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Planter of the seed


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Some time between the fall of 1981 and the spring of 1983 a man came to Johnson-Williams Intermediate School in Berryville, Virginia, to demonstrate the concertina for the assembled student body.  It's possible he played a duet, but I expect it was an Anglo.  My memory is vague, but I believe he was young and bearded--at somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14, my perception may have been a trifle skewed.  All I really remember of his presentation is this:

"The concertina is a great instrument.  You can play rock music on it." (plays keyboard riff from Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water")

"You can even be....Darth Vader."  (holds down the air button and produces an appropriate heavy breathing sound with a few draws and presses)

 

I don't remember his name or where he came from, but have thought for a while that he might have come out from DC.  It also occurred to me that Bluemont Morris was extant at the time and quite a lot closer, so if they had a concertina player, he might have been the one.  At any rate, it was he who planted the seed of interest in the concertina in my impressionable little mind and I'm curious as to who he might have been.  Does any of this ring any bells?

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On 1/17/2021 at 1:29 PM, jdms said:

Some time between the fall of 1981 and the spring of 1983 a man came to Johnson-Williams Intermediate School in Berryville, Virginia, to demonstrate the concertina for the At any rate, it was he who planted the seed of interest in the concertina in my impressionable little mind and I'm curious as to who he might have been.  Does any of this ring any bells?

 

Cool story. I was the last musician for Bluemont Morris, but your experience was before my time.

 

 I'm wondering if your concertina godfather was Curt Harpold, who's always been something of a concertina evangelist.  Curt, the longtime musician for the Rock Creek Morris Women, plays Anglo.

 

And I was wondering if it could have been Big Nick Robertshaw, the Jeffries duet player, but I'm not sure he had left the UK in the early 80s.  Nick lived on a farm west of Frederick, MD, so might have been a logical choice to do a program in Berryville.

 

BTW, the last practice venue for Bluemont Morris was the old skating rink in Berryville.

 

I just emailed one of the Bluemont oldtimers to see if she had any suggestions.

Edited by Jim Besser
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Update: from one of the original Bluemonters.

 

There were a lot of possibilities; the Bluemont Concert Series brought a number of performers into the schools who may have triggered your interest in concertina.  At the top of the list: Tony Barrand and John Roberts did Berryville and vicinity school programs back then.  Also  Bill Wellington, currently of the Albermarle Morris Men;  apparently he played concertina -I only know him as a terrific oldtime banjo and fiddle player.  And maybe Howard Bass, the noted lutenist.

 

They also brought Noel Sing We Clear into the schools back then.

 

Pretty cool stuff for a tiny Virginia town.

 

 

 

Edited by Jim Besser
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Turn my back for a week and look what happens...I had no idea that John Roberts and Tony Barrand, with or without Nowell Sing We Clear, had ever performed in Berryville.  I'm certain that the man who performed for us spoke with an American accent, in which case he couldn't have been John (also, the Deep Purple/Darth Vader bit seems out of character for him).  The Bluemont Concert Series hadn't occurred to me, but I do remember (for example) Madeleine MacNeil playing hammered dulcimer for us in elementary school in Boyce I think under their auspices, and there's no reason they couldn't have sent a concertina player along.  I might manage to follow up on some of those names--pictures of Howard Bass from the period fit pretty well with what I remember of the man's appearance and he was teaching in Winchester at the time as well as being involved with Bluemont, but does he play concertina?  I haven't found any mention of it so far.

At any rate, thanks for the suggestions and so on.  Jim, was it a roller rink that Bluemont used for practice?  I don't remember an ice rink (and a roller rink seems more practical for the purpose anyway), but I was never interested in skating, so it might have escaped my notice.

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7 minutes ago, jdms said:

At any rate, thanks for the suggestions and so on.  Jim, was it a roller rink that Bluemont used for practice?  I don't remember an ice rink (and a roller rink seems more practical for the purpose anyway), but I was never interested in skating, so it might have escaped my notice.

 

The Bluemont concert series was pretty amazing in its day, bringing top rank performers to small towns and cities in the region.

 

I can easily find out if Howard ever played concertina; i'm bandmate with one of his bandmates.

 

It was a roller rink, on the west side of town.  By the time we were there, it had been repurposed as a dance studio. It was a great place for Morris dance practice - but a real shelp for most of us.

 

 

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On 1/17/2021 at 1:29 PM, jdms said:

I don't remember his name or where he came from, but have thought for a while that he might have come out from DC.  It also occurred to me that Bluemont Morris was extant at the time and quite a lot closer, so if they had a concertina player, he might have been the one.  At any rate, it was he who planted the seed of interest in the concertina in my impressionable little mind and I'm curious as to who he might have been.  Does any of this ring any bells?

 

According to one of the Bluemont oldtimers, it was almost certainly Alastair Anderson, who did a bunch of school programs in the area for them in this time frame.  So your initial exposure was probably an English concertina! 

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On 1/20/2021 at 7:06 AM, David Barnert said:

Joshua, it looks like Jim’s list might be narrowed down somewhat if you could remember whether the gentleman had an English accent.

 

On 1/24/2021 at 7:08 PM, jdms said:

I'm certain that the man who performed for us spoke with an American accent

 

31 minutes ago, Jim Besser said:

According to one of the Bluemont oldtimers, it was almost certainly Alastair Anderson, who did a bunch of school programs in the area for them in this time frame.

 

It would be difficult to confuse Alistair Anderson’s accent for American, although I did find this:

 

Quote

July 19, 1984

 

When a crowd gathers on the courthouse lawn in Leesburg for a Sunday evening performance run by the Bluemont Concert Series, the scene is a familiar one -- families bringing blankets to sit on and picnics to munch on while they enjoy the show.

...

The performers that Peter Dunning and the concert series bring to Loudoun County (and now, in similar programs, to Fauquier, Clarke and Frederick counties) are a diverse mix -- from internationally known English concertina player Alastair Anderson to Trapezoid, a West Virginia folk and bluegrass group, to lutenist Howard Bass, who has performed at the White House and with Anderson in England and on the back porch in Bluemont, where he lived when he and Dunning first organized the Bluemont concert series.

 

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1 hour ago, David Barnert said:

 

It would be difficult to confuse Alistair Anderson’s accent for American, although I did find this:

 

 

Agree, but Anderson is the only concertinist she believes did school programs in the Bluemont area, so chances are it was him.

 

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  • 1 month later...

I know an American Alastair, but he doesn't play concertina...I suppose I could be misremembering the accent, but I'd think an Englishman (or a Scot) in a small town in Virginia would have stood out more in my memory.  I haven't yet tried David's suggestion of contacting the school, but it's worth a try if I can figure out a good starting point.  In any case, thanks for all the responses.

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