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Dan Worrall

Concertinas in Australia and New Zealand

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Warren Fahey tells me that I am confirmed for a talk and workshop at the Australian National Folk Festival, which takes place April 21-25, 2011 in Canberra. I thought I'd post a 'heads up' with descriptions of the talk and workshop (see below).

 

My wife and I are really looking forward to it....especially the chance to meet Aussie concertina players like Peter Ellis, Warren Fahey, Bob Bolton, Rob Willis and many others (those four were especially helpful in my research for the Australian chapter of my Anglo history books). Mary and I hope to drive from Sydney to Melbourne and back while there, checking out some of the small bush towns in interior New South Wales and Victoria where the concertina was once played (like Coborrah, Mudgee, Bathurst, the Nariel Valley)...and in a few places still is . We'll certainly be looking for music in the wild there. We'd be most grateful to receive any suggestions on that from players in Oz...please send them!

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

ps....my books are still available and look very handsome under a Christmas tree! :) Check www.Amazon.com or the Button Box or Elderly Instruments, or link to www.angloconcertina.org.

 

TALK:

 

The Anglo concertina, a social history (with a focus on Australia and New Zealand)

 

In its late nineteenth century heyday the humble Anglo-German concertina was a favorite of working class people, which in colonial Australia and New Zealand included farmers, graziers, drovers, wagon drivers, miners, foresters, sailors, bushrangers, salvationists, and urban street musicians, as well as significant numbers of Maori and South Sea Islanders. Its heyday coincided with the zenith of ballroom dancing in urban and rural areas of five continents, and it excelled at playing polkas, schottisches, waltzes, quadrilles, barn dances and varsovianas. Its manner of use in the rural dances of colonial era Australia and New Zealand was not dissimilar to that in Ireland, England and South Africa. A concertina player typically played solo, providing dance music from dusk until dawn. Volume, stamina, and accuracy in notes and tempo were key attributes of good players, and those needs shaped particular techniques of playing then that are strikingly similar among the oldest recorded players in these various countries, and yet strikingly different from those used by most folk revival players today. The concertina played a key role in spreading global popular music from continental European ballrooms, English music halls, and American minstrel shows to the most remote parts of the Australian and New Zealand bush, American west, and South African veldt, as well as to the cultural heart of Gaelic Ireland.

 

WORKSHOP:

 

The nineteenth-century concertina: shared techniques of the old players in Australia, Ireland, England and South Africa

 

This workshop will examine late nineteenth and early twentieth century techniques and styles of playing the Anglo-German concertina, using examples taken from pre-folk revival players in Australia, England, Ireland and Boer South Africa who played principally for ballroom-style dancing. Musicians who played the concertina for rural house and shed dances had a shared need for volume, accuracy and stamina that favored a relatively unadorned style of playing, usually in the key of C, in which notes were played doubly for volume, in octaves, using left and right hands moving in tandem. Octaves were used not as an occasional ornament, as in modern Irish playing, but more or less throughout a tune. Variants of the octave technique include single row octave playing, with frequent octave jumps to keep the tune 'on the keyboard,' and two-row octave playing, in which the C scale is divided between the two 'home' rows. Chords were used sparingly and were built in a simple manner, using the inherent logic of the Anglo keyboard when played in octaves. The concertina today is played more for listening in pub sessions and concert settings rather than for dancing, and is played within groups containing other instruments, so modern techniques and styles are quite different than those formerly used. For example, Irish techniques of today tend to favor single notes played with much more ornamentation, using 'fiddle' keys of G and D, in tunes which are played at a faster tempo. This workshop will focus on the older traditional styles used for bush and house dances. For CG Anglo concertina, all levels.

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Hope you have a great time Dan!

 

& if you need anyone to carry your bags ..... ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

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Hi

Talking of Bags, George Case spent a lot of time touring in Australia & New Zealand with his wife Grace Egerton in the 1860's. George was accompanying Grace on English concertina, Violin and piano

chris

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I've been down under twice, and enjoyed both my trips tremendously. The most recent trip saw the concertina players of Oz roll out the carpet for me - they were very kind and friendly. You'll have a great time.

 

Ken

 

PS, Dan does a great workshop on the old octave technique - don't miss it.

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Dan,

I am also doing an anglo concertina workshop at the National Folk Festival. I always try to get the anglo players together to share what they are learning, explore a tune, ornaments, stories, etc etc. I look forward to meeting you there.

 

I also help to run the NAriel Folk Festival each year and woudl be happy to help you make some contacts while you are here in Australia. Feel free to contact me. Cheers

Jamie Molloy

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Dan,

I am also doing an anglo concertina workshop at the National Folk Festival. I always try to get the anglo players together to share what they are learning, explore a tune, ornaments, stories, etc etc. I look forward to meeting you there.

 

I also help to run the NAriel Folk Festival each year and woudl be happy to help you make some contacts while you are here in Australia. Feel free to contact me. Cheers

Jamie Molloy

 

Sounds like great fun...thanks, Jamie. It will be very nice to meet you and others. I'll contact you via PM. Depending on time in my workshop, I'll probably focus on a few tunes from old Aussie players Charlie Ordish, Jim Harrison, Dooley Chapman, and Clem O'Neal. And if there were any other time, a bit of William Kimber (England), Mary Ann Carolan (Ireland) and Hans Bodenstein (South Africa) too. All were octave players of various sorts. There won't likely be time for all of that, though!

 

Michael, I hope to get back to England some day soon....when the economy improves. Australia is a wedding anniversary trip, and long awaited!

 

Thanks Ken for the kind words.

 

Chris, I hadn't though of walking in the footsteps of George Case. :huh: Especially since he was playing classical music in all the great concert halls. I hope to play polkas in sessions in all the great watering holes! :)

 

Cheers,

Dan

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Hi Dan

After George got together with Grace I don't think he did too much classical stuff - maybe the odd flashy novelty piece. Their act was more to do with Graces light comedy sketches written by such as Edmund Yates (The Man in Possession). George had supporting roles (not too hot as an actor - Edmund Yates was very impressed by Grace's skills and not very impressed by George Case's 'skills'!). I think that their act was more for the 'masses' than the 'classes'.

hope your trip goes well.

chris

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Hi Dan

After George got together with Grace I don't think he did too much classical stuff - maybe the odd flashy novelty piece. Their act was more to do with Graces light comedy sketches written by such as Edmund Yates (The Man in Possession). George had supporting roles (not too hot as an actor - Edmund Yates was very impressed by Grace's skills and not very impressed by George Case's 'skills'!). I think that their act was more for the 'masses' than the 'classes'.

hope your trip goes well.

chris

 

Chris,

 

Good point. Case's early career, as you know, was mostly classical. Allan Atlas has documented his career in orchestras, in writing chamber music, and in teaching. I wrote a bit in my book about his snarky comments about the German concertina.

 

But you are quite right. Once he paired up with Grace he went downmarket a bit. This is from Yate's 1884 autobiography:

 

Also in collaboration with Harrington I wrote an entertainment for Mr. George Case, a wellknown musical man and player of the concertina, who retired from the orchestra on his marriage with a Miss Grace Egerton, a pretty and uncommonly sprightly and clever little actress, who ought to have done better things.

 

In buying a pair of horses from a dealer, the experienced purchaser is generally aware that he will become the owner of a good animal and a bad one, and the writer of entertainments for a married couple is very often in an analogous position. In the present instance, we soon found that Mr. Case could only be intrusted as feeder to his wife; but that the lady's pluck, energy, and talent enabled her to undertake anything we chose to give her. There were two or three "bits" of character in which she reminded me strongly of Mrs. Keeley; and a song which I wrote for her, full of patriotic claptrap, which she sang in the character of a Volunteer at the close of the entertainment, invariably brought down the house.

 

Yates was a bit snarky, too. I suspect that old George still managed to fit in a classical piece or two...its probably all he knew very well!

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

edited to add a bit more...I can't help myself...

 

George must have felt a bit off in his career with Grace....leaving behind his high class classical career and all that. When a South Australian critic panned his concertina playing in 1865, a thin-skinned George had to teach the Aussies a thing or two about who they were dealing with:

 

South Australian Register , Thursday 9 March 1865

 

MR. CASE AND THE CONCERTINA.

TO THE EDITOR.

Sir— In your report of our entertainment last evening you have made some rather severe remarks upon toe concertina and my performances on that instrument In justice to myself I claim a short space in your valuable journal, to place before you and the public a few facts, which I think will prove that I am entitled to a better place in your estimation and theirs than is conveyed in your criticism. I received my first instructions on the concertina, when only a boy, direct from the inventor (Professor Wheatstone), and was taken by him continually to the various conversaziones of the scientific world for the purpose of displaying its powers. At that time, and for some period afterwards, there were only two performers on this instrument, Signor Regondi and myself. Since then I have travelled all over England, Ireland, and Scotland with the celebrated Juilien, performing nightly fantasias on the concertina at his concerts never without an unanimous encore. I was engaged by Signor Costa as solo concertinist it Her Majesty s Theatre, accompanying Catherine Hayes with my concertina on the stage of that theatre, and for many years at most of the principal concerts in London. I have travelled through England with Sims Reeves, John Parry, Arabella Goddard, Miss Dolby, Anna Thillon, and other first-class artistes, and nave been engaged to perform at the evening parties of the Duchess of Somerset, the Earl of Westmoreland, the Earl of Wilton, and a host of nobility I could name, including in my audiences the late Duke of Cam bridge and the Duchess, Lord and Lady Pamnerston, Lord John Russell, &c., &c. My annual concert at Exeter Hall was one of the features of the day, being invariably attended by about 3,000 persons. Three-fourths of the music published for the concertina have emanated from my pen, and after receiving during 20 years nothing but flattering testimonials of my ability as a performer on the concertina, and being able to say without egotism that no one is better known as a concertinist than myself. I feel it is, to say the least of it, odd to find myself for the first time in my life told that I have still so much to learn before I can secure the approbation of your critical reporter. Apologizing for intruding so long on your space, I am, Sir, &c. GEORGE CASE.

 

But at the same time, he was hardly playing Beethoven, as you rightly point out, Chris. At a concert in Hobart Tasmania in 1867, after his wife did the usual comic sketches:

 

Mr. Case played a solo on the concertina, "Finnigan's Wake," and "When Johnny comes marching home," which was loudly encored, when he substituted a fantasia on Scocth airs with bagpipe imitations, which was a very fine performance. ln the second part the Wizard of the East was again successfully introduced ; Mr. Case played a capital solo on the violin, "The King of the Cannibal Islands," which was encored.

 

Regondi's worthy successor, or King of the Cannibals? :lol:

Edited by Dan Worrall

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George must have felt a bit off in his career with Grace....leaving behind his high class classical career and all that. ... a South Australian critic panned his concertina playing in 1865 ...

 

Though he received a much more positive review in New Zealand, the same year; http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=6812&view=findpost&p=64361

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George must have felt a bit off in his career with Grace....leaving behind his high class classical career and all that. ... a South Australian critic panned his concertina playing in 1865 ...

 

Though he received a much more positive review in New Zealand, the same year; http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=6812&view=findpost&p=64361

 

Good catch, Stephen! I spent several minutes this afternoon searching for that woodcut of George and Grace from your post that you cite, without success. I shoulda just emailed you for it...you were sure to have it!

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Hi Dan

Thanks for putting the South Australian Register Quote up. I hadn't found that onesad.gif

I guess his feelings for Grace took him down paths he might not have normally chosen. He did divorce his first wife in favour of Grace - not an common route in those days.

chris

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I guess his feelings for Grace took him down paths he might not have normally chosen. He did divorce his first wife in favour of Grace - not an common route in those days.

 

Indeed so, in fact for many of the years in which Grace was known as "Mrs. George Case" they were not actually married, as he already had a wife he had deserted...

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Look forward to seeing you at the NFF.

It will be my second trip down - we enjoyed last year so much we decided on a return visit. :)

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Rod,

 

It will be a pleasure to meet you. It will be great fun to finally hear what Aussie playing is like up close.

Glad you survived the storm in Queensland.

 

Cheers,

Dan

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