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Anglo Enthusiast

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  1. Hi Kathy. First of all, I'm so sorry to hear of your misfortune and admire you for your resilience. I would suggest that whatever system of concertina you decide to go with, it should be lightweight and the bellows should be flexible and cooperative, conforming to your needs rather than hindering you. On this basis, I'm afraid you will need to be willing to invest in at least a mid-range hybrid. I have played a cheap entry-level anglo concertina now for a little over a year and a half and have had to endure wrestling with stiff bellows and navigating an unreliable and erratic mechanism. Like yourself, I am very limited financially but decided to save up and invest in a mid-level hybrid some month ago. I elected to go with the Morse Ceili brand from a company called the Button Box (www.buttonbox.com) for several reasons. In order to stay within the scope of this particular thread, I will confine myself to mentioning a few of them that I think will have great application for your particular set of circumstances. First off, by all accounts, The Morse is substantially lighter in weight than most other concertinas (you can read more about this on the Button Box website). Secondly, as evidenced on various youtube videos, the folds of the bellows are very deep and flexible, responding with great efficiency. Finally, as you will see if you visit the Button Box site, you can purchase a Morse from Mulroy Music located in Co. Donegal or directly from Michael O'Raghallaigh of Co. Meath (his email and phone # are listed on the site). The Morse has an astonishingly short wait time (about a month; the one I ordered, which I should be receiving some time in the next week actually took less than a month!) and is priced at a little over 2,000 dollars/pounds. I am a man of extremely modest means by any standard yet was able to accumulate the necessary funds in about 4 months time (mind you, I've REALLY had to be intentional about restraining my spending habits, but the sacrifice is more than worth one's while, I believe). I am going to attempt to share some links of the Morse being demonstrated, so that you can get a general idea of what it is capable of. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roVztoQs5qM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h7K-BjzZFs I deliberately selected a clip first of the anglo-system Morse (Ceili) followed by a few of different pitched English-system Morses for the sake of variety. I hope this aids you in your decision. Finally, taking up the harmonica might prove an interesting alternative. Eddie Clarke, for one, was a phenomenal Irish harmonica player whose repetoire consisted entirely of a wide and vast range of traditional Irish dance music. You can hear audio samples of an excellent 4-cd anthology of his playing entitled "Unheard" at CD Baby. Also, I know I've seen at least a few harmonica tutors out there focused on Irish music and even some websites (though I haven't visited any of them). All the best to you in your decision, Kathy, and remember, there is a whole world of possibilities inherent within the limitations hoisted upon us by circumstance. It is just a question of shifting perspectives. Andy.
  2. Nice rim shot, Mark-the execution was spot-on; good to see that I am not the only percussionist working his way onto the concertina.
  3. Mark, let me just add that you have nothing to fearfeasog but fearfeasog itself.
  4. Please keep us posted on any developments. I checked out your site the other day and watched some of your youtube videos-wonderful stuff indeed. Andy
  5. <<<<"Bertram Levy style all-the-notes-on-the-push-or-pull">>>> Mark, I'm not sure I would describe Bertram Levy's concertina approach quite like that. If that is the general impression my posts have made, I fear I have represented Bertram's methodology inaccurately (or at least oversimplified it). In the interest of rectifying this, I will submit a direct quote from the introduction of Bertram's tutor addressing this issue and let that speak for itself. (from page 12 of American Fiddle Styles For the Anglo Concertina) "the in-and-out movement of the concertina does afford the instrument its own personality. The method presented here [in the tutor] does not seek to eliminate that movement but rather to harness it in a way that rhythmically enhances the music." Andy.
  6. Thanks for the info, Daniel. I'll check the website out. Andy
  7. I agree whole-heartedly that the inherent nature of the ryhthm and phrasing of a particular tune will to a large degree dictate one's choice of button/bellows direction. I believe this holds true for any style of music. I tried out that triplet B-A-G in both ways that you suggested in your post. Playing the G on the draw could potentially drain the life out of the triplet but not necessarily. There are other factors to consider, such as the manner in which one were to execute or articulate the specific note, the degree of bellows pressure one applies (here the wrist really comes into play), etc... my conviction is that it is potentially just as easy to play stoccato as legato in a uni-directional fashion (consider the playing of English system concertina players such as Dave Townsend or Richard Carlin). I love rapid and frequent changes of bellows directions and there can be a real advantage to this approach, though, to my mind the advantage is in the dense and uninterrupted chord structure you can build (this holds true especially for French/Italian Rennaissance dance music or English Morris tunes) rather than in achieving a certain rhythm. As far as rhythm and phrasing is concerned, "there's more than 1 way to skin a cat." In any event, in advocating a unidirectional approach, my intention was to apply this primarily to long passages that need to flow in a lyrical, fluid fashion (it seems to me that there are many such passages in Irish music, particularly reels, though I readily admit that I am not an expert on the matter). With regards to a triplet (like the B-A-G), to my mind it's just as easy to play it with or without changing bellows direction, and a full, satisfying rhythm can be yeilded by one or the other. It is the longer, more elaborate passages that require a greater degree of intentionality on the part of the concertinist. Andy
  8. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I did purchase the Rochelle from the Button Box, but unfortunately I bought it second-hand, and I don't think the upgrade program applies to used instruments. It's been really challenging restraining my spending habits these last few months in order to be in a position to afford the Morse Ceili, but to my mind, it's more than worth the sacrifice. I am at a stage where the Rochelle just cannot adequately accomodate my skills as they continue to develop. Anyway, I am on pace to be able to make the purchase early in September. Once I have my hands on the Morse, I hope to be able to post some videos on the web of my performing with it. Good luck with "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and I hope my description of how I would approach it (the opening phrase, that is) makes sense. Let me know if it doesn't and I will endeavor to clarify. Andy.
  9. You could also elect to play the middle A note on the G row (as opposed to C row) which would allow you to harmonize the Fsharp with low A (the first button on the G row, bellows open). You would need to adjust your fingering as follows: middle finger on A (button 3 on G row,bellows open); for the triplet, ring finger on Fsharp (button 2 on G row, bellows open; you could simultanaeously press button 1 with your pinky to harmonize the Fsharp with low A),index finger on E (button 4 on the C row,bellows closed), ring finger on D (button 2 on G row, bellows closed), index finger on A (button 4 on top row, bellows closed), ring finger on D (button 2 on G row, bellows closed), ring finger on Fsharp (button 2 on G row, bellows open), middle finger on A (button 3 on G row, bellows open). Andy.
  10. Extraordinary (both the quality of recording and performance). You should consider putting out some albums.
  11. The bottom row is the "G" row. Personally, I wouldn't confine myself to a single row. In addition to the Csharp, I would also utilize the top row for the duplicate A's and G's (in both octaves)going in the opposite bellows direction of the A's and G's found on the "C" (middle) and "G" (bottom) row. This allows for smoother phrasing which is of paramount importance within the Irish idiom. Since the sharps and flats are available in 1 exclusive bellows direction on the 30 button format (as opposed to the 36, 38, or 40 button), it is imperative that you are willing to be flexible with the notes that are available in both directions, constantly adjusting your choice of bellows direction on these notes to accommodate the exclusive notes and be able to arrange the entire phrase accordingly. In the Wind that Shakes the Barley, in addition to the F/C sharp, the E in the middle octave (on the left side of the instrument, C row; the second closest button to the bellows) is only available in 1 (closing) direction. The opening triplet (Fsharp-E-D)requires some intentionality regarding the choice of buttons/rows/bellows direction in order to be properly executed. Here is how I would play the opening phrase (in its simplest form). I will number the buttons from left to right (all the notes in this opening phrase are to be found on the left side of the instrument). I would play the first note (A) on the 5th button of the C row in the opening direction with index finger, the following triplet would be played as follows: pinky finger on Fsharp (which can only be found on the 2nd button of G row with bellows opened), middle finger on E (which can only be found on the 4th button of the C row with the bellows closed); I would play the D (last note of the triplet) on the 2nd button of the G row with the pinky, bellows closing. I would play the following A on the 4th button of the top row with the middle finger, bellows closing; keeping the bellows closed, I would play the proceeding D once again on 2nd button of G row with pinky finger; I would open the bellows to play the following 2 notes, electing to again use the pinky finger for the Fsharp and index finger for the A on the C row. I would highly recommend looking into Bertram Levy's tutor "American Fiddle Styles For The Anglo Concertina," which has really opened my eyes to the potential of the concertina and completely reoriented how I frame and interpret the layout of the instrument. Incidentally, I also play a Rochelle, though I will be upgrading to a Morse Ceili in September. Best of luck to you in your concertina endeavors. Andy.
  12. I play percussion. Started out on snare drum at the age of 12...progressed to drumset during Highschool years...eventually ended up playing a variety of hand drums and settled on a djembe for my mainstay...used to play it weekly at a cafe in Minneapolis with my brother on acoustic bass guitar and my father on mandolin.
  13. Thanks for sharing the link, Bruce. I got a kick out of the "Slim Pickins and Precious Little" stage name. I'm also excited to hear that you've expanded your repertoire to include American fiddle tunes. I watched your youtube video awhile ago of "the Laird of Drumblair" and it's clear from this clip that the time you've invested in Bertram's fiddle tunes tutor has not been in vein. I was impressed by the solid execution and fluidity in the phrasing-evidence, I think, of a real quantifiable improvement between this and your earlier recordings. What I like best about the new fiddle tunes tutor is that, though the focus is superficially on the American fiddle tunes repertory, the methodology presented therein represents, I think, something of a one-size-fits-all approach to the instrument. The chief value of the text, I would submit, is really primarily of a didactic nature, equipping the musician with a technical arsenal that can be applied with equal success to just about any genre (this, at least, has been my experience thus far). The fact that each excercise is steeped in one aspect or another of the American tunes is really, as I see it, the icing on the cake. Andy
  14. In his great and definitive book on the subject of American Method acting, film critic Steve Vineberg describes the ultimate aim of the Method as "making the theatrical familiar and making the familiar dramatically interesting." If we were to modify this statement and impose upon it a musical application, we'd have a pretty accurate description of what Bertram Levy and Kirk Sutphin accomplish within the realm of American fiddle tunes (to my mind, a rough musical equivalent of Method acting) in their new album THE BELLOW AND THE BOW. As far as I can discern, the arts have historically been dominated by imposing figures such as Shakespeare, Beethoven, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, or Laurence Olivier-men whose greatness lies in its grandeur; its sheer magnificence; its audacity; its immense, disarming, inescapable brilliance. However, there have always been individuals who represent a more subtle and less demonstrative (but no less profound) vision of what the arts can accomplish, like Mozart, Chekhov, the Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, or Vermeer-individuals that have an uncanny, almost subliminal knack for evoking and embodying the regrets and longings of ordinary folks and locating a paradoxical, earthbound sort of lyricism within what we might refer to as the domestic, even the vulgar (think, for example, of many of the characters that occupy the libretti of Mozart's great operas LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, DON GIOVANNI and his great singspiel DIE ZAUBERFLOTE). My conviction is that, in Bertram Levy, the concertina community has such an artist. Bertram really seems to be at the height of his powers these days and I would venture to say that he has achieved a mastery of nuance and economy that invites comparison to the likes of Bach and (again) Mozart. It seems to me that Bertram brings the same level of sophistication and harmonic daring to a less "elevated" musical form (namely American fiddle tunes), and in so doing, manages to lift it into the realm of high art (Norman and Nancy Blake have accomplished the same feat in their own ineffable fashion, and so, for that matter, has Peter Ostroushko within the more varied context of his patented Ukrainian-American, home-grown "Sluz Duz" ideology). Prior to obtaining THE BELLOW AND THE BOW, the most compelling glimpse that I had been afforded of just how far and exactly in what direction Bertram's approach to the concertina has evolved since the glory days of SAGEFLOWER SUITE and FIRST GENERATION was unfolded to me during a skype meet, where I had the priviledge of watching him perform a few fiddle tunes with his daughter, a talented classically-trained violinist who can also play a mean fiddle. I remember being overwhelmed by the contrapuntal expansiveness and sheer variety of interpretation explored within a single tune, and yet the innovation, no matter how impressive, never came at the expense of the restraint and good taste that Bertram seems to champion. THE BELLOW AND THE BOW not only documents this all-too-fleeting glimpse, but expands on it, as Bertram and fiddle great kirk Sutphin (Sutphin's contributions to the album are as distinct from the contributions of Frank Ferrell and Peter Ostroushko on Bertram's other 2 concertina albums as those contributions are distinct from each other) combine to leave an indelible impression. Andy.
  15. I echoe the words of commendation directed at Concertinnette's hornpipe project. I've found her approach to traditional Irish music to be refreshingly tasteful and unostentatious. The unassuming modesty of her technique suggests an adherence to the priorities of that East Clare style which perhaps has found its most defining embodiment in the playing of the great Mary MacNamara. It would be great fun to see Concertinnette follow up her hornpipe series with a complimentary reel/jig project. Andy.
  16. <<<While I'm fortunate to have acquired original vinyl copies of your "Sageflower Suite" and "First Generation" albums from about 30 years ago, I suspect many people today aren't aware of them>>> This is the great tragedy. These albums constitute, in my estimation, 2 of the most sublime works of art ever to have been conceived by a mere mortal and FIRST GENERATION, in particular, has come to represent for me nothing less than the very pinnacle of recorded instrumental folk music. I can't speak for Bertram, but I would imagine that, given the logistics of production costs compounded by the reality of an economy that is currently less than supportive of endeavors that deviate from the mainstream, perhaps the prospect of reissuing these 2 albums presents itself as an unprofitable and ultimately futile undertaking. What I'm wondering is if it might be possible to persuade a folk/concertina music enterprise of some sort that investing their resources in the pursuit of releasing these albums in CD format would be worth their while from a business standpoint. For my part, I think there is enough of an interest to justify this. It occors to me that the folks that put together the Anglo International compilation might be excellent candidates to take on the project. I've considered contacting them and presenting this prospect-I think they did a great job with the 3 tracks from FIRST GENERATION which made it onto the Anglo Iinternational anthology. Meanwhile, I couldn't be more ecstatic that, in THE BELLOW AND THE BOW, we finally have a Bertram Levy album centered on the concertina that is widely accessible to the general public, and I can't wait to get my hands on it! Best, Andy
  17. Hello, everyone. I just finished going through Bertram Levy's new tutor (American Fiddle Styles For The Anglo Concertina) and feel rather how Magellan must have felt upon discovering that the earth is not flat. This tutor has unfolded to me a whole, vast world of possibilties inherent within the 30 button concertina. To those of us familiar with Bertram's former tutor, The Anglo Concertina Demystified or his groundbreaking albums FIRST GENERATION and SAGEFLOWER SUITE it may come as a surprise that he would elect to focus exclusively on a single repertoire (American fiddle tunes) to shape these advanced studies as the defining trait of his previous work has been its cultural eclecticity. Paradoxically, brilliantly, Bertram's triumph in choosing to zero in on this specific body of music is really, as I see it, two-fold:by filtering his idealogy through these American fiddle tunes he illuminates not only how multi-faceted and culturally varied the repetoire actually is (encompassing influences as disparate as Irish, Afro-American, and English) but, more importantly, how, in complementary fashion, the concertina is equipped with a staggering adaptability which can mold itself both technically and stylistically time and again to the diversity of the material. And, splendid as the tunes are, the chief value of the text is in the concepts and techniques presented within the given study. Bertram submits in the introduction that these skills can be applied to any genre, and eager to take him up on this claim, I've spent the last few days incorporating the approach into a handful of tunes outside the American fiddling repetoire with exciting results. Like many others, I began my studies with the Anglo Concertina Demystified and decided to reapproach a few of the tunes from that tutor newly equipped with the techniques learned from the more recent tutor (my plan is to eventually re-arm all the tunes from the Anglo Demystified and perhaps even post the results of the experiment on youtube). I decided to revisit the English Morris tune Constant Billy and the Irish reels Morning Dew and Sportin Paddy. What I found was that, though the Irish and English styles stand in sharp contrast to each other, I was able to meet both with a new level of confidence and understanding while encountering some surprising harmonic possibilities along the way. I've also reapproached a few tunes of Parisian and French-Canadian decent with comparable results. One of the finger patterns from the tutor is of a particularly innovative nature and merits special mention. It is found in the study of the tune Rock The Cradle Joe and enables the concertinist to harmonize the C sharp and middle A with the bellows closing and then attend to the B on the third row while proceding to the C sharp in the next octave-and all without having to resort to changing bellows direction which would invariably interrupt the fluidity of the phrase. This maneuver is a stroke of genius and is in itself more than worth the price of admission. Fortunately, it is ony one of several incentives to give this new work a fair shake. I encourage any concertinist who has his/her sights set on mastery of the instrument and is, so to speak, in it for the long haul, to explore this tutor and leave no stone unturned. Andy
  18. I'm most eager to get in touch with Bruce McCaskey, whose personal review of Bertrum Levy's 2nd tutor served as catalyst for my joining this site

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