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Playing for Morris on an English Concertina

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Well, I've done a quick search and drawn a blank on this, so here goes:

 

How do people here play for morris using an EC? What I'm after is tips and ways of playing so that the beat is emphasised where it needs to be. How do you get the dancers feet off the ground?

I'm really looking for specifics - how to play individual notes (short, long, etc) and any useful youtube clips would be greatly appreciated.

 

So, how do you get your morris team to dance?

 

Thanks

Peter

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Well, I've done a quick search and drawn a blank on this, so here goes:

 

How do people here play for morris using an EC? What I'm after is tips and ways of playing so that the beat is emphasised where it needs to be. How do you get the dancers feet off the ground?

I'm really looking for specifics - how to play individual notes (short, long, etc) and any useful youtube clips would be greatly appreciated.

 

So, how do you get your morris team to dance?

 

 

Here's the best treatise I've ever seen on how to play for Morris dancers; covers your questions.

 

THere aren't many Morris musos on English concertina, but there are a few outstanding ones who prove that you don't have to play Anglo to do it right. Jan Elliot in New England is an example.

 

I'm not sure if

is Jan, but it's an example of EC for Morris.

 

 

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THere aren't many Morris musos on English concertina, but there are a few outstanding ones who prove that you don't have to play Anglo to do it right. Jan Elliot in New England is an example.

 

I'm not sure if

is Jan, but it's an example of EC for Morris.

It sure looks (and sounds) like it could be Jan, from this angle. If not, I have no clue who it is. Others to seek out are Jerry Epstein from NYC and Peter Hoover from (near) Ithaca, both fine Morris/EC players, and neither on this forum, as far as I know.

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It sure looks (and sounds) like it could be Jan, from this angle. If not, I have no clue who it is. Others to seek out are Jerry Epstein from NYC and Peter Hoover from (near) Ithaca, both fine Morris/EC players, and neither on this forum, as far as I know.

 

DUH. I should have remembered Peter, I've heard him play enough!

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Here's the best treatise I've ever seen on how to play for Morris dancers; covers your questions.

 

 

 

Jim I'd not seen that great document before, thanks for that. It pretty much covers everything I'd say on the subject and a whole bunch more, a great piece of writing on the subject. I shall read it more throughly and maybe come back with some more comments when I've had time to digest it and mull it over.

 

Personally, although I play EC a lot, I don't use it for the Morris - because I'm lead musician I stick to fife and rauschpfeife, both of which 'sit on top of' our particular blend of instruments, and make it easier for everyone, dancers and other musicians both, to hear and follow. My EC, in contrast, tends to disappear into the sound of the other reeds.

 

There are great EC players with Border, Cotswod and North-West sides here in England, though, so I'm not for a moment saying it can't be done: just doesn't work for me/us.

 

Probably the most effective use of EC in the English morris is the Bacup Coconutters, who dance to ECs when the brass band isn't available.

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Thanks very much for the comments so far.

 

I should have mentioned that I'm in England and playing for Cotswold.

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I fine example of English playing here

 

 

It is my mate Terry playing for my team Aldbury Morris

 

And on a good day this is us (me, Terry and Pete) using the Faire Four Sister's concertinas :)

post-15-0-60179500-1331485065_thumb.jpg

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Here's the best treatise I've ever seen on how to play for Morris dancers; covers your questions.

Jeff's treatise is brilliant and comprehensive. Still, I would add three comments.

 

  1. Jeff says, "Learn and memorize the tunes, not just to the point where you can get through them, but to the point where you can play them effortlessly from memory." That's like the expression about "amateur" versus "professional": "An amateur practices until he can get it right. A professional practices until he cannot get it wrong." An effective dance musician must be "professional" in that sense.
     
  2. Your instrument must be responsive. Even in the best of hands, a concertina with slow, "mushy", or uneven response will not be able to make all the subtle adjustments Jeff describes as necessary for getting the most out of the dancers. If you're fighting your instrument in trying to control the quality of the music, consider upgrading: either getting a new instrument or getting the one you have refurbished.
     
  3. Though the question was about playing on an English, I'll introduce a caution for anglo players, since it is often said that the built-in bellows reversals automatically give a natural rhythm to the playing. However, as Jeff says, it's the musician that needs to control the tempo, rhythm and dynamic to mesh with the dance. To exercise that control, it will almost certainly be necessary at times to resist and overcome that "natural" rhythm the bellows finds most comfortable, especially if your bellows is either stiff or leaky (which brings us back to point 2.).

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I've sent a copy of the PDF to everybody in our side, with a bit of luck some might read it and take some of it in!

 

I dislike playing solo for dancing on English concertina as I haven't really developed the techniques required to control the dynamic as mentioned. My bad I suppose but at practise musicians are expected to be silent until required and are the last to find out what the dance will be! Come to think of it it's the same at every stand. :blink:

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And on a good day this is us (me, Terry and Pete) using the Faire Four Sister's concertinas :)

 

And not even wrist straps to support those big babies!

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Here's the best treatise I've ever seen on how to play for Morris dancers; covers your questions.

Jeff's treatise is brilliant and comprehensive. Still, I would add three comments.

 

  1. Jeff says, "Learn and memorize the tunes, not just to the point where you can get through them, but to the point where you can play them effortlessly from memory." That's like the expression about "amateur" versus "professional": "An amateur practices until he can get it right. A professional practices until he cannot get it wrong." An effective dance musician must be "professional" in that sense.

 

 

All good points, Jim.

 

Effective Morris musicians need to have internalized every tune they play to the point where every ounce of their concentration is on the dancers.

 

Last year I started playing some melodeon. I can get through a lot of Foggy Bottom tunes, but I'm still reluctant to play at our gigs. On concertina, the tunes are so automatic I can focus entirely on the dancers and what I need to do to help them; on melodeon, I'm still thinking about what I'm playing, and my ability to respond to the dancers declines.

 

 

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I've played EC for our local start up morris-- the Boneyard Creek Morris. When I was much younger I fiddled for Pokingbrook (I was third string, playing for the beginner side when I wasn't dancing). We tend to use a single instrument to help with the coordination of music with dancers. For Pokingbrook in the 70's it was a fiddle. I don't recall seeing any free reed instruments in the morris teams I encountered in 1976-77. It is particularly tricky to get the time right on capers since the downbeat depends on gravity and how high the dancers jump. The real question is having a loud enough concertina with clear articulation. I use my model 21, the loudest concertina I've ever played.

 

I suppose that all of this should be in past tense since the paralysis in my left hand now makes my playing too unsteady to accompany dancers. The good news is that I've recovered enough to play tunes for my own enjoyment.

 

A good concertina works very well for morris, be it an EC, AC, or duet.

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I've played EC for our local start up morris-- the Boneyard Creek Morris. When I was much younger I fiddled for Pokingbrook (I was third string, playing for the beginner side when I wasn't dancing). We tend to use a single instrument to help with the coordination of music with dancers. For Pokingbrook in the 70's it was a fiddle. I don't recall seeing any free reed instruments in the morris teams I encountered in 1976-77. It is particularly tricky to get the time right on capers since the downbeat depends on gravity and how high the dancers jump. The real question is having a loud enough concertina with clear articulation. I use my model 21, the loudest concertina I've ever played.

 

I suppose that all of this should be in past tense since the paralysis in my left hand now makes my playing too unsteady to accompany dancers. The good news is that I've recovered enough to play tunes for my own enjoyment.

 

A good concertina works very well for morris, be it an EC, AC, or duet.

I joined Pokingbrook in 1986, first on the recorder, and starting a year or so later on the concertina. Selma Kaplan had played accordion for them earlier, but not as early as your time with them.

 

My sincere best wishes on your continued recovery and the difficult road ahead, wherever it takes you.

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... at practise musicians are expected to be silent until required and are the last to find out what the dance will be! Come to think of it it's the same at every stand. :blink:

 

Ah, 'twas ever thus. At least with us there's several starting formations, so I can sometimes take a guess (5 people in a cross? Twiglet. Lines of four across the set? Brimfield. Completely empty space? Either Hey Up Joe, or we've finished our spot and nobody's told us that either).

 

 

Two parallel lines of dancers facing up looking expectant, though? Give us a clue ...

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