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robert stewart

Concertinas and Climate Change

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Any thoughts on the best levels of temperature and humidity for concertinas?  For example, Ireland and Britain have (or used to have) cool humid climates, otherwise known as Chill & Damp. So period concertinas from the 19th and early 20th centuries were made and played in conditions where the average humidity was around 50% and average temperature in the 60s F.  Until the mid-1970s a temperature over 70F was regarded as extremely hot in Britain ! Here on the east coast of the US the temperature today is 90+F and humidity over 60%, sometimes higher through the summer. There is air conditioning, of course. But it hardly needs to be said that concertinas were also played in high temperatures and high humidity with no Acs as soon as they left temperate Britain, Ireland, or Europe.  (the reason for all this is probably because my AC has broken down and will not be fixed for a few days...but it prompted the thoughts....)  And what about all those beautiful button accordions in France right now...over 100F this week?  RJ  (and I do not wish to change my Edeophone steel reeds for brass, thank you).

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In France:

 

Last night  our band had  a gig ,  end of year party  at a primary  school , playing for  dancing  in the  school's  playground,  a walled in area of  tarmac.   It was not  the hotest  day  supposedly  reaching  37°C, the  evening temperature was still  33°C  and did not appear to cool off, with  250 +  people  eating  , drinking and dancing.  The humidity  was  close to 90%.  Between setting up our amplification  and  packing it all back in the van at the end   we  suffered  7 hours  of  noisy kids  and  perspiration.

 

My concertina  suffered less than  I,  the biggest problem  for me was  sticky hands.  I left my accordeon at home  as  it has  'waxed-in '  reeds . The wax can soften  and  reeds can fall out.  Most  French  made  accordeons  have  , or should that be 'used to have',   nailed  on reeds  which suffer less in the hot weather .  

 

I think it is a case of  trying to be reasonable  with your antique  concertina ;  keep it out of the sun, don't play it  when you are uncomfortable  and try to avoid  sudden  changes  of  heat and humidity.

 

 

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Interesting question, Robert!

In general, I believe that we must bear in mind that the phenomena of human culture are at least as strongly influenced by the climate of the region as by ethnology, religion or politics. People living in a hot, dry climate have a different culture from those in a cool, moist climate. Most obvious is the difference in clothing and housing, but diet is also influenced. In the case of musical instruments, the different vegetation in different climatic zones plays a role: for instance, European stringed instruments make use of spruce as a tone wood, because it's common in temperate regions, but African instruments tend to use skins as resonators, because suitable softwoods do not grow in the tropics. 

With our concertinas, the climatically conditioned aspect is the very fine tolerances in metalworking. These can most readily be achieved in an environment that knows neither intense cold nor intense heat - for instance, a maritime, temperate climate as in the British Isles. And the more or less stable humidity of a maritime climate is also favourable for wooden components that have to be dimensionally stable because of the associated close-tolerance metalwork.

 

So it is, perhaps, no wonder that North American concertinists have to take special steps to protect their "foreign" instrument from the local climate. It's analogous to me, as a fair-skinned Irishman, wearing long sleeves and long trousers in the present hot spell in the south of Germany, where everyone else is running around in shorts and tee-shirts!:D

Cheers,

John

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Dan Worrall's book (if I recall correctly) has a story of an old Australian outback concertinist who would tie a string to his concertina and hang it down the well to keep it cool in the summer. Not a new problem!

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I know that when I get a concertina from the UK, there's invariably a 2 - 3 month period - the Connor Crane was the notable exception - where it will 'adjust' to the desert Southwest and have to be tinkered with.  It's usually a reed here and there that will begin to choke and have to have the slot enlarged a bit.  To try to keep everything here at 55 - 60% humidity would be really difficult and mean that I could only play in the one room.  The house is naturally at 30% and between 70 and 80 F all year round ... that seems to work fine,

Edited by saguaro_squeezer
Added farenheit to temperature

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3 hours ago, saguaro_squeezer said:

I know that when I get a concertina from the UK, there's invariably a 2 - 3 month period - the Connor Crane was the notable exception - where it will 'adjust' to the desert Southwest and have to be tinkered with.  It's usually a reed here and there that will begin to choke and have to have the slot enlarged a bit.  To try to keep everything here at 55 - 60% humidity would be really difficult and mean that I could only play in the one room.  The house is naturally at 30% and between 70 and 80 all year round ... that seems to work fine,

 

Does the Connor have a plywood reed pan?

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