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Dan Worrall

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  1. Alan, I took a week's worth of lessons from Tommy McCarthy nearly twenty years ago at the Willie Clancy school, and may be able to offer some advice on his playing style...although I have never learned the particular jigs you mention. I noted down his fingering style rather carefully for a number of tunes that week. Sadly, he passed away about five years ago. I'll mention here a couple of tunes that are I think both on the CD you mention. Tommy played mostly along the G row, even when playing in D. In "Within a Mile of Dublin", for example, he plays 95% of the notes on the G row on this D tune; he reached up to the C row on the left hand for the E, and to the top row on the right hand for the C#. In this, he is quite like Chris Droney or Tommy McMahon. This tune and others in D will give your left hand and your left pinkie quite a workout, as the tune is mostly played on the left. For ornaments on that tune, he makes extensive use of the first button on the right hand C row, on both press and draw. His index finger tended to hover over that button, just waiting for a chance to use it! For example, in the "...Dublin" tune (in the second half of the A part) he plays an A-B-A triplet, all on the draw, going from the left hand G row to the right hand C row and then back. In "Sporting Nell", he uses that same button in the Press for a briskly popped C that he uses in the opening phrase of the tune and liberally in many other locations within it. He also uses that button in "Sporting Nell" for the same A-B-A triplet mentioned above, and for a C-B-C triplet, on the draw, that opens up the second part of the tune. When in doubt with any of the ornamentation in Tommy's playing, try that button. Other than having to leave the G row for a button or two when playing in D, that particular button is his main concession to cross row fingering. The reason is simple....the index finger is fast (making nice little grace note pops) and there are plenty of occasions to make flowing triplets with that button, both on press and draw. There is much more to be learned about his style...it isn't all so easily documented. But that might give you a few ideas to try. Getting a "slow downer" for your CD player will help a lot. The difficulty with writing down precise fingering for the anglo, as I am sure you know, is that it is very labor intensive. I've been working lately on writing down the fingering for all of William Kimber's Morris tunes, and can tell you that that took a long while! (It will be published later this year). Studies of arrangements and fingerings of noted players should be approached mainly as a fun 'learning' thing to do and no more, of course; your own style should be allowed to develop freely. But there are lifetimes of learning out there, and it is definitely a good idea to "copy" some tunes from a variety of players as you are learning. Keep at it....I hope you have a strong left hand pinkie!
  2. You may recall that there was a "SE Concertina Squeeze-in" sceduled earlier this year that was unfortunately cancelled. Most folks think of the SE states as the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida....in otherwords, the Eastern part of the South. Not wanting to intrude upon the turf of the SE Squeeze-in, we named ours the SW Concertina Workshop, meaning the Western part of the South. Our pre-meeting emails targeted folks in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. This may be a bit subtle, but there was a double entendre in the title. SW for Texans can mean our place in either the western part of the South, or our place in the SW USA. Next year, we'll probably just go with the title "Old Palestine", the name of the charming Old Time Music Festival to which our squeezing was attached.
  3. I enjoyed the workshop, and very much enjoyed meeting some new concertina folks. I probably won the prize for traveling the furthest, from Texas; the workshop meshed with several other things we wished to do on this trip, so it was a catalyst but not our only reason to travel up to delightful Yankee country. My recommendations to make this an even better event in the future would be as follows: 1) Segment the classes by experience level (I agree with Jim's comments). 2) Put a cap on attendance in any one clasee at about 10 (too many people in John Roberts' classes, and the fact that it was held in a very large church room, helped cause the lack of focus just as much as the insensitive noodling). 3) Consider extending the length of the workshop. It is not really worth a long drive to attend a workshop of six hours total duration. A ninety minute segment was not enough time to work out even one fully chorded tune with anyone, given the mix of experience levels, and the need for introductions and all, and the instructors were well worth much more time! The Willie Clancy School's one full week of tuition may be a bit much for many, but two or three days....say a long weekend, with several class sessions for any one type of playing with a particular instructor...would really allow some in depth learning. 4) If the workshop is of that kind of duration, the socializing will tend to take care of itself with meals and off time. I too would have liked more time to meet new friends. All in all, though, it was a very good first try. I'm not sure I'll attend again, given the distance, but I did enjoy it!
  4. Report on Concertina Workshop, Old Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival Palestine Texas, March 31-April 2, 2005 Deep in the East Texas pineywoods and across the US South, old time southern fiddle music is much more than a memory. This music has deep roots that stretch back to Irish, Scottish and English forbears. Cecil Sharp was exposed to and noted down a few of these tunes when he collected English ballads in the southern Appalachian mountains during the First World War. This instrumental music was deeply shaped by the frontier conditions early settlers found; old styles of ornamentation were stripped off and the tunes were made rugged. An off-beat rhythm with occasional blue notes shows the strong effects of African-American culture. A lonesome high pitch A part followed by a lower pitch B part in a few old reels is said to show effects of Indian fiddle players of long ago. Fiddle tune names reflect eighteenth and nineteenth century frontier life: “Bull at the Wagon”; “Stranger on a Mule”; “Old Beech Leaves”; “Cackling Old Hen and a Rooster Too”; “Cabin Creek”. It is distinctively different from more sophisticated and modern bluegrass and country western music, and has a much more rural and “homey” feel. It was this musical setting that we chose for our first concertina workshop for the southwestern US region. Palestine Texas is a small east Texas railroad town, with fine old pine houses set amongst blooming dogwoods and wisteria vines; Faulkner would have felt at home here. The organizers of the small and very friendly Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival kindly welcomed us, not knowing much about concertinas other than hearing them on an occasional Irish CD. For our part, we knew very little about old time string band music from the south, so the lack of information was mutual! Concertinas had been played in this region as early as the 1840’s (the accompanying black and white photo shows a girl in rural Kentucky playing one, ca. 1900…thanks are due to Randy Merris for this photo), but playing them all but completely died out after WWI, except among Polish and Czech communities. Most American anglo and English concertina players, myself included, seem to focus strongly on Irish and English repertoires, and tend to all but ignore the vibrant and very much living tradition of the dance music of the old frontier and/or the rural South (one notable exception of course being those who play contra dance music in the northeast). This festival gave us a chance to experiment and broaden our perspectives on traditional music. For this first workshop we had a group of twelve players, gathered with help from the membership listing of concertina.net. None of us knew more than one other person among our group before this event, so a fair amount of time was spent getting to know each other. We discovered an amazing diversity of styles amongst some very experienced players, on anglo, English, Crane duet, Jeffries duet, and Hayden duet systems. Players came form a very large three state area of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Most told tales of learning and playing in isolation from other concertina players that are would sound familiar to other concertina players in many parts in the world. • Although only two or three beginners attended, everyone nonetheless attended a beginner’s workshop amiably hosted by Gary Coover, where we had a lively discussion and tune session showing off the merits of the various systems to the newbies (two of whom were “on the bubble” as to which system to choose). • Mark Gilston hosted a song accompaniment workshop; he is a professional musician from Austin, playing English concertina and mountain dulcimer among other things. He has a rich chording style on the English system, singing while he plays; he also performed during the general festival concerts. • A good crop of anglo and English system players concentrated on Irish and English music; these able players included Gary Coover, Roy Janik, Nancy Bessent, Stephen Mills, and Dan Worrall. Rodney Farr is a new anglo player who probably got more help and advice getting started than he bargained for! • The duets were surprisingly well represented. Kurt Braun entertained us all with his richly accompanied popular and semi-classical tunes on the Crane duet; ICA members will see the results of some work he did with Roger Digby on using fake books in the next ICA newsletter. Jim Bayliss has played Hayden duet for decades, and that experience really shows in his beautiful playing. Stephen Mills just missed having his new Hayden arrive in time for the workshop; he is familiar to Forum readers with his membership map. Finally, Gary Coover demonstrated his considerable expertise on the Jeffries duet; he must be one of only a few active players on this rare system. • We formed an impromptu concertina band consisting of two English tenor/trebles, an English baritone, an English bass, a Crane duet, and a Hayden duet. Feeling plucky, we took our best tune to the festival performance stage. Certainly this was the first concertina band ever heard in this neck of the woods! • Harold Herrington, the concertina maker from nearby Mesquite Texas, brought his tuning bench and hosted a repair workshop and tuning demonstration. He also kindly volunteered to help one or two players with considerable concertina restoration issues, following the workshop. • Bob Tedrow, the concertina maker from Homewood Alabama, was not able to attend but sent his touring anglo concertina instead. His and Harold Herrington’s concertinas gave us some excellent examples of new concertina construction, and we were all impressed by them. It was remarked during the workshop that with Wally Carroll now building fine anglos in Kentucky, the greater southern region is now graced by three builders. Add the fine restoration work by Paul Groff, who lives now in Florida, and there is quite a lot of concertina action going on down here these days. Back at the main festival, there was plenty of other music to hear, and people to play tunes with. Some superb old time musicians both gave concerts and played in the many open jam sessions that were spread out within the large old school building and surrounding grounds. Many of the most advanced of these were from the southeast as well as Texas, and their names would be very familiar to old time enthusiasts; they played fiddle, frailing-style banjo, mandolin, guitar, stand-up bass, and mountain dulcimer. The music was infectious, and all were all extremely friendly. Musicians were easily approachable, and eager to share skills and tunes. The workshops and concerts included all age groups; quite a few children were playing this type of music, which is an encouraging sign. The laid back and spontaneous festival atmosphere was a lot like I remember from the Willie Clancy week in west Clare some twenty years ago (I haven’t been lately, and hope it still has that small town feel). There were sessions at various levels of play, many of which went late into the night. This being the Bible belt, there were no pubs and no beer on the premises…but the music hardly seemed to notice. Much of the credit for the overall festival is due to the good work of Jerry Wright, who plays old time music with his family band. It was unanimously agreed amongst the concertina players that this was a perfect venue for us, and we are already starting to plan our workshops for next year. This year many of us were introduced to the living tradition of old time music, and some of us will start to experiment with playing it during the coming year. There certainly is precedent for this; one concertina person with deep old time music roots is of course Bertram Levy; many readers will recall his use of old time fiddle tunes in his anglo tutor from 1985, and as well his frailing banjo playing from his time in the Hollow Rock String Band in the 1960’s. In addition, our concertina band experiment will continue next year, and we plan to arrange some old time waltzes for it. We hope that the wide diversity of concertina music styles that we enjoyed this year…Irish, English, popular, semi-classical, and old time American…will be something we can maintain in the future. If you are interested in taking part in this workshop and festival next year, you are very welcome. Please send an email to concertinatexas@msn.com, and you will be placed on the email list as plans are made. Some Resources: A good site for an overview of "old time" music: http://www.oldtimemusic.com/ There were hundreds of 78rpm recordings made of this music in the early 1900's; many can be found for free here: http://www.honkingduck.com/BAZ/baz_one.php?req=title In the review here of the new EFDSS book "Dear Companion", which describes Cecil Sharp's time in the southern Appalachians, there is a link to a fascinating article by Mike Yates describing the world of traditional dance music in the southern mountains: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/r_index.htm
  5. Just an additional thought for you, if you're in the market for an inexpensive recorder for workshops and the like. If you have an iPod (they seem to be getting common these days!), you can add a little recorder/mike attachment the size of your thumbnail from Belkin.com for all of $35. It turns the iPod into a very easy to use "voice recorder" the quality of which I find is easily equal to the old hand-sized cassette recorders we used years ago to record players in workshops (I skipped through the minidisc phase, I guess). Not only do I have most of my sizeable CD collection with me when I travel (I cannot remember how many thousands of tunes this little wonder holds), I also am ready at any time with memory to spare to record days and days worth of voice and music. Admittedly it is mono and not studio quality...but the pitch is right on the money. I suspect we'll see major improvements on this part of iPod technology in coming years.
  6. RHomylly, This is good advice from Henk; I agree. Ornaments and speed are technical things that are way secondary. Learn the tune first and play it well enough to feel what it is saying; this is music first and foremost of the heart, not the brain, muscles and adrenalin glands. All the rest can come later as you progress. Most Noel Hill students will play a 30 button, three row instrument, although Noel points out on his site that a two row will do for starters. The story I heard on the particular and unusual 24 button extended two row instrument that you own (told to me by Harold Herrington) is that its fingering pattern was suggested by Jacqueline McCarthy, a young player of the old west Clare style, and then executed by Frank Edgley and his colleague Harold Herrington (they share a lot of design ideas, and both sell these), as you say specifically for Irish music. You probably know that Frank's own playing style is of the older anong-the-row type (patterned after the style of Chris Droney especially), and this particular instrument reflects that, in my opinion. Because of this, and a bit because of your newness and your current isolated location in New Mexico, I would point you toward Frank Edgley's Irish Anglo tutor...perhaps you already own it? There is a good section on ornamentation that is well suited to your instrument. I had sensed that you were not yet, as you just mentioned, well versed in various styles of Irish playing; hence the advice I gave you earlier to explore these a bit before locking into any one particular style of playing. Mary MacNamara you have now heard of. Try also Jacqueline McCarthy (especially since she seems to have had a part in designing that keyboard!), as well as a CD recently released of her late father Tommy McCarthy; both lovely players. Also recently re-released is an older recording from the concertina revival period of Bernard O'Sullivan and Tommy McMahon. Real farmer music and very captivating. And another old classic also recently released on the playing of Mrs Crotty. All these are in print still and can be Googled. Having heard some of the regional styles, and of course the viruoso playing of Noel Hill and the many younger players of that fashion, you will be in a good situation to shape your own approach.
  7. Next year we'll try to organize this a bit sooner; sorry there's nothing more to be done on the width-of-Texas issue. Palestine is in northeast Texas, which helps keep distance down for those in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Maybe you could offer to host the next one in New Mexico? A plate of green chile enchiladas with some blue corn tortillas would go very well with concertina music. We've had a relatively strong response however (around fifteen confirmed so far for our first concertina workshop in this region); there seems to be a pent-up demand for a get together that doesn't entail traveling all the way to the east or west coast. The convergence with a fine 'old time music' festival has undoubtedly helped as well. One addition to the agenda that was posted earlier: Bob Tedrow will be sending a demo instrument from his shop in Alabama. Harold Herrington will have some instruments there too, so there will be a very good opportunity to see how some of these mid-price range instruments look and play.
  8. We will hold a concertina workshop in the small east Texas town of Palestine, on April 1-2. There is a wonderful music festival scheduled there (March 31-April 3) called the Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival; you can read about it at http://www.geocities.com/palestinefestival/index.htm. We will hold our concertina workshops within that festival, so there will be lots of great southern fiddle music around as well. The workshop focuses on concertina players in the western part of the US south. This workshop will be oriented much more on networking and playing than on teaching, although all three will occur. We are drawing on people within the concertina community in our region to host workshops and sessions. The festival has a very modest fee charged to all participants, but there are no extra charges for the concertina events. Suggestions on accomodations can be found on the festival website. Workshop planning and scheduling is still in motion, but so far we have the following confirmed: 1. Song accompaniment techniques. Mark Gilston plays an eclectic mixture of styles on the English concertina , and is a featured performer at the festival. This workshop, hosted by Mark, will focus on song accompaniment techniques, and is open to players of any systems. 2. Beginning concertina. Gary Coover plays English, anglo, and Jeffries duet, and will host a session for beginners on all concertina systems. Help in getting started with the buttons; on finding resources for learning; where to get instruments; what are the various systems all about, and help meeting some local players for mentoring. And play a few easy tunes! 3. Morris anglo: Dan Worrall plays in the William Kimber style (English tunes with lots of left hand chords), and has just finished writing a book of detailed transcriptions for anglo of Kimber’s playing. He’ll bring a few of those transcriptions along, and we’ll try them on for size. Limber up those pinkies! 4. Duets Anonymous. We know you are out there. Playing all sorts of non-traditional tunes, in the shadows…. You are not alone, even here in the Southwest. There will be players of several duet systems (including Hayden, Jeffries, and Crane) at Palestine. Gary Coover will host, with his rare Jeffries duet, along with Kurt Braun, who plays the Crane. Any McCann folks out there? 5. Irish concertina. Dan and Gary will host this one, but we’re looking at this more as good networking rather than teaching. Bring your favorite tunes and tips. We’ll trade information on various styles of anglo playing; discuss ornamentation. Mainly for anglo players, but English system players also most welcome! 6. Concertina repair workshop. Harold Harrington, of Herrington Brothers Concertinas in nearby Mesquite, both builds and repairs concertinas. Bring your questions on buzzy reeds and sticking buttons, and Harold will review the basics of repair. 7. Concertina tuning demonstration. Ever wonder how they tune those things? Harold is bringing along his tuning bench and strobe system, and will show you how it is done. 8. Concertina slow jam session. Ever wonder what a room full of Southern concertina players sounds like? Bring your favorite tunes and let’s just see. We’ll keep the tempo slow so all can play along. Schedules for the workshops will be placed here in coming weeks; the workshops will occur in time slots starting Friday and Saturday at 9:30 am and all will end by 4 pm each day. We will try to put together some sort of lunch or dinner event so that all of us can get a good chance to get to know each other, but will save the evenings for the old time music concerts. There is a full array of Old Time and mountain dulcimer sessions and concerts throughout the large old building, so there will be no lack of things to do (you are most welcome to join in these sessions, as there are jam sessions for all levels...but please be sensitive to the few more expert sessions, where concertinas are not yet considered apropos by some old time string band players). For less musical spouses and friends, the dogwoods are in bloom in the piney woods, there are tours of old southern houses, and there is a great nineteenth century steam locomotive that takes passengers from Palestine to Rusk and back. If you wish to participate and have not already done so, please answer the questions below and email it to Dan Worrall at concertinatexas@msn.com. All arrangements other than the concertina workshops are up to you. We look forward to meeting you there and playing some tunes! -The Organizing Committee (Dan Worrall, Gary Coover, Mark Gilston, and Harold Herrington) Applicant questions: 1) I am___ I am not___interested in being informed about potential future concertina workshop weekends (annual or semi-annual) for this region. 2) I tentatively plan to___ I do not plan to___ attend the weekend in Palestine. 3) I play: English system________ Anglo_________ Duet__________ (if duet, please specify system) 4) My level of playing is: Beginner_________Intermediate___________Advanced___________ 5) If intermediate or advanced, would you be willing to help host a workshop if asked? Yes_____ No________ 6) My preferred styles of music is (choose top one or two): Irish_______ English & Morris_______ Old time fiddle tunes___________ Contra and English Country Dance music________ Song accompaniment_________ Other________( if other, please specify). 7) If I attend, I would most like to accomplish the following during the weekend:____________ 8) My name: _______________________________ 9) I live in: Town or city____________________________ State________________________. ps. make your room reservations early...it is a small town!
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