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Concertinist(s) wanted - mid-Victorian research project


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Posted (edited)

I hope this is the appropriate section to post this?

 

I’m looking to link up with one or more concertinists who would be interested, and have the time, to record mid-Victorian repertoire with a range of early gut-strung English banjos c.1860-1889 as part of a research project.

 

One aspect of this practical element of our research is that pitch reflects the diversity used in the mid-Victorian period. I have an unrestored probably Tidder(?) 20-button Anglo concertina that appears to be pitched to A=444 or Society of Arts tuning. This could be used, and/or hopefully other concertinas of this period at their original pitch higher or lower than modern A=A440hz could be brought into play.

 

One criteria of this practical research  is that the playing is representative of the diversity of general experience. We are not looking only for a Carlo Minasi or a Charles Roylance.

 

I’m based in SW England. But will travel.

 

Thank you

 

Mike

Edited by mendipman
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  • mendipman changed the title to Concertinist(s) wanted - mid-Victorian research project
Posted (edited)

The 6 and 7-string banjo recordings and notation are shared as a free resource on our research project YouTube channel and our supporting blog site. The intention is to also share recordings of banjo in duet with (one or more) concertina(s). Possibly extending this ensemble in future to include piccolo/flageolet and banjo duet with piano.

 

https://m.youtube.com/@earlyenglishbanjo/videos

Edited by mendipman
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This is an interesting idea. If you find an English concertina in the pitch you need, then I'd be happy to join in. I'm based in Gloucestershire, so close enough to be helpful I think. Sadly, I can't play Anglo concertina and I don't know anyone with a concertina tuned at the pitch you want. Good luck!

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Symon, thank you for your reply. Past conversation with concertina repairers and restorers makes me hopeful that unrestored instruments with their reeds as originally pitched are around. But then I guess we get into the issue of condition and playability. 
 

This forum does seem to offer the most efficient way to open communication not just between myself and concertinists, but also (fingers crossed) between interested concertinists who may be prepared to loan unrestored, original pitch Anglo or English instruments to those who can play them.

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There is also the secondary interest that many of the tunes I’m recording have emerged from research and are likely to have been played in a banjo and concertina context. So the notation alone may be of interest to concertina players. I’ve recorded Skylark Polka a previously known tune by Roylance. He was an example of a musician and teacher with relevance to both concertina and banjo in the mid-Victorian period.

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Posted (edited)

That’s excellent Paul. I’m hoping those like yourself with original pitch concertinas who aren’t able to get involved in playing research, may be happy to lend their instruments to friends in the concertina community who are able to play and participate in recording?

 

Pitch itself opens up another big area of 19th century research. Interesting that your English concertina is tuned A=453hz. That’s at the higher end of a distinctly non-standardised range. It does appear that the tendency c.1860-1889 was for concertinas to be pitched higher than modern A=440hz. The musical reality would be that the tuneable banjo would’ve had to tune to the concertina. That has immediate research relevance to the contextual sound of the English mid-Victorian banjo.

 

I’ve tuned a period accurate gut strung banjo to A=448 with no problem. Mid-Victorian English banjo scale length varied somewhat but shows a marked tendency toward 24” or 24.5” in the 1870’s.
 

It would be interesting to know if there is evidence to support that concertina pitch c.1860-1889 varied in accord to the nature of the repertoire. One might expect that A=453hz Philharmonic pitch was more typical for classical or light classical repertoire. But it would equally be fascinating to examine the practicality of tuning a gut-strung banjo to A=453hz. If tuning that high is practical on original gut-strung period banjos then one implication is that a tuning link to repertoire is less likely.

 

A concertina restorer has said that most of the many Victorian instruments he has retuned were originally pitched above A=440hz. It would be interesting to have first-hand what the approximate ratio of concertinas at different original pitches were.

Edited by mendipman
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  • 2 weeks later...

An interesting project, @mendipman - especialy for me, because the 5-string banjo and the Anglo concertina are my main instruments!

Admittedly, my Anglos are both "modern," and my two zither-banjos - a J.E. Dallas and a Windsor - are both Edwardian, rather than Victorian. And their low strings are nylon, not gut or silk. I do, however, enjoy playing Victorian music on them, such as arrangements of Thomas Moore songs.

My only concertina-style instrument that is in historical tuning is my Bandoneon, which an expert dated to around 1900. Being a German instrument, it is of course below modern concert pitch, at A=435Hz, which was customary in Germany at that time.

This set me thinking about pitches and concertinas.

If I recall my history correctly, England was flooded with cheap German 20-button bisonoric concertinas in the mid-19th century. It was their popularity that gave rise to the development by English makers of the "Anglo-German" concertina: English build, German button arrangement.

Which raises the question: Were these imported German concertinas in Continental or British concert pitch? Did it often happen that a Victorian English banjoist had to tune his instrument down to play a duet with a friend who had "one of those new-fangled foreign things?"

 

Just wondering! Keep us posted on developments!

Cheers,

John

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  • 1 month later...

Did you make progress with your project ? I ask because I recently bought a brass-reeded 'tutor' model of an English concertina made in the 1890s. Most of the reeds were tuned to A=444, and I've spent several hours bringing them all into tune. Unfortunately I live at the other end of the country, but if you're planning to visit the north east and want to call in ... or if I could help in any other way .... please let me know. 

 

 

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