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Concertinas and Beer: A cautionary tale


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I've been away for the May weekend playing and dancing with Kemp's Men in Shropshire on our spring tour. Because I have  recently damaged a tendon in my right wrist and hand and I can't easily play on that side as a result, I've been playing melody on the left with the odd note from the right , so no chords, but not a problem when playing with three Melodeons as you can't hear concertina chords anyway. On Saturday evening I noticed the C5 on the G row of my 40k C/G Crabb was a bit flat. When I had time I took it out but there was nothing to see , put it back in and all was OK for a couple of tunes and the same thing happened again so I put it away.

On the Sunday we scrambled to the top of Clee Hill for a couple of dances into the mist and murk, as you do (we had one of our biggest human audiences of the weekend while dancing at the top), and it was OK if slightly variable in pitch and tone. Later in Stourport the reed went flat again so I had to use my G\D concertina for the rest of the day,  playing an octave lower.

Investigating it this morning  now I'm back home, I found the reed varied between 518 and 528Hz, so praying there was something I could do, the instrument was again dismantled. In the bright light under a lamp I noticed there was a very slight sugary deposit on one side towards the root of the tongue. This I managed to clean off the aluminium shoe, the reed top and bottom and slide a 2thou feeler gauge up and down the sides of the tongue and reassemble the box. The reed now sounded at 521Hz and warbled even though it was tight at the end of the slot. A second cleaning and the addition of thin paper down the side of the reed slot now appears to have restored the tuning to 523.6Hz, which is good enough for Morris.

I think what happened is that someone spilt some beer close to my box on the Saturday evening and a drop got under the pad and on to the reed. As the weather was quite warm the drop dried and formed a clear syrupy crust on the reed tongue and shoe that caused the reed to flatten. This I was not able to see as the light was really bad. On the Sunday it was very damp on top of Clee Hill and the syrup thinned, resulting in some variation to the sound . Later, as the day warmed, the crust formed again and so the reed flattened again. I have no idea why or how, after I cleaned it, the reed became loose in its slot to cause the warble but hopefully all is now well.

Had I been playing using both hands I don't know if I would have noticed the change in pitch etc for that C. if it had been used within a chord so perhaps the injury had some unforseen benefit.

I've not had this happen before after xxxx years in the Morris to any other of the various boxes I've used and all have been subject to various minor skirmishes with errant or feral beer even sitting in a pool of the stuff on one occasion, a quick wipe with some absorbent cloth and all was well on that occasion.

 

 

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Not quite the same, but I once left my accordion on the floor and someone tipped a pint of orange squash into it.  Took a bit of cleaning I can tell you, but it was OK eventually.

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On 5/3/2022 at 1:54 PM, Mike Jones said:

I've not had this happen before after xxxx years in the Morris to any other of the various boxes I've used and all have been subject to various minor skirmishes with errant or feral beer even sitting in a pool of the stuff on one occasion, a quick wipe with some absorbent cloth and all was well on that occasion.

 

 

 

That's why I only take the Morse hybrids on Morris tours and leave the Jeffries at home.  Morris dancers with beers in hand are a notoriously messy lot.

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The biggest problem that I have experienced when combining beer with concertina play, is that all the buttons seem to run around and swap places randomly.

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6 hours ago, d.elliott said:

The biggest problem that I have experienced when combining beer with concertina play, is that all the buttons seem to run around and swap places randomly.

...And the speed at which they do so is inversely proportional to the height of the beer in the mug.

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Ah, but I hadn't been drinking. I'm diabetic so avoid alcohol in the main, rationing myself to one pint per day, and I was sitting amomg the audience and playing, not with the heavy drinkers, but the mums and children. I had my Marcus Hybrid there as well and that was unaffected.

 

The point I was trying to make was that something,  presumably a liquid and most likely beer, had somehow got on to a reed and crystalised out and was not easily detectable. Anyhow all is well with it now and there have been no repeats in subsequent Morris outings.

 

David Barnert: I'm not aware of the laws you mention but I have three of my own

1. a reed will always warble or go out of tune at the most noticeable moment in a tune

2. a spring will always break just after you have reasssembled the concertina.

3. The broken spring will be of the side/handed that you don't have in your emergency repair kit.

 

Cheers

 

Mike

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