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Three recent Irish CDs featuring concertina – Harry Scurfield

 

In Ireland, the “concertina” is almost exclusively the Anglo, and the three CDs here are all fine examples of its use within Irish tradition, and together have links which almost span the history of the instrument in that music.

Claire Keville (as those who attended Swaledale this year know) is a great player, originally from Claran, near Headford in Co. Galway, but with long associations with Co.Clare. (Check out her traditional music programme “Music In The Glen”, which you can get early on Tuesday evening on your computer at www.clare.fm). Her CD, “The Daisy Field” (CKCD002), is a well-chosen selection, beautifully played, with gentle and unobtrusive accompaniment on guitar (Terence O’Reilly), piano (Geraldine Cotter), fiddle (Liam Lewis) and from Claire’s sister Breda also on fiddle. Claire also plays three harpsichord solos. Her concertina style is steeped in the tradition, but is also very much her own, and, – without proclaiming technical flashiness – Claire uses her fine technique to express the value of the music itself, with neat octave passages, a steady rhythm, and decorations that enhance a tune, rather than simply being “clever”. Overall, lovely playing! (And Claire sends thanks to the Dippers for the fantastic little instrument!)

Tom Carey, from Cree (West Clare), had his first concertina lessons many years before Claire Keville was born, and this CD is long overdue. I once found myself in Crotty’s pub in Kilrush and gradually realised that the gentle man next to me, playing a battered Jeffries, was the same fine player I had many years earlier heard on a Free Reed recording! Time has not weakened Tom Carey’s style since the release of those 3 tracks. The tunes are very much from the heart of the tradition, and there is a light but determined pulse to these jigs and reels (with one slow air and a hornpipe), which, sprinkled with some “same direction” decorations give a dancing lift to the playing. The bellows use, and the variation from legato to more staccato passages add to a certain sense of urgency, particularly on the reels, though the playing never races out of control, and always has a rich, expressive warmth. Gentle backup is provided by Josephine Marsh (accordion) and Therese McInerney (fiddle). A timely and beautifully executed reminder of styles that developed over the first half of the 20th Century, the CD is simply entitled “Tom Carey” (GL0002).

Tom Carey learned initially from Michael “Stack” Ryan, who was born at the end of the 19th century; the third album, a double CD, possibly reaches even further back. “The Humours of Tulla”, subtitled “A collection of music, songs, stories and poetry reflecting the rich cultural heritage of East Clare” and is largely “archive material”, with – of course – half a dozen good concertina tracks. We find, as one would expect, contemporary tunes from the always wonderful Mary MacNamara and Kate McNamara, (who have both taught at Swaledale!) but also most interesting home or “field” recordings of players like Paddy Grogan and John Naughton, bearers of a tradition from many years earlier. There is here, too, a fine lesson in what the old-style German concertina can do, on “The Star of Munster”, with tremendous verve and drive from the hands of Michael O’Donoghue, recorded in 1972 at the age of 84. The album is put out by the Tulla branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann, and features other fine players of other instruments, too.

All three albums reviewed here may be obtained from – amongst other places – Custy’s Music Shop in Ennis, Co.Clare, http://www.custysmusic.com/ , phone (00353) 656821727, e-mail: custys.ennis@eircom.net.

Harry Scurfield

Three Blind Mice

To increase the number of scales available to the player – the “Three Blind Mice” exercise was evolved to challenge and extend the player – and to encourage the use of ALL the buttons on the instruments.

Three Blind Mice is an interesting tune – it covers the complete scale and covers most of the simple note values. The exercise was devised to be circular – play through the “sharp” keys and then through the “flat” keys – if still sane – keep going until the mind rebels!

The things we discovered with this exercise – how easy the key of E is to play in – and how difficult it is not to play F# in the “flat” keys.

Download the Three Blind Mice excercise.

Podcast: David Gardiner

 

One of the many privileges of being the ICA Librarian is to distribute and discuss music with members from across the world. In recent weeks I have been corresponding with concertina players in the USA, Canada, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, France, Italy and the UK.

I am particularly pleased that David Gardiner from New Zealand, kindly accepted my invitation to discuss and play extracts from one his favourite pieces from the library – the Intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni’s one act opera Cavelleria Rusticana. Premiered in 1890, this popular work is set in Sicily and tells a passionate story of love, betrayal, jealously and death!

The arrangement is made by Henry Stanley, a prolific music arranger for the concertina, who during the 1940’s and 1950’s made hundreds of beautiful hand written arrangements for players on request.

On the link below you can hear, David play some extracts from the piece. Wonderfully expressive, this is only a glimpse of what’s to come as David’s full version will be available on the forthcoming CD Duet International – which we all look forward to.

 

David Gardiner on the Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana

A copy of this music for Duet is available at Concertina.com:
stanley-intermezzo-from-cavalleria-rusticana.pdf

And a brand new arrangement of the piece for English Concertina by Stephen Taggart is available to ICA members by emailing librarian @concertina.org – and lots more music too.

Swaledale Squeeze 14-16 May 2010

This year’s Guest Tutors are: John Kirkpatrick, Rob Harbron and Michael Hebbert and they will be joining our Regular Team of Tutors: Harry Scurfield, Dave Ball, Carolyn Wade, Pauline de Snoo and Paul Walker.

Please contact Jane Edwards for more details – email:
wrenbeck@googlemail.com or Tel: 01445-781225

 

Tune: Red River Valley

While the winter months are still with us (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway) our tune of the month will take you back to warm Summer evenings, starry nights, and singing around the camp fire. This song was probably composed in Canada, around 1870. This multi-part arrangement for English concertina is taken from the Mini Tunes book arranged by Frank Butler, a former doyen of the ICA.

Download the .pdf file of the tune.

For more info on the tune: see Wikipedia.

The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History

 

Anglo Musings

Many of you know that I have been working off and on for about five years now on a history of the Anglo concertina. That work is now finished; The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History is now out, at Amazon.com. There are two volumes, with 620 pages, over 440 illustrations, and 28 transcriptions. The book concentrates on the people who have played both German and Anglo-German instruments from the time of Carl Uhlig’s invention of 1834 to the present, and includes chapters on England, Ireland, Africa (both Boers and various African ethnic groups), Australia, New Zealand, and North America, as well as concertina use at Sea. .

A final chapter deals with the fascinating evolution in playing styles from Victorian times to today in these various locales, including note-for-note transcriptions of many early recorded players from around the globe. More information, including downloadable copies of the Table of Contents, Summary, and Acknowledgments as well as reviews (as they become available), is at my website at www.angloconcertina.org , where there are also links to the retail sales site at Amazon books–or one can easily search the site http://www.amazon.com/ (the US version) for the books.

I’ve submitted the books to PICA for review, as well as to a group of traditional music journals in England, Ireland, Australia and South Africa. Copies have been placed in the following libraries: US Library of Congress (Washington), Center for the Study of Free Reed Instruments, CUNY Graduate Center (New York); Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House (London); Irish Traditional Music Archive (Dublin); National Library of Australia (Canberra), and the National Library of New Zealand (Wellington). My deepest thanks to all the scores of people around the world who helped me on this effort, including many ICA members.

Dan Worall

Steven Arntson, Anglo chromatician

 

When did you start playing the Anglo? And at what age?
I started playing in 2004, at the age of thirty two. I had musical training before that, primarily in music composition. My first concertina was a plastic 20-button Stagi, which I played for a year, and destroyed in the process. Then my wife bought me the 30-button Anglo that I play today, built by Bob Tedrow.

In your sheet music, you have symbols to describe the movement of the bellows. Is this your own invention?
I have created a few notational devices for Anglo concertina music. In addition to “open” and “close” symbols, I notate the music on a grand staff in which the right hand plays the upper stave and the left hand the lower. It’s all in the service of me trying to clearly transcribe my compositional ideas, and I dearly hope that they do help and don’t simply cause confusion. I want others to be able to play the music if they’re interested in it.

Are you influenced by other people/music in your compositions?
When growing up I was utterly immersed in pop music, particularly what we in the U.S. call “prog rock.” These were bands from the 1970s like Yes, Jethro Tull, and Genesis, whose music was characterized by long formats, unpredictable structures, and frequent shifts in time signature, all of which I consider hallmarks of my own present compositional style. My listening interests have changed many times since then. Currently I’m listening to a lot of music from the Balkans, especially brass band music, which has taught me much more about the relationship between meter, rhythm, and melody.

How would you describe the music of your band?
The quartet I play in when I’m not doing solo work is called The Toy Boats. It was started by our toy piano player, who wanted to form a group that played “small” instruments. Our lineup is ukulele, toy piano, glockenspiel, and concertina (as well as some other small instruments, such as tin whistles and melodicas). The original concept of the group was that we would perform at “pet funerals”–for instance, if someone’s goldfish died, we would play while it got flushed. But we still have never done that! Our music is partly arrangements of Hungarian folk tunes and compositions by Nino Rota, and partly original compositions by our ukulele player (to whom I am married).

One of Steven’s compositions is featured in the Concertina World magazine music supplement 444. A more elaborate interview will be published in Concertina World issue 445.

You can follow Steven Arntson on his website: www.stevenarntson.info.

Tune: Ninety Three Not Out (Will Atkinson)

I discovered this wonderful morris tune in the Concertina World Music Supplement 435. This supplement is almost entirely dedicated to the music of William Atkinson, born at Crookham, Northumberland in 1908. He died in 2003, after spending great many years in the company of Alistair Anderson.
One of the most known compositions of Mr. Atkinson is the Glen Aln Hornpipe. Ninety Three Not Out is a morris tune, so a lot slower than a jig. As a beginner on the English concertina, I quickly found out that the notes come out incredibly naturally. In fact, it’s very hard to stop playing it once you’ve started. The chords on this sheet come from the accordeon player of the Belgian folk trio (fiddle, accordeon, bass) I play double bass in.

Download the .pdf file of the tune.

Happy playing.