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Kathryn Wheeler

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Posts posted by Kathryn Wheeler

  1. I’m continually delighted at just how good I find the 20 button concertina is as an expressive instrument - not just for expressing joy but also plaintive stuff. 

    Thus one touches on loss and grief and how it changes you.  About how the most wonderful warm memories come to mind but they are now bittersweet, interwoven with sadness. 

    I've used this amazing tree, which is completely woven over with interlaced ivy roots, but which is cut off at the base.




    • Like 5
  2. On 10/7/2022 at 4:01 PM, Anglo-Irishman said:

    Well, considering that the concertina is a very British-Isles thing, this is not really surprising. The ubiquitousness of drumkits in many music genres - jazz, pop, rock, Latin, what have you - tends to obscure the fact that, in a specifically British context, drums are traditionally associated with war and death. Take the Scottish pipes and drums: that's pure military music, aimed at raising the adrenalin level in the troops. And the Irish Lambeg drum is similar in effect. The concertina is more at home in the domestic drawing-room or the convivial pub, where hatred, bloodshed and drums would be foreign bodies!

    But, some might object: What about the bodhrán, which is played in convivial pubs along with concertinas and other peaceful instruments like fiddles and flutes? Traditionally, the bodhrán, which came into use in Irish traditional music in the 1960s, as I remember, was a cult instrument, played by small boys ("Wren Boys") in folk ritual processions. So it was never a "weapon" of war!


    I quite agree! In my group, we always did our Carolan arrangements with that combination. A guitar and a bowed double bass provided the accompaniment (AKA basso continuo).


    Interestingly enough, I played my trusty, 1990s-vintage, metal-ended Stagi Anglo in those days. When I bought a Lachenal Crane, and had learnt the concertina part of Planxty Irwin, I tried it out at a rehearsal. The unanimous decision of the bandmates was, "Take your old concertina - it blends better!"




    Ooh I find this really interesting and it will explain a reaction I had to a bit of pipe and taboring, which had a long tradition in England of course. 

    A friend said she really liked the tune on the pipe but the taboring made it sound military - now it’s entirely possible that my taboring was unsubtle and unsuited to the tune (I suspect so! The tune was one Id come up with on the pipe and the taboring was an afterthought instead of being incorporated from the start as it should be.  It was a mellow gentle tune that was out of kilter with the taboring).


    That said, it’s been played for dance and the taboring was to support the stepping in the dancing.  With a good sensitive taborer I’m sure that no one would think of this sort of music sounding military in this context.  

    • Like 1
  3. Interesting topic to discuss!


    We weren’t sure if a piano accordion and 20 button anglo would work but we’re pleasantly surprised how the anglo was a distinct timbre that stood out well.  I also didn’t expect that the concertina would do so well at also playing the accompanying role - one of my favourite bits in a piece I play with an accordionist friend is where it is just a moving slow melody on the accordion accompanied by sustained chords with some lovely dissonances on the anglo. Which reminds me, we should record it :) 


    In the meantime here’s something I’ve done on the two instruments - the trick I’ve found is to be more sparing with the piano accordion to give more textures and light and shade and more only going full on for effect! 


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  4. How do you find playing in the left hand compared to the right? I'd be interested in your thoughts.
    Here's a new tune for the left hand only, for 20 button anglo - melody only then some harmonic accompaniment in the same hand.
    As I often play harmonic style, I'm much more used to playing accompaniment in the left hand and I find the harmony notes and "chord shapes" are more nicely arranged under the fingers on the left hand than on the right (although I rarely just play straight chords). I can pretty much bet I am faster on my right hand too as it is more used to just playing melodies in the style I play. I'm trying to redress the balance! All that said, my pinkie is much better than my right one because of all those Fsharps we get to play!
    The tune is inspired by folklore and history of a local hill to me, here in Worcestershire - Woodbury Hill - where there was a pivotal moment in the history of Welsh/English relations in the medieval period and Owain Glyn Dwr's forces came as far west as Worcester!
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  5. On 6/20/2022 at 3:21 PM, Don Taylor said:



    In the olden days folks used to use their finger to slow down a 'record' on a 'gramophone' in order to hear what was being played.  Slowing it down this way was uneven and it also changed the pitch.  These days we do not have to do this. There are lots of 'slowdowner' programs available that let you select a small section of music that you can then slow down almost to zero without changing its pitch. 

    You can also slow down the speed of YouTube and Facebook videos without changing the pitch, which is a wonderful tool. 

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  6. Not on concertina but I think they sound very similar:


    I’ve used microvox mics on a piano accordion for years and yes the Velcro could be very annoying (I had a long strip of three mics on the r hand side that fell off at least once… which is a heavy thing to have swinging around mid air!  The single bass mic fell off even more!) The other problem is that if I was too close to speakers (including foldback speakers) there could be interference/feedback.  I got used to having to tell sound people and some didn’t seem to believe me until they realised it was true..


    They’d pick up a lot of noise from other things as they were external mics.  This meant you couldn’t turn the mic up on the mixer lots - a problem in large venues.


    And yes it felt like it hampered my ability to move around because of that. 


  7. Hi folks! Hope this is interesting/of use!


    I've used the well-loved tune Brighton Camp (The Girl I Left Behind Me) to show how I approach playing both melody and accompaniments in various ways on the 20b C/G anglo.


    The video starts with me playing and then it goes on to a discussion/demo. 

    Brighton Camp is used for a dance we do with my local side Bow Brook Border in Worcestershire, so when I’m not dancing I’ve been jamming along with melodeons/accordion/fiddle and a lot of their tunes are in G major.  Some seem to lie easily on the anglo and immediately can be accompanied whilst playing melody. Others require a bit more thought and experimentation. Interesting though! 

    • Like 8
  8. My mum grew up with a harmonium in the front room in the 40s (she remembers he clunking sound of the pedals!) and also remembers evangelical folk (she thinks) pushing a harmonium through the streets, stopping and singing carols (she joined in - all under the street lamp), before moving on. This was in a valley in S Wales :) 

    The reed organ I remember was in the 70s and was electric - I definitely remember the whirring sound!


    Thankyou for your recollections!


  9. 23 minutes ago, CrP said:

    Thank you Kathryn. For reasons I can't identify, your piece brought to mind the open, spacious, sinuous music of Erik Satie -- "Gymnopedies" and "Gnossiennes". Yours is seductive, meant in a good way -- I did not want it to hurry up or speed up or over-emphasize the rhythm. Do more of that, please.

    I have to listen to those pieces again! Thankyou for those thoughts- I know what you mean! Much appreciated 

  10. 16 minutes ago, Noel Ways said:

    This piece that you wrote Kathryn so reminds of MrManfid's, "For Levon":



    I adore this!


    I love that it very much comes from the instrument and feels like an improvised, in the moment piece. Way more than mine in that mine came from some improvisation but then has really a very simple structure.  Love the bellows “breaths” section particularly. And the bellows shaking (which as an accordionist I’m well familiar with and have experimented with on anglo).

    I am encouraged to play further and be looser. 

    Thankyou for this!

  11. By the way, if anyone is interested, this is a Worcestershire scene in the video - looking across to the Malvern Hills, just across the Common from the Elgar birthplace museum.  This is from one of several green tracks crossing a farm, heading down towards the River Teme. The barbed wire was an interesting shape - the farmer had been inventive in using several pieces to make it stockproof! It was a bleak old midwinter’s day

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