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Alan Day

What is your Concertina highlight

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Since you have been playing your concertina ,what do you consider to be the highlight of your playing career.

Was it a particular performance ,a breakthrough , a magic moment . I will post mine up if you are interested in this topic.

Thanks

Al

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In the fall of 1993 I spent an afternoon with Chris Droney, interviewing him for Concertina & Squeezebox Magazine. He and his wife were very generous, and even though I'm sure I asked embarrassingly obvious questions, they both treated me as if I knew what I was doing. I'm afraid it's all been downhill from there.

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Several years ago my musical partner Brad McEwen (cittern) and I (Hunter's Corners) played the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario. I got to know Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham who were on a Canadian tour, which was a highlight in itself.  We appeared on stage with Keith and Sylvia and another very young, very interesting duo called The Oldest Man I Know.  It was a lakeside stage, a beautiful day, a great audience, and everything was just clicking for all three duos.  I think I'm a much better player now than I was then, but I've never had a more satisfying performance.  About halfway through my wife whispered to me from offstage,"Gordon Lightfoot's in the audience"!  We later found out that his youngest daughter was half of the third duo, but he told the Artistic Director that he really enjoyed the traditional English, Canadian and Newfoundland stuff we were playing.

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Posted (edited)

Alan, playing with you, Roger Digby, and others (twice!) ranks up there near the top, but here’s a story I’ll put at the top.

 

In 1993 I got a call (nobody had email back then) from the Williamstown Theatre Festival, a professional Tony Award winning summer festival an hour from my home. They were mounting a production of “The Madwoman of Chaillot” and needed a concertina player to portray the on-stage “Street Musician.” They had called The Button Box and Doug Creighton gave them my name. I had to turn them down because at the time, in addition to being a busy anesthesiologist, I was chairman of my department, and the schedule of rehearsals and performances and two hours of driving every night would have been impossible to reconcile with my work and call schedule. Also, I had no experience in the “legitimate” theatre. But I always regretted having to miss it, and wondered how it might have gone if I could do it. I did see the show. The actor with the concertina was miming playing to pre-recorded music (it might have been Jody K that recorded it).

 

Fast-forward 25 years. In 2018 I got an email from The Schenectady Civic Players, an amateur community theatre a half an hour from my home. They were mounting a production of “The Madwoman of Chaillot” and needed a concertina player to portray the on-stage “Street Musician.” A friend of a friend (local musician) gave them my name. By then I was semi-retired, no longer taking call or working late into the evening, so I said yes. I was asked to play a bunch of French tunes of my own choosing and, in addition, “Under Paris Skies,” which I had never played before but had a blast learning. I was sort of a “Greek Chorus,” commenting musically on the action with no spoken lines, and several people said it was my playing that held it all together. The rest of the cast was a great bunch of people to get to know.

 

It was a unique experience, and I’d do it again if asked, but how often does “The Madwoman of Chaillot” get produced around here?

 

[ By the way, there’s no mention of a concertina in the script. The character is simply referred to as the “Street Singer.” But apparently many productions have used concertina players, often miming to recorded or off-stage accordion music. ]

 

Edited by David Barnert
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I've had moments on a number of other instruments (sitting in with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on horn in a community event, not in a professional performance; Heinz Hall has the best acoustics I've ever performed in), but on concertina, one experience comes to mind. In 2001 I didn't have a regular job but was substitute teaching as often as I could (maybe 2 days a week). In April I went to an English Country weekend at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. A superb whistle player there asked me where I lived and if I was interested in playing in a new musical project. It turned out she was starting a new Morris group west of Chicago and thought it would be great to have an anglo concertina.

 

They rehearsed at Fermi Lab of all places (Batavia, Illinois), which in those days shared some of their buildings with community groups (a barn for dances, and we rehearsed in an auditorium in one of the big science buildings). There were just 5 besides me and Susan, I think her name was. So she played whistle and had me learn a dance or two and we switched on one other dance, as we had 6 parts to dance. I also learned to play the processional they used. She seemed unhappy that I couldn't do a full-on harmonic William Kimber treatment of the tunes, but at that point I had played primarily Irish single-note melody. She also wouldn't let me change the key of the tunes so they would sit on a C/G better (D to G, for example). So I danced as well, which was good experience. I don't remember which tunes/dances they were without digging out the sheet music; Fieldtown tradition probably. It was a three-hour drive for me each way from northern Indiana, but we only rehearsed every few weeks and I didn't have much else to do. [I remember going to Noel Hill school during that summer and wondering who taught harmonic style in contrast to melodic. Later I got some basics from both Tom Kruskal and Jody Kruskal, but I'm not very accomplished at it.]

 

We performed at the Fox Valley Folk Festival. It was near Chicago on the first weekend in September. One of the two or three times in my life I got to wear a performer's pass. In the tent where we could leave cases I bumped into Tom Paley. I said something (I don't remember what) about the challenge of finding an empty place to put a case. Evidently he found it witty, as I got a laugh. Our performance went pretty well and we got a good, appreciative crowd. It was a fun day. I remember hearing Bob Zentz do a fine set singing with banjo and anglo concertina, and someone let me try their Stagi tenor English (I concluded that I wouldn't buy one!).

 

A week and a half later the jets crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I was teaching First Grade (six-year-olds) that day, but that is another story. Fermi Lab closed their grounds to all community groups, and Susan said she didn't have time to find another venue or keep the group going, so it folded. In three decades of attempting to play traditional music on various instruments this was the closest I came to being in a group that rehearsed and performed together. Maybe someday again, as I would love to do it. Perhaps a decade ago I heard about a Morris side starting up in Pittsburgh, but my job was too busy then, so I didn't try to connect with them. I have more time now, but my knees could never take all the jumping - they swell up like melons when I try to polka. The time and place has to be right I suppose.

 

I hadn't thought about this experience in a long time, interesting question, Al.

 

Ken

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I have had many highlights in my playing career that started with the musician not turning up for a Morris tour with the Broadwood Morris Men and I had to play for the dancing all day I managed it just . Many bands followed The Biggest trio in the World booked for the Ris Orangis Folk festival in front of about three thousand people, Rosbif  booked for many festivals and GIGCB (The Giant George Inn Ceilidh band) that consisted of 15 players ,but usually we managed about twelve. It was with this band that I have picked my highlight .

We were booked to do the Leipzig Folk Festival in Germany and i was worried about it  . I lived my early childhood in Clapham and we were situated in a triangle of an Armaments factory, Clapham Junction (the largest railway junction in Europe) and Clapham Common where many anti aircraft guns were situated. Our area was consistantly bombed during the war and I remember from the age of about three onwards constantly going down to the bomb shelter in the middle of the night. So when this gig was offered I thought long and hard before I decided to go.

We arrived about mid morning and in the afternoon we were doing a dance workshop which was prior to a big dance in the evening. We were very well received and everybody was very friendly. One young German  Lady was booked with a few musicians to teach Breton dancing and as we were setting up the bands instruments for twelve musicians I decided to go into the centre of the hall and play solo Kost de Khote a Breton step circle dance. Immediately the young lady gathered a crown in a circle around me and gradually we were joined by all the dancers that were in attendance who danced around me, about 150 dancers in total an amazing number just for a workshop. Gradually as our musicians were set up they joined me and when our base section was all set to go they joined in( two trombones three saxophones an electric base)  we then joined them on stage and played with the full band that was greeted with cheering and we got an ovation at the end. We taught the dancers of many nationalities some very complicated dances and I was amazed at the outstanding quality of dancing in all the groups, unlike the UK where only about half the dancers get it right most times. In the evening we played for over 400 dancers and I danced a lot with the lovely German Breton dancing girl that helped me with the first dance. The reaction over all was memorable I was very emotional at the end and all my old fears worries hatred was wiped out by one memorable and special night.

Al

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15 hours ago, Alan Day said:

Since you have been playing your concertina ,what do you consider to be the highlight of your playing career.

Was it a particular performance ,a breakthrough , a magic moment . I will post mine up if you are interested in this topic.

Thanks

Al

 

Hmmm.  Hard to say.  Possibly the first time my band played a ceilidh at the Kennedy Center in Washington (We've now done 3) . I should add another highlight: the first time I played at the session at The George in London, with....Alan Day.

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As a  relatively old "rookie" now nearing seventy and seven years playing, my "highlight pool" is shallow.  But, since you asked.....

 

About three years ago at the Northeast Squeeze-In ("NESI") I got up the courage to try to play something "off the home keys" at the Saturday concert, in front of about a hundred very supportive and understanding players and fans.  I think it was "Homage a Edmond Pariseau" though probably spelled wrong.....While I thought it was sort of crude and a bit choppy, I knew it was a departure for me to even try it, and was "OK" with the attempt, especially in light of the nice response from the audience.  

 

Now, here's the highlight:

 

When I returned to my seat, a voice behind me said "I am so impressed by how much your Anglo playing has improved.  Great job!"

I looked back, and the voice belonged to a  well known performing concertinist (and member here.) In this case, praise from a "pro" meant  a great deal to me, and I will always remember and appreciate the kind support. 

 

David

 

ps. A distant second place:  someone said "wow, that squeeze-box actually sounds pretty good with these old-time fiddle tunes" at an Old Timey session.  

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Not having had a 'career' as such, there haven't been many highlights.  But from a purely vanity point of view it has to be receiving compliments on your playing from somebody whose opinion you value.  On different occasions, these have included Alastair Anderson, Colin Dipper and Rod Stradling.

 

One obvious lowlight was submitting some recordings for possible inclusion in 'Duet International' to be told, very politely, that they weren't good enough (no hard feelings, Alan; I wasn't under any illusions in that regard).  But even then, I put a couple of the same sound files up on this site when I was trying to sell a concertina and got some favourable comments, so all's well that ends well.

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Posted (edited)

Being a relative newcomer to concertinas myself (I got my first concertina, a Lachenal, in 2011 at the tender age of 48), I don't have decades of experiences to draw from, but the last 9 years have been pretty intense musically, so there are lots of incidents which I'd call highlights on an amateur level.

 

I feel incredibly fortunate to have connected to the English folk dance scene which is a lovely group of open-minded and supportive people as well as a treasure cove of great tunes and dances I immediately felt at home with. Fantastic musicians, such as Alex Wade, Adrian Brown, Dave Ball, Chris Jewell and Jochen Riemer, have greatly helped, influenced and encouraged me. I especially love to play for dancers. There is something truly magical to the (between musicians and dancers) shared experience of a Ceilidh night.

 

One highlight was a Ceilidh I helped organizing early this year (before "it" all began...). In the preparational process, I learnt a lot about the "behind the curtains" of dance nights, such as interacting with callers, understanding tune sets, matching dances with tunes and so on. Everybody was very nervous because we (the band - which only meets irregularly and had to perform without our "front man") didn't know what to expect (it was a Scottish ceilidh which until then we hadn't done yet) and the callers didn't know us except for a few videos. So the tension was almost audible, but with the first few bars, it was clear that the match was good, and from then on, the evening was pure fun.

 

The other recent highlight was the positive encouragement I received in this wonderful forum for my "personal musical work." I intended my Soundcloud recordings most of all to be something like a documentation process of a musician's evolvement (some of my older recordings are actually pretty mediocre at best, but I leave them there because they were the best I could do at the time I recorded them). So again, thanks to everybody who listens to what I post - every comment or feedback is a small to major highlight, and if I learnt at some point that what I did actually helped someone else in his or her musical growth - that would certainly bring an even brighter smile to my face.

 

Another major highlight was working with Alex Holden and Nina Dietrich towards my custom Crane, in particular the first minutes I spent in Alex's living room, being handed the beauty he had finished just hours before. It's impossible to convey the experience; after months of very intense communication and pondering detail options, seeing, smelling (yes, that's an important element as well) and playing and listening to what had been a random collection of raw materials just shortly before that is truly wonderful and also magical in its own way.

 

Thanks for starting the thread, Alan, and I was moved quite a bit by your story! As a German native, I am naturally very aware of all the wrongs and sufferings our ancestors must be held responsible for, and I am very grateful for having spent most of my grown up years in a Europe that focussed on overcoming borders, healing and forgiving. It's very tragic that we are in a backlash period now (which I strongly hope will be over soon).

 

 

Edited by RAc
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2 hours ago, maccannic said:

Not having had a 'career' as such, there haven't been many highlights.  But from a purely vanity point of view it has to be receiving compliments on your playing from somebody whose opinion you value.  On different occasions, these have included Alastair Anderson, Colin Dipper and Rod Stradling.

 

One obvious lowlight was submitting some recordings for possible inclusion in 'Duet International' to be told, very politely, that they weren't good enough (no hard feelings, Alan; I wasn't under any illusions in that regard).  But even then, I put a couple of the same sound files up on this site when I was trying to sell a concertina and got some favourable comments, so all's well that ends well.

I was not responsible for any final decisions on any of the Internationals and I cannot now remember the circumstances surrounding any decisions on your recordings ,however you were up against the Worlds best ever players past and present and it was not possible to include recordings that were not quite there ,hesitations etc ,but we never passed on any information regarding recordings we received and there were some famous names who's recordings we did not include or that they sounded very similar to the style of another player already included. The Internationals were supposed to show the versatility. of the instrument . The current Duet players recordings on here, however are including all good Duet recordings and are not tied to a CD length so please send me or Wes what you consider to be your best three Duet recordings and we can go for it.

Al

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39 minutes ago, RAc said:

Being a relative newcomer to concertinas myself (I got my first instrument, a Lachenal, in 2011 at the tender age of 48), I don't have decades of experiences to draw from, but the last 9 years have been pretty intense musically, so there are lots of incidents which I'd call highlights on an amateur level.

 

I feel incredibly fortunate to have connected to the English folk dance scene which is a lovely group of open-minded and supportive people as well as a treasure cove of great tunes and dances I immediately felt at home with. Fantastic musicians, such as Alex Wade, Adrian Brown, Dave Ball, Chris Jewell and Jochen Riemer, have greatly helped, influenced and encouraged me. I especially love to play for dancers. There is something truly magical to the (between musicians and dancers) shared experience of a Ceilidh night.

 

One highlight was a Ceilidh I helped organizing early this year (before "it" all began...). In the preparational process, I learnt a lot about the "behind the curtains" of dance nights, such as interacting with callers, understanding tune sets, matching dances with tunes and so on. Everybody was very nervous because we (the band - which only meets irregularly and had to perform without our "front man") didn't know what to expect (it was a Scottish ceilidh which until then we hadn't done yet) and the callers didn't know us except for a few videos. So the tension was almost audible, but with the first few bars, it was clear that the match was good, and from then on, the evening was pure fun.

 

The other recent highlight was the positive encouragement I received in this wonderful forum for my "personal musical work." I intended my Soundcloud recordings most of all to be something like a documentation process of a musician's evolvement (some of my older recordings are actually pretty mediocre at best, but I leave them there because they were the best I could do at the time I recorded them). So again, thanks to everybody who listens to what I post - every comment or feedback is a small to major highlight, and if I learnt at some point that what I did actually helped someone else in his or her musical growth - that would certainly bring an even brighter smile to my face.

 

Another major highlight was working with Alex Holden and Nina Dietrich towards my custom Crane, in particular the first minutes I spent in Alex's living room, being handed the beauty he had finished just hours before. It's impossible to convey the experience; after months of very intense communication and pondering detail options, seeing, smelling (yes, that's an important element as well) and playing and listening to what had been a random collection of raw materials just shortly before that is truly wonderful and also magical in its own way.

 

Thanks for starting the thread, Alan, and I was moved quite a bit by your story! As a German native, I am naturally very aware of all the wrongs and sufferings our ancestors must be held responsible for, and I am very grateful for having spent most of my grown up years in a Europe that focussed on overcoming borders, healing and forgiving. It's very tragic that we are in a backlash period now (which I strongly hope will be over soon).

 

 

Thanks RAC for your response ,As I danced with the lovely German girl I could not help but think how dreadful the War was and lovely people on both sides killed for the sake of power crazy people . Let us hope RAC we never see the likes of it again my friend.

Al

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15 hours ago, Ken_Coles said:

...It turned out she was starting a new Morris group west of Chicago and thought it would be great to have an anglo concertina.

 

...It was a three-hour drive for me each way from northern Indiana...

 

...Susan said she didn't have time to find another venue or keep the group going, so it folded.

 

...Maybe someday again, as I would love to do it...

 

You can join my Morris team. We could always use another concertina. We practice on Wednesday evenings in Guilderland NY (when we practice). Only, what, a 10-hour drive?

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Posted (edited)

I've had several. Recitals at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Playing onstage for the Broadway show Carmelina. 

My 15 minute moment is recording with John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their LP Double Fantasy. Spending 2 hours in the recording studio Fantasy Factory with John and Yoko and his producer Jack Douglas. Yoko and young Shaun used to come hear me play at Cafe Trilussa in the Village in NYC in the 80s. 

Edited by Randy Stein
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52 minutes ago, Randy Stein said:

I've had several. Recitals at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Playing onstage for the Broadway show Carmelina. 

My 15 minute moment is recording with John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their LP Double Fantasy. Spending 2 hours in the recording studio Fantasy Factory with John and Yoko and his producer Jack Douglas. Yoko and young Shaun used to come hear me play at Cafe Trilussa in the Village in NYC in the 80s. 

 

Randy’s story reminds me of a story that Gene Murrow told me many years ago about a “Concertina Highlight” he had in 1970. Worth repeating here, although Gene is not a member of concertina.net (many of us know him as a fine English Concertina player and English Country Dance leader).

 

Gene’s concertina playing appears on the Judy Collins album, “Whales & Nightingales.” The recording sessions were onstage at what was then called Philharmonic Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (more recently called Avery Fisher Hall, and now David Geffen Hall). During a break in the recordings, Gene decided to experience what it felt and sounded like to play his concertina from center stage at Philharmonic Hall, so he chose an English Country Dance tune (“The Beggar Boy,” 1651, on page 11 of Barnes I) and started playing. He did not know that the tape was rolling and his performance had been captured.

 

The technicians later played the tape for Ms. Collins and she liked it and decided to include it on the album. But by then, Gene had retreated home to Boston and nobody knew how to reach him for details of what it was that he played. So it was included on the album as “Gene’s Song.”

 

 

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That's a very cool story.

One more then though I can't top this one David.

I was playing in Brooklyn Heights when a guy asked if I could play some sea shanties and hornpipes. I played a few and he asked for my contact info. 

A few weeks later he called and we recorded music for an off Broadway play called Sea Scape (I think). Didn't pay much but seemed like Kizmet at the time.

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I had the pleasure of communicating with the late John Nixon X Bolton Concertina band EC Player, who played his Concertina on the Frog Chorus Paul Mc Cartney.

Al

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