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The band's name comes from Thomas Hardy. It's his pseudonym for the village musicians of Stinsford in Dorset, who led dancing, carolling and church singing there during his lifetime. Hardy himself played fiddle and concertina for weddings and parties in the village and his novels mention the clarinet, flute and oboe.

Has anyone ever heard this before ? I was trying to find a link to the Dorset County Museum, Thomas Hardy MS

(unsuccessfully as it turns out.........if you have a link ,I'd be grateful................I'm looking for his family tune book) and found the above quote on the Mellstock Band Home-page.

Robin

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A person who probably knows is, the one and only, Colin Dipper. He lives not far from Stonehenge (as featured in 'Tess'), and in the heart of Hardy country. Hardy is one of my favourite authors - one of the few who produced more than one 'classic' novel + of course the poems. I think Hardy wrote the tune 'Haste to the Wedding' but I could be wrong there. That tune is a good example of a tune changing key when it crossed the Irish sea.

 

Alan Caffrey.

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I've never heard that Hardy played the concertina. I recently read Claire Tomalin's biography of him, 'The Time-torn Man' which I enjoyed very much. There is no reference to the concertina but a number of references to his and his father's fiddle playing.

There is an oft-told story that Hardy was not recorded by the EFDSS because his style was considered too rough but I've never seen it confirmed.

His descriptions of rural activities are very authoritative. I think it was Hardy who pointed out the distinction between revivalist and traditional Morris dancing: something along the lines that the revivalists look as if they're enjoying themselves, while the traditional dancers are doing it because they have to.

I think 'The Man He Killed' (1902) is one of the great War Poems, but it tends to be overlooked in the genre because it isn't 1914-1918.

Best wishes,

Roger

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Has anyone ever heard this before ? I was trying to find a link to the Dorset County Museum, Thomas Hardy MS

(unsuccessfully as it turns out.........if you have a link ,I'd be grateful................I'm looking for his family tune book) and found the above quote on the Mellstock Band Home-page.

 

Can't answer the question, but nice coincidence in timing; I'm halfway thru Tess.

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Oddly enough, we've been wandering around Dorset the last couple of days, including a visit to Dorchester - a town with more than its fair share of statues of Mr Hardy. I've an idea from somewhere that he played melodeon as well as violin, but I hadn't heard of him playing concertina.

 

Chris

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Oddly enough, we've been wandering around Dorset the last couple of days, including a visit to Dorchester - a town with more than its fair share of statues of Mr Hardy. I've an idea from somewhere that he played melodeon as well as violin, but I hadn't heard of him playing concertina.

 

Chris

 

I also had heard that he played the melodeon as well as the violin but not the concertina. Since the quote came from The Melstock band homepage and one of the band members is Dave Townsend, a well-known player of the English concertina, perhaps there is some truth in it. I'll ask Dave next time I see him.

Chris

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Oddly enough, we've been wandering around Dorset the last couple of days, including a visit to Dorchester - a town with more than its fair share of statues of Mr Hardy. I've an idea from somewhere that he played melodeon as well as violin, but I hadn't heard of him playing concertina.

 

Chris

 

I also had heard that he played the melodeon as well as the violin but not the concertina. Since the quote came from The Melstock band homepage and one of the band members is Dave Townsend, a well-known player of the English concertina, perhaps there is some truth in it. I'll ask Dave next time I see him.

Chris

 

From Michael Millgate's 2004 biography, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited, p.40:

 

He is said to have been given a toy concertina at the age of 4; not long afterwards he was introduced to a toy violin; a little later still he went with his father to local dances and festivities and even performed himself from time to time with an energy perceived as sorting oddly with the delicacy of his physique at the time.

 

Cheers,

Dan

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From Michael Millgate's 2004 biography, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited, p.40:

 

He is said to have been given a toy concertina at the age of 4; not long afterwards he was introduced to a toy violin; a little later still he went with his father to local dances and festivities and even performed himself from time to time with an energy perceived as sorting oddly with the delicacy of his physique at the time.

That's curious, as he would have been 4 in 1844 and I've not seen any evidence of such things as "toy" concertinas existing until much later in the century, though I have seen a "toy" French accordeon ("flutina") that might have been that old... ponder2.gif

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From Michael Millgate's 2004 biography, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited, p.40:

 

He is said to have been given a toy concertina at the age of 4; not long afterwards he was introduced to a toy violin; a little later still he went with his father to local dances and festivities and even performed himself from time to time with an energy perceived as sorting oddly with the delicacy of his physique at the time.

That's curious, as he would have been 4 in 1844 and I've not seen any evidence of such things as "toy" concertinas existing until much later in the century, though I have seen a "toy" French accordeon ("flutina") that might have been that old... ponder2.gif

 

Well, if he ever did play the concertina, he played it Far From The Madding Crowd. ;)

 

Chris

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From Michael Millgate's 2004 biography, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited, p.40:

 

He is said to have been given a toy concertina at the age of 4; not long afterwards he was introduced to a toy violin; a little later still he went with his father to local dances and festivities and even performed himself from time to time with an energy perceived as sorting oddly with the delicacy of his physique at the time.

That's curious, as he would have been 4 in 1844 and I've not seen any evidence of such things as "toy" concertinas existing until much later in the century, though I have seen a "toy" French accordeon ("flutina") that might have been that old... ponder2.gif

 

Stephen,

 

Indeed, another bio account I have seen used the term 'accordion'...but then folks used that term for everything, including Uhlig-type concertinas, at the time. Whoever was the original source for this story may have meant 'toy' in comparison to English concertinas of the time....who knows? If this were a bet, I'd give it even odds to be one or the other. The first Uhlig boxes were very toy-like...just 10 keys...and some of the early distributors were toy vendors. Your Eulenstein instrument of the early 1930s shows that these boxes could show up early and in surprising places, wherever people of means played music. But as you note, we are a bit early for the big mass merchandising push for Uhlig boxes, which was to come late in the 1840s and in the 1850s.

Edited by Dan Worrall
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  • 3 years later...
From Michael Millgate's 2004 biography, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited, p.40:

 

He is said to have been given a toy concertina at the age of 4; not long afterwards he was introduced to a toy violin; a little later still he went with his father to local dances and festivities and even performed himself from time to time with an energy perceived as sorting oddly with the delicacy of his physique at the time.

That's curious, as he would have been 4 in 1844 and I've not seen any evidence of such things as "toy" concertinas existing until much later in the century, though I have seen a "toy" French accordeon ("flutina") that might have been that old... ponder2.gif

 

Well, if he ever did play the concertina, he played it Far From The Madding Crowd. ;)

 

Chris

 

Ironically in the context of this old post, I've been watching the 1967 movie Far From The Madding Crowd and it has a couple of brief appearances of a concertina in a dance scene. This says nothing to link Hardy further with concertinas, of course. To add to the charm for me, the movie started with a snippet of Staines Morris, which I had been playing about an hour earlier.

 

Curiously, I've had another rare concertina sighting this same week, the other in the book The Penal Colony (free, by-the-bye, for Kindle users). In this book, a dystopian view of a prison from the near future located off the coast of Cornwall, a concertina player joins with fiddle, drum and penny whistle players in a set of Irish tunes at Christmastime.

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Ironically in the context of this old post, I've been watching the 1967 movie Far From The Madding Crowd and it has a couple of brief appearances of a concertina in a dance scene. This says nothing to link Hardy further with concertinas, of course. To add to the charm for me, the movie started with a snippet of Staines Morris, which I had been playing about an hour earlier.

 

That player is the late John Nixon, who spoiled the film for me right from the beginning -concertinas that early? - and laughed when I told him so. I've never come across any Hardy references to any free-reed stuff. He was a keen fiddler, and as a child supposedly fiddled frantically away until he was red faced and sweating, causing concern to the lady of the house. Sounds pretty much like some of the dances I've played for.

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That player is the late John Nixon, who spoiled the film for me right from the beginning -concertinas that early? - and laughed when I told him so. I've never come across any Hardy references to any free-reed stuff. He was a keen fiddler, and as a child supposedly fiddled frantically away until he was red faced and sweating, causing concern to the lady of the house. Sounds pretty much like some of the dances I've played for.

 

2 more things. There were actually two concertina scenes, one a rustic barn dance and another in a drawing room. It was my impression - hard to verify - that the first was an anglo and the second an English.

 

Obviously you have the definitive inside information about John Nixon, but some googling turned up the following additional data:

 

from http://www.sawiki.net/index.php/Salvation_Army_In_Films#F

 

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967) Salvationist Hugo Price (not in uniform) is seen fleetingly playing a concertina.

 

and from: http://www.whitecottagewebsites.co.uk/mellstock/band.htm

 

The Mellstock Band, Dave Townsend (Director) - Concertina, Violin, Voice

 

The Band and its members have appeared in TV dramas Pride and Prejudice, Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the dUrbervilles and The Way We Live Now, and have featured in productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal National Theatre.

 

Why Mellstock?

 

Mellstock was the fictional name the novellist and poet Thomas Hardy gave to his native village of Higher Bockhampton in Dorset. His family were leading local musicians, who led the church band and played for dances. Hardys vivid descriptions, the players own manuscript books, and music from local tradition were the initial inspiration for the formation of The Mellstock Band in 1986.

 

It appeared there may have been two different concertina players in the 1967 movie, although I'd have to pore over it to tell. Dave Townshend may well have appeared in a later version (or played a different instrument).

Edited by Stephen Mills
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2 more things. There were actually two concertina scenes, one a rustic barn dance and another in a drawing room. It was my impression - hard to verify - that the first was an anglo and the second an English.

Edit:

Arrgh! Just realised where I've gone wrong - a senior moment - I was replying on Polanski's "Tess" not FFTMC. Sorry!!

Edited by wes williams
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I have heard before of Thomas Hardy playing the concertina. This was, interestingly enough, during the 2008 Christmas Revels production in Cambridge, MA, which was inspired by Hardy's "Under the Greenwood Tree." The Mellstock Band was part of the production, but I don't recall whether it was Dave Townsend or someone else who mentioned Hardy in connection with the instrument.

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  • 7 months later...

Filmmakers do seem to like linking concertinas to Hardy's work. I saw the 2005 production of "Under the Greenwood Tree" last night, which contained a lot of screentime for the Mellstock Quire (sic), which the parson is on the verge of replacing with a harmonium for church occasions. One of the characters played a 20 button anglo in several scenes and a concertina is quite clear in the mix of some tunes. The book was published in 1872, but Hardy's preface places it about 50 years earlier, if I recall correctly, lending the usual improbability to the scenes. I read the book a few years ago and am quite sure no concertina was mentioned in the novel itself.

Edited by Stephen Mills
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OK, one more now that I'm on the scent. Last night I screened the 2003 production of "The Mayor of Casterbridge", with Ciarán Hinds. There is a party early on with a distinct concertina sound, louder than the fiddle. It took 3 or 4 rewindings before I caught a half second glimpse of a bellows to confirm it. Nice bellows papers, but system indeterminate. Later on, at a wedding, the concertina is heard again - clearly the same player, but no visuals. As always, nothing in the credits. Hardy set the novel "before the nineteenth century was a third old."

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Florence, Hardy's widow, apparently recorded in her biography of him the following "His [Hardy's] earliest recollection was of receiving from his father the gift of a small accordion. He knew that he was but four years old at this time, as his name and the date were written by his father upon the toy: Thomas Hardy, 1844."

 

So ... not a concertina ?

 

Edit : That quote was taken from a 1996 posting on another forum by someone who was at that point reading the book in question. However, further googling reveals that when the work was republished in 2007 the wording had been changed, and Hardy was supposed to had have a concertina presented to him at the age of 4. (Available for viewing on Google books)

 

So, accordion in one publication in 1996 or thereabouts, and concertina 10 years or so later ... curioser and curioser.

Edited by Irene S
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