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James McBee

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About James McBee

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    Musically speaking: Irish, Scottish, classical, early acoustic blues, bluegrass, old time, medieval polyphony, soul, etc.
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    Baltimore, MD

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  1. I've been meaning to share for a while, but haven't found the time to take any decent pictures. But, I suppose, a few cell phone snaps will do. Kensington concertina, and the Kensington perched atop a two octave Harry Geuns basse aux pieds (or foot bass, if you prefer) inherited from my late father. I can't say that I am close to being able to play the two together, though I find the latter can be used as a sort of intermittent drone on 'Bonaparte's Retreat' to relatively pleasing effect.
  2. While I certainly agree that trying out the different systems in person would be ideal, in many, if not most places, that was an impossibility even before social distancing was in effect. I would recommend spending some serious hours watching Youtube videos. When I became interested in the concertina, I was a bit hung up on the anglo's apparent limitations. But the more I listened, the more I found that the players I enjoyed the most, all played anglo. I came to this realization initially based on recordings, but it has subsequently been borne out by in person listening. I absolutely agree with the others that you can play just about anything on any system, but the sound likely won't be the same. The english has some real advantages which can't be denied. At the same time, when I moved away from theoretical consideration of the various systems, I kept coming back to the fact that--to my ears anyway--the english system almost always sounds a bit polite compared to the anglo. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that you should make the decision with your ears, and not your head.
  3. Interesting. I had a concertina which used--I believe--the DIX reeds, and it had the opposite problem. The bass and mid-range were fairly convincing, but the treble notes required vastly more air, and were consequently swallowed up when playing chords. It was a deal breaker for me in the long run. As it was explained to me, this was a consequence of their shoe design, rather than the tongues themselves. I preferred it to the sound of accordion reedded instruments, but it didn't quite have the quality that made me fall in love with the concertina in the first place.
  4. Dana raises some interesting issues. I definitely wouldn't advocate making button material a principle factor in a purchasing decision. The difference between buttons is nothing like the difference between a fast instrument with high quality reeds, and a wheezy old Bastari, or the like. It's not even as significant as the difference between two different heights of hand rest. And of course, addressing ones technique will likely pay more dividends than changing button material. But as someone whose hands shake--especially when I'm nervous or on my third cup of coffee--I do believe that little bit of extra purchase has saved me from a flubbed note here and there. That said, I probably didn't fully appreciate the effort that went into turning those bones into buttons. The concertina is in a strange place as instruments go, insomuch as it was designed to be built in factory (albeit perhaps a small one), and now is built exclusively by individual makers (at least in the case of true concertina reeded instruments). Between the range of skills required and the necessary tooling, we are lucky to have as many makers as we do. But that's a subject for another discussion. P.S. Dana - Best to you and yours as well. Wish I could make it down there on the regular again, but life has a way of getting in the way. Still, #35 brings me a lot of joy on a daily basis, so thank you again for that. Cheers.
  5. I had a concertina with Delrin buttons, and I found them to be too slick for my taste. I have essential tremor, and materials with a bit more purchase work better for me. Thankfully, when I ordered my Kensington from Dana Johnson--who usually uses Delrin--he was able to accommodate me by making some bone ones. (Thanks again Dana!) The bone had a lot of grip at first, but has been polished by my fingers over time. It is still nowhere near as slippery as Delrin, and provides a happy medium between purchase and speed. I had the same thought as you when I was playing my old instrument, and wondered whether I was blaming the material for my own faults. But I would echo what others have said. If another material suits you better, there is nothing wrong with that. For a lot of people Delrin is probably ideal. That doesn't mean it is ideal for you.
  6. Here you are folks, as requested. I should add the disclaimer that this was recorded on my phone, so the sound quality leaves something to be desired. Also, the fact of recording tends to unnerve me a bit, so please excuse the odd flub. Still, should give you a general idea of the sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQuXUlt2Zyg&feature=youtu.be
  7. Alright folks. Asking $2,600. Considering an ebay listing, but would rather sell here.
  8. I'm offering my Edgley Heritage CG concertina for sale. This one is Ebony with bloodwood trim, a hand rubbed finish, and a custom fitted case. The buttons are Jeffries layout. Will entertain all reasonable offers. You can read more about these here: http://www.concertinas.ca/heritage.html Please feel free to message me with any questions.
  9. It's not my intention to stir the pot unnecessarily, or to stray into politics, but I wouldn't be too hasty to declare the policy insane. I'm sure it could be better, and that more accommodations could be made, but it wasn't the result of some nefarious plot hatched by thuggish bureaucrats intent on depriving the world of music. This subject pops up regularly on music forums, and it seems there is a great deal of resistance on the part of musicians to admit that they might be part of the problem. I'm not saying that buying a century old concertina with ivory buttons is in any way wrong, but I would be willing to wager that not all of the wood in the thousands or Brazilian rosewood guitars made in the last few decades, came from stumps, or old barns, or wherever the suppliers claimed. Put yourself in the position of the folks at the Fish and Wildlife service. How is one to distinguish between pre-ban ivory, and new ivory being passed off as antique? I'm not saying that these rules were well crafted, but by the same token, there is a very real problem, and most people aren't truly interested in grappling with it. It's not just the nouveau riche of China, or Russian oligarchs. We are consuming the resources of the world at an unsustainable rate. Viewed from a certain angle, the demand for these products is a problem in and of itself. Most people wouldn't dream of buying a piece of ivory that they knew for a fact came from a recently slaughtered elephant, but unscrupulous suppliers and a bit of willful ignorance are all it takes to decimate a species.
  10. My cat was intrigued by the concertina for a month or two, but then she lost interest. On the other hand, if I am listening to a recording of piping, she comes running from wherever she is in the house. If it is a uilleann piper she just sits there staring at the stereo; if it is a highland piper she, uh, 'sings' along.
  11. Sandy Bell's still has music (or at least it did around this time last year). There was even an English concertina player at one of the session I observed. The caliber of the playing was pretty high as I recall, but the bar was so loud and crowded on the nights I was there, that it was a bit difficult to hear unless you could snag a spot near the musicians.
  12. That's an interesting perspective. I really agonized when choosing a system for the very reasons you mention, and seriously considered some manner of duet. But ultimately, it was the sound of the anglo that I fell in love with. It does strike me as a little odd though that the anglo is so often labeled as limited or diatonic (within concertina circles at least) given that it is chromatic melodically speaking. A violin is extremely limited when it comes to chords, and a flute can't play them at all, but both those instruments traverse a wide variety of musical genre. Heck, the anglo has far more chordal and contrapuntal potential than most instruments that can sustain a note. True, it can't do everything that a duet or CBA can, but it seems to me there is an expressive quality to bisonoric instruments which is hard to match through other means. Mike - I certainly didn't mean to imply that there are no concertina players in Baltimore, or that I am some authority on even just the Irish scene. All I meant was that, as someone who attends a fair number of concerts across a range of acoustic genres, it does seem to me that the concertina has considerably less profile in this country than even say, accordion or pipes, much less most stringed instruments. But hey, I could be wrong, and I admit that I haven't heard too much contra dance. But more importantly, I'd like to thank you and Jim for the invitation. What day are we talking about? It's a busy month, but if I'm free, I would definitely be interested in meeting some other players. He's definitely invited, and I can guarantee there will be at least one Jeffries for him to sample! I'm afraid I couldn't do it justice yet...Certainly not in front of other people. I must admit, while the bisonoric thing hasn't posed the problems I feared it would, and in fact has proved a pleasure in a lot of ways, I do still tend to get flustered when playing for even an audience of one, and soon I am pushing on what should be the draw, and vice versa. But still, I thank you for the invitation, and I really hope I can make it, if only to listen, and maybe pick up a few pointers.
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