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English Style Anglo Playing, Morris Types?


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...I have gleaned from various comments that Anglo morris players tend to finger "on the row." Is that accurate (mostly) or does putting welly into it also mean fingering any way that works?

 

Rhomylly

Ex-morris dancer, aspiring morris musician

I'm guessing here, but I think that you can put welly in any way you want. Perhaps playing along the rows forces more bellows changes which in turn provides rhythmic emphasis (unless, like me, you work on making the bellows changes inaudible!).

Samantha

 

PS well, hey! I've just noticed I've been promoted to "Advanced member" :) !

Edited by Samantha
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Oh I forgot,

Thank you Rhomylly for the funniest thing I have read on this site.Every time

I look at my wellies I will think of you.

Alan

Well, Alan, we're even, then. Every time I look at *my* wellies, I try to figure out how to add them to my playing style :)

 

Rhomylly

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Well, Alan, we're even, then. Every time I look at *my* wellies, I try to figure out how to add them to my playing style

What have I done, what haveI done? That'll learn me to use idiomatic English!

 

I do think personally that it's easier to give it some welly when playing along the rows rather than cross-fingering, but it's up to the individual player, really, how they do it if they want to do it. Another part of English style (says he, speaking Ex Cathedra through my underpants) I should have mentioned in my original post relates to staccato. This is particularly distinct, it seems to me, from Irish style where one is consciously trying to achieve a liquid flow of music (beautiful to hear when done properly). In English music many of the notes are cut short and played very punchy - Kimber was a master of this, and I think playing along the rows makes it easier to achieve. Again for comparison I turn to English fiddle style, where the player changes bow direction with most if not all notes. This introduces that small gap that is so important to the drive of the music.

 

Chris

 

PS Congrats to everybody for being advanced members, whatever it may say on the left hand side of the screen. If you're here, you must be advanced. Ipso facto, quod erat demonstrandum and quid pro quo.

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Chris T.:

What have I done, what haveI done? That'll learn me to use idiomatic English!

 

Well, in America we talking about giving the music some "punch". (Maybe in Ireland, too, but I think "punch" there has a more "spirited" meaning. ;) )

 

Apparently the Brits prefer to give it some "boot".

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Chris T.:

I do think personally that it's easier to give it some welly when playing along the rows rather than cross-fingering,...

 

Chris, I think you may be mistaking cause and effect. In my experience, a common purpose of cross-row playing is to *avoid* bellows reversals, to give the music a smooth flow and reduce the "welly". But cross-row playing doesn't have to be that way. E.g., when playing melodies in G, by using both the rows in the right hand you can reverse direction between the e and f#, and in fact by including the left-hand 3rd-row A/G button, you can reverse on every successive note of the scale from G to g. I.e., *more* welly, if that's what you want.

 

Or by exercising your options on those notes which exist on both push and pull, you can emphasize some beats/notes with bellows changes and downplay others by *not* changing direction, with the *difference* helping to give "welly" to the tune as a whole.

 

(Admittedly, if you use a chording style, your options may be reduced in this respect.)

 

This post will now be marked as "edited", but I don't think the system will tell you what was changed. I just corrected an erroneous "right-hand" to read "left-hand", the way it should have.

Edited by JimLucas
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Congrats to everybody for being advanced members,...

 

I think it's a little scary how much attention is being paid to these arbitrary titles and icons. (I can hear the whisper in the background: "He can afford to say that!" :) )

 

If you're here, you must be advanced.

 

I have some friends who would say that if you're here, you must be retarded. But we all know that they just have poor taste in musical instruments. ;)

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Alex C. Jones wrote:

I currently play a 30-button, and I like to play chords with my left hand while playing melody on the right,

And he got quite a few responses relating to the playing William Kimber and John Kirkpatrick. Good places to start if that's really what he wants to do, but he also says:

As far as style goes, I just go through books of songs that have melody written out and chord names written above, and try to play them on the concertina, and try to make them sound nice. I want it to replace my guitar as a means of accompanying voice.

And I ask, is the Kimber/Kirkpatrick style of playing Morris tunes really the best idea for song accompaniment? How many singers' guitarists (which may or may not be the singers themselves) play chords and melody together on the guitar? For that matter, how many singers normally have their vocal part doubled on *any* accompanying instrument?

 

Now a second point, before I elaborate on the above. Rich Morse said:

It sounds like you play English style rather than Irish style.

And this dichotomy seems to have been echoed by others. But there is not just one single, homogeneous "English style", not even for playing dance tunes. E.g., Chris Timson mentioned Scan Tester, whose style in my opinion is no closer to Kimber's and Kirkpatrick's than it is to Noel Hill's. And Dave Barnert recommended Jody Kruskal, an American who started as a Morris musician but who now also plays contra dance and other sorts of music, and who has described his own style as "as many buttons as possible at all times".

 

(Back to the first point)

There are many anglo-playing singers whose song accompaniment is quite different from the playing of Kimber, Kirpatrick, or Scan Tester. I would recommend that Alex listen so some of these for alternative concepts in accompaniment. John Roberts and Peter Bellamy have already been mentioned, and Chris Timson is himself a good example. Others include John Townley, Andy Turner, and Harry Scurfield, and I know I'm missing out many others.

 

I think it would be a good thing to compare and contrast the details of the various styles of as many players as possible, rather than carelessly lumping them all under "English style" and glossing over the differences.

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Having gone back to the original post, I’ll try to confine myself to some simple observations. I’m sure others will comment further on style, but it’s such a minefield! In the early days of Flowers and Frolics (ROger Digby was the concertina player, I was the tuba player), there seemed to be endless debate (around us, rather than in the band itself) about whether a tune was or sounded English. Essentially it’s a sterile debate because tunes migrated so much anyway.

The English style has been influenced heavily by dance music, whether for Morris, step dancing or for social dancing and the English native dance styles tend to be less fluid or more rhythmic than the Irish styles which others in the posting have noted. One characteristic mentioned by numerous observers is that the musician plays "behind" the beat, giving a lift to the dancers’ feet. In bands, this is perhaps more obvious as the rhythm section can be so far behind the beat that the off beat is emphasised rather than the on beat (on one memorable occasion, after quaffing large amounts of champagne, we were somewhat into next week). This anacrucis gives the music a type of bounce which is not always evident in chromatic style fiddle, piano-accordion and Irish anglo playing.

 

If you’re looking for full left hand chords?

John Kirkpatrick – too many records to mention here. Website is www.johnkirkpatrick.co.uk

John Watcham – recorded with the Albion Morris, on "Son of Morris On" and as accompanist to Shirley Collins on a number of her records. New CD out "Still dancing after all these years" Haven’t heard it yet.

John Rodd – recorded with the Albion Dance Band ("The Prospect Before Us", Kickin up the Sawdust", "Son of Morris On") and also accompanied Shirley Collins on "Amaranth" (on the Harvest label). Now semi-resident in Toronto but not playing much.

 

Very much in the English style but more at the Scan Tester end – ie less full chords?

Tony Engle - Recorded with Oak and with Shirley Collins ("For as many as will" on the Topic label) Not playing concertina at all now. I’ve got his old Dipper.

Will Duke – Recorded with The Albion Dance Band ("The Prospect Before Us") and with Dan Quinn ("The Wild Boys" and "Scanned" both available from Hebe Music www.quinn.unisonplus.net). Will plays regularly with Dan and both play occasionally with myself and Roger Digby who frequently accompanies Bob Davenport.

Mel Dean – sadly no longer with us but recorded with the Old Swan Band "Old Swan Brand"

 

I refuse to pigeonhole Roger as he’s a pal.

 

Alex West

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Jim, Jim, that's 4 posts on the trot, are you trying to make your position unassailable?

 

Not at all. Personally, I'd feel better if I didn't have the position... and I think all those "statistics" -- not to mention the titles, "badges", etc. -- to be ridiculous, or even a scourge.

 

But as in the old Forum, I may make multiple replies to a single post if I'm replying to what I consider to be independent points.

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And I ask, is the Kimber/Kirkpatrick style of playing Morris tunes really the best idea for song accompaniment?
I wouldn't know, but it sounds like a fun and interesting way to play and use the concertina.

 

How many singers' guitarists (which may or may not be the singers themselves) play chords and melody together on the guitar?
Very few, because it is very difficult. Good reason to switch to concertina.

 

For that matter, how many singers normally have their vocal part doubled on *any* accompanying instrument?
I've heard this done with piano or organ often in churches. I've also heard this done with mandolin, while guitar supplys the chords. I took a concertina class, and except for the Kesh Jig, everything we did was doubling the vocal melody on the concertina. ( It helps me keep my singing in tune, and my singing is still very much a work in progress.) ;)

 

Replacing the guitar was one of many things to do with a concertina. Once I started playing, I found that I only needed to make chords on one hand, so I might as well do chords on the left, and melody on the right, because it can be done and it can sound nice, and I want to put more buttons to use. Since I already have lots of sheet music written for voice with guitar, that's what I started playing around with.

 

Here in Chicago, I don't know many Anglo concertina players playing something other than Irish melodies. The only people I know around here who play the Anglo are Tom Kastle and Connie Dugan, and I met Connie in a concertina class tought by Tom. (Yes there were other students, but Connie is the only one I've seen really play beyond the class).

 

The only concertinas I've seen around here for dance accompanyment are those monstrous Chemnitzers accompanying Polka. (I'll talk about that experience in another post some day). Now that I am learning about styles of playing Anglo that use chords on the left and notes on the right, and there are dance styles done with this, well ... it's caught my interest. For me, it is a whole new world out there.

 

There are many anglo-playing singers whose song accompaniment is quite different from the playing of Kimber, Kirpatrick, or Scan Tester. I would recommend that Alex listen so some of these for alternative concepts in accompaniment. John Roberts and Peter Bellamy have already been mentioned, and Chris Timson is himself a good example. Others include John Townley, Andy Turner, and Harry Scurfield, and I know I'm missing out many others.

 

...but mentioned enough to keep me busy for a while. :) Thanks JimLucas.

 

- Alex

Edited by AlexCJones
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At last. A journey home with no pressing work for the rest of the day and a seat on the train. Time to get into the discussion on the English way of playing the Anglo.

I have nothing to add to the paragraphs in my article here on English Country Music which contains a section specifically dedicated to the Anglo, so I am going for the other part of the thread - song accompaniment. I’m also leaving aside the whole issue of Peter Bellamy. Free Reed has asked me to write a piece on that very subject for their forthcoming reissue of The Transports (one CD of the original; one of re-recordings) due out in 2004 so I intend to keep my powder dry.

 

It can be reasonably argued that there is no difference in philosophy whatever the instrument that is being used and that the only real distinction is between accompanying yourself and accompanying someone else. Anglo players will immediately spot one exception to this: the simple physical challenge of not breathing with the bellows. Even if you’ve never tried to sing and play Anglo simultaneously you’ve probably noticed that your chest sometimes feels encased in concrete as your upper body tries to provide a rigid foundation for the arms which control the totally essential bellows work. (Remember that on the Anglo a mistake with the bellows produces a wrong note!) It is also common to find that your breathing as you play is very, very shallow. To sing with any control under these circumstances is impossible and I think it’s a bit like swimming: if you can’t get the hang of it after the first half-dozen attempts then you may eventually keep afloat, but you’re probably never going to be much good at it.

If you can get past this - and I suppose it’s time that I said I don’t play to my own singing, (not in public, anyway) - then the next hurdle is whether you can split your mind in half and sing one tune while playing a counter melody. Again, if you can’t, then the solution is the conventional Anglo approach of tune on the right and chords on the left, or omit the tune altogether and just chord it. With practice you’ll be able to utilise the basic chords in both directions if you stay in the home keys and you’ll also be able to change direction when it suits the song. Of course, if your ambition is to play Gershwin it’s not quite as easy as this!

Give serious thought and practice to the key that is one flat down (i.e. F on a C/G). The F chord is strong in both directions as of course is the C. The B flat is good on the draw but this depends a bit on your layout. You’ll also have the tune on the right hand all the way down to the C. F is, of course,the relative major for D minor which is the key that falls most easily onto the home row. This key allows a very smooth approach and I know that I should use it more. Inevitably 30 + buttons is a great help, but 30 is enough.

Try breaking the chords up. As a former guitar player I would thumb the bottom two strings and pick the other four with two or three fingers. This transfers easily onto the left hand of the Anglo: little finger basing the chord on the far button and moving up to the top row for the subdominant while the other three fingers chose from the notes that fall easily under them.

Another guitar technique that can transfer to Anglo is the use of bass runs - independent patterns that underlay the chord changes.

Of course, all this is general playing technique and not only for use in accompaniment. It is also a basic approach for playing tunes. I think it provides a sound base on which to develop a personal style.

Accompanying another singer obviously involves agreeing a basic starting point that suits what you are hoping to achieve, but again I think there are largely two ways of proceeding. I have been accompanying Bob Davenport for nearly thirty years, originally as part of his partnership with Flowers and Frolics (four songs from him on the reunion CD “Reformed Characters”) and twenty years on my own. He is a superb singer and much, much more subtle than the casual listener might immediately realise. With him there is never any danger of the accompaniment becoming too prominent, but this is an important consideration which must always be at the front of your playing. The song is first, then the singer, then the accompaniment.

The two ways of proceeding are, in my view, these.

If the song is strongly rhythmic then play it dead straight . If you know Bob Davenport’s repertoire from any of his many associations with bands, (The Rakes, The Marsden Rattlers, Flowers, Webbs Wonders to name but a few) you’ll recognise this approach. It has parallels with New Orleans jazz bands: the band lays it down absolutely solidly and the trumpet or the clarinet is then free to express itself against and within that background. The singer is also able to rest for a verse at any point as the band or solo musician automatically goes into an instrumental verse.

The second approach is to let the voice go ahead and trust yourself to follow. This is the way Bob and I approach the quieter songs like Sally Gardens or September Song. It is the way to accompany a singer without imposing any restraints on how they choose to sing the song on any given occasion. I sometimes think of this as being like two friends going on a bike ride. You might be very closely side by side at some points and further apart at others, but you’re going the same route at the same time and you arrive at the same place. The more you travel the route you recognise the twists and turns where it is best to be close together and the parts where you merely have to be in sight of each other. Understanding, practise, and eventually, after thirty years, telepathy! I think it is a serious problem if the accompaniment restricts the singer. S/he must be fully in control, however eccentric or vagarious!

What of the traditional approach? As I have said elsewhere, there is no evidence. The accompanied singer is a rarity in itself in the British Isles though there are some wonderful examples; who can listen to Margaret Barry and her banjo or Davie Stewart and his melodeon without being chilled to their boots? There is no evidence known to me of a traditional Anglo accompanying a traditional singer. I long to be proved wrong!! Those of us ( ? all of us?) who are not traditional musicians in the accepted sense may be seen as the next best thing if the genuine tradition weakens and if it eventually fades away. In that case we have a heavy responsibility and we must learn the traditional integrity as well as the musical styles. A while ago I heard an Anglo-playing singer in a folk club. He sang well, he played well. The song was traditional; the accompaniment was millions of notes all over the place. It sounded like a lost part of a Brandenburgh Concerto. The result was dreadful. A song had been sacrificed to the singers inflated ego. His priorities were ‘Me first, my flashy playing next, the song ---well it’s only there to give me an excuse to show off’. I think I will rail against this attitude until the day I die. I remember how pleased I was many years ago when I struck up a hornpipe in a Suffolk pub and after a few bars the great Font Whatling started to step dance. I thought to myself that I must be playing this correctly if Font wants to step to it. (I later heard from John Howson a wonderful saying of Font’s. He was in a session where a well known Anglo player was playing. Font said to John, ‘The next time he turns up where I am I’m not going to be there!’

 

My station is approaching. I think what I’m really saying yet again is:

Keep your ears open; keep your mind open. Learn to play as well as you can.... but never stop listening.

Roger

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The F chord is strong in both directions as of course is the C.

On a 30 button C/G Anglo? Both directions? Both on the draw and the push? Now, the only F note available in the push direction is that really high one on the upper right of the right side. So, how do you make a strong F major chord on the push? <_<

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