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Test-Driving The New Jeffries!


Bob Michel
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Or, well, as new as an instrument can be after 100+ years, anyway. Brand new to me, certainly.

 

What with the completion (for now, at least) of my WWI song project and the lack of a periodic prod from TOTM, I haven't put anything on YouTube for a while that features concertina prominently. But a friend asked if I'd post a video of the Jeffries I've long coveted but just finally acquired (in lieu of a red sports car, as one might say). So here it is.

 

https://youtu.be/cg5wBQ6UuXw

 

"Con Cassidy's"--one of at least two completely different jigs that go by that name--is a much-recorded standard. "Parnell's March" isn't as commonly heard at sessions hereabouts as I'd like it to be; it's a tune I've loved for a long time. I probably first learned it from the playing of Father Charlie Coen, but it's been ages since I heard his version, and I suspect mine has wandered a bit from that setting.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Thanks, Hereward! Don, that's funny; I had exactly the same thought when I was recording it this morning. The concertina is a 38-button C/G, with the "23 Praed St." mark. It came--delightfully for me, since it's what I'm used to--with the Wheatstone layout, though the "extra" buttons are different enough from my 40-button boxes that my muscle memory will need a bit of reprogramming. Most notably, the draw C# that I instinctively reach for with my left index finger must now be played on the right.

 

As for which concertina to choose...I can't imagine ever parting with the Lachenal, and will always find reasons to play it. Apart from being my first "real" concertina, it has a distinctive voice and is very responsive even with its hook-and-lever action--plus I love hearing people say, "Wait...are you sure that's a Lachenal?!?" I'm of two minds about selling the (postwar, but with improved action) Wheatstone. I enjoy playing it the least of the three, but it records beautifully, and blends very well with singing. So I'm deferring a decision about that for at least a few months.

 

As for the new Jeffries...I'm just beginning to find out what it can do, but one thing it can do incomparably well is play Irish tunes, so it's going to be my session companion from now on. One thing's for sure: I feel incredibly fortunate to have all these choices (though in all fairness it took quite a long time to acquire them!).

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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A fine sounding instrument Bob, congratulations! Is it the one that has been on the BB website for a while? (Red/Brown bellows are the clue?) If so, it seems to be Wheatstone right down to the inconvenient (in my view) draw D on the LH G row. I think I'd want to change that back to an A draw:-) On the other hand, the alternative C,D, E and F on the RH are typical Jeffries 38. Do you think it was always a core Wheatstone layout, or has someone had a go at it and moved a few reeds around?

 

Adrian

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Adrian--

 

Thanks! Yes, it's the BB Jeffries, but not the 45-button behemoth that's been there for years. I don't think this one had been on the site for more than a couple of weeks when I pulled the trigger. Based on the photos I was a bit concerned about the condition of the bellows, but happily it's in fine shape.

 

I agree with you about that draw D, which has always struck me as a wasted note. But I'm used to it from my Lachenal (my Wheatstone has the draw A, which I much prefer). For me the indispensable feature of the Wheatstone layout isn't the way it handles c#2--I've played enough Jeffries-type boxes to know that I could make that switch easily--but the a2/g2 button on the right hand accidental row. I don't think I could live without that. As to whether the atypical layout on this one is original, I have no clue. But I really like its combination of familiarity--I can play it in 30-button mode without having to rethink anything--and intriguing new options for the accidentals. What with having to reach for push-f2 and draw-g#2, I can already feel my right pinky strengthening.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel
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Congrats, Bob. Nice playing, great box.

 

About 8 years ago, when I was looking for a better G/D, I was on the list for an instrument by a modern maker and my number was almost up - but in the end, I thought, I'm over 60, I don't need a sports car, my kid's graduated college, and there's nothing like a Jeffries. Haven't regretted it for a moment.

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Thanks, Jim. Sounds like you and I followed similar lines of reasoning. I never wanted a sports car anyway.

 

Rod, that's kind of you to say, but the way I look at it, the guitar is just there to distract from concertina mistakes!

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Thanks, Steve. I'm feeling a little sheepish, actually: the idea all along was to keep two (a main instrument and a spare) and sell one, and I may well end up doing that. But--what do you know?--when the moment of truth arrives it's a little like Sophie's Choice. Greed may be just the ticket here.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Thanks, Steve. I'm feeling a little sheepish, actually: the idea all along was to keep two (a main instrument and a spare) and sell one, and I may well end up doing that. But--what do you know?--when the moment of truth arrives it's a little like Sophie's Choice. Greed may be just the ticket here.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

 

As one who sits on more concertinas than he actually needs, I'd say go for it Bob - there are far worse things to be greedy about!

 

Adrian

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Here's one more video snippet of me finding my way around the new button layout. I wouldn't call the playing impeccable, but I'm slowly getting there.

 

https://youtu.be/CSqzf_aVTNU

 

The footnotes (for any as obsess about such things): Even though this box has a Wheatstone layout for its "core 30," it still supplies the classic Jeffries pairing of d#2/c#2 and c#2/d#2 on adjacent buttons; they're just shifted counterclockwise (the push d#, draw c# is on the "extra" button at the top of the RH C row). I like this arrangement, though it requires some conscious planning to avoid hopping my index finger on a draw b-c#-d run (or the reverse). But I suppose that has to be true of the standard Jeffries layout, too, no?

 

At any rate, it's just a matter of practice. And any difficulty is more than compensated by the wonderful push f#1 at the top of the LH G row. No more draw-push-draw Triangle of Death on the f#-e-d triplet in (say) the first measure of "The Silver Spire"! (Unless I want to play it that way, of course.) I had that push f# all along on the 40-button concertinas, but it was in such a remote location that I didn't often use it. This is much easier.

 

Ever onward with the reprogramming. Fun, fun, fun.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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On 12/15/2016 at 10:05 AM, Rod said:

The Anglo and the Ukelele combine perfectly.

Thanks, Rod. They do have an unlikely affinity, don't they? I think the uke functions as a smaller, more affordable harp.

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel
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