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Jim Besser

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  1. Lucky guy...hawaii is wonderful. If remember serves, it's pretty dry in most parts. Along the beach in Honolulu, some hotels have outdoor lobbies, with all the computers and cash registers exposed to the elements. If it's dry enough for them, it's probably dry enough for your nice concertina. I was in hawaii once. The first night, wandering to the beach in Wakikii, I passed a highrise -- and from a balcony way up high, I could hear a fiddler playing Angelina Baker. It was a genuinely surreal experience.
  2. >I guess I've blown my luck for this year!!!!! No such luck for my side this year. Injuries prevented our usual May Day activities at Shepherdstown WVa. So I spent it in solitary squeezing and drinking.
  3. > But afterward, it's up to you what to keep and what > to change in your own playing. Exactly. I attended Noel's class and learned his system. Since then, I find it works well for some tunes, not so well for others; it works for some styles, but obviously not for chord-intensive styles. An interesting exercise is to take a straightforward Irish tune and play it through with differing systems. I've been working on this lately and find it really improves my flexiblity. one time through playing it as Noel would insist, one time playing it the way I did before I took the class, one time mixing the two.
  4. No, you can play in C to your heart's content -- if you play solo. Initially, I learned my side's tunes in G because I thought it was a rigid rule: only in G. But after consulting several senior squeezers, I learned that it's just a convention catering to the melodeon players. In fact, getting the right sound is very hard on a C/G if you play in G, cross -row. It sounds much better in C, gives you many more chord possibilities, etc. I learned Trunkles in G, but when I switched to C, it sounded much more "authentic," had much more punch and was more fun to play. Try it and you'll see what I mean. My rule: mostly in C when I play solo. But I know most of our tunes in G for those occasional times when some stray BA player joins in. I've played with plenty of other C/G players in C at Morris events (I was playing Monk's March in C last year when I thought my concertina had grown some extra reeds; looked around, and another C/G player had joined in. Sounded great) And, of course, you need to know the mass dance tunes in G, because it's gonna sound funny if you play Highland Mary in C when everybody else is in G.
  5. > Would some of you Morris Dance folks be kind >enough to recommend some recordings, > preferably with Anglo? William Kimber's "Absolutely Classic" is the ... well, the classic, with a good collection of tunes, although most are played way faster than most dance traditions allow. "Over the Water" is a modern CD featuring Jim Morrison on fiddle and Tom Kurskal on Anglo. Both are consummate Morris musicians, the people I strive hardest to emulate. Another 30 years of playing, and I should get there. Also, they did a vinyl (remember vinyl?) record years ago called Round POund Relics that includes fine playing on a few Morris tunes. It's not available on CD, though. John Kirkpatrick's Plain Capers is also excellent. I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones in my CD rack. Jim Besser, Bluemont Morris
  6. Nicely done, Henk! That B part is a challenge, isn't it? The fingering gets tricky if you don't want to run out of air. If you want a tune with some similar challenges, try Pincushion Polka (widely available on ABC). Also in C, at least at the beginning And a hornpipe in D you might enjoy: Forresters. The B part will keep you from getting bored! My biggest current challenge: Levi Jackson's Rag, by Pat Shaw. Despite the name, it's an English COuntry Dance standard, at least on this side of the pond. Wonderful tune, and an incredible workout on Anglo. I can play it, but at about half the speed required for dances. THanks for doing Kohler's!
  7. >Where as English players do not. My square Herrington > has never been mocked in England by anyone, but > has had a lot of interest. Not sure what this says > about Irish music, but if you do have a square > Herrington, consider playing English music instead.. Mostly I do. Morris and American contra. If I remember correctly, Harold said that he brought his square concertinas to some Irish festivals and got a lot of flak for the nontraditional shape. Otoh, the square concertina always got expressions of interest when I played it for Morris or for contra dancing. Now, it's been retired to reserve status, but still gets out there occasionally, and still interests people. Other contributors to this thread have made an important point; we are extraordinarily lucky to have all these Herringtons and Morses, Tedrows and Edgleys making intermediate instruments. From the ones I've played and the ones I've read about, you can't go wrong with any of them. In what other area of life can you buy a product made by someone with fanatical devotion to it, and to making the customer happy? These guys collectively have opened up the concertina world to many who would not otherwise be part of it.
  8. I own a Herrington (square) and have played the Morse. Both are great. The biggest advantage of the Morse, in my view: its light weight. The Herrington is a brick in comparison. The Morse also has a slightly more "traditional" concertina sound. The Herrington is a loud, brash instrument. Good for Morris playing, maybe not so good for song accompaniment. The Morse was a little quieter, a little more mellow, but certainly a loud instrument. Action seemed more or less the same to me. The Herrington is built like a truck; incredibly solid, great mechanicals. And Harold is a joy to work with. I bought the Herrington about a year before the Morse appeared on the scene, long before Tedrow and Edgley. If I had to make the choice now, I'd have a hard time; a wealth of good choices out there. I'd advise against the SQUARE Herrington. I like mine, but I think it's heavier than his others, and it's somewhat hard to hold it in an ergonomically correct position if you rest one end on your knee. Noel Hill pointed his out to me at his class. And the Irish players mercilessly mock the nontraditional shape.
  9. >Lately my fingers have been slipping off the buttons As a guitar player, I use a product called (I kid you not) Gorilla Snot, which makes your fingers just tacky enough to hold on to a pick when you're sweating on stage. But I've always washed it off before switching to concertina because of concerns it would somehow work its way into the mechanism. Maybe some of our more mechanically inclined colleagues can say whether my fears are justified. I asked this question myself a few years ago. At the time I was using only my Herrington; Harold told me he switched to a different button shape because of the slippage problem. But I've noticed that as I get more proficient and have better finger control, it's less of a problem.
  10. >I've found the best way is to be a dancer. > When the tunes get into my bones it's > easier to play them for others. Absolutely. But not an option at my age and with my aching joints. Been playing for Morris for about 5 years, and it's an endless challenge, learning to watch the dancers and adjust.
  11. >These are my suggestions,what are yours. For me, sometimes long practice sessions work the best, sometimes shorter ones. Depends on my concentration, which tends to be a problem; it's easy to zone out. Playing along with CDs is a necessary part of every practice. Sometimes, I learn a tune well -- I think -- but it falls apart when playing with others. So when I learn it, I spend some time playing along with a recording, if I have it. I'd like to do more with scales, but not being formally trained, I really don't know how,other than the simpliest ones. I'd like to see a scale practice page for Anglos. Hardest for me is practicing for Morris performances; getting the speed right is very hard when you can't see the dancers. I learn the tunes fine, but have to spend some serious time practicing with real, live dancers doing their unpredictbable thing.
  12. >How did you get your first concertina? What kind was it? A no-name German 20 button, purchased from a yard sale in Michigan. It was in in terrible condition, with a badly leaking bellows, but someone gave me a newish Italian super-low end box with useless reeds. Amazingly, the bellows were the right size for the older one. Attached the new bellows to the old concertina, and had a hybrid that worked, more or less, even if it sounded like geese about to be road kill. That held me until my Herrington, and beyond.
  13. Thanks. Ask Jeeves was just the ticket.
  14. Does anybody have any concertina clip art, preferably of the Anglo species, they'd be willing to share? Looking to make some cool business cards.
  15. >While browsing for something else I stumbled across > this interior photograph Heck, it looks just like MY den. Not.
  16. It's a tricky balance between listening to those with experience, and finding what works for you. A major consideration: what kind of music you're playing. The system Noel Hill preaches works great for Irish music, with all the ornamentation, less well for some other genres, where chords are more important, ie contra dance and Morris music. Having said that, you're wise to seek input early in the process; habits on the concertina are incredibly hard to break.
  17. >it's got my worried about how safe and secure the instrument is, especially during >morris season! Morris season demands a good case, I've learned that the hard way! Don't overlook the infamous IBM cases that the Button Box can sometimes provide. Oversized, but very cheap and will protect your concertina from everything from wayward sticks to all-out war. Unattractive, but they have a certain cachet, especially when plastered with the kinds of wry bumper stickers Morris musicians seem to love. Much classier than the Igloo coolers favored by many Morris melodeon players.
  18. >Your last comment surprises me, Roger. Our >concertinas are certainly covered if locked in This brings up the oft-repeated topic of insurance. In the US, normal homeowners and auto insurance does NOT cover a concertina if one makes money playing it. And the definition of "makes money" is very strict; my company says if I make ANY money playing music, I'm not covered. I checked with several other major US carriers and the situation was the same. And my car insurance wouldn't cover it, either. The only solution: a separate business policy on the concertina alone. Relatively inexpensive, and definately covers the instrument. THere are also specialty insurance companies that just cover musical instruments, but I couldn't get any of them to return my calls! No doubt things are different over the water, but here the situation requries some careful investigation.
  19. I find that tapping/bouncing/stomping is a function of how well I know the tune, and the energy of the tune. A tune I barely know, I can't tap without getting screwed up. A tune I know well, it comes naturally. At a dance, starting to stomp a bit really jacks up the level of the music. I find myself tapping to reels, not to jigs. I was watching this recently at our big open contra dance band. GEnerally, when we go into the last time thru a tune, people ratchet up the energy level -- and suddenly people who weren't tapping are now really stomping. And it's reflected in the intensity of the music. It's fun to watch one of the piano players in this band. He starts most tunes, and he often will get the rhythm in his feet, first -- doing a little clog dance under the piano until he's satisfied, then jumping into the tune. The fiddler I've played with for 22 years taps her feet in a totally inexplicable pattern -- doesn't seem to correlate to the music at all, but it works for her. Another fiddler I play with regularly stomps, and when she really gets going, starts bouncing on her seat. Different strokes.
  20. > how simple little things can break up a good playing(or other ) relationship Twenty years ago, first big gig, a colonial festival (in costume), we were playing for a traditional American square dance. Lovely location on the Chesapeake Bay -- but mosqutoes the size of F-15s. Then, a hideous band fight and breakup -- on stage, in the middle of Petronella. Guitar player and his wife storm off, never to return. The rest of us, flailing away at the insects as well as our instruments, muddle through the rest of the evening's entertainment. Finally, it was over, our employers for the evening took us to the campground they had selected for us -- which turned out to be a graveyard. Thought seriously about giving up music for good.
  21. >All I know about the site is that it's a Catholic retreat center (usually). Everyone >will have their own room with a sink, and bathrooms are shared. I believe that's the place where the first Midwest session was held a few years back. If so: gorgeous setting, very comfortable rooms, tolerable food. Many nice places for private outdoor practice sessions. The hills were alive, as it were, with the sound of (concertina) music.
  22. >Nobody wantys to play it on the concertina and put it in the Internet ? >Courage ! Courage is great, but I think I'll get a little better on these tunes before recording them! Both are works in progress for me, you might say. I think this issue was first raised about Ashoken Farewell. Isn't that the one people wanted to hear a recording of? That I could do without the need for courage.
  23. >What are sessions like where you are? That WAS the question, wasn't it? Around here (Washington DC area) they're varied. Some Irish sessions that are pretty rigid and structured. I haven't been to many of those, mostly because I'm intimidated by the formality of it all. For several years I attended a monthly session hosted by a Scottish fiddler who urged folks to bring in notation and pass it around so others could learn tunes. A heavy concentration on Scottish, but some Irish and American. I also attend a weekly free-for-all session that is musical anarchy: no structure at all, no rules, except that when you want to start a tune, you have to be really assertive and jump in. Pretty much any kind of music is appreciated: Celtic, American contra and old-time, Irish, Klezmer, Broadway, Eastern European dance music. Every session format I've tried has its charms, but I seem to enjoy the free-for-all sessions the most.
  24. >Ive hung out here for a while and finally joined back in January. I've purchased a >Stagi 30-button Model W-15LN. I'm making pretty good progress and I'm told I >hum 'Off to California" in my sleep If you're interested in learning chording for that tune, hunt up a copy of the vinyl "Round Pound Relics," and hear how Tom Kruskal, an exemplary Anglo player, arranges it in C. I slavishly learned it from the record, and now I , too, hum it in my sleep, but with very nice chords. That translated nicely into chording for many other tunes.
  25. >I have placed the two tunes in the Tune-O-Tron. I like them very much and I >think that Kohler's Hornpipe combines very well with "Off to California". Thanks! I learned Pincushion from a fiddler who sort of slides up to the high C, which gives the tune a wonderful lift. She copied it from Rodney Miller's "Airplang ll" CD. (no, that's not a typo). He's a wonderful New England fiddler. I've never encountered a recording of Kohler's, just played it in sessions. But I think it's a particularly interesting tune on concertina.
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