Jump to content

Concertina Styles


Recommended Posts

I saw this notice in the Sligo Champion paper and wondered if anyone knows anything of Michelle.

 

I bet the lecture was quite interesting.

 

"A very interesting lecture will take place on Thursday July 14th at 3pm in St. Brigid’s Hall. This will be given by Michelle O’Sullivan from Tralee, Co. Kerry who will speak to us on "The History of the Concertina". Michelle is a well known concertina player whose style has been developed from her interest in fiddle-players and fiddle music. Her style is therefore different from that of the many concertina players of her generation who have followed the Clare style of playing.

She has played all over the world and has also played with and recorded with James Last as well as played with Van Morrison.

She is widely regarded as a musician who has broken the traditions of her chosen instrument and her repertoire includes many tunes not normally associated with the concertina."

 

It would be interesting to hear a sample of her playing compared to say, Mary Macnamara. I bet the lecture was quite interesting.

 

David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Peter Laban

Michelle is a nice player, for a while she was a bit heavy on the triplets, playing tunes like the Mathematician etc. A lot of her music comes from the Kerry repertoire though, through Nicky and Ann McAuliffe. I vaguely remember her saying one or two years ago she was working on a CD.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michelle came into our concertina class to play for us during the Willie Clancy Summer School this year and played Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag which was superb.Although very technically accomplished she had a style very different to the current young cadre of Irish players.I have heard her play on a number of occasions at the Concertina Concert during the WCSS and have always been very impressed.She plays slides and polkas with great aplombe.I would certainly buy her CD if one was issued.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
I saw this notice in the Sligo Champion paper and wondered if anyone knows anything of Michelle.

 

It would be interesting to hear a sample of her playing compared to say, Mary Macnamara. I bet the lecture was quite interesting.

Here's some Michelle O'Sullivan I just found on the RTÉ website, recorded in 2005. At around the 6:00 mark, she plays a set of reels, which aren't identified. At around 18:30, she plays a set of jigs, the first she said she learned from Paddy Cronin who recorded it in 1949, but she doesn't give a name. The second is a 3-part version of Morrison's jig she says she got from the manuscripts of Tom Biddy. There's also an air that opens the program, and The Banks of the Danube (or the Wounded Hussar) around 13:40, with a poem from Gabriel Fitzmaurice called "His Last Pint" spoken over the first part of it. The show ends with some Kerry slides at around 25:45, which are interspersed with more poetry and narration. There's some chatting with Michelle throughout the program.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw this notice in the Sligo Champion paper and wondered if anyone knows anything of Michelle.

David,

 

I can well remember going to her father's shop in Tralee, maybe 25 years ago, to sell them Michelle's concertina (a 38-key Praed Street Jeffries). She made quite a name for herself and I'd have seen her play fairly often in the 1980s, but then she got married and didn't play out as much, and I got my shop in Dublin and didn't travel as much ... :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Listened to the clips. What a wonderful player indeed!

The only thing I'd omit is those strange habbit of Anglo players in Irish style to sprinkle the melody playing with random harmony notes here and there, mostly where you expenct them the least. To my ears it creates an effect of malfunctioning amplifyer.

What is the reason for this style? I'm aware that 30 button Anglo is capable of full harmony accompaniment in home keys. Could tha style derive from the 20 button tradition?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only thing I'd omit is those strange habbit of Anglo players in Irish style to sprinkle the melody playing with random harmony notes here and there, mostly where you expenct them the least. To my ears it creates an effect of malfunctioning amplifyer.

What is the reason for this style? I'm aware that 30 button Anglo is capable of full harmony accompaniment in home keys. Could tha style derive from the 20 button tradition?

In the jigs, the effect to me seems similar to double-stops in traditional fiddle playing. In the reels, it sounds a bit more like uillean pipe regulator playing, especially from around 50 seconds in to the end.

 

I particularly like her bellows control, there are a lot of subtle swells and dynamics going on. Here's The Banks of the Danube. There are some bellows shakes that are very delicately done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only thing I'd omit is those strange habbit of Anglo players in Irish style to sprinkle the melody playing with random harmony notes here and there, mostly where you expenct them the least. To my ears it creates an effect of malfunctioning amplifyer.

What is the reason for this style?

That brings me to something I'm intending to bring up in the Irish Music On An English 'tina.cd thread (but I'm not well enough to make one of those long, in-depth posts at the moment - thank goodness! ;) ). That type of "ornamentation" would have more to do with the regulators of the uilleann pipes, which can often only be "tipped" like that whilst playing a tune. In the past quarter century the Anglo seems to have become largely an imitator of the pipes in Irish music, playing ornamentation that is natural to the pipes, but which to me sounds unnatural on the concertina.

 

Could that style derive from the 20 button tradition?

That got lost sight of, to all but a handful (like Mary McNamara), long ago.

Edited by Stephen Chambers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only thing I'd omit is those strange habbit of Anglo players in Irish style to sprinkle the melody playing with random harmony notes here and there, mostly where you expenct them the least. To my ears it creates an effect of malfunctioning amplifyer.

Maybe where you expect them the least. I don't "expect" them in any particular place, pattern, or context, but I simply enjoy them when they appear. You, of course, are welcome to omit them in your own playing, but I'm pleased that I can hear them in Michelle's.

 

That type of "ornamentation" would have more to do with the regulators of the uilleann pipes, .... In the past quarter century the Anglo seems to have become largely an imitator of the pipes in Irish music, playing ornamentation that is natural to the pipes, but which to me sounds unnatural on the concertina.

Interesting, Stephen, since I know you have far more experience -- at least listening experience -- with Irish music on the anglo (and on the pipes, for that matter), but to me it doesn't sound at all "unnatural".

 

Also, it's more than a quarter century ago that I was first told that the anglo tradition was significantly influenced by the pipes, and in fact that some considered the "concertina" to be an instrument on which they could imitate the style of the pipes without having to devote a lifetime to learning to control it. B)

 

What is the reason for this style?

What's the "reason" for any style? Someone tried it, and they -- and presumably also others -- decided they liked the sound. And the reason there's not just one style in the world is that different people have different tastes.

 

I'm aware that 30 button Anglo is capable of full harmony accompaniment in home keys. Could that style derive from the 20 button tradition?

As Stephen notes, it more likely copies the use of the regulators on the uilleann pipes. And while it is a style that can also be adapted to a 20-button, I don't think it's likely to have migrated from the 20-button to the 30-button without any further influence from the pipes. Nor do I think that limitations of the 20-button are likely to have kept people from going beyond those limitations on a 30-button.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry Jim, but I didn't understand your reply.

Boney and Stephen seemed to understand my question and both gave reasonable explanation. What were you trying to say?

I personally am far away from the perception of the style as a random lucky strike. I think a style has very practical meaning, reason and social reference (culture, language, geography etc.)

I do recall when I practiced in the park, often people would call my accordion (and concertina lately) "pipes". It surprized me then, but now the dots are connected.

As for sporadic harmonies, not supported by any other part of the triad - they create more of a startling effect, then support the melody.

To support the rhythm I'd expect repetitious accentuation, and to support the melody I'd expect meaninful incertions of accompaniment, not habitual imitation of other, more limited instrument. So I was surprized of the insistence of such practice. Now I see that this creates mental connection to the tradition, of which I wasn't aware.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's really really good playing, but I'm with the "those notes are weird" crowd :)

 

Incidently, when listening I was thinking, not only that it's really good solid playing, but also how totally unlike pretty much all fiddle playing I've heard it is, especially in terms of ornamentation (triplets, rolls etc), probably because on the fiddle when notes are cut using ornamentation, normally the effect is mostly rythmic, not melodic. Also the timing on the reels is much more straight (less dotted) than I would expect to hear a fiddler playing (though I'm not really terribly familiar with the different regional irish styles). So the fact that the original quote says "style has been developed from her interest in fiddle-players and fiddle music" seems a bit odd to me (unless she was/is interested in fiddle players and their music and wanted to sound totally different!).

Edited by RatFace
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This line of commentary on sounding like “the pipes” brings two thoughts to mind.

 

First, I know in Noel Hill’s case he grew up influenced by the pipes and he has made a conscious effort to emulate some of that in his style of playing, particularly on tunes like “The Humors of Ballyloughlin.” He sometimes comments in his classes on the inclusion of certain notes to emulate the sound of the regulators on the pipes, and I think he credits Seamus Ennis as referring to them as the “leg-ulators” because of their physical position on the pipes.

 

While I do some of that, I also drop in other brief notes while playing reels to thicken the sound a bit, so long as the added tones are in key and feel appropriate to the music. That’s based on a personal assessment of fit at the moment more than it is a formal plan of application.

 

Second, it brings to mind an experience I had last year when I was doing some consulting work and found myself staying in a Phoenix area hotel for several months. I had a difficult time trying to find a place to play my concertina, and for a short time I tried to play my County Clare in my hotel room (as soft as possible of course). I had imagined the sound might not carry to other rooms, but about 8:30 one evening the phone in my room rang so I stopped and tentatively picked it up.

 

The voice on the other end asked, “Are you playing the pipes?” Sheepishly I admitted to doing something along that line and apologized for disturbing the caller. He replied, “Well it sounds good, but I’ve got to get up at 4 AM and I can’t get to sleep because I’m tapping my toes here in bed.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for finding these clips, Jeff!

 

Incidently, when listening I was thinking, not only that it's really good solid playing, but also how totally unlike pretty much all fiddle playing I've heard it is, especially in terms of ornamentation (triplets, rolls etc), probably because on the fiddle when notes are cut using ornamentation, normally the effect is mostly rythmic, not melodic. Also the timing on the reels is much more straight (less dotted) than I would expect to hear a fiddler playing (though I'm not really terribly familiar with the different regional irish styles). So the fact that the original quote says "style has been developed from her interest in fiddle-players and fiddle music" seems a bit odd to me (unless she was/is interested in fiddle players and their music and wanted to sound totally different!).
Yes, impressive playing in a distinctive style. I agree that it doesn't sound like any Irish fiddle style that I've heard. The "regulator-like" quasi-piping sound is definitely there--but in all those triplets I'm also hearing something that reminds me of the older Irish accordion players like Joe Burke.

 

Daniel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a thought, but at a lecture that Gearoid O hAllmhurain gave in the Catskills this year on Irish Music in Clare, he mentioned that ,prior to the Famine, pipes appeared to be the dominant instrument in Clare Music and that the Concertina started showing up in Clare around the time of the famine. I don't know if there is any direct link between the piping and the concertina link, but perhaps knowing this could have influenced some concertina players to try to emulate the pipes in their playing style?

 

--

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You would think that the drone technique would have made players who wanted to emulate this sound would go for the English Concertina and not the Anglo.I have been listening to some of my own archive material today of a player who played with a group called The Acme Music Company and he does this perfectly,who he is I have no idea and the tracks are so poor with coughing ,people stamping their feet,humming to the music (out of tune) etc I could not use the tracks,but it sounds such a simple technique for the English.

Al

Edited by Alan Day
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Listened to the clips. What a wonderful player indeed!

The only thing I'd omit is those strange habbit of Anglo players in Irish style to sprinkle the melody playing with random harmony notes here and there, mostly where you expenct them the least. To my ears it creates an effect of malfunctioning amplifyer.

 

Personally, I find the addition of "harmony notes" to be usually very pleasing in concertina tunes. To me they make the tune more musically interesting and memorable. I find myself after listening to a piece with them trying to figure out how to do the same. Like any ornamentation or harmonic device, I'm sure they can be overdone (like chording on every bar, which can sometimes bury a beautiful simple melody line). But generally, I like most pieces better when they are judiciously embellished with notes from the proper harmonic interval. Ms. Sullivan's playing sounded great to my ears.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a thought, but at a lecture that Gearoid O hAllmhurain gave in the Catskills this year on Irish Music in Clare, he mentioned that ,prior to the Famine, pipes appeared to be the dominant instrument in Clare Music and that the Concertina started showing up in Clare around the time of the famine.

English system concertinas in the hands of the landlord class perhaps? (Like the Wheatsone #6330 bought on 1st May 1855 by Lady Grace Vandeleur, wife of the landlord in Kilrush.)

 

In the 1840s, and for a long time afterwards, uilleann pipes were the preserve of "gentleman pipers" and a class of professional players who either depended on the patronage of the same, or played for money at fair days, race meetings etc. (as Johnny Doran did in later years). The pipes (or just about any other musical instrument for that matter) were far too expensive for ordinary country people to afford. (They didn't have any money, and didn't even have any furniture in their cabins - we know that even a stool was an unusual possession at the time, and people slept on beds of straw or heather.)

 

The German concertina was virtually unheard of in England at the time of the Famine, and the Anglo yet to be invented. The earliest evidence that I have (at the moment) for German concertinas in Co. Clare is from the late 1860s, the decade in which it was at the height of its popularity in England, and fashions have always occurred at least a few years later in Ireland, sometimes decades (you should see some of the "Victorian" houses that I've been looking at lately - built in the 1940s!).

 

It may seem surprising today but the commonest instrument amongst Irish country people (including those in Co. Clare), up until times within living memory (it's often volunteered to me by customers in my shop), was the Jews harp. It was affordable, relatively durable, and was easy to obtain, as they were sold by peddlers, in ironmongers shops etc.

 

I don't know if there is any direct link between the piping and the concertina link, but perhaps knowing this could have influenced some concertina players to try to emulate the pipes in their playing style?

It's an old chestnut, but a relatively new phenomenon.

Edited by Stephen Chambers
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...