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James McBee

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Everything posted by James McBee

  1. Have you tried contacting Dana? Even if you are looking to buy used, he might have an idea of someone who is looking to sell.
  2. I encountered two examples in recent weeks, neither particularly flattering to our chosen instrument. First, from Shirley Hazzard's book, "The Transit of Venus." She is describing down on their luck Australian WWI vets: What music they made, and how they sang, that ghastly orchestra in lopped and shiny serge, with unstrung fiddles and wheezing concertinas and the rusted mouth-organ grasped in the remaining and inexpert hand; the voices out of tune with everything but pitched extremity. How cruelly they wracked, for Depression pennies, an unwilling audience with their excruciating songs. And then, last night while reading to my daughter from Jeanne and William Steig's book, "Alpha Betta Chowder," I discovered this inspiring poem: Coaxing Carrotina Come on, Cousin Carrotina Do pick up your concertina! Play again that shrill cadenza, Though it split the old credenza, Though the cat broke out in blisters, Though it mortifies your sisters (If they want their music mellow, Let them learn to play the cello), Though it gave the goose consumption-- That cadenza sure has gumption!
  3. I didn't mean to imply that a half inch difference would greatly, or even perceptibly, effect the tone or playability. I guess I just don't see how it could be a beneficial in itself, unless it is to allow for longer scale reeds. I would think that, all other things being equal, a smaller diameter would be desirable. Perhaps someone with more knowledge would care to opine. And if, indeed, the reeds are scaled differently, that seems like something that could be established.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. Alright folks. Asking $2,600. Considering an ebay listing, but would rather sell here.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. I couldn't tell you exactly how long it takes to build a good mandolin, but as I understand it, it is substantially more than for a good guitar (assuming we're comparing an archtop mandolin to a flattop guitar). Anyway, I'm not sure that you can say that no one is hunting for an 80-year old guitar, given that--as you point out--prices have continued to rise. But I assume you mean that vintage Martins have largely moved into the sphere of wealthy collectors, while most musicians, whether professional or hobbyist, have moved on to at least equally great, and in some cases arguably superior modern instruments. Anyway, I certainly hope you are correct about where the concertina market is headed. Heck, though I take some pleasure in playing an instrument which around these parts at least, is exceedingly rare, I would certainly like to see more people exploring the concertina's considerable potential. Most of the ones you've seen, or most of the ones you've seen sitting unsold? Either way, they're far fewer than Jeffries with 30 or even 38 buttons, but they're also not as much in demand, especially by the Irish, who still seem to be driving the market. And keep in mind that there is basically only one market. Low demand in the US won't lower prices in the US when the Irish and English have access to American sellers through the internet. Even auction houses take internet bids these days. Well, now that you mention it, I would say that in the time I have been perusing listings, I have seen more 45 button Jeffries period...Or at least when you exclude auction listings for instruments in poor or unknown condition. Which could be an indication that the 30-38 button ones are being snapped up before they even make it to the internet. Then again, putting aside Jeffries for a moment, watching the classified section here, and also Ebay, I do wonder about the state of the concertina market, and not just here in the US. But I'll leave that to those of you with more experience to discuss.
  17. That is all relative. There are a lot (and I mean A LOT) concertina players over here and the demand for good concertinas is high. I have no doubt that you're right, though I'm not sure where "over here" is. Presumably Ireland or the UK... I will readily admit that I am speaking from the perspective of someone who lives in the USA. But as someone who is fairly familiar with the local Irish music scene in my mid sized American city, I can honestly say that I have never encountered anyone playing the concertina at a session, and have only twice heard concertinas being played in concerts (both times, by touring Irish musicians). Given the differences in the sizes of the populations we're discussing, I think it's fair to say that the market for concertinas is vastly smaller than that for many other acoustic instruments. Just check out the (very much incomplete) builders list over at mandolin cafe, and compare it the number of people making concertinas. So certainly the supply is a lot smaller, which certainly keeps prices higher. As to the issue of demand, I could be dead wrong. It does seem that a number of Jeffries have sat for a long time without selling, though in fairness, most of the ones I have seen have been 45 button instruments.
  18. I'm a new player, so perhaps I'm not qualified to speak to this, but it does seem that prices are a bit inflated. Which is not to say that a Jeffries isn't necessarily worth what people are asking, but rather that asking prices don't seem to have come down much since the recession, and it seems that many of the Jeffries that have been offered for sale recently, aren't moving at the current prices. Perhaps this is a function of how small the concertina world is. I came to the concertina from the mandolin, and while mandolin players are extremely rare relative to guitarists or even violinists, they are extremely numerous compared to concertina players (especially players of any one system). Thus there are many more mandolins out there, and many more musicians who might find themselves in need of raising some quick cash, even if that means taking a multi K hit on an instrument. Which, of course, depresses the market for everyone. Whereas, it would seem that concertina owners, being so few and far between, are mostly content to wait for either a buyer to come along who is willing to pay whatever it takes, or for the market to rebound. The question is whether the latter will happen. It seems to me that it would take either a major upswing of the Irish economy, or an increase in the popularity of the instrument worldwide. Neither of which is out of the question, so it's hard to fault folks for holding onto a precious instrument, and refusing to take a loss.
  19. Pretty much half the concertina greats in the Irish tradition...all at once. If you haven't seen it, check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU-Zk6NjfNs
  20. Thanks all for the informative responses. That's what I was afraid of. I would add, that I wasn't thinking about a Lachenal, which I agree, almost certainly wouldn't be worth the effort. But I've seen a few 26 button Jeffries come and go, in a price range that I should be able to reach in a few months. The price of the 30 buttons, I wouldn't be able to justify to myself, even if I did manage to scrape together the cash. My thought was that I could buy a 26 button, and if I found that I couldn't live without the extra accidentals, have a professional make some modifications. It doesn't sound like that would be a very sound plan, or at least not something that I should count on being able to do. I still wouldn't rule out a 26 button. Anyway, thanks again for all your help. At the very least, I've learned something about these odd little beasts.
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