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Bob Michel

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  1. My own late parents were veterans of the second War (they met and married in the U.S. Army--and thereby hangs a tale), and the music of that era figured prominently in the soundtrack of my childhood. At the same time, the veterans of WWI--all gone now--were still relatively young and numerous, though their tunes sounded pretty quaint by then. The other morning I chanced to listen, on my morning walk, to two albums in succession: an anthology of vaudeville hits by Eddie Cantor and the first Doors LP. At some point it struck me that I was neatly bisecting the century: the Doors are of exactly the same vintage now that Eddie Cantor's early hits were when I first heard the Doors. I wonder how Eddie and Jim would have gotten along. Bob Michel Near Philly
  2. I do know it, Don, but haven't seen it in decades. Nor did I know it was available on YouTube; I'll look forward to that this weekend. Thanks! Bob Michel Near Philly
  3. I've known the Bogle songs for many, many years, and they are indeed classics. But they were written in the 1970s, and I'm trying to focus on period stuff this time around. The anti-war songs from those times do tend to get drowned out by the vast number of militaristic ones. I think that fully three quarters of the ones I know are marked "tempo di marcia" (and at least a third of those seem to quote the Marseillaise). Well, that was the tenor of the times. My own sympathies in the 1914-1918 conflict (for whatever they're worth, a century later) are with those, on both sides, who opposed the war. But I reserve the right to sing everybody's songs, if I like them. Bob Michel Near Philly
  4. Yes, that one's a classic. Thanks for the reminder; I haven't heard it in years. Bob Michel Near Philly
  5. Thanks for the kind words, Steve. Retrieving the forgotten verses is half the fun of these old songs. Two examples: the chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is an American cliché, traditionally sung by fans during the "seventh inning stretch" at baseball games. But you won't find one American in a hundred thousand who knows the verses, which are charming. "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" is generally thought of as a quaint old weeper of a song; restore the verses and it's cynical as hell. As for anti-war songs, since the U.S.A. entered the conflict so late, things were a bit complicated here. Early on public sentiment ran strong against intervention, and Tin Pan Alley produced gems like "The War in Snider's Grocery Store" and "Stay Down Here Where You Belong"--the latter by Irving Berlin, no less, who later in his life tried to bribe Groucho Marx not to sing it. Unsuccessfully, I'm happy to say. Surely the most famous anti-war song of the period is Bryan and Piantadosi's "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier," which still gets sung now and then (I have a version in the works). But after the sinking of the Lusitania and the revelation of the Zimmerman Telegram, among other events, Tin Pan Alley changed its collective mind about the war, and the floodgates of jingoism were opened. (I like some of the pro-war songs, too, in a contextual sort of way.) Pro or con, they paint a fascinating picture. And what with the centennial and all, it felt like time to dive in. Bob Michel Near Philly
  6. Thanks to Wolf and Rod for the kind and encouraging words. Wolf, I do hope you join in at some point. Bob Michel Near Philly
  7. As an Anglo player I've only once handled a Jackie briefly in a shop, but I've had a chance to play several Rochelles belonging to my students. I like them very much. You wouldn't mistake them for good vintage concertinas (and yes, they're bulky), but the action is good and the sound is quite pleasant. They're worlds better as entry-level instruments than the more expensive Stagi boxes. If I were in your shoes and could stretch the budget to afford (say) a well set-up Lachenal, that's what I'd get. But if you can't make that sort of investment just now, or prefer not to, then buy a Jackie with confidence. If it comes with the trade-up option you can think of it as a down payment on the concertina you'll eventually want. Bob Michel Near Philly
  8. (Odd; I know I capitalized 'WWI' in the title of this new topic.) First, some background: My New Year's resolution for 2015 was to begin, at long last, to assimilate some of the sheet music from the early 20th century that I've been collecting for the past fifteen years or so. I was originally attracted to the covers by Albert Wilfred Barbelle and other illustrators, but sooner or later I was bound to get curious about the songs themselves. It's been a slippery slope, and by now I can count myself a serious fan of the American Songbook in its not-yet-quite-Great period. To give my undertaking a little structure, I've tried to make YouTube videos of some of the songs as I've learned them. I've managed a good few since last winter.* Most are in no way concertina-related, though a few have concertina in the mix. And of course "Lena from Palesteena" (1920) is our anthem, or should be. What I've discovered over time, though, is that most songs of the period that most interests me (1910-1920, give or take a couple of years) sit as well--to my ear--on the (Anglo) concertina as on anything else. And as I've been keen to improve my harmonic vocabulary and vocal accompaniment skills, I think it's time to move my project into Phase II. What I'm proposing, then, is to bring the concertina to center stage in my next round of recordings, and also to concentrate on songs from the period of the First World War. These needn't be war songs per se, though there was certainly a surfeit of jingoism on Tin Pan Alley in those years. Frankly I'm more drawn to the (mostly neglected) antiwar songs, but there's room in my historical playlist for all perspectives. This idea appeals to me in part because I think of the War as the concertina's high water mark, and partly because my own favorite instrument is old enough (c. 1890, I've been told) to have played some of these songs when they were new, and just possibly even to have been in the trenches. At times I'd swear it was downright happy to meet them again. Most of the material in question is of American origin, and not terribly well known (that's the fun of it), but I thought I'd start things off with what might be the two most iconic songs of the era, in the English-speaking world at any rate; both are from the U.K. The first is probably the catchiest number associated with the Great War; the second might be the loveliest. http://youtu.be/AEqH4_9KVOg http://youtu.be/GE0XlvgRpgk I'd be delighted if anyone else wanted to delve into this material with me; I'm sure others could come up with far more interesting arrangements and polished performances than mine have any chance of being. But I thought I'd share my plan with the group in any case. As I add new songs to the list I will post the links in this thread. Bob Michel Near Philly *For any who might be interested, here are the links to all the songs I recorded in the first phase of the project: "I'll See You in C-U-B-A" http://youtu.be/FU92hZRyqSM "I Miss That Mississippi Miss That Misses Me" http://youtu.be/hNLm9K6wxDQ "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" http://youtu.be/T_GrjW2GQCk "Shine On Harvest Moon" http://youtu.be/O7ldCh7ErC8 "Somewhere in France (Is the Lily)" http://youtu.be/g7dRTox_P1k "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" http://youtu.be/a7J7P4UjGtI "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" http://youtu.be/taPG1kVnqPw "Put Me to Sleep with an Old Fashioned Melody..." http://youtu.be/9ajMJ2lAEyo "Oh! Frenchy" http://youtu.be/HgT8NIggcnE "The Last Long Mile" http://youtu.be/etKBX_ksoAc "Stay Down Here Where You Belong" http://youtu.be/4WsGCnwFedQ "Lena from Palesteena" http://youtu.be/eUPp-s_z92s "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine" http://youtu.be/BWknSkysthY "They're Wearing 'Em Higher in Hawaii" http://youtu.be/WeYK_Y0SDFg "The War in Snider's Grocery Store" http://youtu.be/LZOc1DCIXlo "There Ought To Be Music in Every Home" http://youtu.be/0Rxrc957_eY "You Can Stay But That Doggone Fiddle Must Go" http://youtu.be/VHChYF7l67A
  9. Here's another one that was new to me, "Miss Murphy": http://youtu.be/zzW4Dll96oY I picked it because it sits so well on an Anglo that it's hard to believe it wasn't written for that instrument. Which would have been a pretty neat trick in the early 18th century, I suppose. Bob Michel Near Philly
  10. Wish I'd known, though I spent the weekend in the wilds of S. Jersey (most of the time "near" is about nine miles from City Hall). By all means put me on notice the next time you're heading up this way. Bob Michel Near Philly
  11. Thanks, Wolf. As it happens I'm a huge Chris Droney fan; I'd love to be able to play Droney harmonies! Bob Michel Near Philly
  12. After months of trying to ignore a couple of wonky reeds on my Lachenal I finally got out my screwdriver and did some housekeeping this morning. Presto! Not only is the raspiness gone; they're miraculously back in tune. To celebrate, here's "The Wren." Straight up, with no overdubbing and very few twiddly bits. http://youtu.be/J9FuY8Bbx-w Bob Michel Near Philly
  13. I like the left hand accompaniment, and it doesn't seem to me that it gets in the way of the melody at all. What I can't tell from the recording, though, is what kind of balance you're getting. It sounds as if the microphone is placed very close to the right side, so that the left-hand chords sound quite subdued (maybe even a tad too subdued) in comparison. Since your own ears are more or less equidistant from the two sides, your impression of the relative volumes may be more accurate. On the other hand, concertinas, because of their construction, are unusually tricky this way. I've played in more than one session where I could barely hear myself, only to be told later that mine was the loudest instrument in the room. When you're playing in the harmonic style a listener on your right (like us, in this instance) may hear the melody loud and clear, while one on your left is hearing only loud chords. If you're playing without amplification for a live audience, every one of your listeners is getting a slightly different mix. When you record yourself, your microphone placement (assuming you're using just one) can be used to optimize the balance. But if you think of recording as an approximation of live performance rather than an end in itself, that strategically placed mic may give a very misleading impression of what most listeners would hear. I wouldn't change your approach to accompaniment; it's quite lovely. But if it seems to *you* that the chords are obtrusive, you can try playing them with a lighter, more staccato touch. And if you want your recording to give a more faithful impression of what a live listener would hear (assuming s/he isn't next to you on a bench), try facing the mic from a slightly greater distance. Bob Michel Near Philly
  14. And here's a sprightly one, one of the three tunes T. O'C. wrote for Henry MacDermott Roe: http://youtu.be/oAzR8lekrNo Bob Michel Near Philly
  15. Here's a new one--new to me, at any rate. http://youtu.be/1UfjydeLXNg I found the music the other day at http://www.oldmusicproject.com/occ/tunes.html (thanks, Jim), but I'm not sure whether I've ever actually heard it played. It might be my current favorite Carolan tune, though. Bob Michel Near Philly
  16. The old cliché about riding a bicycle is applicable here. It's the most awkward, counterintuitive, frustrating thing in the world until, quite suddenly and without explanation, it's the most natural. When I took up the five-string banjo forty-some years ago it took me two solid years before I could make heads or tails of the clawhammer stroke. Then one day I picked up the banjo and it was as easy as walking. It's a mystery. Start by working through a song or two very, very slowly, and keep at it. The same changes recur through much of traditional music, so you won't need to repeat that initial effort when you take on new material later. It's a steep ascent, but all at once you'll be at the top, wondering why singing and playing chords at the same time ever gave you any trouble. Bob Michel Near Philly
  17. David-- For some reason I overlooked this when you first posted it, but having heard it just now I'll join fhe chorus of admirers. Very cool arrangement, with some lovely left hand stuff. I don't imagine it was easy, though you do indeed make it sound that way. Bob Michel Near Philly
  18. Here's one (originally submitted last fall as part of the "Something Irish" theme) that isn't heard quite so often as some of T. O'C.'s other compositions: http://youtu.be/Jh1VhTc8n7A On any given day it may or may not be my favorite among his tunes. But it's certainly my favorite among his titles. Bob Michel Near Philly
  19. That's just wonderful, Wolf. Terrific choice of song, well delivered, and I can't imagine how the accompaniment could be improved. Bravo. (Must...fight...English concertina...envy...) Bob Michel Near Philly
  20. I thought I'd share one more contribution to this month's Theme before a new one comes along: http://youtu.be/hLZcBk0phcI It's a great old tearjerker of a song that I've known for most of my life. The original published version (from 1898) can be found here: http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:058.133 My version is pretty close to the one recorded by The Blue Sky Boys, though there are some departures I can't account for, beyond 40-odd years of Folk Process. What makes it unlikely is that, while I've accompanied it countless times on banjo or guitar, I don't think I ever thought about playing it on a concertina before today. Bob Michel Near Philly
  21. Irish-style players have tended to prefer the 30-button configuration. It's lighter, less expensive (for a new one, at least) and more commonly encountered, and its range and layout are (as you surely know, since you play one) perfectly adequate to the Irish dance repertoire. Personally I appreciate the alternative fingerings that additional buttons make possible: on a 40-button instrument I have access to many more chord voicings, and I often have the option of playing melodies in a more legato style--something akin to the phrasing that comes more naturally to an English or duet concertina--by eliminating many bellows reversals. But complex chording doesn't figure much in Irish-style playing, and I have to be on guard against playing *too* smoothly, and losing the distinctive bounce that's such an important feature of the style. If I only played Irish music, I might well prefer fewer buttons. As for Wheatstone vs. Jeffries, there are contrasts of internal construction (orientation of the reed pans, etc.), but the most obvious difference is the arrangement of the accidental row. Here's a site illustrating the layouts: http://www.concertina.info/tina.faq/images/finger3.htm (My 40-button Wheatstone follows this arrangement pretty closely; my older Lachenal departs from it in a few places, most usefully by incorporating a draw E in place of the low C# on the left hand accidental row.) Many Irish-style players prefer the Jeffries system, mainly because it supplies the C# on the right hand accidental row in both directions, whereas a 30-button Wheatstone system has it only on the push, which can be confining. But the thing to note here is that a Wheatstone-type instrument with additional buttons will give you at least one C# on the draw, eliminating the problem. It's only on 30-button boxes that it's a concern--and anyway, countless Irish players have used the Wheatstone system; it's not a hugely challenging adjustment. As for me, I like the logic of the Wheatstone layout, even on a 30-button box. Among other considerations, I'd be lost without the push A on the right hand accidental row. Add a draw C# or two, and I don't think there's a downside. Hope this helps! Bob Michel Near Philly
  22. Be careful what you ask for, Jim! http://youtu.be/FvyRk77brp0 Many thanks to David Barnert for pointing me to this yesterday. It's as wry and edgy an American Civil War song as I've ever heard, and it's made me realize that, much as I like him, I've somewhat underestimated Henry Clay Work. I confess that I'd run through it two or three times before I realized I wasn't singing a sentimental Victorian Era tribute to a cat. Bob Michel Near Philly
  23. Oh, dear. Learning that song is suddenly a matter of some urgency. As in, quite possibly before I go to bed. Bob Michel Near Philly
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