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Stephen Mills

My First Concertina

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How did you get your first concertina? What kind was it? This is not a survey; anecdotes welcome.

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Edited by Stephen Mills

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Ah well, Stephen,

 

I went to one of my now favorite festivals in May and heard someone playing a concertina as part of a group. Now I know that she was playing an English, but I didn't know that then. I bought an anglo from Elderly Music because I could afford it and wasn't sure if I was going to like concertina or not. (This was done through the mail.) I had picked one up before, but it was very squeaky awful sounding and had quickly put it down.

 

Fell in love with it. 20 button and only wished it had a C#. I know people sometimes look down their noses at Stagi concertinas but it served me well.

 

Helen

 

Nice thread.

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B) Stephen, I saw my first concertina while playing a gig at a local pub. I was playing a 40+ pound hammer dulcimer at the time, and the thought of a small 3 pound instrument that didn't have to be tuned was, well --- irresistable. Not too long after, I asked the same concertina-owning gentleman where to find one of those neat contraptions? He put me in touch with Mo Turcotte in north Georgia. Mo happened to be an early dealer for Suttner and a couple of weeks later I was the proud owner of a Suttner Linota model anglo. The inital cash commitment was heavy, but I have never regretted it.

 

The only down side to this story is that the dulcimer now spends too much time in its case -- unplayed.

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My FIRST first concertina was one of those lovely little German scholers that sound pretty crappy. This was in 1993. I wanted it to learn to play morris tunes on, not considering that the nearest team was a 90-minute drive away -- through some pretty seedy parts of Philadelphia.

 

Got it from House of Musical Traditions in Maryland (and later lived 10 minutes away from that wonderful shop).

 

Sold it back after about a year, no regrets. Guess I wasn't ready!

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My first concertina is still sitting in Australia, waiting to be shipped to me. I've bought it from Malcolm Clapp. Problem is, he's at the National Folk Festival in Canberra (which sounds like a fantastic event!). He's going to ship it as soon as he gets back. I got really lucky with this, because he was about to take it to the festival to try and sell it there when I wrote to him, but I told him just in time that I wanted it, so he didn't take it along. Whew!

 

It's a 48-button steel-reeded Lachenal, restored by Malcolm himself. Currently I'm using a borrowed Bastari Hey, at least I can make some tunes. Can't wait to get that upgrade, though!

 

:)

Steven

 

PS: Rhomylly, you used to live in Philadelphia? That's where I live now (actually in the suburbs, in Ambler). Where were you? I take it you don't live here any more...

Edited by Steven

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By the way, Stephen, you asked the question, but you didn't tell us about YOUR first! C'mon, spill it!

 

:)

Steven

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A couple of years ago I was going through an active "searching for the right instrument" phase. I tried a lot of things, but none of them were right. I was in the habit of visiting all the music stores regularly to play with the "toys". One time I went in to a place that had some cheap concertina accordions and concertinas. One which I really liked was a Stagi mini-18 button English. I'd never considered playing a squeezebox, never really even held one. This had something I really liked though. It was the simple, plaintive voice, the way it could be modulated, the orientation towards single melody, but chords could be done when needed. I didn't get it that day, but it gnawed at me all week and the next Saturday I was down there the minute they opened, buying it. I knew it was the right thing when I played it all the rest of the day until darkness. Now that Stagi was a piece of crap (literally, sticky buttons, out of tune, didn't last very long) but it was my first one and I sure had a lot of fun playing it. A few months later I got a Morse Albion. I loved to make up little ditties on it, and some friends accused me of channelling dead Irish sailors or something like that (though really I think I was making more Scottish-ish noises). Anyhow I decided if they thought I was sounding Irish I might just learn the real thing, so that's how I got into Irish music. One more important piece of the story. I picked up a humble Lachenal mahogeny Anglo a couple months after that to "play with" because I felt some kind of duty to understand both sides of the tape. But it was at the NE Squeeze-In last year where I watched and listened a bunch to Frank Edgley that got me really inspired. The very next week I pretty much switched all my energy to the Anglo and haven't really touched the English's since. Now, those were my first concertinas. No doubt there are more in my future (like maybe a nice big fat Dipper in my dreams :rolleyes:) but those are how I started.

 

Tom Lawrence

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For more years than I can remember (probably something like 20) I thought about buying an English concertina. I bought instruction books. I bought recordings. I taught myself to play many of the tunes on Alistair Anderson's Concertina Workshop LP on the mandolin. I was convinced it was the right instrument for me - if I could play it - but I doubted that I could. It was too big an investment for an experiment that would probably fail.

 

Then one day I came across the Button Box URL, looked at their web page, and saw that they rented instruments! I called the same day and arranged to rent a Stagi. Three days later I was kicking myself for waiting far far too long to try an English concertina. I was playing a C major scale within minutes and improvising harmonies in the key of G by the end of the day. That was almost five years ago. I still have the Stagi. I also have a Morse and a Wheatstone. All three are 48 button treble English concertinas. I was right all along. It really is the right instrument for me.

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By the way, Stephen, you asked the question, but you didn't tell us about YOUR first! C'mon, spill it!

 

Fair enough. I didn’t want to both choose the topic and set the pattern.

 

I never wanted to play a squeezebox. In the U.S., my generation’s exposure to them was largely formed by the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, a TV show where one would see polka players and teenage girls playing “Lady of Spain.” It’s like that current U.S. advertisement where a young Jimi Hendrix narrowly chooses an electric guitar over an accordion. As the soundtrack plays “Purple Haze” on the accordion, the caption reads “Whew, that was close.”

 

What changed? I don’t know; I’ve been interested in folk music of the U.K. and Ireland since I heard Silly Wizard, Bothy Band, Renbourne, Stivell, et al. in the early ‘80’s. As for the concertina, I can only speculate that I was struck by a meteor and regained consciousness wanting one.

 

I started investigating and monitoring C.net. At first, I wanted an Anglo, then decided on an English. Cheap, so I could gauge my real interest. Before I could get one, a normally $230 Anglo came on ebay for $45 because of a silent reed, one of those JL Dyer Chinese units. I got it, fixed the problem within 15 minutes, and set off. Problems are gradually developing with sticky buttons and buzzing reeds, so that my repertoire tends to avoid pieces that cause problems. Martin Wynne’s #2 sounds like a train wreck, but most pieces are fine.

 

I’ve absolutely loved playing the Anglo, in the Irish style and otherwise. I’m looking forward to detouring from a week in Vermont this summer to the Button Box and upgrading. But first, I’m still curious about the English. I’m awaiting delivery of a Jackie, so what will it be this summer? A Ceili, an Albion, or a Hayden duet? A (gasp) Wheatstone? Time will tell.

 

Come on, you others. How about you duet players and those of you who grew up in the tradition? Don't leave this thread to us relative newbies.

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The first concertina I ever held was a restored Jeffries. I was able to get a few little tunes out of it right away. That got me hooked on the squeezebox sound. I then borrowed a D/G Pokerwork melodeon that was WAY too heavy. The first concertina I owned was a 20 button Stagi. I did O.K. with it but soon upgraded to the Herrington that I'm still playing.

 

I've tried lots of instruments; flute, pennywhistle,xylophone,piano,violin and I loved them all but never mastered them. The concertina is the only instrument that has ever loved me back! :wub:

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The concertina is the only instrument that has ever loved me back!

It's the only instrument I've ever found that instead of having to force myself to practice, I have to force myself to stop practicing. :)

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QUOTE 

The concertina is the only instrument that has ever loved me back!

 

I loved that phrase too. Perhaps it's because we're a concertina site that it resonates so strongly with others, but I could never escape fighting "against" the classical guitar, and losing.

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>How did you get your first concertina? What kind was it?

 

A no-name German 20 button, purchased from a yard sale in Michigan. It was in in terrible condition, with a badly leaking bellows, but someone gave me a newish Italian super-low end box with useless reeds. Amazingly, the bellows were the right size for the older one. Attached the new bellows to the old concertina, and had a hybrid that worked, more or less, even if it sounded like geese about to be road kill.

 

That held me until my Herrington, and beyond.

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Ab/Eb Jeffries in need of restoration. Paid $300 as I recall...later sold to a player/restorer who put it right.

 

Jeff

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In 1984 I went to a solo concert by Alistair Anderson in Leesburg, Virginia. I was totally captivated by his playing. It was the first time I had seen a concertina up close or really paid it any attention.

 

I talked to Alistair after the show: "Where can I get one??" He suggested I go see Fred Oster at Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia.

 

A few weeks later I had a business trip to Philadelphia and snuck off for part of an afternoon. Fred had a bunch of concertinas sitting around but only one in playable condition -- a rosewood Lachenal English, late 1920s, very lightly used.

 

I went home, gave the "Honey, can I spend $700?" speech, and the next weekend we drove up to Philly and bought it.

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I attended a Michael Cooney concert in 1978 and became fascinated with his English concertina. Michael was recording on Front Hall Records, and soon I was perusing the Andy's Front Hall catalog. By September of 1978, Andy's Front Hall had happily sold me a Bastari tenor.

 

After about a month of struggle, I began committing random acts of music, and unforeseen events began to happen. In six months, I was squeezing and dancing with the Minnesota Traditional Morris. In a year, I was playing in contra dance bands, I had a new circle of friends, and I began meeting and learning from all kinds of squeezers and other traditional players, and singers.

 

I think I spent almost as much time repairing that Bastari as playing it. Buttons stuck, springs broke, and reeds crept out of tune. Within two years I had replaced the bellows. Within three years, I was outplaying the instrument, so I sold it and started squeezing a metal ended Lachenal.

 

Twenty six years later, my main squeeze is a Wheatstone extended treble, supplemented by a menagerie of other squeezables and pickables. I don't miss the Bastari, but it gave me a lot of enjoyment and opened a lot of doors.

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I was having terrible dental trouble due to bad tuba technique and decided it was a valid excuse for learning to play another instrument... saw a 120-bass piano accordion in reasonable condition in a pawn shop for a little over £100 and set off on that; as I already played piano it was a case of making sense of the left hand.

 

That led me to playing for Morris, which in turn made me realise pretty quickly that the PA was too heavy for me to play for long periods. But I had already fallen in love with the idea of air-powered keyboard instruments, and I set off to the Accordion Centre in Birmingham, having investigated concertinas, thinking that the English would make the most sense to my brain. It didn't, and I still have real trouble with the practicalities of the instrument, even though, in concept, it seems so logical. But while I was there I picked up a Hohner-badged Stagi 30-key anglo which made a lot more sense, so I took that away. I played it pretty hard, and after about six months it was really showing the strain, and I upgraded to a Norman - but I would agree with what others have already said, in that I don't regret starting on the cheaper instrument at all.

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My very first concertina was a cheap (and nasty) 20 button anglo Chinese job that was virtually unplayable. Later on, when I had started work and had enough money, I went to Crabb Concertinas in the Liverpool Road, Islington (this was the late seventies). The only concertina they had for sale was a restored 48 button Lachenal, which I purchased for the sum of £216. This I still have and is my only 'tina, and was the first English concertina that I had seen at that time.

 

At around the same time I bought my first melodeon. I went to an accordion dealer in Highbury (N. London) and asked for a melodeon. They didn't know what I meant and I had to point out a pokerwork Hohner from a catalogue. When it turned up it had no backstraps and was tuned in D/A. This I only discovered later, when I joined the (now defunct) Wheatsheaf MM, and had to buy a G/D from the folk shop at Cecil Sharpe House to be able to play for the morris. I am still playing the same box and even play the D/A on occasion. I must have had more money than sense at the time as I bought a 48 bass Parrott PA which I still can't play properly.

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