Jump to content
polavoy

The demise of the English concertina.

Recommended Posts

I heard someone comment at a recent session that there seems to be relatively  few younger people playing the English Concertina in comparison to other types of concertinas especially the Anglo. The popularity of Irish music is obviously a factor. There are others.

But given that it is a great instrument in its own right are there any places where the English is flourishing?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, polavoy said:

But given that it is a great instrument in its own right are there any places where the English is flourishing?

 

Folk Clubs in England IME

 

(and yes, it is indeed!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only attend one pub in northern England for the Irish music session but there are two, sometimes three concertina players. They play English system or duets.

I am on my second ec this year but am not up to a session yet.

I note that a good mid-range Lachenal ec is much cheaper than a 30 button Anglo.

Edited by Tiposx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes the concertina market seems to value a good Anglo.

Anyway it just seems to me that there are lots of children and young people playing Anglos, usually really well! And I just wondered if any young people were as enthusiastic about the EC.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say Scotland is one of the places where the English system is doing fine.  Maybe older players still out-number the younger players but without doing a detailed head-count, there seem to be more English than Anglo instruments around.

 

Having said that, there is rarely more than 1 concertina player at any given session

 

Alex West

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, polavoy said:

Anyway it just seems to me that there are lots of children and young people playing Anglos, usually really well!

I think this is a phenomenon that can be observed in areas that have a strong regional identity, paired with a distinct musical character. The instrument that has established itself as in some way characteristic of the region gets promoted by the Powers That Be, whether through encouragement of private teachers or organisation of regional music festivals.

In Germany, we notice this most in the Alpine region, where the Steyrische Handharmonika - a regional form of the diatonic accordion - is part of the musical landscape, and is played really well by young people and children. The Anglo Concertina, along with fiddle, flute and pipes, has taken up this position in the West of Ireland. 

Often, the presence of children in niche music is accompanied by interest in regional costumes and folk dance. But of course, being located in Scotland, you don't have to look any farther than the Highlands for kilts, country dancing - and young bagpipers!

 

Cheers,

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am occasionally contacted by people in the Seattle area looking for English concertina instruction and I have no idea where to direct them.  I’ve seen a few English players around over the years, but don’t have a way to contact them now.

 

It's difficult to build the ranks if you can’t find people to teach and share what they know.  I'm not saying they don’t happen, but I don’t know of any English concertina workshops in the US where one could learn the basics either.  The next time I encounter an English player I intend to ask what they know of learning opportunities so that I can pass it on.  In the meantime, would anyone care to recommend a particular English concertina instructor, a favored tutor book or perhaps a well presented YouTube series that might get the non-player started?

 

I suspect the information might be of interest to some here, and I'll be happy to have something to pass on the next time I'm asked.

Edited by Bruce McCaskey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO the English system is pretty much self-teaching, which shouldn’t be ruled out...

 

Apart from that I‘d still recommend Alistair Anderson‘s book (and CD).

 

Best wishes - 🐺

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Bruce McCaskey said:

In the meantime, would anyone care to recommend a particular English concertina instructor, a favored tutor book or perhaps a well presented YouTube series that might get the non-player started?

 

 

I've found the Frank Butler tutor to be far and away the best for learning EC, and it's even available for free download on concertina.com.

 

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Anglo is popular for 4 reasons:

  • It is a well established instrument in Irish traditional music.
  • Morris melodeon players (often assume they) can easily transfer their existing skills to the Anglo.  (They are often wrong.)
  • A certain type of person irrationally sees it as somehow "easier" to learn on a harmless little Anglo than a bigger more chromatic instrument.  "How difficult can it be?  It's tiny and only has 20 buttons."  (They are wrong.)
  • For those who want to learn to play by ear, the first steps on Anglo are deceptively easy.  The more you play it, the more complex the Anglo becomes.

 

The English concertina has none of these specific advantages, although it has many others.  It has come to be seen as a more niche instrument than the Anglo, apart from by duet players, who know what "niche" really means.  😀

 

However, there are plenty of ECs around.  You find them being used for Morris music, in ceilidh bands and at folk clubs.  I can think of 5 EC players who I already knew personally before I became at all interested in concertinas and learned the difference.

 

Now that I am interested in concertinas, I notice them a lot more.  I'd guesstimate that the ratio of Anglos to EC is around 3:1 in terms of the numbers that I encounter, but that may well be partly because of my strong bias towards the Morris world, where push pull diatonic is mainstream.

 

As for younger people playing: it depends what you mean by young.  At 56, I am often, but not always, the youngest person present at Midlands Concertina Group meetings.  The youngest regular concertina player I know personally (probably in his late 20s) plays duet, so he doesn't help my argument!

 

The Irish traditional music scene promotes itself well and encourages young people to join in, perform and compete.  The Anglo is the most popular system in that world, and has been for a long time.  If a young person wants to learn to play an instrument well, they need to find a teacher who plays that instrument, and it must be easier to find an older Anglo player than an older EC player.  Therefore, once the imbalance becomes established, it becomes self perpetuating.

 

Pity, because although I could never get one to work for me — and, yes, I tried — the EC is a wonderful instrument and deserves to be heard being played well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×