of tunes taken from old handwritten collections of the players of long ago. Many of these people were active before the melodeon was introduced and therefore played violin as the usual lead instrument. These old manuscripts include those by Joshua Jackson, Ellis Knowles, Laurence Leadley and Joseph Kershaw. If you have people interested in finding sources for these then just say so and I will list them for you, but many people with Internet access will already have found them for themselves.
There are also collections that draw on a number of sources. 'Northern Frisk' and 'A Northern Lass' by Jamie Knowles, 'John of the Greeny Cheshire Way' by John Offord, etc are by individuals. 'Northern Frisk' is currently out of print but 'A Northern Lass' is in the shops. 'John of the Greeny Cheshire Way' is out of print but the first part of it is now available on the Internet (see 'Richard Robinson's Tunebook' in Leeds).
Others are compiled on behalf of societies and associations such as 'Blodau'r Grug' and 'Cadw Twmpath' from Cymdeithas Ddawns Werin Cymru in Wales and 'Kiaull yn Theay' volumes 1 and 2 from Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh in the Isle of Man. Each of these four books contains lots of traditional tunes that are really enjoyable to play.
By now you may have detected a slight Celtic bias as the Celts do seem to have a lot of the best tunes, don't they? Seriously though, I haven't included Scotland or Brittany as I don't know enough about them (but I'm always keen to learn), the South-West of England as I don't have much material from there, or the Spanish Celtiberians as I have nothing at all of theirs.
For most English and Irish folk music (and 'The Anglo Concertina Demystified' by Bertram Levy) I go to:
The Music Room
35 Bradford Road
'Kiaull yn Theay' volumes 1 and 2 came from:
Eiraght Ashoonagh Vannin
which, to most of us, is:
Thie Tashtee Vannin
Manx National Heritage
The Manx Museum
Isle of Man
and I got 'Blodau'r Grug' and 'Cadw Twmpath' from:
146 Stryd Fawr
There are plenty of Irish and other tune books out there, and most of them
would probably work just fine for the concertina. You can play just about
any type of music with the anglo. I've heard of people playing everything
from classical, to pop, to tango. If you're experienced with another type
of music playing on the anglo, let
me know and I'll add the info here.
Courses and Teachers
Hill Irish Concertina School (NHICS)
Visit the Noel Hill web site: www.noelhill.com
I attended this course for the first time in Sept. 1998. It was
just superb. Read my full report here: Noel Hill
Irish Concertina School 1998 Report. Feel free to write
to me if you have any queestions or concerns, but trust me -- it's not
to be missed! This is a very
good and intensive five-day course taught by the one-and-only Noel Hill. The price is also very reasonable!
Check out the music page for more info about Noel
Hill and to hear sound clips of his playing. Open and useful for students
of all levels. For more informationor to register, check out the official
NHICS web page.
Pete Gibbons (email@example.com)
attended the NHICS as a beginner in Sept. 1995, and had this to say about
it [edited by Paul]:
"The beginner course was excellent, Paul, as were the social aspects
of the program. Noel worked his butt off, alternating his time between
the advanced and the beginners... giving each group time to practice the
lessons between sessions. He is extremely tactful and personable, and
he provided excellent individual attention that was observed by others
in the group. He was with us for breakfast, lunch and supper, and joined
us in the evenings for informal discussion and more pleasant playing.
It was worth it.
My talent was minimal... I could play a few tunes by ear, but none of
them were fast or Irish. I could barely read notes except by running the
alphabet through my mind each time I had to read something, and I had
only a vague idea of where those notes were located on my concertina.
For me, it was an extremely intensive, stressful, and sometimes humiliating
experience, but I'm glad I did it. I learned many techniques and was forced
into learning the mechanics of music.
You need a thirty button C/G box. If you buy, get good advice and select
a good instrument. Learn, if you haven't already, the names of the notes
on the staff and the location of each note on the concertina. He emphasizes
playing "across the rows" which means that you have to know the duplicate
notes on the box.
I went in September and it was quite cold. Bucksteep Manor was warm
enough, but I chose to bring a camper-trailer with me That was a mistake.
I should have stayed in the main lodge, not just for the warmth, but for
the convenience and the social benefits. Bring some warm clothing, even
thermal long johns.
The students at both levels were a mix of salt-of-the-earth homeys,
to very well educated accomplished musicians. Some worked in bands, some
played basic music for nursing-home sing-alongs, some were professional
singers but most were ordinary people with no professional involvement.
All ages between 25 and 71 were represented.
Don't neglect to bring a good tape recorder and extra batteries. Noel
encourages taping everything and it's all worth taping. If you have one
of those collapsible music stands, that will come in handy also, because
the room is informal.... couches, easy chairs, and not enough places to
put your music. You can toss a folding chair into the trunk of your car
if you are driving in.
Bring a camera and extra film. There is no convenient shopping nearby."
also attended the NHICS as a beginner and had this to say [edited by Paul]:
"I wholeheartedly recommend Noel's course! When I came as a beginner,
I really was a RANK beginner. And - as far as Noel was concerned - I was
in a class by myself. Proportionately I think I got as much time as the
more advanced players, and at least as much concentration on me as the
beginning student as the others got at their level. And the other students
were VERY supportive and helpful to me as well.
I am in awe of Noel's talent! Aside from playing extremely well, he
is a superb teacher. His material selection for each level addresses the
next progressive step, is well thought out.
Depending on HOW you are playing, you may have to do some UNlearning
under Noel. Roughly: I used to play along the rows, and I had to get used
to playing - disregarding the rows - closest to the center (tops of the
rows). It was minor unlearning for me, but if you are set in another way,
it may require special effort.
By all means bring a tape recorder with you, it proved to be THE tool
to at least SOME success in duplicating what Noel had shown me."
Ross Schlabach (a more advanced
player) is a regular at the course and had this to say about it and the
Northeast Squeeze-in (weekend following the NHICS at the same manor):
"I'm one of his regulars having attended for the last two years. As
to the Squeeze-in (I've been for the last three years), it is an experience
not to be missed. There are few anglo players that regularly attend but
several of Noel's students stay over at least through Saturday. I have
seen a wonderful assortment of anglos at the squeeze-in but few were for
sale. I've played Marjorie Tyndall's little Clare model Dipper and a metal-ended
Wheatstone Linota (both were to die for) and several people bring duets
and are quite talented on them. But even without a lot of anglos, the
weekend caps off a fabulous week. Noel's class is outstanding and he is
a great and very hard working teacher. Each day he spends 5 or more hours
instructing -- right up through Friday evening when the squeeze-in is
commencing. You will get two new tunes a day to work on and you need to
keep your recorder at the ready because you will never know when he will
let fly with some new and interesting tune you have never heard before."
attended NHICS as a beginner, and had some interesting points to make, especially
with regards to choice of instrument:
"I spotted NHICS in Sing Out! and contacted Toby Koosman. She
said a beginner could do fine with a 20-button C/G anglo, at least initially,
which is a pretty honest answer. You'll want a 30-button eventually (as
I do) but don't let having only a 20 stop you from coming. As all the
other comments I've read attest, this is a marvelous opportunity to learn
and grow musically. While you don't have the other distractions and amusements
of a festival (a la Augusta or Gaelic Roots) you also get more done and
Noel works, and keeps you working, very hard. He has the freedom to structure
the classes around whoever shows up (as Toby puts it) and this makes it
one of the best of the rare opportunities for beginners from parts of
the country like mine, where there are no players or teachers. So in September
of 1997 I went for the first time.
Noel was very positive and skilled in teaching me, and to his credit
never attributed my performance or lack thereof to my equipment (this
is true of most music teachers I've had). He even borrowed my Stagi one
day to show everyone how fast it could be played, and then said he started
on an instrument like it and wore it out in two years! His only other
comment was that I should think about getting a 30-button instrument some
day, and I do aspire to that.
Since NHICS I've mostly practiced on my own, as there are very few Irish
musicians here in north-central Indiana and no jam sessions at all...a
drawback of my location. Don't be afraid to sit in (quietly) on jams if
you are lucky enough to have them near where you live.
My advice to potential beginners is start small if you need too; you
can learn a lot even on a modest instrument, even if you have to use it
for more than a few months. Students of more common instruments do it
this way and many of them succeed if they really want to (piano, guitar,
and so on)."
More excellent advice from Ken after his
2nd year at NHICS:
"I found my second year at NHICS as beneficial as the first. Afterward
I finally moved up to a 30-button instrument and now I am learning fast.
I also have the benefit of doing Bramich and the other books Paul describes
at the top of this page *after* mastering Noel's fingering systems, and
that is almost worth the wait - I agree with Paul there.
Two caveats, if you attend as a complete beginner. First, after watching
other beginners, I recommend that even if you plan to learn tunes by ear
(the traditional way), you should learn the concepts of the musical scale,
note names, and their location on your instrument *before* coming. Otherwise
Noel will spend half a week teaching them to you. Get this stuff from
a local guitar or piano teacher before you come and use your time at NHICS
for concertina. Second, you may not get into the advanced group of students
on your second year (I didn't). Paul suggests in his detailed report that
you could do this, but not everyone "graduates" this soon. Remember, Paul
came to NHICS knowing how to play a lot more than a beginner. As long
as I learn, I don't care which class I'm in, and you shouldn't either."
By Tom Scott (Thomas.M.Scott@noaa.gov):
Well, I'm back; with my work cut out for me, in more ways than one. The camp
was a great success in general, and for me personally as well. The time,
attention, and quality of Noel's instruction far exceeded my expectations. I
found Noel to be a rare combination of a true virtuoso, with the ability and
desire to teach, with a thoughtful and engaging personality as well!
Noel taught two groups, two lessons a day; giving each student individual
attention every day, occasionally even hunting them down to their practice areas
to hear their progress between classes. Each lesson included a new tune, with a
new technique, fingering, or ornament taught (I was in the new students group),
and Noel thoughtfully playing the tune slowly, and at tempo; with ornaments, and
without, for everyone to record.
There was more material presented than it was possible to keep up with, but as
Noel put it,
"The winters are long, and it will be some time before I see you again."
Pete Gibbons house and estate were a delightful setting for the camp, and Pete
worked his tail off to make it a success. Next year there'll be a duty roster,
so that Pete can get some practice time in!"
From Ross Schlabach (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"We ended up with 21 people at Pete Gibbons' house in Putnam Valley. The site
was very nice and Pete was a very gracious host. We had a special room
downstairs for the classes (Noel broke the group into two distinct groups) Upstairs, another room was set up for meals that were catered in. There was plenty to eat. Pete had a Florida room as
sleeping accommodations for the boys (4 of them) and there was a cottage up
the hill for the girls to use. The house also featured a pool that was
welcome considering the temperature and humidity. Several of us stayed in
hotels, and the Bear Mountain Inn was very comfortable and quiet -- if
somewhat dated and plain. The excitement was the fact that when we arrived,
the local area was gripped by the drought and there were two forest fires in
close proximity to the hotel. Part of the fire was on property owned by the
US Military Academy at West Point. When the firemen came out to fight the
fire, unexploded munitions made up for lost time. The decision was hastily
made to let it burn!!
Noel did his usual excellent job and worked quite hard giving us more than
our monies-worth. He did a wonderful concert Wednesday evening for the class
and some of Pete's neighbors. All this despite coming down with a cold! I
think everyone was pleased with the week, and plans were confirmed to do it
again at Pete's the same week next year."
Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp
"The Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp takes place every March on San Juan Island, north of Seattle. The dates for this year's camp are March 8-13, 2010. This year's concertina instructor is the very talented Florence Fahy, from near Belharbour in north County Clare, an area with an unusually rich concertina tradition. Florence is an excellent teacher and in the words of Fintan Vallely, she's among those gifted young players who are helping to sustain the older dialects of Clare music. For more information see the camp website at: http://www.fridayharborirish.com"
Gearoid O hAllmhurain
Gearoid teaches various workshops around the world throughout the year.
He now lives near St. Louis, so if you live nearby, you're in luck! He also sometimes
teaches week-long summer workshops, for example at the Catskills (New York) Irish
Arts Week. Gearoid is considered one of the top anglo players, and
I'm sure he's an excellent teacher -- I wouldn't miss a course of his.
If you have any experiences to share, let me know and I'll add the info
here. For a schedule and more info, check out the Celtic
Crossings web site. Check out my music page
for more info about Gearoid O hAllmhurain and to hear sound clips of his
Here is a report from the earliest days of Concertina.net on a concert by Gearoid O hAllmhurain.
I don't know first-hand about his teaching, but he does come highly recommended.
I also met Paul for the first time in July 1998 and he was clearly extremely
knowledgeable both about the anglo and about Irish music, and a very nice
guy on top of it all. Next time I'm in the Boston area I'm definitely
going to stop by for some lessons. He's been a musician all his life and
he's been playing concertina since 1985. Paul is clearly a fantastic anglo
player in the Irish style (check out his sound clip on the Music
page). I wouldn't hesistate to give him a call if you're looking to buy
or restore/repair an anglo or for lessons.
10 Norumbega Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Web site: www.groffsmusic.com
Home Phone (not after 9:00 PM please): (617) 497-0841
Shop Phone (call for directions and an appointment): (617) 499-9928
Willie Clancy Summer School
I don't know much about this school apart from what I read on their web
page, so I'll send you there for
more information, but it clearly looks worthwhile with some top names
Jason O'Rourke, a very
fine anglo player, had this to say about the Willie Clancy Summer School:
"I was in John MacMahon's class for two sessions, back in 1989 I think.
The class was invaluable; being self-taught I had got a few (million)
bad habits, (some of which I'm still trying to lose ;-). John showed me
how to do things more easily, and also some very useful stuff on ornamentation.
I would recommend it highly. As well as this, being in a place where there
is so much music, and plenty of concertinas is worth experiencing. You
will come back playing tunes you didn't know you knew; they soak in by
Roving CONCERTINA.net correspondent emeritus Ken Coles sent a most excellent and also entertaining report from Manchester, England about his trip to Ireland and Willie Clancy Week. [July, 1999]
I attended Willie Clancy week for the first time in 1999. It was a trip of opportunity, as I was going to be in the British isles anyway. Owing to an orthopedic injury I was not able to take concertina. Instead I took a superb class on the Scope of Irish Music, taught by fiddler Paddy Glackin and song historian Cathil Goan. Not only did it give me a much better context of history and regional styles (useful to me as a radio producer), but we got private recitals and visits with the likes of Paddy Canny (fiddle), Peter Browne (pipes), Mairead Ni Dhomnaill (singer), Bobby Casey (fiddle), and of course, Noel Hill (anglo concertina). Noel made me an instant celebrity by telling everyone I have a flimsy box of the sort he played at age eight -- evidently this is what he finds most memorable about me!
Classes meet 10 AM to 1 PM for six days. The afternoons see lectures on various topics, and the evenings have outstanding recitals. Both the recitals and the final concert do suffer a little from having such a huge lineup that each act (people like Paddy Keenan, Joe Burke, Martin Hayes, etc.) get hooked off the stage after five minutes. See the details on Bill Lynch's website devoted to Clancy school. One concert was devoted to concertina, hosted by Noel. The range of performers and styles was amazing. Noel brought the house down at the end by playing three Padraic O'Keefe slides, the air Lament for Limerick, and a set of reels that ended with a Bucks of Oranmore even more dynamic than the recorded version.
The classes vary in size. There were over 200 fiddle students by one estimate, and 90 pipers. I didn't get an exact count of concertinas, but Noel said there were 15 students in his class, 13 of whom were female (concertina playing is a strong tradition among women in County Clare). There were six concertina classes total, so you can do your own math. Someone in Martin Hayes' fiddle class told me it had 31 students. The piping classes were rather small.
How much should you know before going? The official materials say "Not suitable for beginners." But a lot of Irish kids were there, some quite young. If you have been playing for a year and know where all the notes are on your instrument with easy facility, you're good enough. You do need one more thing, and that is not being too nervous or knotted up about playing in front of two auditions to be placed in a class and then several times in front of your teacher and classmates. That might take some of you new to music a while to be comfortable with -- it's your call. You should be able to relax to get the most out of an intensive music school.
The folks I spoke to feel Clancy school is one of the strongest of the scores of schools in Ireland. You can see many of the same performers and study with some of the teachers in North America, but in County Clare Ireland you get a strong sense of the context of the music and it's proper setting and style.
I was on foot... If you come by the spotty public transport, spend the night before you travel to Milltown Malbay in Galway or Ennis. Then you will have only one bus ride, and will be ready early enough to catch it. The area is poorly served by public transit. I hired a bike to get around the school itself and this worked pretty well. My B and B hosts were fantastic and had lots of hints on where to find the music (they are fourth-generation residents of the area). I hope to return in a future year with healed hands and a concertina.
This series of week-long workshops held in July and August near Ashville,
North Carolina, USA every year looks like a great place to pick up some
first-class anglo instruction. Check out their web
site (finally a site with quite a few details!).
Leslie Owens brought this
event to my attention and had this to say (April 20, 1998): "I am just
signing up for a week long class that Gearoid O'hAllmhurain teaches yearly.
The Swannanoa Gathering is held every year in July here in the mountains
outside of Asheville, NC - (God Kissed the Earth and Called it Asheville!
) There are 6 full weeks devoted to different types of folk music and
the Celtic week is very impressive. The 7 days of workshops and classes
cost $300 - that includes up to 4 classes a day and there are jams, concerts,
dances and song swaps at night. They have all types and levels of instruments
classes, song workshops, folklore and dance classes and this year Paddy
O'Brien is teaching button accordion, as well as O'hAllmhurain's Anglo
And now a post-workshop report from Leslie (July 1998): "Celtic Week
at The Swannanoa Gathering - July 6-10
This 5-day workshop really is all about Celtic music in context - and
very much about the tradition of the music. I signed up largely for Gearoid
O'hAllmhurain's anglo concertina class, but since I had heard so much
about the connection between dance and Celtic tunes, I also took Irish
step dancing which was very helpful in distinguishing jig rhythms from
reel rhythms (there was also a Céilí class). There were
also many opportunities to play with other Celtic instruments, which,
being a raw beginner, I didn't take - well, next year - and many concerts
and slow jams. And, there was a big contra dance with music provided by
groups of instructors. Check out the Swannanoa site (http://www.warren-wilson.edu/~gathering)
for the full curriculum and list of events - it was very broad.
The anglo class was small - myself and 4 others who were also beginners
on the instrument (I understand that last year the mix was more varied.)
with a variety of instruments - my Stagi, two Lachenals, a Jones, a very
expensive Jeffries and and Gearoid's two heirloom Jeffries - so I got
a good idea of the differences in sounds and flexibilities. Gearoid O'hAllmhurain
(pronouced Ga-roadT o-HALL-ver-run, from my mushy recollection. I could
stand corrections) insisted that the way to learn was from the "oral tradition"
- he played a tune and we recorded it and then we learned it by ear. Doing
without sheet music didn't sit well with one of the students who dropped
out, and I was skeptical, but I actually learned the tunes really quickly
this way and got a lot better feeling for the structure of the music.
I feel like I have greater access now to new tunes from dance bands or
The classes were also very interesting since Gearoid accompanied the
tunes with lots of stories about the musicians who wrote and played the
tunes, his home and family in County Clare, Irish musical traditions and
where the concertina fits into all this. As I said, the context of the
music was emphasized in all the classes and events. He was very patient
and encouraging - good for beginners - but he went at a good pace. Interestingly,
he thought that Levy's book was "ambitious" and I noticed that his tunes
generally used chords very sparingly, as ornamentation only, along with
cuts, crans and other flourishes. He never said anything negative about
anyone in concertina circles, though I could tell he had strongly held
opinions, but he did have specific suggestions for instrument tuning,
sources for Celtic music and who to buy a new instrument from. I won't
quote him here - I don't want to presume to advertise his comments for
him on the Internet - but if anyone has any questions or wants to hear
more about my impressions, please email me (email@example.com)."
Concertinas at Witney
Concertina courses in the UK, given by some well-known names in the concertina
world. According to their site, "a two-day music course for players of
English, Anglo and Duet concertinas [...] The course is not suitable for
beginners." They already have a good
site with plenty of details, so check it out!
Gaelic Roots: A Music, Song and Dance Summer School and
Presented by the Irish Studies program of Boston College (Mass, USA), this was a superb opportunity to learn and listen to Irish music, including the anglo
concertina. Check out their web site
for more details. Regrettably, this school was suspended after the 2003 session.
Irish Arts Week
I don't want to push one course or teacher over another, but Jan
Crumpley brought up some valid points regarding the different focus
and intensity of instruction some of these festivals may have:
If one were interested in a variety of instrumental classes and/or dancing
- then Asheville [Swannanoa] would be great, but if it was ALL DAY instruction
on one instrument with your Master and have the evenings for a session,
a concert, then another session, well, one would have to attend Irish
Arts Week for only $175 for the week vs. the $300 at Swannanoa. Lodging
costs appear to be about the same.
Or what the heck, do both, I may next year. Get a good tape recorder
and LOTS of batteries and tapes.
The following comments on Irish Arts week are by Alan Caffrey, Jul 26, 2003:
I just got back from this event, had a great time! Situated at East Durham NY - I'm told this was a vacation place for New York's Irish community from 1920 on when the cost of a return trip to Ireland was beyond the purse of most - a somewhat rundown and forgotten town that boasts 8-9 pub/hotels. Annually a host of well known Irish musicians gather here to teach and play, coming from New York, Boston, Ireland and other - this is a big event. Concertina was taught by Jacqueline McCarthy this year - Father Charlie Coen had been forced to cancel due to health problems, so class was somewhat crowded with 11-14 students on various days. The lessons were very informal and teaching was by ear with an opportunity to tape all the tunes - I hadn't done this before so I struggled but still felt I got a lot from it including the realization by the end of the week that I could learn by ear! Students in other classes said it was the same for their instruments, so they really want you to develop the traditional learning of the music here. There were classes for the kids too, very impressive - they get to go on stage as well and play in sessions.
The classes are only a tiny part of this experience: after classes the sessions start, usually in a pub, 'slow sessions', 'intermediate sessions', and regular sessions; also invitation only sessions where you get to see the the famous do their stuff. Plus! every evening a concert with various parings and groups for about 90 minutes. Plus the ceili dance every night and the unannounced sessions that went on til four in the morning! At one late night event an anglo (i don't know the name of the lady who was playing but bravo) held in there with two uillean pipes! Great stuff - too much going on to see everything and music 18 hours a day! Another bonus is that the pubs were almost cigarette free and really not too 'boozy'. At the end the big lesson for me was: it is not about the concertina or how much flash you can play with; it's about the session and 'community' if you will.
PS thanks to Xcott Craver for the excellent company (and jokes!) hope to see you next year. PPS. A list of just some of the musical company there: Felix Dolan, Brian MacNamara, Kieran O'Hare, Tommy Keane, Frank Claudy, Paul McGratten, Mike Rafferty, John Skelton, Patrick Ourceau, Tommy Peoples, John Carty, Liz Knowles, Paddy Furlong, Paddy O'Brien, Billy McComisky, Jackie Daly, Pat Egan, Albert Alfonso, Mary Bergin + many more.
Halsway Manor Autumn Break
Organized by Alan Corkett (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Contact Alan for more information or to register. Click
here for details and the registration form, and check out the Halsway Manor web site.
Celtic Roots Festival &
From Warren Robinson (email@example.com):
"For concertina lovers, we have three excellent treats:
1) Gearoid O'hAllmhurain and Patrick Orceau
2) Loretto Reid (also considered by many to be the top tinwhistle and
Irish flute player in the world)
3) Frank Edgley
At the Celtic College Frank Edgley will be teaching concertina and
concertina repair. Gearoid OhAllmhurain is also teaching Irish Gaelic
and if we have enough interest from concertina players, concertina.
Frank is an outstanding player who makes the difficult somehow achievable.
Because I run the college and festival, I was only able to sit in for
about an hour total on Frank's class but I have felt a definite improvement
in my playing as a result."
Anglo concertina player/teacher Jack Gilder (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote in to introduce himself and his new and very snazzy web site for his group Jody's Heaven. Here's what Jack said in his introduction and in response to my query about his teaching:
"My name is Jack Gilder and I live in San Francisco. I'm new to the www and just stumbled onto your site. I play Irish Traditional music on an anglo system Weatstone Linota concertina, and thought you might like to look in on the web site that I recently launched. I play in a couple of bands including one with Seattle fiddler Dale Russ, and Japanese guitar wiz Junji Shirota called Jody's Heaven. You might get a kick out of the sound clips from our CDs. I also play flute, so if you do go there listen to the "Launching of the Boat" set, and the "Coolfadda" set to hear the concertina. I learned to play from Noel Hill back in 86, 87 and 88. He was coming to SF about every 6 months at the time and I was lucky enough to get lessons with him."
"I do give private lessons in my home as well as the classes at Lark in the Morning music camp. If people want to come to Lark Camp it's a great opportunity to spend six days concentrating on concertina. I will teach as much or as little as a person wants to learn, but one has to have a strong will to resist the temptations there. It's a party camp as much as a music camp. My classes usually have 5-7 people in them. I start out the class every day working with the beginners, and then invite everyone to stay and listen if they want to while I work with the advanced players. (Usually just one or two people are advanced) I'll answer questions between classes if you can find me around camp. There are plenty of seisiúns around camp to either listen to or join in on depending on your expertise. Or you can soak up some of the ambiance of the wide range of musical genres from around the world. I can sum up Lark Camp in my favorite anecdote: In 1985 the French musicians had spent the year raising enough money to pay for the airfare and such to bring the French folk group "Lo Jai" to camp. (It was a great year for French music at camp.) The following year one of the musicians, (I think it was hurty-gertie player Pierre Imbert,) came back at his own expense. On the first night of camp a group of us were gathered in a cabin to settle in for some great French music when someone asked Pierre, "Why did you come back to camp yourself?" He replied, "Because this is not a music camp," (Everyone in the room gasped at what seemed like a possible insult to Lark Camp.) He continued, '"...it is a Love Camp"
All the best,
Il y a peu de possibilités en France d'apprendre à jouer du concertina
avec un professeur, et la plupart des concertinistes se débrouillent tout
seuls, ce qui n'est pas forcément négatif, d'ailleurs, car cela
engendre parfois des techniques de jeu très personnelles et intéressantes...
Cependant une aide est en général nécessaire, notamment pour
les personnes désirant aborder l'instrument sans avoir eu d'autre formation
à la musique auparavant. Ayant moi-même longtemps cherché
à suivre des cours en France, pour me tourner en fin de compte vers la
patrie du concertina, l'Angleterre, et ses nombreux stages, j'ai eu envie de faire
profiter de futurs concertinistes de mon expérience: je joue du concertina
depuis environ dix ans, ayant débuté à l'anglo (diatonique),
pour passer ensuite à l'english (chromatique), et finir -- sans doute définitivement
-- au MacCann duet (chromatique).
Je vous propose donc des cours particuliers de concertina (anglo, english
ou duets). Mon enseignement est "personnalisé", c'est à dire qu'il
repose sur l'acquis musical général de l'élève, issu
de la pratique d'un autre instrument et/ou de sa culture personnelle (chansons,
écoute d'enregistrements, etc.), même s'il n'est pas -- techniquement
parlant -- musicien. La connaissance du solfège n'est absolûment
pas nécessaire à l'apprentissage de l'instrument, qui peut se faire
de façon totalement orale (avec l'emploi éventuel de tout type de
matériel d'enregistrement audio pour la mémorisation des morceaux).
Néanmoins une aide visuelle (partitions ou tablatures) peut venir au secours
des élèves qui le désirent (pour ceux qui ne maîtrisent
pas la lecture et l'écriture de notes, une partie du temps peut être
y consacrée, cette étude restant toujours pratique, c'est à
dire strictement limitée au besoin de l'étudiant).
38 rue des Deux Ecoles, 52110 Charmes la Grande, France
Tel.: +33 325055804 or +33 620255710 , and e
Williams is best known as a former member of Solas, but he has also made a name for himself as a solo performer (on concertina and accordion, and now other instruments as well) and recording artist (see the Music page). Here is a note, forwarded by John, regarding the only music camp he'll be involved with for 2002:
"John Williams (formerly of Solas) will be teaching Irish button accordion
and concertina at the First Annual Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp taking
place March 21-24, 2002, on beautiful San Juan Island off the coast of
Washington State. There's a truly great teaching staff coming, and
there'll be nightly concerts, dances and sessions. It promises to be one
of the best camps ever:
John has written again to note that he will teach at Friday Habor again in 2003. In addition
"Also please advise folks I teach privately on an ongoing basis in the Chicagoland area. Contact me to schedule lessons. My instructional video is recommended as a primer before arranging for private instruction."
Visit his web site at www.johnwilliamsmusic.com for more information.
If you know of other good anglo concertina instructors, let me know
and I'll add the info here.