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Concertinas At Renfaires


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Yesterday I went with my three bandmates, husband and beagle to the local Renaissance Faire (Kansas City).

 

The band is working toward being street musicians at the St. Louis faire spring 2004, and maybe the KC faire next fall as well, depending on extenuating circumstances (like husband getting a full time professor job in another state). We're working on pub songs, crowd pleasers, mostly English and Irish stuff.

 

We got into a lively discussion with a group of recorder/harpists about the instrument authenticity issue, as we noticed they all had their plastic Hohner recorders right there. The recorder player in our group was very relieved to learn that she wouldn't realistically be expected to get wooden recorders *and* take them to the Faire. The harper reassured us that "no musicians are expected to brin their best instruments on site."

 

Which brought up the issue of my 1840's-invented instrument at a 1640's event. The bandmate who has worked RenFaires before is convinced that unless you're a) a pirate or B) accompanying a morris team, concertinas are right out. I was ready to accept that dictate. But not now.

 

There's the argument, thanks to the nice harper yesterday, that there was nothing in the renaissance that resembled a modern folk guitar. Yet they are all over the faire. Also, we discussed later, modern bagpipes are a couple hundred years off period -- at least. And they are quite popular also.

 

The harper mentioned some sort of bellows/squeezed instrument from Breton that might resemble a concertina like renaissance stringed/strummed instruments resemble modern folk guitars. Hmmm.

 

Anyone know if this is so?

 

Anyone perform with their concertina at a Renfaire outside of a pirate group and/or morris team? If so, what was the reaction?

 

I want to take my 'tina with me, perform all these Irish tunes I'm working on in my weekly slo jam session, make it part of our repertoire. I need anecdotal backup, though!

 

Thanks, y'all :)

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The harper mentioned some sort of bellows/squeezed instrument from Breton that might resemble a concertina like renaissance stringed/strummed instruments resemble modern folk guitars. Hmmm.

 

Anyone know if this is so?

Pretty sure it's not so. Something with a bellows, perhaps, but neither free reeds nor held/played like a concertina.

 

Anyone perform with their concertina at a Renfaire outside of a pirate group and/or morris team? If so, what was the reaction?

 

It was enjoyed by (most of?) those listening, who didn't seem to care whether it was actually "period".

 

But hey, Morris dancing of the period is unlikely to have been anything close to what it is today, or even was in the 19th century. Furthermore, neither pirates nor Morris dancers used concertinas during the Renaissance, and I should think that any argument that allows even one anachronism should allow plenty of them. (I'll bet the fabrics used in most of the costumes didn't exist back then, either.)

 

Go for it!

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No, the harper didn't mention free reeds in the Breton whatever-it-might-be, but just something that had bellows and was squeezed. Anyone know of such a thing?

 

At least my Hohner has wooden ends, not pearlized.

 

I'm appreciating all these authenticity-busters from other Faire-goers. More! More!

 

And no, I'm pretty sure Morris dancers in the Elizabethan era did not wear hi-top Reeboks, either, lol. But my one season dancing at the Maryland Faire, that's what I wore!

 

Has anyone, in fact, played their concertina at a Faire and gotten in trouble with the authenticity police?

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I just returned from the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, and one of the groups there was using Northumbrian smallpipes, which weren't invented until the 1700's. Later they brought out a melodeon. There was an English concertina player at the same Faire a few years back. There didn't seem to be anything in the way of authenticity police, and nobody seemed to mind.

 

Maybe the trick is to play period music on your non-period instrument.

 

Mark

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No, the harper didn't mention free reeds in the Breton whatever-it-might-be, but just something that had bellows and was squeezed. Anyone know of such a thing?

 

Well, in the late midieval/early renaissance there was a "portative organ" that was small enough to carry and was pumped with one hand while the other operated the keys. It was about the size and shape of a medium-small electronic keyboard with a stand of pipes sticking out the top.

 

Ren faires would not stand up to the type of scrutiny that goes on at civil war reenactments. You can get kicked out for having a breed of apple in your lunch which didn't exist in the 1860's!

 

-Eric Root

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Ren faires would not stand up to the type of scrutiny that goes on at civil war reenactments. You can get kicked out for having a breed of apple in your lunch which didn't exist in the 1860's!

Civil War re-enacters must get very huingry. (Well, I guess that *would* be period. ;) )

 

I guess Wonder Bread is also out, but how many of the 1860's vegetable varieties -- tomatoes, lettuce, *wheat*,... -- even exist today, much less are available to the average re-enacter? And antibiotic-fed meat animals certainly aren't period.

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Concertinas are out, although free-reed instruments are in evidence.

 

Three holed whistle and tabor were the instruments of the time for "street music" which by definition, had to be loud. Along with the Morris, shawms, racketts etc. (double-reed snake charmers oboe) had spread Europewide and these were very loud!! - would these have been used?? Sackbutts/clarino possibly? Certainly lots of drums.

 

South America is the best place to look for the traditional dance as brought by the Spaniards where you will still find the ribbons, bells, sticks, disguise, pipes, drums and helmet-like headgear and droopy Zappa moustaches on their masks as worn by the Spanish at the time. The original Morrisco has been preserved!.

 

Medieval stained glass and carvings show the angels playing portatives, bowed and plucked instrments, but apart from the brass and percussion, most of these would be instruments for inside.

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Yesterday I went with my three bandmates, husband and beagle to the local Renaissance Faire (Kansas City).

 

The band is working toward being street musicians at the St. Louis faire spring 2004, and maybe the KC faire next fall as well, depending on extenuating circumstances (like husband getting a full time professor job in another state). We're working on pub songs, crowd pleasers, mostly English and Irish stuff.

 

We got into a lively discussion with a group of recorder/harpists about the instrument authenticity issue, as we noticed they all had their plastic Hohner recorders right there. The recorder player in our group was very relieved to learn that she wouldn't realistically be expected to get wooden recorders *and* take them to the Faire. The harper reassured us that "no musicians are expected to brin their best instruments on site."

 

Which brought up the issue of my 1840's-invented instrument at a 1640's event. The bandmate who has worked RenFaires before is convinced that unless you're a) a pirate or B) accompanying a morris team, concertinas are right out. I was ready to accept that dictate. But not now.

 

There's the argument, thanks to the nice harper yesterday, that there was nothing in the renaissance that resembled a modern folk guitar. Yet they are all over the faire. Also, we discussed later, modern bagpipes are a couple hundred years off period -- at least. And they are quite popular also.

 

The harper mentioned some sort of bellows/squeezed instrument from Breton that might resemble a concertina like renaissance stringed/strummed instruments resemble modern folk guitars. Hmmm.

 

Anyone know if this is so?

 

Anyone perform with their concertina at a Renfaire outside of a pirate group and/or morris team? If so, what was the reaction?

 

I want to take my 'tina with me, perform all these Irish tunes I'm working on in my weekly slo jam session, make it part of our repertoire. I need anecdotal backup, though!

 

Thanks, y'all :)

The harper mentioned some sort of bellows/squeezed instrument from Breton that might resemble a concertina like renaissance stringed/strummed instruments resemble modern folk guitars. Hmmm.

 

---This instrument they were referring to is possibly a Biniou-koz (spelling?) which uses a bellows to inflate the bag. The Biniou-koz is a Breton bagpipe--Steven

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Here is a link to a painting of one of those bellows operated small organs:

http://www.goodart.org/wbsong.jpg

Notice the angel on the left is operating a bellows with her left hand and working piano type keys with her right hand. At least I guess the angel is a she, I don't know what angels actually look like or if they are male or female. If male angels are this pretty then there is hope for me one day after I'm gone! :D

By the way, the painting is by Bouguereau and I had asked about this picture last year in the old forum.

 

My take on ren faires is that it is the *spirit* of the event that most attendees attempt to capture, not a total recreation of physical details. Fiddles were different back then than now, they were flatter, the necks came out straight and so the bridges were lower. The bows did not have screw adjustable frogs. The frets on the lutes were gut tied around the necks and the strings were gut also. The tuners on the lutes were tapered pegs just like a violin, not modern guitar tuners.

I think that using traditional "folk" instruments (i.e., ones that do not plug in and that common folks have been known to play music on to entertain themselves and their neighbors) is completely within this spirit.

Edited by Rex
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My take on ren faires is that it is the *spirit* of the event that most attendees attempt to capture, not a total recreation of physical details.

I *suspect* that Renaissance Fairs (or Faires) are a lot like sessions... each one is different, and the "spirit", "flavor", and rules depend considerably on both the organizeers and participants. After all, one may be a single-day, volunteer event in a local park, while another may be a summer-long commercial enterprise the size of a small town.

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An authenticity debate similar to the one described here comes up at our local reenactment. It is called the Feast of the Hunter's Moon, and recreates a sort of trade fair between the French and the Indians at a frontier fort in French (later Spanish, then British, then American) North America. The fort existed here on the Wabash River from about 1716 until G. Washington ordered it burned in 1790. Working as a musician, I of course cannot use any free reed, and my skills on fiddle or whistle are insufficient, so I help the owner of our booth in making and demonstrating musical toys to children. Great fun!

 

Authenticity is enforced among vendors and performers, though the "police" are carefully called "quality control." We do OK because my boss used to be on that committee, so they don't hassle us when a plastic sheet is peeking out from under one of our tables, etc. The double standard involves paid musicians who play the main stages. There, everything from a Quebecois BA to brass instruments with valves to electric keyboards are the norm. C'est la vie.

 

I'm getting interested in a new farm museum nearby, where they are recreating the 1920s. Not only is that part of my own family history; I bet I could play my anglo there!

 

Ken

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  • 2 weeks later...
And no, I'm pretty sure Morris dancers in the Elizabethan era did not wear hi-top Reeboks, either, lol. But my one season dancing at the Maryland Faire, that's what I wore!

 

Has anyone, in fact, played their concertina at a Faire and gotten in trouble with the authenticity police?

I played a couple Irish tunes on the concertina at the Maryland Renaissance Fair last Sunday. My kids and I also played some Renaissance tunes on fiddle and pennywhistle. No one gave the slightest hint that there was anything wrong. And with the hodgepodge of non-Renaissance clothing and instruments and food...they really couldn't say anything. Most people don't have a clue about historical accuracy, and the Maryland fair, at least, seems a big scam to charge people to enter a kind of a goofy mall in order to buy more junk. I find the whole thing idiotic but went because a niece was having a mock-wedding there and asked us to attend. B)

 

Jeff Myers

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