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Everything posted by Anglo-Irishman

  1. As a singer myself, I'd say your doubt is justified! In the context of folk songs and the like, which are the staple diet of the Anglo and the singers that use it, one semitone certainly doesn't make the difference between comfort and discomfort with a particular song and a particular key. I'm a bass-baritone, and accompany myself on a C/G Anglo. I can sing most folk-songs in C, and those that I can't, I can sing in G. I don't think I've ever had a case in which one key was too high for comfort and the other key too low. I must admit that I do have a few songs in my repertoire that I can manage best in F (which works well on my other main accompaniment, the 5-string banjo), but if I had to sing them in G, it wouldn't be a show-stopper. However, that's my take on it. A soprano, for instance, might prefer most songs in G, with D as an alternative. At any rate, any two keys a fifth apart are fine for singing. Cheers, John
  2. As a matter of fact, hexagonal concertinas with wooden ends, large buttons arranged in two Richter rows, and parallel levers leading to parallel reeds (often two reeds per note) are referred to here in Germany as "deutsche Concertinas" - which translates as "German concertinas." The instruments that are referred to in English as Large German Concertinas are referred to in German by the names appropriate to their version of the Richter layout: Chemnitzer or Carlsfelder Konzertinas, or Bandoneons. (They all have the central 20 buttons - two Richter scales a fifth apart - but different "accidentals.") BTW, the name of Jürgen Suttner has been mentioned. This gentleman, as a person, is indeed a German citizen, and his workshop is in Germany, but as a craftsman he works in the British/Irish tradition of concertina building. His products are therefore IMO correctly designated as English and Anglo concertinas. Cheers, John
  3. Yes, shape (and size), layout, reeds and action are the points to note. In each category, there are a "German" and an "English" variant. Taking the earliest examples of "German" (e.g. Uhlig) and "English" (e.g. Wheatetone): Shape: German rectangular, English polygonal (mostly hexagonal) Layout: German two Richter rows, English L-R-L-R chromatic scale Reeds: German several reeds on one plate, English each reed on a separate shoe Reed-plate attachment: German spiked (hooks hammered into the reed-pan), English dovetailed Action: German parallel levers on a common shaft, English individual radial levers. It seems that "intermarriage" started up fairly early on. When the English makers started using the German fingering system with radial levers, the German makers started making hexagonal instruments with parallel levers. Each nationality continued to use its form of reeds (large plate or single shoe). However, the early hexagonal German concertinas had the (straight) button rows arranged parallel to two of the sides, whereas the anglo-German ones had the (curved) button rows at right angles to two of the sides. The German makers have since "reorientated" their button rows. Nowadays, of course, the lower-priced German and Anglo-German concertinas both have accordion reeds, two to a plate - a feature that is neither traditional German nor traditional English! Cheers, John
  4. Precisely! Like "painting by numbers", only musical! Around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, there seems to have been a craze amongst instrument makers to invent an instrument that could be played by someone with no prior musical knowledge, and even without tuition. My theory is that this was a response to the emancipation of the working classes, who now had the leisure time to indulge in music-making, but not yet the financial means to pay for classical instruments and the associated music lessons. The fretted zither was popular back then, but required musicality and tuition to play it well; so the fretless zither emerged - Menzenhauer being one of the main manufacturers. The popular music of the day was available on sheets that you could slide under the (usually diatonically arranged) strings, with a zig-zag line showing which string to pluck next to get the melody. These zithers also had groups of 4 strings, each group yielding a chord when strummed. This Arietta sems to have its chord section under the buttons on the bellows section. Most of these "easy-to-play-with-no-prior-knowledge" instruments were soon forgotten, but a few lived on. Of the fretless zithers, the Autoharp (also a German invention) is the only one still alive and under development. But I regard the 20-button German - or Anglo-German - concertina as another successful attempt to muicalise the masses! Cheers, John
  5. I find most TV comercials discordant - in the worst sense. However, I make two exceptions: Guinness and Mercedes. They often contain poetry and/or wisdom. @Mikefule's posting reminded me of a nice Mercedes text: "Know the rules. Break them." Cheers, John
  6. This is all very well for us, and musicians like us - violinists, guitarists, trumpeters, etc. - who play portable instruments. We can take the instruments with which we have formed a symbiosis anywhere, whether practice room, convivial meeting or concert hall. But what about people like pianists and organists? They just have to play what's there! Even double-bass players sometimes leave their favourite instrument at home and borrow one for an "away gig" in another town. Cheers, John
  7. To put in a Existentialist way: as I see it, the Anglo is neither a reeded violin nor a reeded piano. It is an "authentic" instrument in itself, with neither the ambition to be, nor the pretence of beng, something else. The diatonic scale played "press, draw, press, draw, press, draw, draw, press" is not borrowed from another instrument, but was thought out by Richter and applied to several free-reed instruments (melodions, harmoncas ...). It is the most rational system for small, hexagonal concertinas because you only need half as many buttons as you have notes, and space is scarce. The 5-string banjo has been mentioned in connexion with the Anglo. For me, it's the Crane duet that has this similarity. I play both the 5-string banjo and the mandolin, and when I took up the Crane, I found that the left hand, with its moveable chord shapes, resembled the banjo, whereas the right hand, where the scale runs along a row until you run out of fingers, then continues on the next row, has the feel of the mandolin about it. But maybe that's just me! Cheers, John
  8. I've heard it said, and my own experience bears it out, that beginners on the Anglo feel "safer" with tight straps, whereas experienced players opt for the "freedom" offered by looser straps, and that as you become more proficient you'll tend to loosen the straps bit by bit. With playing experience, the arching of the hand takes up the slack, so to speak, and has the advantage that it can be varied according to the playing situation, which a strap cannot. I have also found it equally important - on both Anglo and Duet - to have straps of thick, stiff leather. With pliable straps, the instrument tends to flop about, even when you arch your hand, and thin straps tend to cut into your skin. I have occasionally thought of installing straps made of two layers of thin, comfortably soft leather with a layer of tinplate in between. This way, the the weight of the concertina would be supported directly on the knuckles of the index fingers, rather than "hanging down" between them. Cheers, John
  9. FWIW, I gave my youngest grandson, aged 6, a harmonica for Christmas, and he's taken quite a liking to it. He even reads the tablature for it. Now, I'd say a harmonica is to an anglo concertina what a practice chanter is to a full set of bagpipes. So when my grandson's hands are big enough for a normal Anglo, his musical instinct will help him to get off to a flying start. At least, that's what happened to me, two generations ago! Cheers, John
  10. Alan, I also find that I can enjoy music - of any genre - much more deeply when I can not only hear, but also see the performers. I suppose it's analogous to a face-to-face conversation giving you more insight into the person you're talking to than a telephone call would. Cheers, John
  11. @Parker135, as I see it, the Clover is a modern instrument that's still commercially available. Thus I wouldn't regard it as "irreplaceable," however good it may be. Should anything untoward happen to it, surely that would be a case for your insurance. The worst that could happen to you would be that you'd be concertinaless until the replacement was delivered. A top-class antique Wheatstone in perfect condition is a different kettle of fish. If it got lost or destroyed, you might never find anything as good again, no matter how much money the insurance paid out. Having said that, I must agree with Alex West: when I'm playing with or for others, I want to sound my best, so I'll take the instrument with the best tone and the easiest playability. At home, my main goal is to get my fingers round the pieces I'm working up, so I can practise on an instrument that may not sound as impressive, as long as it's playable. (My experience is with 5-string banjos, which can be set up so that even a cheap one with inferior tone has a comfortable action.) My two Anglos, a Crabb and a Stagi with Wakker bellows, both play easily; the only difference is between the traditional and accordion reeds. On boat trips I admittedly take my Stagi, but this didn't prevent me from supplying the incidental music to a promotion video that was being made about a little steamer that I took a cruise on! Cheers, John
  12. Some are born musical; some achieve musicality; and some have music thrust upon them. Just a thought .. John
  13. However, the harmomium has a circumvention: the Couplers. The bass coupler links each key on the LH side with the key an octave lower, and the treble coupler links each key on the RH side with the key an octave higher. (Where exactly the transition between LH and Rh takes place is part of the specification of the individual instrument.) These couplers have separate knobs, so you can play a louder melody over a softer bass, or vice versa. A very nice example is this YouTube recording. Both the couplers are seen in action, as is the knee-operated swell lever. If you want to listen to a bit of "sacred free-reed," try Rodney Jantzi's channel. There is a reason why the harmonium is called "orgue expressif" in French - it certainly is more expressive (in the sense of dynamics) than a piped organ blown by a soul-less machine! Cheers, John
  14. Top marks for Sustainability! My workshop is full of small, re-used packages like that. But then, I'm not only a concertinist, but also a banjoist, railway modeller and ship modeller, and have to repair and maintain furniture in the house. Cheers, John
  15. Careful! There are reed organs and harmoniums, and few non-experts are aware of the difference. Some of them are pressure-driven, some are suction-driven. The harmonium that I had access to as a child was obviously the pressure type, because pedalling harder definitely made it louder - though not much. But what both types of reed organ/harmonium have is the knee-operated swell levers. These definitely give you adequate dynamics. And remember also that reed organs and harmoniums have stops that produce different timbres, which can be used singly or combined as required. That's something no English-made concertina - and very few German Konzertinas - have. The Anglo, EC or duet can be used expressively, but in a different way from the harmonium. Cheers, John
  16. Oh dear! It was a long time ago, and I've no head for figures. Suffice to say that the new bellows cost almost as much as the whole concertina had cost some 10 years earlier. Wim Wakker was still located in The Netherlands at that time, so there were no customs duties involved. I don't know whether Wakker makes custom bellows any more, now that he has his manufacturing lines for Rochelle, Elise and Jackie in the USA. The bellows I got was perfect for an Anglo - stout leather, but with supple hinges. There's no time-lag between pressing at full pressure and drawing at full pressure; i.e there's no "slop" in the bellows. This really does, in my opinion, make 50% of the quality of an Anglo. As I said, the bellows was expensive - but it left me with a concertina that compared favourably with a new hybrid that would definitely have cost more. Cheers, John
  17. .. which is what I'd have advised, if I'd seen our thread sooner! The photos look very like my Stagi model, which I played for 20 years with my folk group, and which is still going strong 10 years thereafter. I must admit that, somwhere along the road, I had the bellows replaced by the Wakker company, but the reeds were worth it. They're still in tune after 30 years' playing, and sound twice as nice after the bellows transplant. A really value-for-money investment. A good hybrid with a sound close to the traditional concertina. Have fun! Cheers, John
  18. Mmmm! Delicious! Where are you? I'll bring my own plate and fork ... Cheers, John
  19. I've thought about this quite a bit. The composer Leonard Bernstein once said he didn't differentiate so much between "serious" and "popular" music - it was more important to distinguish "good" music and "bad" music. For me, another way of categorising music is to call it "composers' music" or "performers' music." @seanc mentions Irish trad. and Bach, and these are two examples that are wide apart on the composer/performer spectrum. Bach's works are typically for ensemles of players and singers, and they are musically pretty complex. The only way to perform them is for each musician and singer to do what the composer lays down in his score (the conductor helps them to do this). Improvisation and innovation are not advisable - any deviation from the meticulously balanced mix of notes would most likely sound "off." It's the composer's music, so the performers don't mess with it! With Irish trad., improvisation and innovation are of the essence. A traditional song exists merely as a melody and a lyric - everything else, be it key, tempo, style of ornamentation orchestration, harmonic structure, expression ..., is up to the performer. You'll often find that one singer can deliver a folk song so that it thrills you, but another singer, singing the same song, leaves you cold. That's performers' music! As I say, there's a spectrum here. A romantic composer may write a beautiful version of a folk song for baritone and piano - that would be the composer's music. Or I, as a banjoist, may play my impromptu variations on a theme from a Haydn string quartet - that's the performer's music. Each performance could be slightly different, but it would still be "authentic." If the pianist or the baritone took liberties with the composer's score, it would be regarded as improper. There is a grey zone: some composers' music is so demanding that not every soloist can manage it - so a truly virtuoso violinist or pianist can make a classical concerto his or her "own." And , of course, there must have been somebody who first performed the songs that we call folk songs - so the performer can't take 100% if the credit there, either! Cheers, John
  20. Stephen, Thanks for the link! I can see that the banjo is definitely a Windsor zither-banjo like mine - not the top model, but one of the better ones. A well-made and serviceable instrument! However, I very much doubt whether it's Hussey's playing that you can hear. The notes don't match the hand positions. And anyway, they didn't have films with sound-track back then, did they? I assume the film clip was dubbed over, but at least the music seems about right for the period - the kind of "old plantation-y" number that the black-face minstrels would have played back then. Could be from an old, remastered shellack record, or played by a modern banjoist from sheet music of back then. Cheers, John
  21. Here you go - Olly Oakley was very popular in the 1910s and '20s, and he played the zither-banjo. (On the linked page, select a tune title, then click on the mp3 link on the right of the resulting page.) Enjoy! John
  22. On the contrary, I find the term "muscle memory" quite useful! Memory is the key to being able to play a piece of music fluently on your instrument of choice. But memorisation has several aspects. One is remembering the tune. If you can't whistle or hum the tune, you won't be able to play it without sheet music. Another aspect is memorising the chord structure. Sure, you can develop a sixth sense for chord changes, so improvisation can to a certain extent replace memorisation - but this can leave you in the lurch when the harmonisation becomes more sophisticated than I, IV, V7. So, having memorised the tune and the harmonies, how do we know what buttons to press to get them? Muscle memory! An Autoharping friend of mine - a button-presser like us concertinists - says that she memorises a piece of music as a series of finger movements among the buttons. It's a dance that the fingers perform to produce the musical sounds you want - and the choreography of this dance is stored in muscle memory. And, of course, like with any memorisation, repetition is of the essence. Also, using the term "muscle memory" reminds us that we don't need to consciously know the name, or position on the stave, of a given note, or the name of the interval between it and the next note. To our fingers, it's just a memorised sequence of movements, stored in our hand muscles. Cheers, John
  23. The instrument most commonly associated with the Shackleton survival epic is the Windsor 5-string zither-banjo belonging to the expedition's meteorologist, Leonard Hussey. When everyone was limited to 2 pounds of personal belongings for the trek across the ice to the open sea, Shackleton ordered Hussey to bring his banjo (weighing 12 pounds) with him, calling it "vital mental medicine." I have one of the same model - and believe me, it is heavy! There's a nice write-up here. Cheers, John
  24. Nevertheless, some of us do have (and even play) Bandoneons on the side, so to speak. So though we may not be experts, you could regard us as a sort of "self-help group" within CNet. 😊 As my forum name suggests, I'm an Irishman who plays the Anglo, but I'm also a German with family in the Rhineland - and the Bandoneon is a German concertina in "rheinische Tonlage", i.e. Rhineland configuration. My Bandoneon is a small one dating from around 1900, bought in a West Berlin junk-shop, and single-voiced (one reed per button, as opposed to the bigger tango Bandoneons). As I quickly learned, if you can play an Anglo concertina, you can easily get a tune out of a Bandoneon! Welcome to the List! Cheers, John
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