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John Wild

Concertinas In Literature

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Oh good one, Henk.

 

Helen

 

Want me to go away again? Who knows what will appear.

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Perhaps not literature, but how about sport?

 

Did anyone see the finish of yesterday's "Tour de France"? It must have been a magnificent sight.

 

According to the radio here "The group of leaders concertinaed together towards the finish". Even to play the concertina while riding a bicycle is remarkable, but in unison!!

 

Pity they didn't broadcast the sound.

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Perhaps not literature, but how about sport?

 

Did anyone see the finish of yesterday's "Tour de France"? It must have been a magnificent sight.

 

According to the radio here "The group of leaders concertinaed together towards the finish". Even to play the concertina while riding a bicycle is remarkable, but in unison!!

 

Pity they didn't broadcast the sound.

Fantastic! Lovely image Rod! (and a great first post. Welcome!)

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Hi Rod,

 

I would like to second Samantha's welcome to the forum.

 

Great post.

 

Helen

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Rose Tremain's newish novel, Colour, set in the NZ goldfields 1865 has a concertina playing at the hotel where the married couple conjoin unsatisfactorily. Very depressing.

 

Incidentally Chinewrde is the old name for Kenilworth in Warwickshire and they have a very fine North-West morris side (no concertina players though).

 

See you at Warwick and Sidmouth from today - happy holidays start here!

 

Jill

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Howdy:

I just received tha copy of George Melly's "Rum, Bum and Concertina" referred to at the beginning of this thread.

 

Evidently the title originates from an old naval saying

which appears alone on the rear panel of the dustjacket..........

 

"Ashore it's wine women and song

Aboard it's rum bum and concertina"

 

 

Maybe this has been mentioned somewhere else here earlier on another thread.

Anyone else ever heard this quote?

Evidently the playing of the concertina (in addition to other activities) was somewhat central in the lives of these folks as seafaring lore has already lead us to believe.

 

The more I read about the early days of sail the more 'fascinating' the lives of the sailors way back when appear to have been.

 

Kind of sounds like the ol' college days that I now long for.

 

Bye,

Perry Werner

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Fantastic! Lovely image Rod! (and a great first post. Welcome!)

Thanks for the welcome, but it's not really my first post - I just took a long time to get started in this new format. :)

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No one seems to have mentioned it before, but there is a concertina in "The Admirable Crichton". My copy of the script even has an illustration. (Hopefully attached as a jpeg).

 

It appears after they have been wrecked on the desert island, and have been there for two years.

 

The italics describe Lord Loam (now known as "Daddy") as a "jolly-looking labouring man", playing an "island-made concertina". (So concertinas can't be difficult to make at all).

 

 

Rod

 

 

(Edited to reflect the fact that the attachment worked this time. On the previous two attempts, it was on a network drive, so that may have been the problem).

post-4-1092378636.jpg

Edited by Rod Thompson

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From Drink Down The Moon, by Charles DeLint-

 

 

 

"Lend him your fiddle," Tuir said to Johnny.

"He can't," Jemi said. "He'll need that for where we're going.

"I can't play one anyway," Henk said. "My instrument's the concertina."

 

"Anglo or English? " Loireag asked.

Henk blinked. "Uh, English. "

Loireag sent word up and down the line of the sidhe until a small hob

trotted up on his pony and handed Henk an instrument.

 

It was a beautiful old Wheatstone, it's silver gleaming, it's wood dark,

it's leather bellows worn but still strong.

"It was my father's, "the hob said. "Play the Moon fierce in it."

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I have been reading Thomas Pakenham's "The Boer War" (A wonderful history

book) and came across the following passages:

 

Passage one:

 

"By 6 October (1899), Milner had learnt of the plight of seven thousand

African mine-workers from Natal, and of other Africans from British

territory. It was a British official who cabled the news, a man called

Marwick who worked for the Natal Native Affairs Department on the Rand. He

reported that the Zulus and other Africans for whom he was responsible had

lost their jobs. 'If left to find their own way back to Natal, [they] would

starve on the veld.' Despite discouragement from the Natal Ministry,

Marwick decided to try to bring the Natal refugees out by himself. The

authorities refused to provide room on the railway. There was only one

solution. Marwick cabled again to Natal. 'So that my proposed action may

not embarrass you, please suspend me from office. If I get natives through

without loss of life, you could please yourself about re-instating me.' His

offer was accepted. He was proposing to walk with the three thousnad Zulus

and four thousand other Africans all the way to Natal.

 

"There had been strange scenes in the great exodus from the Rand, but

none stranger, perhaps, than the scene that followed. At the head of the

Marwick's (sic) procession of Africans were a couple of Boer

policemen. Behind them, marching thirty abreast, were a group of musicians,

playing concertinas. [my emphasis] They played popular African tunes. Behind the

musicians marched an immense body of men, Zulus in African or European

dress, all the tribes of Natal. On 7th they reached

Heidleberg; on the 10th Waterval, over a hundred miles south-east of

Johanesburg; by the 13thy they had marched the 170 miles to Joubert's camp

at Volkrust on the Natal frontier......

 

"Marwick's epic march had saved seven thousand Natal Africans from

starvation."

 

Second Passage:

 

"[Thomas] Atkins [Manchester Guardian correspondent] saw the field moving before his eyes: massed columns of infantry.......coiling and uncoiling until they found their places..... Atkins was a poet of war, and ahead of his time. War, in his eyes, was more full of ironies than of heroes.

 

"One little incident struck him with especial force at this solemn moment. A Zulu driver in the column lashed out at his mule train with his right hand and his left hand dropped the concertina that he, like many Africans, carried on the march. The Zulu gave a sort of cry of despair, but he could not stop to retrieve it. A shout from the mounted infantry company behind" 'Mind that concertina! Pass the word!' The line of mounted infantry swerved. The next company followed suit: 'Look out, mind the concertina! Mind the wind-jammer!' The dancing sea of legs and hooves divided as each came to the precious object. The whole brigade passed, 'hurrying on to use all the latest and most civilized means for killing men and destroying property', tenderly leaving the concertina - an African's concertina - unscratched on the veld."

 

:D

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"There had been strange scenes in the great exodus from the Rand, but none stranger, perhaps, than the scene that followed.  At the head of the Marwick's (sic) procession of Africans ... marching thirty abreast, were a group of musicians, playing concertinas.  [my emphasis] They played popular African tunes.  Behind the musicians marched an immense body of men, Zulus in African or European dress, all the tribes of Natal.  On 7th they reached Heidleberg; on the 10th Waterval, over a hundred miles south-east of Johanesburg; by the 13th they had marched the 170 miles to Joubert's camp at Volkrust on the Natal frontier......

Daniel,

 

Having heard about the Zulu concept of the "concertina as a means of transport", I am not surprised to hear that "Marwick's epic march ... saved seven thousand Natal Africans from starvation."

 

To quote Harry Scurfield's paper The "Squashbox" - some history and some music (from the Michaelstein Conference 1999):

 

Bongeni Mthetwa, lecturer in musicology at the University of Natal, explained that "traditionally the maskanda (traditional musician) uses his instruments as a mode of transport. He can walk long distances to the music of his guitar/concertina. The concertina is supposed to 'transport' him, since the walk becomes transformed into a musical experience."

 

According to Johnny Clegg, "this is a bus, this is transport, this will take you wherever you wish to go ... "

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Of course, every one here would be familiar with Mockpelt Thringdip, a Goblin concertina player.

 

Maybe not literature in the purest sense, unless you are a Spike Milligan fan....

 

'No it's not an ocharina

It's a Goblin Concertina,

But play it on your side, oh Chum-chum-chum

For the bellows (made of leather)

Whenever squeezed together

Will double-pleat your poor old Tum-tum-tum.'

 

This quoted from the book 'Goblins', verses by Spike Milligan, illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.

post-121-1109298894_thumb.jpg

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Does an autobiography count as "literature"?

 

In Mahatma Gandhi's autobiogaphy, Part I, section II (p. 7 of my Beacon Press paperback edition):

The agonized lament of the parents over Shravana's death is still fresh in my memory.  The melting tune moved me deeply, and I played it on a concertina which my father had purchased for me.

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I have just read Time by Stephen Baxter.

 

On the whole, not really a great read in my opinion. However, the following quote is part of a description of the amenities, found on board a spaceship, designed for use in zero or low gravity:

 

It was also, thankfully, possible to take a shower, with a hosepipe and a nozzle that you passed over your body inside a concertina-type wraparound curtain. But the curtain was imprinted with stern instructions about the importance of washing down the shower properly after use, to avoid algal growths.

 

 

- John Wild

edited for typing correction

Edited by John Wild

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I pulled this off the home page of concertina.net

 

As a children's librarian and a concertina player, collecting children's books that feature concertinas is a natural for me. To date, I have only found two, but they are both unique enough to deserve a listing below. I would love to hear from anyone who might have others to add to the collection. In the past, there have been forum discussions on the concertina in literature, perhaps some of those contributors can add to this list. Hope you have something on your shelves you can share! (please post a message in the General Discussion Forum)

- Pam Berardino, USA

 

 

pb_children_01_sm.jpgTingo and his Magic Concertina

Tacconelli, John & Armstrong, Gurney

Copyright 1947

TAC – STRONG & Co. Detroit

Artwork: Lithographs

 

This 8-sided, 24 page book is about a boy named Tingo, who played his concertina which compelled others to dance and sing. (Ah, if only my playing could do that!) One day, a King's servant stumbles upon Tingo and informs him that his is trespassing on the majesty's land. Tingo played for the king's man, but that only made the horse dance on the soldier's feet, eventually he was brought in front of the king. Awaiting death (it seems to be the penalty for making a horse dance) Tingo's fate is turned by a sudden attack on the Kingdom. In the end, Tingo "struck a solemn chord – a minor if you please; He laughed – and then his fingers raced across the pearly keys!" Tingo and the concertina music save the day, he gets the kingdom, and all is well. "…And soon they'd hear his music drifting to them, sweet and low."

 

 

 

pb_children_02_sm.jpgpb_children_03_sm.jpgCaptain Jeff and the Squeeze Box

Todt, Ruth K.

Photographs by R. D. Richardson

Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago

1940

 

It's difficult to find words for this book. The story is told through a series of photographs of a peg-legged marionette named Captain Jeff. One day the doll maker put a box in Captian Jeff's hands, "…he pulled and the box stretched. Then he pushed and the box squeezed together and it got little again. 'Why', he said, 'this is a squeeze box'. But there wasn't any music!" The marionettes spend a good part of the book pulling the poor instrument open, as far as the bellows allow, attempting to get music out of it. (This is not the book you would give to someone; prior to letting them try your concertina.) Towards the end of the story, Captain Jeff's owner puts a record on the victrola so everyone could hear real squeeze box music. Eventually, Captain Jeff plays the squeeze box music so much, everyone gets sick of it. – The End. (A bizarre little book.)

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Here's one that's recently been listed on eBay: "McTeague - A Story of San Francisco" by Frank Norris.

 

Synopsis

Frank Norris's MCTEAGUE, about a San Francisco dentist who sinks into degradation, poverty, and crime after he is exposed as a charlatan, shocked readers when it was first published in 1899. But as Norris said, "I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn't like it. What had that to do with me?" He died a few years later, at the age of 32.

 

At first McTeague has a simple but satisfying life, surrounded by three symbolic possessions: a caged canary, a concertina, and a gold-plated molar he wants to use as his shop sign. McTeague can be seen as the canary, imprisoned in his gilt cage by the forces of society and heredity; the concertina represents his pleasure in plebeian culture* and the molar, his crude profession. Norris also shows the effects of striving for social status. McTeague comes from a family of poor miners; as a dentist, he is barely on the cusp of professional respectability. Described as "hopelessly stupid," he reverts to his innate brutish roots. His wife, Trina, comes from equally humble origins, but apes what she perceives to be the habits of those higher up the social scale.

 

*Must've been a Chemnitzer! ;)

 

No need to rush, there are 100 copies available, in a 2007 paperback reprint...

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Damn!!! I was just reading through to see if anyone had mentioned McTeague and you beat me to it Stephen. Someone came up to me one night when we were playing for a dance and handed me a copy suggesting I read the book since I live in McTeague's neighborhood and I'm a large bearded concertina player. I loved how McTeague was described as playing "lugubrious slow airs" on his concertina – something I love to do as well. I enjoyed reading it while sitting in neighborhood cafes close to where the story takes place down on Polk Street. The author lived in the neighborhood at the turn of the 20th Century and based the story roughly on the location and local characters at the time. I even found an old cherry tree referred to in the book right around the corner from my house up an alley I never walked down previously.

 

One day when I was sitting in a cafe on the same block where McTeague's dentist shop was located, an old fella dressed smartly in a suite complete with a walking stick came by and when he saw me reading the book he startled me when he declared, "McTeague!" And he nodded and smiled as he walked by. I like to think he was a time traveler.

 

  • polkstreet.jpg

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