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Playing Across the Rows


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@ Mischa: Thanks for posting the tune. Tom Lawrence is certainly a lovely player. Unfortunately, regarding your earlier comments, his playing on the 30B C/G validates the cross-row approach on a C/G.

 

Hey, I never said cross row is bad. It was my instinctive technique from the start. Tom' s playing though is not "smooth". He uses push/pull to it's fullest. He also uses harmony quite a bit. And he plays F/Bb and D/A. I'm just in the opinion that learning particular fingering for particular key has any objective value is wrong. Fingering is subjective, tune related and not set in stone. I'm sure Noel Hill plays in many keys and has Concertinas in other keys from C/G. I think He also has F/Bb one, D/G etc.

By the way, one of the sites about Bandoneons has historic perspective on addition of buttons throughout time.

The article made it obvious to me, that if one begins to learn bandonion from 20 button concertina point of view, it will become very logical and apparent. So far Bandoneon layout is perceived as "crazy", however, if one begins to play it from the core 10 buttons and then add more one by one, it's system will be much easier to understand.

And why not? 20 button Anglo is very capable instrument. There is lots of music that can be played on Bandonion using only core 12 buttons. Then one can explore additional buttons, added for reversals, for not having to jump sides to play melody, to play low bass and high chords on one side, etc. This same approach can make learning Anglo so much easier. I'm teaching 3D animation at two schools and see it clearly. No matter how much I explain basics of character acting, students keep making same mistakes. But when I present simple geometric object and let them practice principles with those objects, learning goes much faster.

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I await with interest Bertram Levy's new publication, his wide experience on bandoneon and Anglo should add clarity or further muddy the water!

 

 

Also related

Dan W

I've just finished my first reading of your excellenet two volumes and am working through the octave scores transcribed from older players from various musical cultures. Quite a challenge to we who came into more chord/single note melody style as well as harmonica where you tend toplay mainly with added 3rds and 5ths . Brian Petrs told me that Harry Boardman of Manchester the singer and player played Anglo like that, kind of 'Kimber Kords'.

 

You say about the South African Boers that some evolved to more complex cross button style to play modern chromatic tunes.but that there has been a revival of older folk type music in older style (like some of the Australian 'bush' players). Has that movement shown any sign of developing cross row fingering to get smoother play or have they stuck to in the rows and octaves? Melodeon players went from up and down the row to smoother style as people got more experienced after the 70s ( see Melodeon.net discussionswhere there are more of them than us)

 

 

 

As you say we either went for Kimber or Tester and /or melodeon influenced styles as by John Kirkpatrick et al. Will duke has fairly faithfully mirrrored scan, Roger Digby seems to be able to do both ( come inplease ROger)

 

 

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As a very long-time student at Noel's classes and advocate for his program, I have made my opinion known here previously and won't bore you with it again. But you should know that some years ago, Noel was working on just the book that many of you seem to favor. One year he took that manuscript with him to Willie Week and someone stole it. Since that time, he has -- with fits and starts -- been working to recreate the project again, but it is slow going and often has to take a back seat to the daily grind of earning a living and raising a family as a single parent. There are also supposed to be people in Ireland helping him with the computer work to transcribe the appropriate tunes.

 

Hopefully he will be able to bring this project to publication soon and we can put this recurring issue behind us. In the meantime, I would like to encourage anyone who is interested in learning anglo concertina from a master, to sign up for Noel's course. I've been doing them every year since 1996 -- save one -- and each year is a new treat for me.

 

Best regards to all,

 

Ross Schlabach

I remember when that happened. I was at the Willie Clancy School at the time, at least 15 years ago, I think. I remember Noel being very upset about it.

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I await with interest Bertram Levy's new publication, his wide experience on bandoneon and Anglo should add clarity or further muddy the water!

 

 

Also related

Dan W

I've just finished my first reading of your excellenet two volumes and am working through the octave scores transcribed from older players from various musical cultures. Quite a challenge to we who came into more chord/single note melody style as well as harmonica where you tend toplay mainly with added 3rds and 5ths . Brian Petrs told me that Harry Boardman of Manchester the singer and player played Anglo like that, kind of 'Kimber Kords'.

 

You say about the South African Boers that some evolved to more complex cross button style to play modern chromatic tunes.but that there has been a revival of older folk type music in older style (like some of the Australian 'bush' players). Has that movement shown any sign of developing cross row fingering to get smoother play or have they stuck to in the rows and octaves? Melodeon players went from up and down the row to smoother style as people got more experienced after the 70s ( see Melodeon.net discussionswhere there are more of them than us)

 

Hi Michael,

 

I must confess I have not been watching this thread. Good to hear you have made it through both volumes with your sanity still intact.

 

Most of the early players for which I transcribed examples were essentially two row players. I'd say that of the players I collected recordings for, half to two thirds were cross row players, and the rest more-or-less strictly along the row. Mullaly was of the latter group, and as I mentioned there he played almost all his repertoire purely on the D row of what was either a GD or a DA. By the way, I'm told by ITMA that the Mullaly CD will be available only from them on their website, within the month. Jackie Small has transcribed all his tunes. I put one of them in my book, in a slightly modified version.

 

Cross-row playing is very old. Most of what has been said of most old-time Irish anglo players being "along-the-row" is erroneous, from what I have seen, as mentioned above--that percentage estimate goes for Ireland, Australia and South Africa too. As I mentioned in the book, most old players for house dances were also octave players, and the best of them always cross-rowed. I put a quote in the book from John Kelly, who describes how he was taught to cross row in octaves as a child, by an old woman near his village. And of the next generation, players like Elizabeth Crotty, Michael Doyle, Bernard O'Sullivan, etc cross-rowed effortlessly. Mots of them by this time used octaves only as an ornament, although an extensively-used one.

 

I put the basic cross row octave scale in my book. Kimber's playing fit this (his chording system built upon it), as did that of many of the old Irish, Australian and South African octave players. If you listen to Bernard O'Sullivan and Tommy McMahon playing "I have a bonnet trimmed with blue" on the Clare Set CDs, they are playing in a cross-row octave style; the transcription is in my book. No one much teaches this cross-row octave system today--it seems to have been lost among all the modern styles. Octaves are usually treated as an occasional ornament at best, and few ordinary players who I meet seem to be able to play full octave scales up to tempo; in the past this was a major style on the German two-rows. It is conceptually a different approach to the instrument than along-the-row or more modern alternative cross-row scales, and a lot of fun. I was to teach that at Button Box this spring, but a funeral intervened.

 

On your question about old-time Boer players on 20 buttons, yes certainly they cross-rowed. If you try the transcription of Hans Bodenstein's "Settees" in the book, recorded about 1929, you'll see that it weaves effortlessly from C to G row and back again, all the while in octaves (in the text I indicate the fingering of the A part). That is a two-row tune. The old Boer players were superb, having been the recipients of several generations of playing skills, in a fanatically Anglo-German concertina-playing social environment.

 

I just had a nice visit with Sean O'Dwyer in Dublin (see other thread on his CD, where I posted some photos). His mother (Ellen O'Dwyer) was one of those old octave players, although he thinks she was an along-the-rower. I haven't transcribed anything from her, so I don't know. While in Dublin I visited the Irish Trad Music Archives and listened to some superb recordings of Mary Ann Carolan (1902-1985) of Drogheda and of her father (born 1866!), Pat Usher. As a 93 year old he could play most of us (certainly me) into the ground! Both extensively used octaves in their playing style, and played 2 row German concertinas. I'm trying to get copies of those recordings to learn from; I'd guess offhand that they were cross-row players.

 

Most of the old players played in C because that was the best key to utilize the full potential in octaves of a two row instrument (G was secondarily used, too, of course).

 

Hope this is of use. I'm starting to collect recorded examples of old octave playing for a CD. We'll see how that goes.

 

Cheers,

Dan

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I've been reading this thread with interest, amusement and frustration. I am a big supporter of intellectual property rights for some things (books, music, art) but not other things (e.g. cancer cells) but an open source part of me says, "fingering for an instrument"? Anyways, I'm not here to get involved in the issue.

 

I'm picking up the Anglo at what my sons would say is an advanced age. Things don't come as easily or as quickly as they used to. Having played melodeon off and on for 30 years (Morris tunes) I didn't need to cross rows very much. I'm finding with the Anglo that I will need to cross rows for some of the non-Morris tunes I'm learning. I know there is no substitute for a lot of practicing but I'm wondering what are the best resources (books, DVDs, etc.) available for someone who isn't going to get to a workshop to help jump start the process? I don't want to pick up bad habits that will be hard to unlearn. I did that with piano when I was a teenager. I taught myself to play because I wanted to compose music, but when I started to take lessons so I could play and compose better I had a lot of bad habits to unlearn.

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After my above post earlier this morning, I decided I had better catch up on this thread. So I just read it all...eight pages!!..at one sitting. My head may well explode if I read any more debates about Noel Hill's system and its alleged secrecy! Enough already!! :P

 

I thought that I had better add that when I said "Most of what has been said of most old-time Irish anglo players being "along-the-row" is erroneous" I did not mean this crowd in this thread...clearly a knowledgable group here!

 

After seeing the posts about keys and their utility on a two row, and what part of the Irish repertoire is thus not playable on a CG, I thought I might comment on Mullaly's approach to all that...which was to ignore it! :rolleyes: Jackie Small's analysis of Mullaly's playing is fairly clear. Mullaly played almost everything...say 99%...on the single D row of his either GD or DA instrument. So he played in D and its relative minor and modes...but also played in G and in A and their relative minors. So what was his response to either lacking an appropriate sharp, or having one too many? As a Civil War admiral once famously said, Damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead! Mullaly blew right past, playing the "wrong" notes, just as WIlliam Kimber often played the "wrong" chords. This gave Mullaly's music quite a bit of musical uniqueness and attractiveness relative to standard settings.

 

One thing I miss about modern three row, cross row styles using alternative scales is the uniqueness of those old concertina settings. Now that the instrument can play darn near anything a set of pipes or a fiddle can in terms of ornamentation, and now that there is no need to ever play "wrong" notes, and no need to alter a setting taken from a fiddler or a piper to adapt it to the instrument, I find myself missing the old-timey sound of the two row instrument and its flaws and its unique settings. But that is just me....to each his own.

Edited by Dan Worrall
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Hi Twizzle , what have you got- C/G or G/D Anglo? then I can advise from my experience as an older adopter/adapter from D/G melodeon to C/G Anglo.

 

Dan

Thanks for your post, I agree with your assessment.. In the melodeon world there is an interest by many in older style playing.

 

As to the older but skilled concertina players I listen to all sorts and take what I like by way of style and tunes. I find the C/G a pretty flexible instrument for various types of approach and am looking forward immensely to The Swaledale Squeeze in a few weeks

 

I am pretty committed to modern approaches and wouldn't want to go back completely but you can have a variety in your bag. I still play melodeon on one row with great pleasure as well as on D/G or C#/D.

 

 

One can inform the other .

 

Looking forward to ITMA and your CDssmile.gif

Edited by michael sam wild
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Michael,

 

I have a G/D and a Bb/F. Melodeon is an A/D. (I was told it was D/G when I bought it in Oxford.)

AS I play by myself, I don't usually think of what key the instrument is. In other words, I play almost everything as though I'm playing a G tune on a G/D instrument and transpose the key in my head.

 

 

 

 

Hi Twizzle , what have you got- C/G or G/D Anglo? then I can advise from my experience as an older adopter/adapter from D/G melodeon to C/G Anglo.

 

 

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I await with interest Bertram Levy's new publication, his wide experience on bandoneon and Anglo should add clarity or further muddy the water!

 

 

Also related

Dan W

I've just finished my first reading of your excellenet two volumes and am working through the octave scores transcribed from older players from various musical cultures. Quite a challenge to we who came into more chord/single note melody style as well as harmonica where you tend toplay mainly with added 3rds and 5ths . Brian Petrs told me that Harry Boardman of Manchester the singer and player played Anglo like that, kind of 'Kimber Kords'.

 

You say about the South African Boers that some evolved to more complex cross button style to play modern chromatic tunes.but that there has been a revival of older folk type music in older style (like some of the Australian 'bush' players). Has that movement shown any sign of developing cross row fingering to get smoother play or have they stuck to in the rows and octaves? Melodeon players went from up and down the row to smoother style as people got more experienced after the 70s ( see Melodeon.net discussionswhere there are more of them than us)

 

Hi Michael,

 

I must confess I have not been watching this thread. Good to hear you have made it through both volumes with your sanity still intact.

 

Most of the early players for which I transcribed examples were essentially two row players. I'd say that of the players I collected recordings for, half to two thirds were cross row players, and the rest more-or-less strictly along the row. Mullaly was of the latter group, and as I mentioned there he played almost all his repertoire purely on the D row of what was either a GD or a DA. By the way, I'm told by ITMA that the Mullaly CD will be available only from them on their website, within the month. Jackie Small has transcribed all his tunes. I put one of them in my book, in a slightly modified version.

 

Cross-row playing is very old. Most of what has been said of most old-time Irish anglo players being "along-the-row" is erroneous, from what I have seen, as mentioned above--that percentage estimate goes for Ireland, Australia and South Africa too. As I mentioned in the book, most old players for house dances were also octave players, and the best of them always cross-rowed. I put a quote in the book from John Kelly, who describes how he was taught to cross row in octaves as a child, by an old woman near his village. And of the next generation, players like Elizabeth Crotty, Michael Doyle, Bernard O'Sullivan, etc cross-rowed effortlessly. Mots of them by this time used octaves only as an ornament, although an extensively-used one.

 

I put the basic cross row octave scale in my book. Kimber's playing fit this (his chording system built upon it), as did that of many of the old Irish, Australian and South African octave players. If you listen to Bernard O'Sullivan and Tommy McMahon playing "I have a bonnet trimmed with blue" on the Clare Set CDs, they are playing in a cross-row octave style; the transcription is in my book. No one much teaches this cross-row octave system today--it seems to have been lost among all the modern styles. Octaves are usually treated as an occasional ornament at best, and few ordinary players who I meet seem to be able to play full octave scales up to tempo; in the past this was a major style on the German two-rows. It is conceptually a different approach to the instrument than along-the-row or more modern alternative cross-row scales, and a lot of fun. I was to teach that at Button Box this spring, but a funeral intervened.

 

On your question about old-time Boer players on 20 buttons, yes certainly they cross-rowed. If you try the transcription of Hans Bodenstein's "Settees" in the book, recorded about 1929, you'll see that it weaves effortlessly from C to G row and back again, all the while in octaves (in the text I indicate the fingering of the A part). That is a two-row tune. The old Boer players were superb, having been the recipients of several generations of playing skills, in a fanatically Anglo-German concertina-playing social environment.

 

I just had a nice visit with Sean O'Dwyer in Dublin (see other thread on his CD, where I posted some photos). His mother (Ellen O'Dwyer) was one of those old octave players, although he thinks she was an along-the-rower. I haven't transcribed anything from her, so I don't know. While in Dublin I visited the Irish Trad Music Archives and listened to some superb recordings of Mary Ann Carolan (1902-1985) of Drogheda and of her father (born 1866!), Pat Usher. As a 93 year old he could play most of us (certainly me) into the ground! Both extensively used octaves in their playing style, and played 2 row German concertinas. I'm trying to get copies of those recordings to learn from; I'd guess offhand that they were cross-row players.

 

Most of the old players played in C because that was the best key to utilize the full potential in octaves of a two row instrument (G was secondarily used, too, of course).

 

Hope this is of use. I'm starting to collect recorded examples of old octave playing for a CD. We'll see how that goes.

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

There are links to some nice recordings of Mary Ann Carolan and a couple of other old-style players here.

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There are links to some nice recordings of Mary Ann Carolan and a couple of other old-style players here.

 

Thanks, Daniel! I had forgotten about that one. It is not a representative one of her prowess--the music recorded in the RTE tapes is much better--but nonetheless it serves to show her octave-style playing. There are few enough recorded examples in Ireland of this old style.

 

By the way, she is playing it in E flat...most likely on a Eb/Ab German concertina, I should think. It is pitched very low. It seems that the concertina is an "organ" concertina, with double notes in octaves, and then she is playing it in octaves...so she is sounding 4 reeds for each note played in most of the tune. This was what they wanted in the house dances--a sound like a melodeon, with some throaty low notes, and a lot of volume. Dance tempos then being a little slower (we're talking late 19th/early 20th C for the bulk of this genre), it didn't matter so much that one had to really pump those concertinas.

 

She plays the whole thing on the Eb row...on this piece at least, she is a single row octave player, as opposed to other octave players who made use of both rows in a cross-row fingering. With the skill she exhibited on the RTE tapes I heard, I'd say though that she was a cross rower at least sometimes....but I need to confirm that once I obtain--somehow--copies of those tapes.

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I don't understand this 'across vs along the rows' concept when it comes to discussing decent players.

 

We're talking about people playing known tunes, not improvising, right? So the notes required are fixed, but some are duplicated so that you can get them both ways. So you can avoid, or choose to use as a positive, a bellows reversal. Surely a decent player will know his/her instrument inside out and make a deliberate choice between the two options; so they will always be choosing 'jerky vs smooth' and can do either at will? It's not 'That's the B I use', it's 'Well I could use that B or that one, but that's the best for the job'.

 

Isn't it that some prefer to play smoothly and some play percussively, end? There must be tunes where a good player goes along the rows to play smoothly and across the rows to play percussively?

 

Is this really as inaccurate a description of what's actually going on as it seems to be to me? Is this one of these things like 'A tidal wave isn't caused by the tide.'; everyone knows what it means even though the name isn't actually accurate?

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I don't understand this 'across vs along the rows' concept when it comes to discussing decent players.

 

We're talking about people playing known tunes, not improvising, right? So the notes required are fixed, but some are duplicated so that you can get them both ways. So you can avoid, or choose to use as a positive, a bellows reversal. Surely a decent player will know his/her instrument inside out and make a deliberate choice between the two options; so they will always be choosing 'jerky vs smooth' and can do either at will? It's not 'That's the B I use', it's 'Well I could use that B or that one, but that's the best for the job'.

 

Isn't it that some prefer to play smoothly and some play percussively, end? There must be tunes where a good player goes along the rows to play smoothly and across the rows to play percussively?

 

Is this really as inaccurate a description of what's actually going on as it seems to be to me? Is this one of these things like 'A tidal wave isn't caused by the tide.'; everyone knows what it means even though the name isn't actually accurate?

 

Dirge,

I can hardly wait. You must take up anglo and report back on all your observations! ;)

(Actually, I can be a sport; I'll get serious about MacCann if you take up the anglo. Deal? :)

 

Greg

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No one much teaches this cross-row octave system today--it seems to have been lost among all the modern styles. Octaves are usually treated as an occasional ornament at best, and few ordinary players who I meet seem to be able to play full octave scales up to tempo; in the past this was a major style on the German two-rows. It is conceptually a different approach to the instrument than along-the-row or more modern alternative cross-row scales, and a lot of fun. Cheers, Dan

 

I commented here a couple of years ago re doing a week classes down in Miltown with I think, Katie O'Sullivan as tutor - she'd be more from Limerick direction. Anyway, Katie was keen on playing in octaves or double noting as she called it. We wouldn't play the whole tune in octaves but she'd double note several bars at a time. So maybe not as dead as you might think as Katie wouldn't be an old player! I've also heard Micheal O'Raghaillaigh playing, I think it was, The Connaughtman's Rambles in octaves. Have a recording somewhere - must see if I can dig it out.

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We're talking about people playing known tunes, not improvising, right? So the notes required are fixed, but some are duplicated so that you can get them both ways. So you can avoid, or choose to use as a positive, a bellows reversal. Surely a decent player will know his/her instrument inside out and make a deliberate choice between the two options; so they will always be choosing 'jerky vs smooth' and can do either at will? It's not 'That's the B I use', it's 'Well I could use that B or that one, but that's the best for the job'.

 

I think it's a wrong assumption. I might be wrong myself, but I feel like many older players simply learned the way they could on the instrument, found that playing the row gave the best results in the short term... and that would explain why they often played in the key of C (or relative) on a C/G. Playing cross-row requires more exploration of the instrument, and many of these players were farmers or housewives etc and didn't have as much time as many professional or hobbyist musicians have today. They felt comfortable with playing the row, developed a lovely style, and sticked to it.

 

This is only a theory, and I'm not backing this up with any actual historical facts etc.

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Right, for those interested .. this is about 10 minutes or so by Micheal O'Raghallaigh talking to a general group of students in Achill a couple of years ago - some of the kids are fiddle, some are box players and so on. To demonstrate, he uses the well known (in Ireland) jig, The Connaughtmans Rambles - plays melody first, throws in a few triplets, plays in octaves and then throws the proverbial kitchen sink at it! An interesting piece follows on Chris Droney's style with the Bell Harbour reel, I think, played in different styles. The file is about 8MB - I don't use Boxnet much but I think this should work. Let me know if it doesn't. http://www.box.net/shared/9hq6enntlh

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[surely a decent player will know his/her instrument inside out and make a deliberate choice between the two options; so they will always be choosing 'jerky vs smooth' and can do either at will? It's not 'That's the B I use', it's 'Well I could use that B or that one, but that's the best for the job'.

 

Isn't it that some prefer to play smoothly and some play percussively, end? There must be tunes where a good player goes along the rows to play smoothly and across the rows to play percussively?] sure, in the modern era where people are learning with all notes in your playing lexicon from the get-go, that would be the ideal. and it's a helluva lot of fun once you get the various options into the neural circuitry. this is also what accomplished players do with the "magic notes" on button accordions, particularly b/c because its "magic notes" are used in a bunch of irish-music keys. once you get to know what you're doing a little, you might sometimes choose not to use the "smoother" pathway because the punchier one goes better with the pulse or "nyah" or the tune.

 

but in the transitional era of a rural ireland where people had played house dance music for ages on older german-made concertinas without all these note options, and it sounded and swung great, they didn't get that all the notes were in play on the bigger ones that started coming over from england. they didn't need to. if they had needed to, it would have happened faster. so for those folks, "that's the B I use," really was the default, not in a harsh or dogmatic way, but, that's what you did. and a bunch of those folks are still going strong, and to put it mildly, lack nothing in the way of swing, lift, and expression as compared to players using all the buttons.....

 

then, of course, there is a different version of, "that's the B I use," which is modern method(s) that teach students not to use certain note choices even when playing across the rows. i'm not gonna go there on that except to say, it might be useful for getting started, but imho the ideal would be to get every note possibility into your toolbox as soon as possible.

 

another way of looking at this might be to compare/contrast with another very traditional world dance music genre, the argentine bandoneon situation for playing "authentic" tango. astor piazzolla himself, and the european conservatory types, would tell you that the ultimate and finest technique on bandoneon is to have all notes in play in both directions, and know them so well that you have the kinds of phrasing options you mentioned in your post. to be so proficient at the directional options that you use this, not the air button, as bellows control, see? technically speaking, i guess that probly IS the ultimate in bando technique. and there are plenty of masters who can do that.

 

however, in the argentine context of playing like a tanguero, even if you have that kind of mastery, you are still taught to play largely on the pull, and to use the air button to silently push back in at phrases that match the thhhhhhharrrrrrrrrrrrUMPH of the tango "nyah" before you start playing the next phrase, again, all on the pull. you can see the guys in their tuxes lined up in a row of six in the big orchestras, doing this in unison on youtube. it's pretty adorable. now, whether this came to be to save all that horrifying work, because it's "easier" in terms of less notes to learn and keep at your command, or whether it is justified in terms of furthering the rhythm of the dance, the "nyah" factor.....well, that's one of those things that can be and has been debated.

 

B

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