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Never mind the fairy harps, what's the concertina in the lower left corner????

 

Jake

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The biggest concertina in the world, or the littlest 'un Jake? (Though the biggest one was a dummy that you'd play a real concertina inside.)

 

In either case, they were made specially for them by George Jones, like their other concertinas. He also taught the Webb brothers to play, and protested vehemently (threatening to sue!) when George Bernard Shaw described their concertinas, in print, as "Wheatstones of the best sort"!

 

The late Frank Butler (who was a grandson of George Jones) wrote about those largest and smallest instruments, and they are pictured together, here. Frank also wrote his recollections of the brothers here.

 

One of the original George Jones concertinas, (Jo-Jo's instrument) that Frank Butler was given by Arthur Webb, is now in my posession - this is it:

 

Jo-Joconcertinaedit.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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None of the ones I've read so far mention the tuning, and I notice that Burne-Jones portrayed it with fewer strings. I may go ahead with the "Lament" project, but with the assurance that such a thing actually did exist, and apparently made music!

 

There's a simpler, later Bell harp, probably from the early 20th century (by which time they were often described as "Fairy Bells") here that has the tuning indicated on it: "C D E F G" on the left hand side, and "E D C B A" on the right hand side...

 

 

Checking for other sources, I looked up "Bell harp" in my third edition (1927) Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, to find the most helpful entry is by none other than F. W. G. - the pioneering organologist Rev. Canon Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945) himself!

 

It reads:

 

BELL HARP, a form of wire-strung Psaltery produced in the early part [sic - we now know it was the middle] of the 18th century by John Simcock of Bath. Tans'ur (Elements of Music, 1767) says: 'Its form is like a bell and kept swinging whilst played on, whose strings are struck by each thumb, being armed with a split quill, whalebone, or thin horn, which, when artfully managed, affords tolerable harmony.' The instrument has from 14 to 24 triple or quadruple strings tuned to the scale of D major with an additional C♮.

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I looked up "Bell harp" in my third edition (1927) Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians ...

 

It reads:

 

BELL HARP, a form of wire-strung Psaltery produced in the early part [sic - we now know it was the middle] of the 18th century by John Simcock of Bath. Tans'ur (Elements of Music, 1767) says: 'Its form is like a bell and kept swinging whilst played on, whose strings are struck by each thumb, being armed with a split quill, whalebone, or thin horn, which, when artfully managed, affords tolerable harmony.' The instrument has from 14 to 24 triple or quadruple strings tuned to the scale of D major with an additional C♮.

 

Hmmm! This vagueness in detail seems to be typical of Groves - at least when dealing with fringe instruments. For instance, "thumbs armed with a split quill, whalebone or thin horn" - but a thumb alone cannot wield such implements, although they are used the world over for certain lute, cittern or banjo-type instruments. At least a finger and thumb are needed for these long plectra, usually with the help of two fingers, rather like a pencil. Thumbs alone need a zither-ring. Horn can be bent to form one of those, but nor a quill, and I doubt whether whalebone could be.

And the mere definition of the available notes says very little about the tuning - as we concertinists know, English, Anglo-Chromatic and (most) Duet concertinas have the notes of the chromatic scale available, but are vastly differernt in how these notes are organised and thus for what music they are more suitable.

 

Nevertheless, "scale of D major with an additional C natural" hints at the capability to modulate up a 5th, and the "tolerable harmony" hints at the instrument's use.

 

Fascinating stuff - thanks again, Stephen!

 

Cheers,

John

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EUREKA! I've found it John! :D

 

So I stopped being lazy and relying on the internet, and got up off my chair to reach for Canon Galpin's Old English Instruments of Music from the bookshelves. On page 62 he says that:

 

The instrument generally had sixteen triple strings tuned as follows:-

 

For the right thumb - d3 c#3 b2 a2 g2 f#2 e2 d2 d1

For the left thumb - c#2 c♮2 b1 a1 g1 f#1 e1

Edited to add:

 

However, though that is the tuning indicated on the Bell harp that Galpin illustrated, other examples do not have the low d1 string on the right hand like that, and others have anything up to 24 courses of strings...

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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