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How, Why & When?


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Sorry folks, but my first ever English Concertina, a beautiful Wheatstone, is in a box right now, somewhere over the Irish sea or perhaps in a warehouse in Belfast. Anyway, just like Xmas morning, I find I can't sleep, so I thought I'd get up & annoy you lot with another question! :ph34r:


A guy I know over here, went into a music shop in Co Tyrone 2 weeks ago to buy a set of guitar strings. As he was looking around, he spotted one of those cheap & cheerful Concertinas & asked if he could try it. After honking on it for a couple of minutes, he then proceeded to drop it onto the hard floor, as he tried to pass it back to the shop owner. This accident put a large dent in the side, at which point the shop owner claimed that it was going to be very difficult for him to sell it now, with the dent .... so this guy ended up buying his first Concertina! :rolleyes:


As for me, I had moved over to Dublin back in '78 & was staying with a good friend in Ballyfermot & taking my trusty old Tenor Banjo to sessions every week. At one of those sessions where songs/ballads were often sung, one guitar player used to bring along his old Lachenal Concertina too. I remember thinking it had the sweetest sound I'd ever heard & told him so & also expressed an interest in getting my hands on one myself, only to be told to my surprise, that he actually wanted to sell it! So I found myself the proud owner of my first Concertina.


After playing the Tenor Banjo, I found that a move onto the Concertina was certainly a step up the ladder in terms of being thought of as a serious TRAD HEAD! :lol:


So how, why & when did YOU come to own your very first Concertina?


Time to spill the beans! ;)




Edited by Ptarmigan
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So how, why & when did YOU come to own your very first Concertina?


Time to spill the beans! ;)





OK, Dick,

My Lachenal Crane/Triumph being probably somewhere over the North Sea on in a parcel depot in London or Stuttgart, I'll join in! ;)


My story is very boring and lacking in surprises. I heard and fell in love with the concertina sound at the Salvation Army as a child of about 6 or 7. When I was 18, a bigger-than-usual birthday present was in order, so I immediately decided on a concertina. All that Matchetts in Belfast had in those days (late '60s) was a 20-k German anglo, double-reeded. I got it, was disappointed with the timbre, but enjoyed playing it for myself and at parties and even church services.

It got me started, and later I obtained a small Bandoneon and later still a 30-k Anglo, which DID sound more like the SA concertina.

Now, as I say, I'm waiting for that Crane/Triumph - and I now know that that was the model that got me hooked over half a century ago!


The story of my mandolin is much more interesting.

My father grew up in a country area of Co Derry and learned the fiddle and the melodeon as a boy. To my mother, who had been brought up in "respectable" city circles in Derry, with violin and piano lessons, the melodion that my father lugged about with him was highly suspect. When they were to be married in 1941, she appears to have said, "That thing or me!", or words to that effect. So my father went to the nearest pawn shop (they were in Dublin at that time) to sell the offending box. However, when he got there, he saw the most beautiful old Neapolitan mandolin (a Stridente, for those in the know) Realising that his fiddle training would enable him to play the mandolin, he swopped instead of selling. My mother didn't mind the mandolin, so later I got to cut my musical teeth on a really fine instrument! I played it for decades.


I shudder to think about it: if my mother hadn't put her foot down, I might be playing the melodion today! :o




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The survival of the fittest would be a theory that should but doesn't work. On average brain cells are replaced on a regular basis, and I tried to help them move along.. Beer kills brain cells, and I thought I would help the weak ones disappear, leaving only the healthy strong ones. Should have made me smarter on average as the weak, not up to standard ones left. Well it didn't work. Short term memory got worse. Wanted to play a little music to help the memory, and it does.


Played a PA as a child, but didn't want to wrestle with it again. Guitar, banjo, and other stringed instruments hurt my fingers. Got lost in a harmonica. I went in when it should be out. (Read Anglo also).


Wife ran away with her piano, and didn't want to buy another. (Of either)


I was told I had a lot of hot air, so I tried flute and whistle. They left me breathless with a headache. So there wasn't a lot of choice left. Now I have a nice Morse Albion that serves the purpose well.


Thanks :lol:


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Glasgow, winter of 1982. Stopped by chance in an antique militaria shop. Lots of old helmets, rusty swords, dusty medals and - alone on a high shelf - a metal-ended Wheatstone English concertina! I asked the shopkeeper for a look. Hmm - I had no idea how to play it, but it was beautiful, and all the buttons brought forth notes. He named a price. I tried to bargain. "Oh no, sir, it's really worth more than I'm asking, but I don't get people looking for musical instruments in here." Hmm again. Checked the wallet - just barely enough, and only because I was flush for Christmas shopping. "I'll take it." I counted out carefully - £100 in Royal Bank of Scotland notes.


I subsequently learned (from the distressed expressions of other musicians) that the Wheatstone had to be re-tuned to concert pitch. And the 1915 vintage 4-fold bellows had to be replaced with nice new 6-folds. And a few cracks, leaks and pads eventually needed attention from Mr. Frank Edgley. But it seemed a bargain back then. And more so even now! :)

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My musical exploits so far:

I was always a noisy child, humming constantly, banging on things, I've even been known to sing in my sleep. :blink: (How I managed that, I'll never know, but apparently I did.) Around age six developed an interest in the violin, threw temper tantrums when parents told me I had to be older to start playing music. Brok my doll's violin trying to play it, parents relented, bought me a real violin......learned to play it, realized that there was practicing and work involved, hated it, stopped. Got desprately bored one fateful summer's day, got out violin, dusted, tuned, played for fun (revolutionary concept, that, and utterly desperate), loved it, played all the rest of the summer, started lessons again, progressed.


Went to Virginia to visit friends (who later inspired me to take up traditional music), saw three tall ships at Jamestown Settlement, fell in love (meh, boys can wait). Became obsessed with ships and sea chanties......became exposed to the concertina, liked it.


Stopped taking violin lessons, progressed more than I had when with a teacher, switched teachers, began playing traditional music.

Years later, age fifteen, Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2007, chatting with friends, saw a concertina out of the corner of my eye, moseyed over, fell in love again, decided I had to get one of those.....went online, googled "concertina" came up with this site, joined, began asking many questions, thought, pondered, soul searched, decided I wanted an English 48 button tenor and would die (or something like it) if I didn't get one.


March 2008, called Button Box, ordered the said 48 button English tenor (a Stagi), April 2nd, 2008, UPS came, handed me a box, I went to my room, tore it open, and took out my new toy with trembling hands, spent the rest of the day making dreadful noises.


I've been playing with it ever since, having a blast and loving every moment it's in my hands.

Most recently I met another English concertina player, ran to fetch it from the car, and ended up playing for several hours....lots of fun, gave me an incentive to practice more, as did the arrival of my copy of English International.


As for being a step up on the ladder of becoming a "serious trad head", yup, it's worked for me. The music on my iPod doesn't hurt, either...........

It's always fun to casually mention to my peers that I play fiddle and concertina......most other teens just stare at me and go, "Huh? What's a concer-thingine?"

Why I usually don't get along so well with others of my age group......... <_<


Hey, I'm not socially challenged, everyone else is!

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Not counting two horrible years of piano lessons when I was little, my first foray into instrumental music involved a guitar and the folk music scene in New York City circa 1960. I went through a series of fretted instruments over the next 40 years, without much success.


Sometime in the early 80's I heard a concertina player on the street in Red Bank, NJ. To this day I don't know what system it was. I do know that since that day I was fascinated by the idea of playing a concertina. I didn't follow up on the idea for almost another 20 years because concertinas were expensive and I doubted I'd do any better with a squeezebox than I'd done with fretted instruments.


Finally, a friend showed me an ad in an old magazine (it might have been in Sing Out) that said Button Box rented instruments. Within a week, I'd called them, arranged to rent a Stagi, and started playing. Within another week I found I'd made more progress with the EC than I'd done with fretted instruments in 40 years. That was almost 10 years ago. I now have three EC's - a lovely old Wheatstone, a Morse and the Stagi, which I periodically loan to people who express an interest on playing a concertina. (I also have a couple of melodeons, but that's a story for another forum.)

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As a kid, I tried piano lessons (for the longest -- 9 months), guitar lessons (plus twice as an adult. I just cannot grasp basic guitar concepts), french horn lessons (1 week), recorder lessons (ditto) and violin lessons (a month). Lest you think my parents coughed up a lot of cash for lessons and instruments, my father was the college band director -- and a very good recorder player. So lessons and instruments were basically free.


But I grew up in a trad-geek hotbed. Concertinas were everywhere! (just not in my house)


In 1983 I was a theater major in Baltimore, and we used a pearloid green Scholer as a prop for some show or other. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the tech theater major lounge trying to figure out a basic scale, much to the disgust of my fellow techies.


In 1993 I bought a cheap little 20-button German anglo with flowers carved on it and DEEP GREEN bellows from House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, MD for an obscene amount of money (upwards of $300). Learned a couple of tunes, took one lesson from Wendy (she was a little...rough for a newbie, IMO) then ignored it for a couple years. Eventually let HMT sell it for me for a fraction of what I paid.


Fast forward to August 2003. Decided to try concertina again. BEGGED my parents to give me an early Christmas present and buy my a Hohner from the Button Box. Literally played it to death in less than 6 months. Ordered my Edgley in January 2004, it arrived in July 2004 and I've been squeezing ever since!

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