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Anglo-Irishman

Concertina As Flight Luggage

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Friends,

 

In a few days I'll be taking to the air. Just a hop from Stuttgart to Glasgow via Amsterdam. Then I'll be taking a train on the scenically spectacular West Highland Railway to Fort William, where the main holiday starts: a cruise in a restored Clyde Puffer (still under steam, and coal-fired) up the Caledonian Canal!

 

Obviously, on a cruise like this, I couldn't leave my concertina out of it. In fact, it'll be my first opportunity to play it afloat (unless you count a punting trip on the river Neckar in Tübingen!)

 

For the journey, I've bought a soft, padded gig-bag with shoulder-strap, which fits the concertina snugly but not tightly. My question is how to take it on the 'plane. If I take the gig-bag as cabin luggage, I fear they won't let me take my board-case or rucksack on. So I was wondering if it would be wise to put the concertina, in its gig-bag, in my check-in suitcase, duly surrounded by soft articles of clothing.

 

Has anyone tried this, and with what result (be brutal, if necessary! ;) )

 

Cheers,

John

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It depends on how attached you are to your instrument. Valuables in checked baggage is never a good idea, particularly due to the airlines' liability limitations. When packing my bag I ask myself if I could accept the contents being lost or damaged. Good quality vintage instruments that are almost impossible to replace with insurance money do not make it on the list for me. Expect severe rough handling and I have personally seen an accordion fall off a conveyor.

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I advise checking the luggage regulations of the airline, including exact dimensions. I recently flew to Ireland from Bristol and was able to take my treble English in a small Pelican Storm case, this one:

http://www.pelican.com/us/en/product/watertight-storm-hard-cases/small-case/standard/iM2075/

 

Aer Lingus allowed this exact size of case, presumably made that size to comply with such regulations, plus a small suitcase as cabin baggage. So I didn't have to risk my treble Edeophone EC in the hold.

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Who are you flying with? If it's EasyJet, you can pay €15 or so for A selected seat which gives you speedy boarding and two pieces of hand luggage. I have never flown with a concertina, but used to fly to Lisbon once a month with a laptop bag and fully knitted video bag too - never had any issues.

 

I certainly wouldn't check it into the hold - nothing good happens to hold luggage!

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My advice would be under no circumstances to let them put anything of value into the hold, and especially not a musical instrument. The risk of losing it, or getting it damaged, is way too high. (I speak from personal experience of repairing, and/or giving insurance valuations for, numerous broken instruments of all descriptions! :( )

 

Otherwise, it depends very much on the "hand luggage" rules of the airline (or airlines) you're travelling with, and it may be best to pack it into your hand luggage. But, for example, Ryanair have recently introduced an allowance of a second, additional, small piece of hand luggage measuring no greater than 20 x 20 x 35cm - so I recently bought myself an aluminium case in exactly that size - which just fits my two Edwardian-period Wheatstone treble Englishes with (skinny) 5-fold bellows...

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I have carried a concertina in a hard case as cabin luggage a few times. Some airlines will allow you to take not only the cabin suitcase but a small additional item. I would not put any concertina of mine through the risk of baggage handling and hold baggage.

 

I have been asked by airport security to demonstrate that the instrument is real (play a few notes) as they were worried it might contain something illicit. I would not want an overzealous security operative making their own unsupervised attempt to inspect my concertina.

 

Keep the concertina with you at all times, even if it means putting everything else in the hold.

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...Ryanair have recently introduced an allowance of a second, additional, small piece of hand luggage measuring no greater than 20 x 20 x 35cm - so I recently bought myself an aluminium case in exactly that size - which just fits my two Edwardian-period Wheatstone treble Englishes with (skinny) 5-fold bellows...

Norwegian has long had something similar (though a quick check indicates they don't fly from Stuttgart). In addition to the standard one piece of "carry on", subject to official limitations of dimensions and weight, they allow an additional personal item, such as a purse, camera (camera bag?), or computer. I haven't seen any formal description of size or weight limitations for such an item, but a few times now I've taken my treble English in its hard case as "that item", with never a question asked. (And sometimes two other concertinas plus my laptop computer in my carry on bag.)

 

Definitely worth checking with your airline about their allowances.

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I've taken mine as a carry on at least eight times on various domestic and international carriers using a hard Storm case. I also bring a backpack and a small roller suitcase. Never have I been forced to check it. The only issue is that I am ALWAYS required to open the concertina case for inspection at security and explain what it is. Apparently it looks suspicious on the X-ray.

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John

 

I've travelled a lot with my concertina and never had to check it in the hold - but as others have said it may not be possible to have the concertina and a rucksack as well on some of the budget airlines. I assume you're flying KLM? They'll let you carry hand baggage plus a "small accessory". The size they allow is a tad small for a concertina in a case but I've never found it to be a problem and it's not always necessary to even open the case for inspection. Some of the X-ray staff know what "accordion" or even "trekspel" is?

 

That'll be Vic 32 you're going on - we often see it as we sail up the west coast and it's a magnificent sight. It's probably too late for you to learn the Para Handy theme tune (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP9_cbl5cjY) but I've played it for the crew when we've seen the boat rising up the sea lock at the Crinan Canal. In the original Para Handy TV series, Sunny Jim, the young deck hand played the concertina - but that was an English!

 

If you need any assistance with anything while you're in Glasgow, drop me a line

 

Alex West

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I have been asked by airport security to demonstrate that the instrument is real (play a few notes) as they were worried it might contain something illicit. I would not want an overzealous security operative making their own unsupervised attempt to inspect my concertina.

I never put my concertina in the hold - if I can't take it on board, I don't travel with it.

 

At security I always tell them I have a small accordion in my bag - they almost always ask to see it. Occasionally I get to hold a concert :) - I never use the word concertina at security - concertina wire is a munition :o

Edited by SteveS

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Then I'll be taking a train on the scenically spectacular West Highland Railway to Fort William, where the main holiday starts: a cruise in a restored Clyde Puffer (still under steam, and coal-fired) up the Caledonian Canal!

 

Obviously, on a cruise like this, I couldn't leave my concertina out of it. In fact, it'll be my first opportunity to play it afloat

 

For the avoidance of doubt: you are not gloating and I am not jealous! I once had the chance to steer a (Diesel) puffer which now does trips out of Inveraray. Predictably, they have rechristened it the Vital Spark. The chance to go on a genuine steam driven one (the only remaining one?) would be a fine thing indeed. I have also sat on the stern of a heavy 40' boat chugging up the Sound of Mull while I played my melodeon. I was in fine trum, Brutain's hardy son, etc. etc. Enjoy your trip.

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Thanks for all your information, Folks!

Forums like this are seldom unanimous about anything, so I'll take your unanimity on the riskiness of putting an instrument in check-in luggage very seriously.

 

@Alex: Thanks for the hint to visit the carrier's homepage. It is, in fact KLM - their CityHopper service. I've got the cabin-luggage situation sorted, with a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work.

 

And you were right about the ship, too - it is, in fact the VIC 32. I stumbled across her when researching puffers in general in the Internet, and arrived here. The organisers offer week's cruises in various parts of the Scottish West Coast and Inner Hebrides.

 

I'll let you know how I get on.

 

Thanks again,

Cheers,

John

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And you were right about the ship, too - it is, in fact the VIC 32. I stumbled across her when researching puffers in general in the Internet, and arrived here. The organisers offer week's cruises in various parts of the Scottish West Coast and Inner Hebrides.

In case you're interested, here is a link to the web site (in Danish) of our local steam boat here in Helsingør. That's "Elsinore" in English, and S/S Bjørn normally berths in the shadow of Kronborg, "Hamlet's" castle.

 

She first saw service as a tug and icebreaker in 1909. She was restored in this century and is manned and maintained by volunteers. Partly for that reason and in part because she doesn't have cabins for passengers, she doesn't do long tours, though she does now and then take deck passengers on day trips.

Edited by JimLucas

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So many steamship enthusiasts in the Forum!

 

Well, I suppose it's not that surprising, really. So many of us own and play, or at least hanker after, concertinas that were made in the instrument's heyday, which more or less coincided with the era of steam at sea. Their techology is contemporary with the triple-expansion recprocating steam engine that powered so many ships a century ago.

 

And whenever I take my old (pre 1914) Windsor zither-banjo in my hands, I think of Dr. Hussey, the meteorologist of Shackleton's ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1914, who played exactly the same model of banjo, helping to keep up the spirits of the expedition members on their gurelling trek across the pack-ice to the sea, and finally to safety.

 

Yes, musical instruments are part of our life and culture, modern or historical!

 

Cheers,

John

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It sounds as if you have sorted it out, but I need to add my voice to the "don't check the concertina" crowd. I've seen a French Horn in a hard case absolutely destroyed by baggage handlers/equipment. Heartbreaking!

 

Have a great trip.

 

Christine

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Well, I'm back! Safe and sound, as is my trusty Anglo!

 

I put the concertina, in its gig-bag, in a small rucksack with other odds and ends that I took on the plane as cabin luggage. No problem.

 

The cruise was wonderful. I even got to steer the puffer up Loch Linnhe past Fort William, the scene of my childhood. Ten passengers in all, plus a crew of five (including two charming and talented cooks) made up an interesting group of people. The concertina was well received. I was asked to "play something to attract the dolphins" when we were in the Moray Firth, so I played and sang "Fiddler's Green" ("... where the skies are all clear and the dolphins do play ...") - and lo and behold, the black dorsal fins appeared, and the animals showed their sleek backs. As we were preparing to get the luggage ashore at our destination, the mate asked me to "play something sad," so I gave them "Leave her Johnny, leave her."

 

Musical highlight was when a friend of the skipper's, a retired film cameraman, came aboard to take shots for a PR video. He caught me sitting on the hatch with my concertina, and recorded me playing - even asking permission to use the sequence if it fitted in. BTW, he pointed his cam at my right hand, and was rather perplexed when most of the action took place on the left. The Anglo is a conundrum, not only for musicians!

 

One quasi-musical thing I did was to go down into the engineroom and record the 2-cylinder compound engine going full ahead, with the notion of using it as a backing for some music project. Later, the said cameraman boarded the puffer again, and said he had done a video of the engine - could I possibly play something in the same rhythm? After listening to the recordings again (his and mine) I decided on "A-roving", and played it for him, using the engine noise as a click track via ear-buds. Worked very well!

 

So the whole thing was a great success. Playing the concertina on board ship for the first time - and lots, lots more!

 

Oh, and my case was among the first off the belt at the airport both times - undamaged!

 

Cheers,

John

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