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Farmer John

The Concertina In U.s. Folk Music

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You may have to forgive me as I am completely new to this website and forum.

 

I began by playing Irish music and own a 33-button John Connor set up by Paul Groff. However, when I returned home to the South I had to adjust to Old-Time with a few Scottish and Irish dance tunes thrown in for good measure.

 

I have my doubts that the concertina shows up very much in the South until the latter half of the 20th century, but the melodeon or button accordeon certainly does. I have seen 1920s era photos of black street musicians playing a single row accordion and a "fiddler's contest" of 1899 in West Tennessee featured "best accordeon player." None of the accordions I have seen in museums in the South from that era were piano style. All diatonics. I believe I can safely presume said competition was for a button box player. But I have seen no concertinas in museums or noticed them in historic photos of the South.

 

Does anyone have information on the concertina in rural U.S. folk music?

 

I am sure this topic has been discussed before and I apologize for the redundancy.

 

By the way, I am an heirloom tomato farmer in the South, hence the name.

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You might want to look at Jared Snyder's article: "Breeze in the Carolinas: The African American Accordionists of the Upper South," The Free-Reed Journal, iii (2001), 17-46, which, however, as its title implies, does in fact deal with accordionists, not concertinists. You might, though, find it interesting.

 

Allan

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I don't have any specific information on the concertina in rural U.S. folk music, but I can give you an idea of the historical "general trend" in manufacture/playing of concertinas v. accordions.

 

Following the invention of the accordion (Vienna, 1829), makers in Paris quickly brought out their own version, the "French accordeon" (now often referred to, by the name of one of its variants, as the "flutina"), which dominated the market for free reed instruments into the 1850's.

 

In the early 1850's the production of the "German concertina" was taken up in rural Klingenthal (where labour was cheaper), in Saxony, and the inexpensive concertinas that they produced took over from the "French accordeon" in popularity.

 

Following the Franco-Prussian War, and the resulting unification of the country, German manufacturing and trade were actively encouraged in the 1870's, and the cheap "German accordion" (also known as the "melodeon"), with stops to change the tone and keys to provide a simple accompaniment, became the most popular. This instrument is the type still used in Cajun music (where it is sometimes called, confusingly, the "French accordion"), and is the type of diatonic accordion you have most likely seen in museums.

 

The "piano accordion" is a later development, virtually unheard of until the early years of the 20th century, gaining a lot of popularity in the 1920's, and reaching its peak in the '30's.

 

So if you are looking for evidence of concertina playing in the "Old South", I would suggest you try the period 10 years before & after the Civil War (say 1850-1875) as the most likely.

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