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Strange MacCann on eBay


david robertson
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I don't know a lot about Duets, but isn't 31 keys per side, like this one, a rather odd layout for a MacCann?

 

When I saw the HB in the cartouche, I immediately thought "Harry Boyd" - but surely the fretwork is too crude to have been produced for a dealer who was supposed to commission top-quality instruments?

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Generally odd isn't it. Usually there are fewer notes on the bass side of a duet because of the pure lack of space to fit them in. My 67 key, considerably larger, only gets 30 LH notes, and I know there's no spare room for more because I asked! Is that a Lachenal action? The handles look Lach with that cut out; but they don't seem to be fastened through pillars on the action board, just screwed onto the end.

 

Looks pretty basic and it looks like there's at least one reed missing (top of the picture) despite the seller's comment that it's complete.

 

'Band' seems plausible to me; it looks a no frills instrument and comes in a bomb proof box so that it will survive life in the drill hall...

 

Wonder what it is? I suppose it is a Maccan?

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The auction description, and I think photos, have now been revised. It is now described as a Maccann, but no indication of the range of the two sides. We can now see (or perhaps we always could) both reed pans. Any clues from the sizes of the reeds? Curiously both ends look rather full.

 

What is curious about this one is that all larger Maccanns I've seen before have been instruments of obvious quality. But at the right price this one could be a useful starter instrument, recognising it will need a lot of work.

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The auction description, and I think photos, have now been revised. It is now described as a Maccann, but no indication of the range of the two sides. We can now see (or perhaps we always could) both reed pans. Any clues from the sizes of the reeds? Curiously both ends look rather full.

 

What is curious about this one is that all larger Maccanns I've seen before have been instruments of obvious quality. But at the right price this one could be a useful starter instrument, recognising it will need a lot of work.

 

There's been some talk about 'double duets' in other places and I wonder if that's what this is. There doesn't seem to be much difference between the two reed pans; Does it have the same range both sides? Because of that I don't think it would be a wise choice for a beginner; I think the collectors will be after it. It does look an old dog, I'll give you that.

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The auction description, and I think photos, have now been revised. It is now described as a Maccann, but no indication of the range of the two sides. We can now see (or perhaps we always could) both reed pans. Any clues from the sizes of the reeds? Curiously both ends look rather full.

 

What is curious about this one is that all larger Maccanns I've seen before have been instruments of obvious quality. But at the right price this one could be a useful starter instrument, recognising it will need a lot of work.

It's most definitely
not
a Maccann!

That "information" must have come from someone who has assumed that "all Maccanns are 6-across" is the same as "everything that's 6-across is Maccann". There are various counterexamples to the latter, including 1) member aeolina's avatar and 2) my Pitt-Taylor duet (the one in the middle front row in this photo, where the buttons seem to be slipping off one side :)).

 

Edited to add: Lacking a complete note layout (would that be too much to ask of the seller?), I feel I should offer further justification for my certainty that it's not a Maccann, so: In addition to the fact -- based on reed sizes -- that the left hand side isn't pitched an octave (or more) lower than the right, I've never seen a Maccann layout in which all the "rows" (what I would call "columns") have the same number of buttons.

 

There's been some talk about 'double duets' in other places and I wonder if that's what this is. There doesn't seem to be much difference between the two reed pans; Does it have the same range both sides? Because of that I don't think it would be a wise choice for a beginner; I think the collectors will be after it. It does look an old dog, I'll give you that.

It's not a Wheatstone "double", either. That button layout is only 4-across in each hand.

 

It is indeed an intriguing instrument... enough to justify the following wild speculations?

  • With the English-like balance between the sides, and comparing the reed sizes to the button locations, it looks like it might be a Linton layout, or something based on a similar concept. The isolated, offset button at the bottom in each hand is a puzzle, though. I might expect those to be "novelty" buttons, except for the fact that they're clearly ordinary reeds, just like all the others. And the only (other?) example of the Linton layout that I've ever heard of is among the instruments from Neil Wayne in the Horniman collection.
  • It seems clear that when the instrument was made, it was special. The workmanship of the fretwork may be crude by some standards, but the design is clearly special. In addition to the embedded "HB" initials, the overall pattern looks both intricate and unusual. It is also less open at the "lower" end, a feature normally associated with higher-quality instruments. Is it possible that the ends are less skillful copies of better-quality originals that were damaged?
  • I'll take that last thought one step further. This instrument looks to me like it has been played heavily and significantly repaired ("repaired"?). Is it just my imagination, or are the 8-fold (!) bellows unusually shallow... perhaps a crude replacement? The handstraps are certainly not original (in fact, they look more recent than anything else on the instrument), and the handstrap hardware also looks like "homemade" replacements.
  • If my conclusion that the instrument has been played heavily is indeed correct, then who played it? When? In what context? Though the initials "HB" naturally lead to speculation about "Harry Boyd", there have been many other individuals with those initials, not least among them Hector Berlioz and Humphrey Bogart. :D
  • But here's wild speculation upon wild speculation: What if this were an instrument of Harry Boyd's? Could it be something he tried early in his career, before he settled on the English system as the best for his own personal playing, and before he began embedding his full name into the fretwork of his instruments? Well, it's fun to speculate, but it seems unlikely we'll ever know.

Another editing addition: Another question for the seller: I see no serial number or batch number in any of the photos. Can one be found on the underside of the action boards, or are they really not there at all?

Edited by JimLucas
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The possibility of a Linton also occurred to me, but apart from the offset bottom button on each side, I can't see that there are reeds long or short enough to provide 5 octaves of each note, unless of a very short scale.

 

My experience of a Linton is confined to one instrument only, a Lachenal which I briefly owned some 25 years ago. It had only four octaves (48 keys) and was only 6.25" af. Not sure if this is the one in the Horniman; I sold the one I had to P. I., a then dealer and collector living near Peterborough.

 

Regarding the initials HB, could the B have been for Brothers rather than "Band"? Pure supposition, but did Henry Harley have a brother? Just maybe his/their endeavours might have extended beyond the square black anglo-German concertinas to something more English....

 

I suspect that N.W. will be bidding on this one; hopefully somebody can quiz him about it at a later date, should he prove triumphant. ;) :ph34r:

 

MC

 

Edited to disguise names of persons who may not wish to be identified to the entire www.

Edited by malcolm clapp
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Note chart is now posted on eBay. Seems to be in B flat.

 

Graham

 

 

Notice also that there appears to be 4 reeds missing - 2 from each side - these appear to have been removed and the buttons used as air valves.

 

Steve

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Note chart is now posted on eBay.

My face is red, and I'm backtracking on what I've said before. (See below.)

Seems to be in B flat.

No, not in Bb. According to the chart as written, it appears to be a Maccann in Db (or C#, depending on your point of view), so I would guess that it's really a Maccann in C, but in some version of old-pitch that puts it between C and C# by the modern standard. With that interpretation, the lowest note in each hand is G (not the usual C). and there are minor differences from standard at the top to produce the equal-length columns, as well as those sideways-displaced D#'s (E's on the chart) at the bottom.

 

The chart does indicate that the left hand side is an octave lower than the right, so it's intriguing that it has the same number of buttons on both sides, and that it didn't appear to us that the reeds on the left are significantly longer than on the right. I might guess that they are thicker at the tips and possibly also thinner at the base, but that is truly a guess.

 

And it appears that the reeds for the low G# in both hands have been removed, so that they can be used instead as air buttons.

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Would I be correct in saying that it matches the '' Late Chidley Duet System''

 

The notes G and A (assuming notes are semitone flat of those indicated) are next to one another. Cs stay in the columns with Gs etc.

 

Graham

 

edited to add

 

It does breakdown in the top 2 rows

Edited by Graham Collicutt
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Oh, it's a MacCann alright, the layout is that of the "old" Wheatstone 67 with the top right-hand row of "squeekers" ommited and the top left C# filled in. Probably was originally in high-pitch (like the 2 old Lachenals I have). It shows all the signs of a long term school band instrument, replaced case, bellows, ends,..spotty change of valves etc. Could very well have been shifted up to Bb......

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And now here is an identical one on ebay Germany

 

I don't think its a ripped off version of the previous one. The photos are different, and there are small differences in the appearance of the instrument. But it has the same button pattern, same HB initials, and the same crude fretwork.

 

edited to add:

 

On closer inspection it is the same instrument, cleaned up and re-photographed, and doubled in price! There is a crack near the right hand strap bracket, and a couple of wear marks that give it away.

Edited by Theo
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Started looking at the pictures again last night.....two different types of pivots and rods, etc..I'm now wondering if it isn't a home made one-off ?? ..or a prototype made from various Lachenal parts....

 

Edit:

 

"On closer inspection it is the same instrument, cleaned up and re-photographed, and doubled in price! There is a crack near the right hand strap bracket, and a couple of wear marks that give it away."

 

Yes! I know a fellow who does exactly that w/ violins (he's a photographer) and turns a handy sideline sum on EBay!

Edited by Jack Bradshaw
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