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Roger Digby

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  1. A 33key bone-buttoned Jones Anglo (C/G, five-fold bellows, Commercial Rd.) came up for sale in Chelmsford a couple of weeks ago. The serial no. was on the woodwork inside and I asked Wes Williams for an estimated date. He reckons it was made around 1890/1900; he has a small section on Jones in his 'dating' article on this site. Best wishes, Roger
  2. Chris Timson knows I can be an infuriating nit-picker at times, so he won't mind me pointing out that Plain Capers was a single vinyl album not a double. It is superb and I flagged it up in PICA 2 when I wrote about the Free Reed retrospective. If the CD is still available it is an essential item for any Anglo player exploring English music. Mention must also be made of 'Greeny Up', a cassette of the Bampton musicians recorded live in 1987 and released by Veteran Tapes. I don't know it's current availability. For me Bampton is where it all starts and finishes. They get everything right. There are also recordings available of Jinky Wells. I could bang on for ages about the dreadful music that too many Morris sides dance to. Anybody not actually dancing gets out something and hits it or squeezes it regardless of appropriateness to the dance. Cotswold is danced by 7 men one of whom plays the tune. 'Nuff said! Best wishes Roger
  3. A full page interview with Noel Hill appears to have escaped the notice of this website. It is available on the paper's website, but only to subscribers. His new CD was the catalyst for the interview. I don't know whether access to this article can be 'negotiated' onto our website. Any ideas? A broadsheet page doesn't lend itself to photocopying, but if anyone doesn't mind a botch up, send me a s.a.e. (Hoppits, Rams Farm Rd, Fordham, CO6 3HR, Essex, UK) I'd try to scan it and put it up more widely, but I suspect this would be a major breach of copyright which C.net could do without. Best wishes, Roger
  4. I'd like to join those who are expressing their respect and gratitude for John's lengthy service to the ICA. The organisation is going through a lot of changes and John's long presence on the committee has been a steady, stabilising influence. I've no doubt he will continue to play a part in shaping the future direction of the Association. (Of course, it's also been comforting to have had the purse strings safely in the hands of someone from north of the border!!!!!) Well Done John; thanks for all your hard work. Roger
  5. Good idea Gavin. But then any excuse to visit the Blackfriar is a good idea. I'll certainly join you if I can. Best wishes, Roger
  6. I've always known him as Jim Webb, and his 'Time I get to Phoenix' is a classic that many of you will know. His own version is raw and moving; some copies have been a bit too sweet. He's a great writer. Funnily enough this was a song which Bob Davenport and I recorded for Anglo International and is a regular slot in our current playlist. We run it into 'Sitting on the Dock of the Bay'! It didn't make the cut for the CDs. Best wishes Roger P.S. Is it just me..... or are there a lot of interesting things happening with concertinas at the moment? R.
  7. Thanks, Dan, for correcting my mistake. Thanks also for telling the story for Samantha. What Dan didn’t add is that the concertina is now back in Headington with Julie Kimber-Nickelson (William’s grand-daughter). Dan and I, together with Dan’s wife Mary, visited Headington Quarry on Whit-Monday this year and we were invited to join the dancers for their social evening after the dancing. Julie brought the concertina over to us. I had played it before when it was in the possession of Ken Loveless, but I had not remembered how very robust it was nor that it had 7-fold bellows and masses and masses of air. Talking to John Watcham a few weeks ago, John said that he had a 7-fold Jeffries. I didn’t ask how many buttons! A 7-fold Jeffries bellows is not usual and possibly unique on a 30 key. Also unusual is the lack of decorative papers and the slightly lighter green. Now, let’s speculate!! Kimber’s (father’s) concertina broke. How? A broken strap, a broken spring, even a broken reed could be replaced. The most likely break which is serious enough to write-off an instrument is for the bellows to burst. The concertina was already in its second generation of Morris work; it’ s easy to imagine well-worn bellows with home-made patching finally giving up! Now what DIDN’T happen next was that Kimber popped into to Jeffries next morning on his way down to Paddington Station and the train back to Oxford and bought a concertina off the peg! The concertina was formally presented to him a few weeks later. It is easy to imagine the representative of the Steinway audience visiting Jeffries and explaining the situation. Certainly, if I’m right that it was the bellows that had broken there would be a real incentive to make specially robust and 7-fold bellows for this vigorous player. Perhaps the change to the usual visual element was to draw attention to this. All speculation of course...... Our visit to Headington brought me another piece of information. It’s a commonplace that collectors record what they want to hear. Traditional singers were seldom asked for their comic songs; nearer home, Scan Tester’s huge repertory of popular songs, his standards when busking and entertaining on charabanc trips, was not recorded though his step-dances were recorded over and over. At Headington I met an old dancer and asked him whether Kimber had a repertory of popular songs. Yes he had. He also accompanied another dancer who had some traditional songs. Of course when the microphones came out, the ‘Father of the Morris’ played what was expected of him. Best wishes Roger
  8. Kimber's Jeffries was a G/D (7 fold bellows). I don't think there is any evidence for the two-row he owned before it broke so famously! Best wishes Roger
  9. Chris, We can't blame this one on the Tories who are in Blackpool, not Brighton. It was the Labour Party in Brighton last week so I expect the problem was a fear of aggressive bouncers. (For overseas readers, an 82 year old Party activist was evicted from the conference for shouting 'Nonsense!' at one of the cabinet! Really. What made it even worse is that he was then held by the police under new anti-terrorist legislation. It was far and away the most-publicised event of the whole conference!) I can't bear to listen to what's going on in Blackpool! Best wishes to all. Roger
  10. I would very much like to get hold of this. Does anyone know where - or how to find out where - it's available in the UK? Best wishes Roger
  11. Chris Timson rightly split this discussion from the original thread, but there is an inevitable overlap and I shall shortly address Al Day’s point (in the parallel subject) about the effect of war. Before I do, however, it is well worth noting that the tradition has continued and still thrives with many young participants in a number of areas. Dartmoor, Bampton are obvious examples, as well as the carols around Sheffield and the step-dancing in Suffolk. The general point is, however, true; English music is scarcely known (like Welsh, where in addition to the factors I will discuss below there was deliberate oppression by the church). As we stare at the long list of names on the War memorials (and there is only one village in this country which doesn’t have one) we can only imagine how many of those men who died between 1914 -1918 were Morris Dancers, Mummers, Handbell Ringers and so on, not to mention those whose traditional expertise was not musical. Any knowledge which relied on transmission from one generation to the next was going to be devastated by such loss - and remember the equally destructive ‘flu epidemic that followed. Economic necessity would have replaced the essential services - the village baker, butcher, etc - but no such necessity required the reinstating of the social and recreational activities, and it is easy to understand that the surviving Morris Men, for example, didn’t have the will to recruit new members. Dancing out the following year with a new team would have been as much a reminder of loss as a celebration of continuity. Thomas Hardy wrote somewhere that you could tell the revival morris from the traditional because the revival was enthusiatic and enjoyed the dancing while the traditional dancers did it because they had to. This is a rough paraphrase, but the gist is there. Perhaps the Great War was just the last straw; Sharp, collecting before the war, had already stated that the singers he was meeting were all in old age and that he was finding the last knockings of traditional song. He was wrong - thankfully - but he was right in describing the dwindling currency. Into this weakened situation there then came the spread of recorded and broadcast music and new sorts of music reached ears that had previously only heard the music of the tradition and the church. Home-made music ceased to be the only musical entertainment and the place of music in social lives changed direction in a way that was irreversible. It might be thought that the fact that Sharp and his colleaques were active before the war meant the stable door was bolted in time, but this is to misunderstand completetly the nature of the revival at the beginning of the century and, coincidentally, the song revival of the 60s onwards. The terms ‘working class’ and ‘middle class’ may be over-simplistic, but they are easily understood and will serve. ‘The Revival’ was totally middle class celebrating a culture that was essentially working class. The societies that were formed were middle class, those who attended the lectures of Sharp and Kimber were middle class and so on. Whether your source is the written word (again Hardy comes to mind) or a Saturday night spent in the right Suffolk pub (not an organised session, just a social evening) it is clear that in its true context the music, song and dance might - probably would - occur spontaneously as a result of friends coming together and relaxing. The revival was the absolute opposite. Strangers came together specifically to dance. They danced together and parted still as strangers. Friendships eventually developed among regular attenders at the same venues, but the experience was the black and white negative of the tradition. Hence it didn’t embed itself into people’s lives in the same way and it took its place as a social option alongside a night at the opera, a day at the races, (or an evening at the cinema watching the Marx Brothers). In addition, except for those dances with specific tunes (e.g. Winster Galop, Dorset Four Hand Reel) the revival introduced tunes from Ireland, Scotland, and America and neglected many English ones. In a parallel way the early song clubs of the 60s were dominated by the copyist repertoires of Baez, Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary and the singer-songwriters like Dylan, Ochs, Lightfoot, Paxton and the native music was seldom heard. Furthermore, those who did know where to find people like Scan Tester, Jack Norris, Walter Bulwer saw no point in introducing them to a revivalist community that had an appalling track record of crass insensitivity when dealing with the real thing. Some examples can highlight this attitude: Pop Maynard was pulled off stage in mid-song by Mr Blank, a folk luminary, to be replaced by another singer who had ‘a more interesting version’ of his song. Harry Cox once said to Bob Davenport, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to offend Mr Blank (same family incidentally, but a different member). He hasn’t been to see me for years.’ The simple truth was that he had done nothing and the ‘old friend’ having ripped off all of Harry’s songs, saw no point in continuing the relationship. In more recent times Percy Ling and a few friends were having a drink in the Snug at the Butley Oyster. After a while Percy started a song and was immed iately asked to stop singing as he was disturbing the Folk Club in the Saloon Bar!! No wonder the tradition and the revival were mutually exclusive! And then there’s the media..... but I’ve gone on quite long enough. It’s a beautiful summer’s day here in Essex and I can hear the Siren song of leather on willow and the gentle whisper of the beer as it passes from cool cellar to waiting glass. Thank Heaven the EFDSS didn’t run CAMRA. We’d be drinking draught tea! Roger
  12. As an ex-Londoner and now daily commuter may I say that it has been a difficult day. May I also say that to come home - eventually - and to read messages of concern from net-friends is a true celebration of our shared humanity. Thank you for your concern and for your friendship. Roger
  13. Like Chris, I'll enjoy watching this one develop. I don't think all we did was 'waffle' at the ECMW! I prefer to look back on it as 'relaxed conversation'! I said that the greatest influence on me was Oscar Woods (one row melodeon), but I don't think this is the same as the point that Wes is making. In fact I would want to see more evidence for Wes' idea. I think a main factor was that, given the scarcity of recordings of Anglo players and the non-existence of living ones, we Anglos were stuck for precedents and so were influenced by the superb, readily available and active Melodeon players (Oscar, Bob Cann, and a host of great players in Suffolk to mention just the tip of the iceberg). It was a straightforward process to model Anglo playing on Melodeon playing and so off we went. With maturity and understanding we may have become more selective on the left hand and developed in other ways as well, but I think what I have described is where I started from. The ACTUAL POINT I was trying to draw out at the ECMW was: If we accept that Kimber and Tester (Kilroy is not, I think, relevant here) are too different to provide the basis for a 'style', has the playing of the last 30 years (effectively the period of the re-awakening of awareness in ECM) now established one which can reasonably justify the title? And if so should it? How many years does it take to establish something which can with integrity be called 'traditional'? Of course, underneath this, is my belief that the 'Tradition' is constantly developing and that those of us who may be contributing to the course of that development have an obligation to be knowledgable, sympathetic and understanding towards the tradition which is our starting point. Another thread on this site is accepting the fact that players are now mostly middle aged. How many prominent Anglo players are over 60? If my generation is to be seen as the next best thing to real traditional Anglo players - the next stage in the venerable and important transmission of traditional music - then we must ensure that we take our responsibilty seriously and show total respect for the music we are continuing. On with the discussion! Roger P.S. Isn't this a great website. Where else could we have such a debate?
  14. Will you all stop encouraging Steve Chambers to drive a tank! The roads of Ireland would never be safe again! I have always suspected that Steve's driving is the reason that multiple pile-ups are referred to on news bulletins as 'concertinaed'! Steve, I drove along Lea Bridge Rd the other day and noticed Vicarage Rd with happy memories. Best wishes Roger
  15. A CD version might happen one day. My understanding is that Veteran only got cassette rights and will not be making any more. Topic held on to the option of CD release one day, but it's hard to see it being a commercial proposition with the real enthusiasts already having the vinyl/cassette option. People like me (people like us?) have too much on vinyl that will never be re-issued to go down the route of changing 100% to CD and getting rid of the old machines. My deck is now over 30 years old but I can't upgrade it because I need the 78 speed! What I really hope to see from Topic is a CD release of all the Irish recordings that John Tams and Neil Wayne made back in the 70s and which were released on a Free Reed/Topic label. Topic own these which, I imagine, explains why there are a few tracks on recent Topic compilations but none on the Free Reed retrospective. Roger
  16. I discovered, at the Keith Summers Memorial Weekend, that John Howson still has a few cassettes, and accompanying books, of this excellent compilation by Reg Hall. It can be ordered from the Veteran web site. I do recommend this to anyone with an interest in English Country Music. Scan was a 'guv'nor' and one of the very few Anglo players to be recorded. At the weekend I also heard rumours of another player recorded in the mid-20th Century of whom I had never heard!!! If I find out more I'll certainly spread the news. Best wishes. Roger Digby
  17. I didn't realise there were so many concertina players in Seurat's work. The slim gentleman in brown (centre left) is clearly playing 'The Bells'! Must ring off now. Roger
  18. Robin Madge's offer of recordings in the thread concerning the sad news of Gladys Thorp is a reminder that, despite some excellent intentions of the ICA and the occasional burst of activity by them,we do not have recordings of many very important players. The opportunities for concertina players being recorded professionally are very few and we must learn the lessons that the passing of another player teaches. Namely that we must be more conscientious in encouraging and helping each other to get stuff down on tape (or whatever). It is not just the old stagers who are passing on; others die tragically young. I have been giving a little assistance to Al Day in his exciting Anglo project and it is distressing how little is available of such outstanding players as Andrew Blakeney-Edwards, Fred Kilroy, even Scan Tester. I was only able to offer one track of Rev. Ken and on that he was so obviously outside a skinful of Pink Gins that it was unusable! I was particularly anxious that Andrew should be represented on this collection (you'll realise why when you hear him!!) and I asked around widely for recordings, but in the end the best available was something he did for me on an old cheap and cheerful cassette player with ageing batteries. Can I urge everybody to consider making a recording of some 'party pieces' and I would then suggest submitting them to the ICA Sound Archive which would seem to me to be the obvious recipient and clearing house. Robin's offer is a generous one. I hope it creates an avalanche. Best wishes Roger
  19. Good news indeed. Dave is one of life's incurable enthusiasts! Thankfully it looks like only his enthusiasm is incurable. I think that if anybody is ever going to get anything 'out' of Fred Kilroy's recordings Dave is the man most likely to do it. I certainly see him as the guv'nor in that area. Best wishes for a full recovery. Roger
  20. I remember Pat from ICA meetings in the 70s. In my memory he played Bandoneon more often then Concertina. In fact, he could be the only person I have seen to play the Bandoneon 'live'. He was certainly a larger-than-life character, and could brighten up an ICA meeting! Roger Digby
  21. I hope this doesn't sound too pious! I wrote a bit about this in the review section of PICA 1 which is now available on line somewhere, but I can't remeber where and I'm at work as I write this (lunch break, of course!) A few paras were also used by Neil Wayne as part of the extensive booklet in the Transport Reissue box set. If you can't track this down get to me through the personal links contact on this site and I'll dig out the original copy and send it to you. Peter's style was genuinely unique and is worth looking at - as was anything he did! Best wishes Roger Digby
  22. Del, I have sent you a personal email, but I think if you click on a person's name (ie mine) you can email the person through the forum without having the exact address. Presumably you need to be logged in. I look forward to hearing back from you and possibly seeing you ! Roger
  23. Del, You don’t give a lot of information. Do you want to listen or join in? Is the concertina your deciding factor or do you want any good music? A good place to start is Martin Nail’s site http://web.ukonline.co.uk/martin.nail/Folkmus.htm Enjoy your visit! and feel free to get back to me directly if you want. Roger
  24. I also enjoy playing outdoors on the terrace in the summer weather. Until a few months ago, when the dreadfully low price of milk put yet another small diary farmer out of business, my nearest neighbours were a herd of Fresians. Now it is a proven fact that cow's produce more milk when they are played music so I claim at least 120 happy neighbours. A human neighbour a few fields away said to me one year, 'We heard you practising last night'. Practising! Practising!! I was playing my absolute best ever! Roger
  25. Funnily enough, the subject of one–off instruments came up in a conversation I had with Geoff Crabb a few days ago. He says that Crabb would make then, but when one was collected it was made very clear that the firm would not take it back for resale. They are as much, or more, effort to make as a standard model, but once the owner has no more use for them they are of virtually no second-hand value at all. Mike Acott currently has a Duet with the buttons arranged like a piano keyboard (probably the same one I saw in Liverpool Rd 30 years ago). Interesting, but who wants it? To address the main theme of this thread, I feel that we should never undervalue the few dedicated and hardworking master craftsmen of both sexes who create and maintain the highest quality instruments. There are few of them and they are sorely hard-pressed. Like Chris, I have benefited from a ‘drop everything - I’ll do it in 24 hours’ attitude when I have had a problem large or small immediately before a gig or recording session. This small band of craftsmen has my undying gratitude and respect. Roger
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