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Turloughsgirl

How Did You First Become Interested In The Concertina?

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Welcome to the world of Irish-style concertina playing!

 

If you aim to play Irish dance tunes with other musicians, you'll want to achieve some fluency in the keys of D and A, which are decidedly not "home keys" for a C/G Anglo. So playing "across the rows" in one way or another is pretty much a given. And in fact Noel Hill, probably the most influential living teacher of the Irish style, is the quintessential across-the-rows player.

 

That said, some older players (and some younger players who emulate them) preserve an approach influenced by the old German two-row instruments, and incorporate much more straightforward up-and-down-the-C-and-G-rows playing into their styles. This often involves transposing D tunes (say) a whole step down (listen, for example, to many of Mary MacNamara's settings). It's also possible, however, to play in D (and even in A) this way: if I see and hear what he's doing correctly, Chris Droney's wonderful bouncy rhythm seems to derive in part from playing as much of a given tune as possible up and down the G row, visiting the other rows only when necessary.

 

Still, playing across the rows is indeed the preferred approach for most Irish musicians nowadays, and I encourage my students to learn the necessary scales, weird, wandering and counterintuitive as they are, almost from day one. Mick Bramich's "The Irish Concertina" is a good starting point: his diagrams and explanations are quite lucid, and I like his selection of tunes for practicing them.

 

There's no single Right Way to go about this; I'm constantly working out new fingering alternatives for old chestnuts that I've known for years. But playing across the rows, whether you use Noel Hill's carefully developed patterns or some other variation, will most likely be a big part of the personal style you eventually develop. In any case, good luck with it: you've embarked on a long, strange trip!

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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The first time I heard the Concertina was at a Harp Festival where Grainne Hambly and Billy Jackson, Masters of the Celtic Harp, were performing. Grainne was playing the Concertina, and that was when I knew I would have to learn how to play this sweet sounding instrument.

 

I am so thankful for Concertina.net, all the wonderful people I am meeting who are graciously offering their kind comments, suggestions, and insights!

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I've heard both play a number of times and always enjoy them. Even spent a long weekend with them at a summer harp workshop/camp near Sisters, Oregon a few years ago. My wife was attending and I was the "plus-one" spendings my days playing concertina outside while my wife took lessons inside. I must not have been too bad as I saw a number of deer wander by me and they didn't seem upset by the concertina. Great mountain location in a national forest with a lake nearby, my wife had a wonderful time.

 

Did you know that Grainne won All-Ireland on both the harp and Anglo concertina in the same year? She typically plays a Jeffries when performing with Billy. They teach harp and concertina every year at the Swannanoa summer Irish music event on the east coast, you can find out more about it by searching online. My wife and I have talked about attending but it's a long haul from the Seattle area.

 

One of the tunes they usually play in concert (and it's on one of their CDs) is Eleanor Plunkett with Grainne playing part of it on Anglo. It's not a difficult tune as you may know from your time with the harp and it might make a good one to learn in your first months with the Anglo.

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Thanks Bruce! I was wondering which Concertina Grainne plays. She is awesome! I've attended several of she and Billy's workshops for harp at various festivals, and as far as Celtic harp is concered, they are most definitely The Masters of the Celtic Harp.

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Grainne was playing a Jeffries when she last performed here. She also confirmed it's the same one she used on her CD with Billy.

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