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SteveS

Concertina perceptions

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I was at a party over the weekend where I found myself playing for dancing - later I got talking to someone about my concertina (Aeola, 56k, TT).  Their perception of the concertina was that it is a child's instrument, a toy, or played by clowns.

I had a similar conversation with a guy at a festival in Sweden in the summer this year - again he associated the concertina with clowns and as being simple instrument of generally poor quality.

Indeed some 'tinas are no more than toys, and of course clowns did play them (eg. Grock).

In both cases I was able to demonstrate what the concertina is capable of doing as an instrument for playing for dancing, and that it is serious instrument - and certainly not a toy.  I gave on both occasions a short history of the concertina, it's uses, details of materials used, ages and vintage.  I hope I left them with a suitably re-evaluated opinion of the concertina.

Edited by SteveS

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Sounds like you would have convinced them to me.     However, it does beg the question which I am sure has been asked many times before.  What can we do to raise the standing of this very adaptable instrument?  Or is it doomed to be the instrument for the few and generally of the older generation?

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It's the perception of free reed players generally, always has been.  Ask any accordion or melodeon player, anywhere, no matter how accomplished.  "Not a real instrument". But if it helps, join the club.  Same thing happens to tuba players, string bass players, tympanists and a few others.  Almost always, Steve S' "someone" is not a musician and is ignorant.  Can't be helped.  Stupidity cannot be cured. (!)

Edited by Devils' Dream
sp

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Yup. Best solution is to not care what other people think. Elitist jerks and gatekeepers are a problem in every hobby. That's their problem, not mine.

 

(Also, I kind of like how ridiculous my little squeezebox is. That's part of the appeal. ? But I've never been accused of taking myself too seriously.)

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On 12/17/2018 at 12:06 PM, SteveS said:

I was at a party over the weekend where I found myself playing for dancing - later I got talking to someone about my concertina (Aeola, 56k, TT).  Their perception of the concertina was that it is a child's instrument, a toy, or played by clowns.

 

 

Were the ones who made those remarks dancers themselves? In that case your perfect retort would have been to look at them with a mixture of desbelief, bewilderment and disgust and ask them straight into their faces: "YOU - WERE - DANCING - TO - A - TOY???"

 

SCNR

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16 hours ago, RAc said:

 

Were the ones who made those remarks dancers themselves? In that case your perfect retort would have been to look at them with a mixture of desbelief, bewilderment and disgust and ask them straight into their faces: "YOU - WERE - DANCING - TO - A - TOY???"

 

SCNR

I think what is was that as balfolk dancers they'd danced to more usual instruments - accordion, fiddle, etc - and hadn't previously encountered a concertina playing balfolk & Nordic music for dancing - the 'tina being an instrument they'd previously associated with clowning or as a toy. 

 

OTOH I have a cheap Chinese Hero melodeon - I've fettled the reeds and sometimes bring it out for a tune or two.

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I wonder if the association with clowns is more of a continental European thing? It's not an association that I'm at all familiar with, as a Brit. My main recollection of musical clowns is of the white face clown but he would usually be playing a trumpet.  Of course, the UK had a number of musical hall performers on the concertina, both serious and comedic, but that is an entirely different tradition.  Also, perhaps concertinas were less common in some continental countries than in the UK, and many people would only come across them when they were  being used by clowns, whereas in the UK they were at one time ubiquitous.

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24 minutes ago, hjcjones said:

I wonder if the association with clowns is more of a continental European thing? It's not an association that I'm at all familiar with, as a Brit. My main recollection of musical clowns is of the white face clown but he would usually be playing a trumpet.  Of course, the UK had a number of musical hall performers on the concertina, both serious and comedic, but that is an entirely different tradition.  Also, perhaps concertinas were less common in some continental countries than in the UK, and many people would only come across them when they were  being used by clowns, whereas in the UK they were at one time ubiquitous.

There maybe something in what you say - my most recent conversation was with a couple of Italians, and last summer, with Swedes. 

 

I recall seeing pictures of Swedish salvationists with concertinas in old pictures in Sweden - but the concertina, as far I know, was never used for playing folk music, although the 1- and then 2-row melodeons have extant traditions - but then these were arguably cheaper, and available by mail order from dealers in Sweden.

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1 hour ago, hjcjones said:

Also, perhaps concertinas were less common in some continental countries than in the UK, and many people would only come across them when they were  being used by clowns, whereas in the UK they were at one time ubiquitous.

I think there's a lot of truth in this.

As a small child in Northern Ireland, I had my first contact with the concertina at the Salvation Army on Sundays, and later I listened to nautical music programmes on the BBC, which prominently featured the concertina. I never lived in England, so Morris was not a part of my early environment.

When I moved to Germany, the concertina became but a memory, until I discovered a Stagi Anglo in a good music shop, bought it, and started playing it in my folk group. There were two typical questions put by members of my German audiences: 1) "Is that a Bandoneon?" and 2) "My grandfather had one like that." 

The Bandoneon question hints either that, as far as free reeds are concerned, Argentina is closer than England, or that memories of the days when there were more Konzertina Clubs (playing Chemnitzers, Carlsfelders and Bandoneons) than football clubs in Germany are still vaguely present.The "grandfather" remark probably refers to memories of the small, hexagonal, 20-button German Concertina of the type we refer to as "Klingenthal" or "Scholer." The size and shape are deceptively similar to the Anglo, though the timbre is decidedly different. 

Nobody has ever asked me if I'm also a clown.

However, in the "House of German History" in Bonn, I saw an interesting exhibit. It was a small, hexagonal concertina with a piano-like button arrangement (perhaps a Jedcertina or a small Rust-system instrument) - and it was there because it had belonged to a famous German clown of the post-war period!

 

In Germany today, there are no popular genres that feature the concertina (not even the German types). Though a few exotic folkies do use it, there are no genres like English Morris, Irish traditional dance music, British nautical singing or South African Boeremuziek alive in Germany today. 

 

Cheers,

John

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2 hours ago, Anglo-Irishman said:

In Germany today, there are no popular genres that feature the concertina (not even the German types). Though a few exotic folkies do use it, there are no genres like English Morris, Irish traditional dance music, British nautical singing or South African Boeremuziek alive in Germany today. 

 

Cheers,

John

 

Really? In spite of how many German concertinas have been cranked out over the years? That's very sad! You'd think some would have survived in German folk music. Is it because free-reed folk music became dominated by the larger "polka machine" accordions?

 

Gary

 

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7 hours ago, gcoover said:

 

Really? In spite of how many German concertinas have been cranked out over the years? That's very sad! You'd think some would have survived in German folk music. Is it because free-reed folk music became dominated by the larger "polka machine" accordions?

 

Gary

 

 

well, as John pointed out, there are a few (in parts very active and also demographically young) local initiatives, for example here (page 77) or here. In Bavaria, the German concertina is still quite alive, whereas in Swabia (my and John's home), it's more the bag pipe realm that's keeping things going. Unfortunately the terminology ("Brauchtum," "Heimatpflege," "Volkskunst" etc) is something that sends shivers down (at least) my spine. This is also a legacy of The Monster who made it impossible for generations to look at German culture and heritage without associating it with the nightmare*.

 

That's why most Germans in my generation who are attracted to acoustic folk music are more drawn towards balfolk, celtic, English, American or world music than our own stuff. Sad, yes. But there's no escaping history.

 

*Please don't get me wrong. I'm not implying that everyone involved in German folk is right wing or backward (there have even been numerous intercultural German folk music revival projects such as Deitsch that are beyond every suspicion), it's just that the connotations are so overpowering and overshadowing that a widespread, generation persisting grass roots folk consciousness as in eg England, Denmark  or the US is impossible in Germany.   

Edited by RAc

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I have widely to agree with Rüdiger I'm afraid - however there are some new and different accesses to the German folk tradition (commonly with links to "upper" baroque and/or classical music), such as the Dahlhoff collection . At the moment the practise insofar appears to be rather fiddle-related (as it has been back then), however I recorded a couple of tunes some years ago in an enthusiastic spirit with the EC (solo renditions as usual, without much respect to the second to fourth voices here) after having been introduced to all that by Michael Moellers in the first place.

 

Best wishes - ?

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