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david_boveri

Just Got Back from Noel Hill's Irish Concertina School

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Hey all! Just got back from Noel Hill's Irish Concertina School (NHICS). WEll, OK, so I got back last Friday, but it always takes me a few days to get all my energy back. I don't know how Noel does it 3 weeks in a row, every year!

 

I had a great time. I feel like every year I go back, I learn even more than I was expecting, and by now I have high expectations! It was my sixth time attending NHICS, and I feel like I've finally grazed the surface of all the intricacies and patterns of Noel's style of playing. Many might be surprised to hear that we did many tunes in C in the advanced class, as well as *gasp* used a lot of pull D's and push E's on the right hand side in the C row! I had thought I could predict pretty well when Noel might use which button, but then this year he gave us tunes in C and interesting, minor tunes (Dorian, to be specific). I would not say that they were the most challenging tunes that he has ever given us, but the fingering patterns presented were very different, because they were interesting sorts of tunes.

 

It was a great opportunity for me to work more on technique and musicality. I watched my fellow students discuss bellows placement on the knee, and luckily caught Noel showing the exact two points that he channels all the bellows pressure through. I have always watched him play very closely--and looked at all the videos online--so even though I had made my bellows look the same as his, I was putting way to much pressure into them to get the same effect. It was much simpler than I had realized!

 

I really enjoyed getting to see all my friends again, and made some new ones. Everybody always has very insightful comments on my playing, which I always value (even though I may joke around and pretend I don't listen).

 

All in all I would say it was a successful week, one of my favorites, yet! I feel truly lucky to have the ability to go to NHICS every year. I feel that I belong to a community of concertina players that is very accepting and always fun, which has really helped me stay committed to the Anglo concertina, when I otherwise might have lost interest. I remember 5 years ago, when I first got in my parents car to go to concertina camp, I had thought to myself, "Oh, it's pretty cool, but I'll probably give it up after this week." I was 18 years old, and had just recently graduated high school. I came back the next week, started looking for my first job, and placed orders for two concertinas! I still have both concertinas, and I still play many of those tunes that I learned that first year.

 

My friend and C-Net member Greg Jowaisas gave me a mini master class on the English concertina (shhh! it's a secret, ;)). now i see why everyone has such good things to say about the English system! it was really a lot of fun to learn the scales and a whole tune. i started putting in some ornamentation, too (but i couldn't put the chords into the tune).

 

Randall Merris, another friend of mine and C-Net member, gave a talk on the history of concertinas in music halls and vaudeville. Fascinating! From Randall, I also acquired a copy of Dan Worrall's The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History (please note that it is definitely in print, and there are other sites on the internet that have it in stock). One of the items in his talk was a reference to the famous Elliott family, a clip of which can be found here. Please note that British Pathe has misspelled their last name. The video includes a short solo on a miniature and a full sized English as well.

 

All in all I would say it was a great way to end the summer. I start grad school next week, and Noel Hill's Concertina School has been the highlight of every year from right before college, up until right after I graduated from my undergrad course of study. Here's to hoping I can find time to practice during grad school as much as I did during my undergrad!

 

David Boveri

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Hi David,

 

I also got back recently from the East Coast workshop, was in Noel's advanced class as well.

 

Really amazing week, he must have taught the same tunes your week, many tunes in G and D Dorian modes on the C-row. For me it was all about nailing down my staccato techniques and watching exactly how Noel moves his hands and fingers to inject energy into the instrument. I feel the week has given me what I needed to get to the next level in my playing.

 

Great group of people, many multi-instrumentalists like me, so we had sessions every night (except the night Noel gave his concert) until midnight. Noel joined us a couple of nights, and Tony DiMarco stopped by for two of the sessions.

 

It was my first time at his East Coast workshop, previous been twice to his Oregon classes. I really enjoyed staying at Gavin's, its a vivid snapshot of another era.

 

Cheers,

 

Michael

Edited by eskin

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Hi David,

 

I also got back recently from the East Coast workshop, was in Noel's advanced class as well.

 

Really amazing week, he must have taught the same tunes your week, many tunes in G and D Dorian modes on the C-row. For me it was all about nailing down my staccato techniques and watching exactly how Noel moves his hands and fingers to inject energy into the instrument. I feel the week has given me what I needed to get to the next level in my playing.

 

Great group of people, many multi-instrumentalists like me, so we had sessions every night (except the night Noel gave his concert) until midnight. Noel joined us a couple of nights, and Tony DiMarco stopped by for two of the sessions.

 

It was my first time at his East Coast workshop, previous been twice to his Oregon classes. I really enjoyed staying at Gavin's, its a vivid snapshot of another era.

 

Cheers,

 

Michael

 

Sounds like you had a good week! I'm struggling to learn how to get the rhythm on strathspeys right. He gave us one last year as well, but two strathspeys does not expertise make, B). We had two big sessions with local musicians and a house a concert, but we didn't really have tunes all night every night like you guys. A friend of mine who I normally session with every day did not come this year, which meant I got a lot more practice time in! Although, it might also have to do with the fact that he was not there to distract me with hours of youtube videos, either, :P

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I'd love to hear the names of the tunes that you guys learned. Or... that you were taught.

Thanks in advance.

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David, we had a couple of tunes by Finbarr Dwyer, "Noel Hill's Fancy" by Jerry Holland and "Splendid Isolation" by Brendan McGlinchey as well as several others I can't quote off the top of my head. This last one, Splendid Isolation, is really an excellent tune and one that is giving my fingers fits. After years of teaching us the fingerings that he favors for G and D tunes (and related minors), this year Noel threw us a real curve with some C row based tunes. It was like Star Trek: my fingers were going where they had never been before! Once again no year goes by at Noel's school without you having an opportunity to learn something new. Noel challenged us with these tunes, and we now have plenty of work for the winter.

 

On a related note, for those of you who considered coming to one of Noel's classes but didn't, we had room easily for 5-7 more students at the Mid West venue and you ought to think about joining us there next year.

 

Happy squeezing,

 

Ross Schlabach

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Thanks for the report. I'd love to get to a workshop by Noel.

 

 

 

Could you elaborate, please, on the bellows position and action. I rest the Right hand end on my Right knee, so I'd like to hear more of Noel's views on that.(And anybody else's views too)

 

 

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I'd love to hear the names of the tunes that you guys learned. Or... that you were taught.

Thanks in advance.

 

in the advanced class:

 

Finbar Dwyer's Hornpipe; G major.

Finbar Dwyer's (Jig); D major.

Molly Bán; E minor (Dorian, i.e. 2 sharps).

Molly Bán; G minor (Dorian, i.e. 1 flat) (this was a secondary lesson to the previous. several other keys were done on tape).

Mary Jesse MacDonald's Strathspey; C major

Noel Hill's Fancy, by Jerry Holland; C major

The Sligo fling, recorded by John Carty; C major

Splendid Isolation, by Brendan McGlinchey; G Dorian (1 flat)

Reel, After the playing of Jim Donaghue; C major

Charles O'Connor, by O'Carolan; D major.

 

Please note they are not in the order they were taught.

Edited by david_boveri

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Thanks for the report. I'd love to get to a workshop by Noel.

 

 

 

Could you elaborate, please, on the bellows position and action. I rest the Right hand end on my Right knee, so I'd like to hear more of Noel's views on that.(And anybody else's views too)

 

well, noel's views are to place the ends on your left leg (on your lap, i.e. "knee"), and to never place your bellows directly in contact with any part of your body. he also recommends to tilt the instrument forward, resting on one corner*. he uses this as an anchor for the instrument, and it is quite effective.

 

i had watched him doing it, and have done so myself, as well. however, hearing him talk of the corner as an anchor helped me to use it as such! i saw him demonstrate using the corner as an anchor by taking out his left hand and showing what happens when he just pushes with his right hand. sure enough, the instrument did topple to his side, but the corner remained firmly in his leg. i have found trying to replicate that visual effect has increased my bellows control while decreasing the energy necessary to control tone and response.

 

our own ross (c-net name: RP3) uses his right knee instead of his left. i'm not sure why, but noel has never complained while i was there! ;)

 

for bellows control, noel recommends travelling as straight as possible. no wobbling back and forth or fanning of any sort. there are great players he respects that did not do this (such as the late kitty hayes), but steady bellows save effort in the long run. if one were to over-analyze bellows control like i would, one might find that they are not directly straight in movement (even in noel's), but it is a convenient and effective heuristic.

 

beyond that, my contribution to the discussion on bellows control would be that every reed behaves differently, and that it is important to be mindful of how each one reacts in relation to bellows pressure, all while trying to maintain steady and smooth bellows movement

 

 

 

 

 

*this would be achieved by putting the concertina flat on your leg, with the hand bar perpendicular. then rotate the top of the instrument away from you, until the instrument is resting primarily on one corner.

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I'd love to hear the names of the tunes that you guys learned. Or... that you were taught.

Thanks in advance.

 

in the advanced class:

 

Finbar Dwyer's Hornpipe; G major.

Finbar Dwyer's (Jig); D major.

Molly Bán; E minor (Dorian, i.e. 2 sharps).

Molly Bán; G minor (Dorian, i.e. 1 flat) (this was a secondary lesson to the previous. several other keys were done on tape).

Mary Jesse MacDonald's Strathspey; C major

Noel Hill's Fancy, by Jerry Holland; C major

The Sligo fling, recorded by John Carty; C major

Splendid Isolation, by Brendan McGlinchey; G Dorian (1 flat)

Reel, After the playing of Jim Donaghue; C major

Charles O'Connor, by O'Carolan; D major.

 

Please note they are not in the order they were taught.

 

Yep, he taught the same tunes at the East Coast workshop...

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David, you're forgetting that I'm a Leftie, so putting the concertina above my left knee would mean managing the movement of the instrument with my weaker right hand. Hence the right knee placement. I tried it the way Noel prefers, but I have never been successful. Noel has criticized me about it before -- but after 15 years in his class, he has learned to tolerate my deviation.

 

One negative of my positioning, is that the placement on one knee or the other allows that knee to reflect the sound from that side of the instrument. With Noel using and recommending the left knee, his placement reinforces the lower notes from the left side of the concertina. Since I am using the other knee, my placement results in emphasis of the higher notes. So Noel suggests that I actually let my concertina rest above both knees for a more even sound. When I can do that, I do notice the improvement and I imagine folks sitting in front of me could too.

 

Squeeze on,

 

Ross Schlabach

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I have been attending the Noel Hill Irish Concertina School (NHICS) in the Midwest (formerly, South Milford, Ohio; now, Erlanger, Kentucky) since 2002, except for two years when health or work issues prevented my attendance. I am what might be described as a "perpetual intermediate-level" player. I cannot add much to the high praise of Noel's playing and teaching methods. Good music teaching requires knowledge and skill, but those are not enough. Good teaching requires "plain old hard work" and patience. Come to the NHICS next year and see how Noel embodies all these attributes.

 

Looking forward to meeting you next year.

 

Randy Merris

Edited by Dowright

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