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How Many Of Us Are There ? ( Concertina Players )


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I was talking in the local Tesco to an elderly lady who lives near me - the subject got on to the Salvation Army (she once met general booth's granddaughter while on holiday apparently) and I mentioned I was learning to play the concertina. She got very excited and said that her son and daughter-in-law both used to play but don't any more because they think 'it's too old fashioned'. They are local too, so there are two more players within ten miles of me and I already know of two others.

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Yes but that is the way you estimate something...

Certainly not the way I estimate something.

Nor is it valid statistics.

...you find a number you know, and if the only number you have is, say, 'the people in this room' then that is what you work with. (That gives me an estimate of the entire population of the world playing concertinas as I am alone here...)

An example which demonstrates quite clearly that the method -- as given -- is invalid, since it's quite easy to demonstrate that the conclusion (that everyone in the world plays concertina) is false.

 

Jake's technique is perfectly valid and improves his chances of getting a meaningful number. The larger the sample, the better your estimate of course.

No. "Jake's technique" (I actually thought he was being tongue in cheek) is valid if and only if it can be shown by independent means that the small sample and the larger "universe" can be expected to share a similar distribution in the variable being estimated. And the expectation of a "better" estimate from a larger sample also applies only if the distributions are similar among all the sample sizes being compared.

 

With regard to your extreme example, it's obvious that the distribution of concertina (or Maccann) players in the population consisting only of yourself is most certainly not the same as the distribution of such players in the entire popuation of the world, or even of New Zealand. And so "Jake's technique" is not applicable.

 

I'd have said starting with the 30,000 folks of Beverley is quite a decent sample. I bet lots of government policy is based on smaller numbers than that.

And that is supposed to be a proof of validity? In my experience, the fact that a technique is used as a basis for government policy is a pretty sure sign that it's flawed. B)

 

As for the Wheatstone duet/Maccan thing, there was a different problem there ... that opens another can of worms...

I believe that can was already opened in one of the earlier threads on this subject. B)

 

Thank you for taking all the trouble to explain, Jim.

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Hi again,

 

Like Brer Rabbit and the tar baby, I'm back again in this interesting thread. I think Jim has shown the problems with a purely statistical extrapolation, as Jake attempted for the UK. The only way to get close to an estimate, in my opinion, is just experience on the ground. Many of you in the UK will have a better handle on that than I, but I based my UK estimate on my experiences in that country over the past 35 years of infrequent visits.

 

Over those decades I've been to the concertina weekend at Witney, to the Swaledale gathering, to Mark Davies' Bradfield weekend (higher Anglo percentage than the prior two), and the the ECMW weekend, and to some wonderful pub sessions, mostly in the SE. I've never seen a gethering of more than about thirty or perhaps forty anglo players at the biggest of these events. By the way, if you are an angloer in the UK and haven't been to Bradfield or the ECMW, you are missing out on something wonderful and need to get out more!

 

I've also visited with folks like Roger Digby down in Essex, Harry Scurfield up in Otley, and Neil Wayne in Belper....folks who are well tuned into their local areas and regions. I sense that if you got Mark Davies, Harry, Roger, and Neil in a room, and add Alan Day as well - all senior, very well-connected in UK concertinadom, and from a variety of regions - they would be hard pressed to place actual names on many more than 200 people in the UK who actually play. Maybe they could do a bit better, I dunno - but not tons more.

 

I was on the ICA committee, briefly, a few years ago, and saw at that time maybe thirty or so angloers on the ICA total roll of 300, and not all of them in the UK. Sure, they are mostly an EC and Duet outfit. Then there is my book on William Kimber, who is absolutely an iconic figure in English folk music. I don't keep track of sales, as I have no financial interest in it (it was donated to the ECMW who published it), but in about 2009 or 2010 I asked the ECMW how sales had gone on it. I was told that it was one of their 'best sellers' of the past few years. At that time, they had sold over 300 copies....and a significant portion of those would have been abroad. Gary Coover's wonderful book on the 'English harmonic' way of playing the anglo, out last year, is also selling (internationally) in the hundreds, not thousands, I'm told. This is typical for anything written on the anglo concertina, and one reason that I try to purchase just about anything written about this instrument, in order to support what is invariably a labor of love for the author and the publisher.

 

Anecdotal things like festival attendees, organization memberships, and book sales seem to indicate that high numbers (of players) are just not there. And the idea that there are very big proportions of solo, diconnected 'hermit' players is just not credible. A few, certainly. After forty or more years of playing in Essex and London, for example, I would think that someone like Roger would have a local handle on that....and likewise the other senior players that I mentioned. I've never heard any of them speak of hundreds or even tens of such disconnected players in their respective local areas. I know that in my native Texas, I have a very good handle on players, having beat the bushes for the last decade for our local Palestine weekend. The numbers of lost souls playing solo in the woods are just not large.

 

Then there is demography, which is definitely skewed against my English friends. Very few young people are evident; it is a hobby for folks who are, shall we say, getting a bit long in the tooth. Only in Ireland and South Africa do you see many children, or even millenials, getting into this hobby. One senses that the whole English folk scene peaked in the eighties or nineties, and that those who were moved by that continue to play....but that not many younger folk have picked up the torch. Roger Digby has written as much, somewhere on this website. Mary MacNamara, who has often come to the UK for concertina weekends, thinks very highly indeed of English country music, but told me recently that she was really shocked to see how few young people are taking it up.

 

All in all, I feel very confident that the numbers of anglo players in the UK are measured in hundreds, not thousands. To project thousands is simply wishful thinking. But that reality is reason for rejoicing, in my opinion. When one picks up the anglo, nearly in any country, it is a bit like living in a small town. You get to know some great people, and in turn those people know you. In contrast, bring a fiddle to Willie Clancy week, or a banjo to a North Carolina music festival, or a melodeon to a Morris gathering, and you will be an anonymous part of a big crowd. There are huge social advantages to small numbers.

 

I could go into a similar string of logic for the other countries I mentioned in the earlier post, but think I have become enough of a bore already! :)

Edited by Dan Worrall
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This is a bit of thread drift, but we could try this:

 

Registered members of cnet. (A known number)

Distribution of posters (active, .. . . never posted)

In each category of poster, ratio of time spent on line to actually playing (by self report)

 

Now that would be interesting!

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I joined the Florida Accordian Association and started going to monthly meetings for a venue to play. I was astounded that these guys had no idea what a concertina was, and had never seen one. I have never come across another player. Closest I ever got was someone who invited me to see the concertina that deceased grandpa had left behind. I went looking for a treasure, and found a very cheap plastic toy. As it was I could do a scale on it, which was apperantly more than grandpa ever accomplished.

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If every Tom, Dick and Harry played a Concertina it would rob the instrument of some of its magic and appeal. No harm in feeling a bit elitist !!

 

I live in an area where there's concertina playing. A lot of concertina playing. When my son was in National school, he played the concertina. When he was around twelve or so there were between ten and twelve other children in his school learning the concertina. Out of a population of just under fifty pupils.

 

Two weeks ago I was out in a place at the backarse of nowhere, five or six miles from here, several fine concertina players I had never come across before were playing away.

 

In my eyes this adds to a diversity in styles and broadens my appreciation of the instrument and it's possibilities. I don't really see the point of a player feeling the need to draw attention to his or her person by playing an instrument that is obscure or rare. To enjoy the sound of the instrument and make the music played on it shine, that's really the point isn't it? The ego of the player or his/her craving for attention because he is handling a rarity surely don't take precedence over that?

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Firstly, I freely admit to not have sufficient knowledge of duets to tell the difference between a McCann and any other sort. I'm an Anglo player. However, I can say that in my small local circuit I can easily think of 3 duet players. That "circuit" includes my own Morris team and their immediate families, a folk club I visit only occasionally, and a concertina group which meets every six months, all within about a 25 mile radius in the east midlands of England. I'm not a "hard core folky" and I have only been interested in concertinas for 5 or 6 years. If I can think of 3 duet players that I have met that easily, then worldwide there must be lots, and surely more than 50 of them playing McCanns.

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Well, I visit C-net 3 or 4 times a week for a couple of minutes just in case there is anything new, and I occasionally stay on for 15 minutes. I play every day as near as life allows - anything from 10 minutes to an hour or more at a time.

 

(This was intended to be a reply to Mike Franch's question above but I obviously didn't get the quote button to work.)

Edited by Mikefule
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In answer to Peter....my comment was tongue-in-cheek, ( or that was my obviously failed intention. ) Any suggestion that 'ego' and 'craving attention' and 'rarity' of instrument could take precedence over the quality of performance is of course plain daft, but then I never suggested anything of the sort.

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Apart from which, your general point that the instrument's rarity adds to its magic an appeal stands. I don't play a concertina to stand out from the crowd, but I do feel a quiet pride in my attempts to master such a complex, quirky and comparatively little-known instrument. The person who sets out to master the concertina is likely to have a different approach to music from the person who sets out to master a more popular and immediately accessible instrument such as a melodeon. Perhaps oboists and bassoonists feel something similar in a world full of violinists.

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Apart from which, your general point that the instrument's rarity adds to its magic an appeal stands. I don't play a concertina to stand out from the crowd, but I do feel a quiet pride in my attempts to master such a complex, quirky and comparatively little-known instrument. The person who sets out to master the concertina is likely to have a different approach to music from the person who sets out to master a more popular and immediately accessible instrument such as a melodeon. Perhaps oboists and bassoonists feel something similar in a world full of violinists.

 

Melodeons are more popular and accessible than concertinas? Why did nobody tell me that before I chose an EC as my first instrument! ;-)

 

I don't think it was the rarity factor that attracted me to the concertina; it was the combination of the sound, versatility, small size, fixed tuning, and if I'm honest the mechanical complexity appealed to me as an engineer. Among my friends I know an anglo concertina player, a melodeon player, a harpist… and at least a dozen guitar and/or ukelele players.

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Apart from which, your general point that the instrument's rarity adds to its magic an appeal stands. I don't play a concertina to stand out from the crowd, but I do feel a quiet pride in my attempts to master such a complex, quirky and comparatively little-known instrument. The person who sets out to master the concertina is likely to have a different approach to music from the person who sets out to master a more popular and immediately accessible instrument such as a melodeon. Perhaps oboists and bassoonists feel something similar in a world full of violinists.

Oi! Where do you get the stuff about melodeons being instantly accessible? :o Personally, I don't find much difference learning, melody anyway, on a melodeon or Anglo.

 

Coming from a concertina direction perhaps sets me a little apart from the majority of English melodeon players, since I am much more happy with melody only and not greatly fussed about accompaniment, but it's not that big a difference.

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I live in an area where there's concertina playing. A lot of concertina playing. When my son was in National school, he played the concertina. When he was around twelve or so there were between ten and twelve other children in his school learning the concertina. Out of a population of just under fifty pupils.

 

Two weeks ago I was out in a place at the backarse of nowhere, five or six miles from here, several fine concertina players I had never come across before were playing away.

 

Peter,

 

interesting observations. There is one place in the world where a very determined person has made a careful canvas of all concertina players, and that is County Clare. You probably already know this, but for others who may not, Gearoid OhAllmhurain did such a listing for his 1990 PhD thesis and Queen's University Belfast. He placed a dot on a map for all persons, living or dead, who played the concertina in Clare between the years 1900 and 1990. He came up with 416 persons (147 women and 269 men). Assuming he did his count meticulously, then, there were perhaps 200 or so known (to him) Clare concertina players alive in 1990. I am estimating on that bit, as many would have been deceased....if I had his dissertation in front of me I'm sure the precise count of how many were on which side of the grass would be in there.

 

That was nearly 24 years ago, and we all know that the number has grown...but how much? Double? Triple? Again I'm guesstimating, but I'd say that triple is not too rich, given the numbers that show up to Willie Clancy school each year, and the photos of the attendees at the old Mrs Crotty weekend. There were several hundred at the Cruinniu last year, in dead winter. And that estimate is just for Clare. Hence my overall estimate of about 1200 or so living Irish concertina players. Again, the real number might even be double, or perhaps is a bit less too.

 

With a population of about 4.6 million in Ireland, that best guesstimate would give a rate of 0.003% concertina players. If my best estimate for the England is to be taken (400 versus a population of 53 million; I'm leaving out Scotland and Wales), the rate there is a little less than 0.001%, or a third as popular as in Ireland. That feels about right, from my experience. For my own country, my estimate of 500 vs 320 million, or about 0.0002% seems embarassingly low in comparison, but I don't know how to blow air (or smoke) into that low estimate. We must be too busy watching reruns of Downton Abbey or something.

Edited by Dan Worrall
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This is a bit of thread drift, but we could try this:

 

Registered members of cnet. (A known number)

Distribution of posters (active, .. . . never posted)

In each category of poster, ratio of time spent on line to actually playing (by self report)

 

And you think those who have never posted are going to start doing so just to answer this question? :unsure:

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That was nearly 24 years ago, and we all know that the number has grown...but how much? Double? Triple? Again I'm guesstimating, but I'd say that triple is not too rich, given the numbers that show up to Willie Clancy school each year, and the photos of the attendees at the old Mrs Crotty weekend.

 

There's the factor that despite the very generous uptake among the young, there's also a considerable drop-off once these young people reach their twenties. If I consider the group my son was part of, most of the boys put down the concertina, despite being able players, and started concentrating on surfing, girls etc. Girls seem to linger a bit longer but even there you'd see a considerable drop once they go to university. A local girl just up the road here was a very nice player, big into the competitions and going to All-Ireland (under 18) level, once she started uni, that was it for the concertina. Once they get past that age playing, they seem to stick to it though and all things considering, despite the drop off the numbers that remain players would be higher than anywhere else.

 

It's hard to decide if you would count the drop outs as dormant players, as I said most were well able, or just drop them from the statistics altogether.

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