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Mark Evans

Carols Al Fresco

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My Dominique has had an inspiration for us as a family to go 'round to the neighbors on Christmas morning and sing carols. My rehearsing in the house before an event at the college made her very happy, particularlly Il est ne le divine enfant. When she arrives next week, the Christmas spirit will be in high gear from a run of Messiahs and her inspiration will happen come hell or high water.

 

I have a concern (no not neighbors telling us to "blank" off) but my concertina. I've never played any instrument I've owned in the cold fearing there could be damage. Can my little Albion take it? If so, how cold can I go? We could do this a cappella but Dominique was so enthused by my Morse merrily playing along that it would be a shame to say "no accompanyment dear".

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I have a concern (no not neighbors telling us to "blank" off) but my concertina. I've never played any instrument I've owned in the cold fearing there could be damage. Can my little Albion take it? If so, how cold can I go? We could do this a cappella but Dominique was so enthused by my Morse merrily playing along that it would be a shame to say "no accompanyment dear".

 

Can't speak for the Morse, but I played my Herrington once at the Shepherdstown, W.Va Christmas parade, and and several Morris stands at Harpers Ferry -- at 18 degrees, with a brutal wind. I wouldn't take my vintage box, but the Herrington did just fine. Can't say the same for my fingers, though.

 

Maybe Rich has more informed advice.

Edited by Jim Besser

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My suggestion Mark would be to cut the fingers off some gloves and play with gloves on.The concertina will come to no harm, but the cold could effect your hand muscles(see a recent posting of mine regarding an injury sustained whilst playing in a cold wind).Playing in mittens is quite common during performances of Mummers plays on Boxing Day.

Al

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I've never played any instrument I've owned in the cold fearing there could be damage. Can my little Albion take it?

Almost certainly. I've used my Æola to accompany carols when my brother's firehouse brass band refused to play for fear their lips would freeze to the mouthpieces.

 

Some folks have reported here that reeds with very fine clearance may stick if the frame shrinks more than the tongue in the cold, but I've only had that happen once, with a single reed, and since I play English I could still use the reed in the other direction. :)

 

The one bit of advice is to let the case sit outside for a while (½ hour, maybe?) before opening it, so that the concertina will adjust gradually to the temperature change. It's sudden changes in temperature or humidity that are most likely to stress the wood parts.

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This all sounds good, very good. Al, I wear muttons as reqular winter attire. Dominique is quite the knitter and I have them in a number of colors. :)

 

Okay, box outside beforehand...and perhaps stowing it for the evening against the outside wall under the piano. That should bring it closer to an al fresco temperature.

 

I spent an hour playing carols this morning and got very enthusiastic. Gonna do it by gum! Guess I should start on the word books for the kids. As Dominique would say...Yeeoopi!

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I was outside in the Toronto cold yesterday when TfMM did the annual border dance out for the "Out of the Cold Programme". My Jeffries came through no problem but my fingers weren't happy during the early part of the day. They did get happier once we were in the pub, however. Overall, I think I was better off than the fiddle player.

 

I agree with the comment about the fingerless gloves. Of course, I couldn't find mine yesterday morning :(

Edited by Paul Read

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My fingers would get stiff in the cold; I know they did when fiddling below freezing even though I was wearing fingerless gloves.

 

I'd think you might want to make sure you put the instrument back in its case before bringing it in from the cold to limit the possible effects of condensation when the cold reeds meet warmer, moister air inside.

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One more thing; when I've played outside in the cold, I bring mittens fitted with those chemical handwarmers you can buy in sporting goods stores. Between dances I put my hands in the mittens for a quick hit of heat. Seems to help keeping the joints from stiffening.

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A horror story for anyone playing and accordion reeded box with the reeds waxed in place. I once took a melodeon out for a Christmas dance out after having left it in the car all day, one large suck chord and the wax shattered and all the reeds fell off the reed blocks. Made a good percussion instrument but needed serious rework to fix it.

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I've never played any instrument I've owned in the cold fearing there could be damage. Can my little Albion take it? If so, how cold can I go?
Our concertinas shouldn't have any problems playing in very cold weather (even sub-zero). There may be some concerns about bringing a very cold box to the warm indoors however (this goes for all boxes, not just ours).

 

The problem is that if inside your house is reasonable or higher humidity, and you play your box when it is very cold (just having come in from a stint of caroling), then moisture may condense out on the metal parts (action, reeds and reedplates). Our action isn't an issue as it's stainless steel (including the springs), and the reedplates are aluminum, but the reeds are spring steel and are susceptible to rusting.

 

Of course if you play your box for a half hour or so immediately after coming in, everything warms up and any condensation dissipates anyway. Even if you did the worst and played only a single tune and then left it open out of its case, it would probably take quite a number of that occurrence to cause significant rusting. I suggest that when going from cold to warm/moist, that you either keep it in its case until the temperatures have neared equilibrium or play it for at least a half hour (to bring it into equilibrium quicker and dispel any moisture buildup.

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Since the beginning of December, I have played three morris gigs in sub freezing weather (Saratoga Springs, Troy, and Schenectady) on my modern Wheatstone. No problem at all.

 

I used to have a pair of gloves with the fingertips cut off, but more recently I have found that I can play the concertina (and even the pipe and tabor) wearing the "glove liners" you can buy at Eastern Mountain Sport. They are thin black elastic gloves meant to be worn inside other gloves, but worn by themselves they keep my hands sufficiently warm, down to the fingertips, which don't have to come in contact with cold buttons.

 

I would echo Rich's concerns about playing a cold instrument in a warm room.

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I suggest that when going from cold to warm/moist, that you either keep it in its case until the temperatures have neared equilibrium or play it for at least a half hour (to bring it into equilibrium quicker and dispel any moisture buildup.

 

Okay, can do on playing it for a half hour or leave it in the case with fleece lined cover should Dominique give me the look or more likely I'm asked to get on making hot chocolate and cafe latte.

 

Ill have the dehumidifier charged up and back in the case as well. Couldn't hurt?

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I suggest that when going from cold to warm/moist, that you either keep it in its case until the temperatures have neared equilibrium or play it for at least a half hour (to bring it into equilibrium quicker and dispel any moisture buildup.

Even better, do both.

Let it warm up gradually in the case, then take it out and play it for a good long while. :)

As for "warm/moist", I would recommend assuming that if it's warm, it's moist. We humans aren't very good at judging humidity, except in extreme cases.

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It sounds like a lovely plan for Christmas morning, Mark. How nice that your wife wants you to play the concertina. And what a treat for the neighbors, to have such an accomplished musical family serenade them!

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When I go from a hot to cold place with the concertina I always hold down the air button and work the bellows a few times to change the air inside the bellows.

 

When air is cooled it looses its ability to hold as much moisture and so you get condensation, so change it for some air that is colder but drier to stop it condensing inside the bellows.

 

When coming back into the warm I do the same thing to help warm the instrument up evenly and to reduce the tendancy of the warm air loosing its moisture contents inside the bellows as it hits a cold instrument. It is a quicker process that way than just playing the concertina and hoping that the air is moving fast enough!

 

I agree that a gradual change of temperature is better, but that's not usually possible so try to get the whole instrument to change temperature without getting condensation inside or outside.

 

Robin Madge

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I tried playing my 1927 Wheatstone for the St Patrick's day parade in Montreal last year. The temperature was just below freezing and many of the reeds would not play. The steel reeds and brass shoes contract differently in the cold. Everything was fine once the box had warmed up at home again. Gives me a good excuse not to get stuck on a float freezing my ***** next time :)

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