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Kurt Braun

Clifftop

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Did any c-netters go to Clifftop this year. If so, could you share about your experiences, other tina players who where there, how concertins were recieved, fit in, etc.? Thanks.

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I know that Bertram Levy was there this year and I've seen a few photos from the event but can't offer any other details.

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Did any c-netters go to Clifftop this year. If so, could you share about your experiences, other tina players who where there, how concertins were recieved, fit in, etc.? Thanks.

 

Jody was there, maybe he'll report.

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Clifftop was great, I had an amazing time, but I would not recommend it for concertina players in general. My personal pleasure at Clifftop is to join in sessions with old friends and meet new players for tunes. Still, concertina is not a core instrument with this music. To fit in, I have to adapt to the genre, listen very hard and play appropriately. Perhaps what I love about the whole endeavor is the improbable musical welcome that I struggle to earn as a squeezing musician. I’m not always successful at this effort. Generally, folks are too polite to exhibit outright concertina hostility... most of the time.



Clifftop is a southern string band festival. People come to play fiddle tunes on string instruments. Fiddle, banjo and guitar are the essence of old time with bass and mandolin welcome too. This year at Clifftop I also heard shape note singing and yodeling, dobro, saxophones, brass, keyboards and a drum set. I heard jazz standards and Django jazz, French hurdy gurdy, Venezuelan harp and Nepalese Sarangi. Still, these were all delightful exceptions to the core music of the old time fiddle tunes being played day and night at Clifftop.



There are concerts and contests on a stage but many folks never bother to attend, they are too busy playing tunes at the camp sites, and the general level of musicianship there is very high. This year, there were 5000+ paying customers from all the US states plus 14 foreign countries. There were more cello players than free reed players including harmonica. Concertina is an anomaly in this world and in order to play old time in sessions I draw on a deep familiarity with the style and repertoire, as well as a thick skin, able to accept rejection with grace and humor. Unless you know what you are in for and play old time at home at your regular session, don’t expect much of a welcome as a squeezing musician who knows how to play Old Joe Clark, Cluck Old Hen and not much else.



If you want to attend as a concertina player, I suggest you bring your own welcome, including familiar people who know and like you. Camp together like everyone else does. There are distinct neighborhoods in this amazing tent city that grows up from nothing to a density that rivals New York in just a matter of a week. The folks from Texas camp and play together as do the folks from Canada, Charlottesville WV, Ohio, Chicago, Pittsburg, Connecticut, Boston, the Cajuns, the Louisville Kids, the teenaged Hobo train people, the RV old folks and all the rest. The Brits mostly stay together in what is known as Little England. Bands tend to stay together and friends attend together. Sometimes individuals go visiting, but then they return home. I camped and played often with my home team, the New York contingent.



Yes, Bertram was there, but I only saw him from afar, playing fiddle and banjo, not concertina. Squeezer Kate Poole was there but brought her mandolin along as a safety net. I did see a few small boxes around but did not hear them.



Yes, I had fun and yes... I often felt like a fish out of water as a concertina player squeezing out old time tunes with folks who were shocked to find that they actually liked the sound of the squeezebox after all. Your milage may vary.


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Although I won't even get a bit of a chance to attend - thank you for the charming insights Jody, which I truly enjoyed as a reader, musician and observer of human relations and orientations... :)

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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Interesting post, Jody!

It goes to show that the simple, handmade music that so many of us play is actually Culture. Because as soon as you have the concept of Culture, you can identify different Cultures. The differnces are often subtle. American OT Culture regards the concertina as a foreign body, as you point out - but in Sea Shanty Culture, the concertina is an essential element. Although the people in the BBC Counterpoint programme (see the parallel thread) would probably consider both so far below their horizon as to fail to see any Cultural relevance in either of them.

 

This reminds me of a detctive film I once saw. A NYPD detective, accompanied by a naive, young, uniformed Officer was investigating a case in a religious environment. Their first intrerviewee was a Catholic priest, so they sought him out in his church. The uniformed Officer just walked in, and the Detective reprimanded him to "take your cap off - we're in Church!"

The next on their list was a Jewish rabbi. As they entered his Synagogue, the young Officer, recalling the reprimand, reverently removed his cap, whereupon the Detective again reprimanded him to "keep your head covered - we're in a Synagogue!"

 

As a naive (though not young) folkie, I'd need someone like you, Jody, to keep me right about when to unpack my concertina, and when to unpack my banjo. And come to think of it, which concertina to unpack - the Anglo or the Crane! I wouldn't want to offend any ITM people ... :huh:

 

BTW, on holiday in Dubai, my wife and I took a guided tour of a Mosque, with some interesting info about Moslem belief and ritual. The women in our party all had to wear headscarves, but the men were OK just taking their shoes off. So (thinking of policemen, priests and rabbis) I asked our guide what the custom was: headgear or no headgear for men in a Mosque? She said it didn't matter, there was no rule about that.

Church, Synagogue, Mosque - so similar in many ways, so annoyingly different in etiquette!

 

In musical terms, do any of you frequent jams or sessions where there are no rules of etiquette about what (portable) instruments to bring along - where anything goes?

 

Cheers,

John

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In musical terms, do any of you frequent jams or sessions where there are no rules of etiquette about what (portable) instruments to bring along - where anything goes?

Absolutely!

 

How about an "Irish" session with a soprano sax? In Sweden, but still advertised as "Irish". Nobody at that session tries to be more "Irish" than the Irish by dictating what is or isn't allowed. (FWIW, he's one of at least 4 saxophonists currently widely welcomed as "traditional" Swedish musicians.) At another Swedish "Irish" session we once had two nyckelharpa players. They were really good at the Irish tunes, as well as their "native" repertoire.

 

At the late Eagle Tavern session in New York City, among the rarely seen (but accepted when they did show up) instruments were an oboe, a trumpet, and even a small portable keyboard (which was not played too loudly). This was a session that regularly included some top tier musicians from the local Irish-American community... individuals who never tried to take advantage of their status.

 

In Doolin back in 1975, Packy Russell insisted I join in with my English concertina, even though I was a rank beginner at the time. In fact, of all the Irish sessions I've attended, at none of them did anyone even look askance at my non-anglo concertina, and it has also been welcomed at Swedish sessions, even by musicians who have never seen one before.

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In musical terms, do any of you frequent jams or sessions where there are no rules of etiquette about what (portable) instruments to bring along - where anything goes?

 

Cheers,

John

 

Yes, when it comes to what instruments can participate, no when it comes to jam etiquette.

 

The sessions at my house and the ones I most like to attend are of the 'anything goes' variety. All instruments are OK, and I like sessions that aren't confined to any particular genre. The single-genre sessions I do attend - English trad or contra dance - welcome all instruments, within reason. In the contra dance open band I play in, we once welcomed a theramin player.

 

Etiquette is a different matter entirely, and it seems to me the same basic rules apply in any kind of session. To wit:

 

- know the host's session preferences and stick to them.

- ease in slowly, and when you're fully participating, wait your turn.

- don't be a diva, don't scorn other players' musical choices and don't hog center stage.

 

I hate it when someone comes to one of my 'anything goes' sessions and refuses to play anything but his/her single genre, looking scornfully at everybody who is playing.

 

I don't go to hardcore Irish and oldtime sessions unless I know the host is amenable to my instrument and my style of playing. When I do go, I don't play other stuff. For me to attend and get all hissy because they're not playing what I like, or the way I like, is just as rude as the oldtime musicians who came to a session at my house a few years ago - knowing it was an anything goes session - and sat like statues unless we played oldtime, and the particular genre of oldtime they preferred.

 

There's room for all kinds of sessions in our musical universe: jams for single-genre purists, jams for folks like me with short attention spans who like to roam widely across genres.

 

What there isn't room for are rude people who think their way is the only way.

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I can attest that Jim Besser and co-host Randy Stein are welcoming, solicitous, and encouraging hosts for the squeeze-in sessions I've been to (which include more than squeezable instruments).

 

I'm sad that I'll miss the session coming up this Sunday, August 23--although I'll be delighted to be where I'm going to be, making music and dancing in Massachusetts.

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I can attest that Jim Besser and co-host Randy Stein are welcoming, solicitous, and encouraging hosts for the squeeze-in sessions I've been to (which include more than squeezable instruments).

 

I'm sad that I'll miss the session coming up this Sunday, August 23--although I'll be delighted to be where I'm going to be, making music and dancing in Massachusetts.

 

We'll miss you, MIke!

 

For anybody in the area this Sunday, Aug 23, you're invited. 2-6 PM, McGinty's Public House, downtown Silver Spring, MD.

 

Need I say all genres and all levels of playing expertise welcome?

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when I have joined in on concertina in oldtime jams I have gotten grins and nods from hosts, who were members of bands in town to perform, teach and lead jams at a local festival. one also said something nice when passing by and hearing it. but I play CH banjo and have both of Bertram levy's oldtime concertina cds so had done some studying up. I know mr. levy alternates between playing fiddle-line melody and chordal backup or contrapuntal stuff and it sounds great, but I don't do chordal or multi-voice bass stuff, just fiddle melody line, and it seems to blend in fine. concertina is really sweet in the oldtime sphere, but you have to know how to arrange it so it doesn't clash with that style. . . .

Edited by ceemonster

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In Doolin back in 1975, Packy Russell insisted I join in with my English concertina, even though I was a rank beginner at the time. In fact, of all the Irish sessions I've attended, at none of them did anyone even look askance at my non-anglo concertina, and it has also been welcomed at Swedish sessions, even by musicians who have never seen one before.

 

 

DH plays fiddle and prefers Irish sessions so I have always tagged along with my EC and played.

Generally these aren't very hard-core sessions and no one has commented, but I get the impression that a lot of them don't realise that it's the "wrong" sort of concertina!

And as long as it's small and concertina shaped no one really looks any closer :-)

 

ChrisJ

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