Wake the Vaulted Echoes / Black Boxes / A Touch of Clare / Concertina Tutorial


Wake the Vaulted Echoes: A Celebration of Peter Bellamy.
Peter Bellamy. Free Reed, FRT CD 14 (1999).
Black Boxes. Sarah Graves. Issued privately, MFCD 4 (2001).
A Touch of Clare. Kitty Hayes. Clachán Music, CM CD004 (2001).
Concertina Tutorial. Niall Vallely. Mad for Trad, MFT 011, CD Rom (2002).

Reviewed by ROGER DIGBY

Peter Bellamy was the most flamboyant personality in the Folk World. About that there is no argument, though arguments and Peter went hand in hand. He held firm, clear views which he argued with passion, intelligence, and eloquence; and when he was not present, people argued about him: whether his singing style, based, as he claimed, on a close study of traditional singers, was in fact affected bleating, whether his confidence on stage was in fact arrogant pomposity, whether his style of dress was eccentricity or ostentation. Poor Peter.

I’ll admit I liked him enormously from my first teenage exposure to the vocal fireworks of the Young Tradition through the years of what became a valued friendship. Most singers enjoy singing, but Peter’s enjoyment was instantly infectious, and although he was acutely aware of the intrinsic beauty of much of the traditional repertoire which he sang, he never lost sight of the fact that traditional music, in its true context, was entertainment. Peter had very high standards but he always sought to entertain. He would often indicate with a small flourish or additional emphasis that a line or word particularly pleased him. He was an excellent singer and interpreter of traditional songs, accompanied and unaccompanied, solo or with others. He wrote songs thoughtfully and suitably in the traditional style, most famously his ‘ballad opera’, The Transports. His affection for Rudyard Kipling, acquired as a young boy, led him to set many of Kipling’s poems to music based knowledgeably on the styles and sort of tunes that were very likely in Kipling’s mind as well.

This three-CD set, which also includes a CDRom section, is the definitive retrospective, covering all aspects of the music and containing a detailed booklet of seventy-two pages, the excellent content of which deserves to have received better proof reading.

Peter was one of a small number of performers who accompanied themselves on the Anglo concertina. There is no traditional precedent for this; it is a blank sheet of paper, to use the current phrase. Of the fifty-seven songs on the CDs, twenty-seven are accompanied in this way, and although Peter would have been the first to admit he was not a great Anglo player and sometimes abandoned attempts to work out Anglo accompaniments because of his limitations, I think that, paradoxically, it was in his Anglo playing that he got closest to the traditional approach. Traditional musicians are often not great technicians; their quality lies in the fine-tuning of their music within the parameters of their technical ability, with a result that can be quite rudimentary, but polished to perfection. Peter’s song accompaniments fall within this definition.

Peter’s approach was to play chords, often in both hands, and to carry the tune—or snatches of it—over the top, with the occasional embellishment (e.g., ‘Way Down Town’). One of his concertinas had two small levers on the left hand that could be brought across the thumb button and the far left button of the top row so that these notes permanently sounded. Another adaptation was a layer of baffling immediately below the fretwork to soften the sound. (The lady’s garter round the end served no practical purpose!)

It is a feature of the Anglo that in the main keys a simple change of bellows direction is often all that it takes to provide the next note or chord. Beginners are always warned against such laziness, as it deprives the Anglo of the crispness that is its birthright. Peter, however, chose to do this, and like everything he did this was quite deliberate; it is the most distinctive feature of his concertina style and one which makes his playing instantly recognisable. His big, smooth chords laid a sure yet soft foundation for the razor edge of his voice and often the additional brightness of a fiddle, and he could supply the full range of expression, from the soft and wistful (‘Trees they do Grow High’) through the bouncy and rhythmic (‘Back to the Army Again’), with every shade in between.

Over this versatile and thoughtful accompaniment there is the eccentric but controlled voice which repays listening over and over again. Peter walked the tightrope between the mask of the traditional singer and the necessity of working the song for a contemporary audience, and he walked it with surety and finesse.

This CD set, then, stands as a superb tribute and celebration of a musician and a scholar. Like his hero, Kipling, Peter was a man of great compassion and humanity, and like Kipling he was too readily misunderstood.

Peter’s natural venue was the Folk Club. In England, this odd creation of the second half of the twentieth century was the joint product of the reviving interest in traditional song and the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) movement with its singer-songwriters and ‘protest songs’. This musical combination, which was so seamless in America in the persons of Guthrie, Seeger, and Dylan, produced an odd amalgam in England, and an evening in such a club can now provide a bizarre diet of anything from the most obscure traditional item to a song from Cole Porter. While in many clubs ‘if it’s acoustic, it’s OK’ holds sway, others apply much more rigid rules. Peter Bellamy was once offered a club booking on condition he didn’t sing any Kipling! There is also a much more defined sense of performance, of artist, and of audience, than exists in the Traditional setting.

I mention this because it is the context for Sarah Graves’s Black Boxes and an explanation for a CD which contains traditional and contemporary tunes and songs from writers in the contemporary folk style as well as from The Travelling Wilbury’s. (Bellamy/Kipling’s very early ‘Oak, Ash and Thorn’ is here too!)

Sarah plays the English system and plays it very, very well. Because of the context (explained above), it is a very multifaceted CD, and Sarah takes all the elements in her stride. The concert-based approach to the Morris tunes would be as much use to a dancer as a rubber stick, but the arrangements are fine and sensitive and highlight the tunes’ subtle beauty; the driving attack of the session tunes proves Sarah’s versatility and command of her instrument and should be compulsory listening for all those who want to get some real bounce into tunes on the English system; the Anglo’s ‘Concertina Reel’ gets a thorough workout on Sarah’s English. She’s a very good singer too, as her ‘Country Blue’ shows (nice to hear local hero Adrian May’s writing talents getting sound recognition!) One of the perks of reviewing is that sometimes something comes along that we might otherwise have missed. A small-issue CD like this could be a case in point; I would consider myself the poorer if I hadn’t heard it. I recommend it.

It appears to be a phenomenon of English female concertina players that they favour the English system over the Anglo almost without exception. Katie Howson comes to mind as an exception, but she is foremost a female melodeon player (and there aren’t many of those either). By contrast, in Irish music where the whole tradition is hugely male dominant at home and abroad—particularly in the older generation—there are some blindingly good female Anglo players. Mrs Elizabeth Crotty, whose CD I reviewed a few years ago for the ICA’s Concertina World (No. 417, December 1999, pp. 19-21), and Mrs Ellen O’Dwyer, who was a star of the Free Reed field trips in the 1970s (I’ve heard rumours of reissues—let’s hope so!), were players who stood head and shoulders above many of their male counterparts. Clachán Music have now released recordings of Kitty Hayes, another mature exponent of the gentle, lilting, and beautifully paced style of County Clare. Too much Irish music is currently played too fast; reels are usually fairly fast, but the other rhythms do not have to be, and too often subtleties of phrasing and tempo are ironed out (or steamrollered over!) by taking tunes unnecessarily quickly. Kitty Hayes’s sense of pace is superb throughout this recording session which apparently took place during one day in her home, a context which can only help the relaxed style of her playing. As if to make this point, the CD begins with two sets of reels taken very steadily so that the final notes of the phrases have the time to swell, rise, and hang on for just that split second before the next phrase comes in, creating a tension and excitement that faster playing cannot achieve. This continues throughout the recordings of jigs, hornpipes, more reels, and one song which make up the fifteen tracks. Throughout, the left hand works more than is usual with many players and there is a minimum of decoration on the right and only the slightly halting start of ‘Cooleys Jigs’ gives just a hint of the informality of the recording’s venue.

I have only one small reservation about this otherwise superb release. The liner notes give no information about the concertina itself, and I am forced to conclude that it is not a very good one. Clicks and air-intakes are inevitable in a closely miked recording, but the reeds sound thin and a bit choked. Fortunately this doesn’t detract from a masterful performance.

Teaching has always been a part of the Irish tradition, both formal lessons and the simple sharing of ideas and techniques by older players who have always been keen to encourage and help the next generations of players and dancers. (I have been present at Irish sessions in London pubs where the age range of the musicians has spanned over 50 years!) It was inevitable that the digital world of the CDRom would enter this, as all other forms of teaching.

Niall Vallely is a player of exceptional technical ability and comes from a family firmly rooted and active in Traditional Irish music and with a number of notable players. He is also an experienced teacher.

This CDRom falls into four sections, with navigation being very straightforward. There is a basic introduction to the instrument with a useful and clear section on basic music theory. I firmly believe that those who play by ear should have this knowledge if only because it is the language in which musicians communicate. What is here is sound and sufficient. Next there are two sections of tunes: ‘Beginners’ and ‘Advanced’. The tunes are given in conventional musical notation with some opening remarks and then are available in a simple performance of the separate parts with both ends of the concertina clearly visible by the use of an inset. (I found this hard to assimilate; perhaps it takes time.) The more advanced tunes are also played in full at the appropriate speed. Vallely pays particular attention to the use of ornamentation. It is not possible to view the musical notation and the performance simultaneously (unless you use two screens and two browsers), but the printable version of the score is perfectly adequate if a viewable copy is required. The fourth section is about Niall Vallely himself and contains some brief personal comments on the music.

It is possible to teach technique; it is much harder to teach style and musical understanding, both of which are essential in good Irish music. Style and feel come by absorption and osmosis, and when the teacher is a machine this is far removed. Vallely himself says ‘…people have to learn the tune as well as the instrument…buy the Cds…absorb the feel…’.

Beginners and intermediate players of Irish music will find this well-made and carefully conceived CDRom very useful. Then play your Kitty Hayes CD!

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The Anglo Concertina Music of William Kimber


The Anglo Concertina Music of William Kimber, by Dan M. Worrall.
London: English Folk Dance and Song Society, 2005. ix + 85 pp.
ISBN-13 978 0 85418 194 0.


Not to be outdone by the handbell ringers and carol singers, William Kimber (1872-1961) and the rest of the Headington Quarry Morris dancers went ‘dancing out’ on a snowy Boxing Day (December 26th), 1899. Visiting the Oxford countryside, the composer Cecil Sharp heard the joyful sound of Kimber’s Anglo concertina and invited Kimber to visit him the next day. Sharp notated two of Kimber’s Morris tunes, published and promoted his own piano arrangements of them, and embarked on a long career as the premier collector, promoter, and champion of English folk music and dance traditions. For many years, the two men consistently delighted lecture hall audiences. The sophisticated, articulate, urbane Mr. Sharp spoke, while Mr. Kimber, simultaneously modest, rural, and elegant, demonstrated Morris dancing and performed on the Anglo concertina in his distinctive and masterful harmonic style. One of the tunes that Sharp would collect from Kimber was Country Gardens, which was borrowed by the composer Percy Grainger, whose arrangements became famous worldwide and are still played today. Kimber made the first known recordings on the Anglo concertina in the 1930s, and many of them have been kept available by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, including the 1999 collection, Absolutely Classic: The Music of William Kimber (EFDSS, CD 03).

Dan Worrall has listened to these old recordings and faithfully transcribed twenty-eight tunes in such detail that a present-day Anglo player can duplicate Kimber’s exact melody and voicing of chords right off the page. For years, aspiring Anglo students have listened to Kimber’s recordings for inspiration, and Worrall’s book now provides them with a welcome guide to unraveling the mysteries of Kimber’s idiosyncratic style on an equally idiosyncratic instrument.

This excellent book is both scholarly and accessible, as Worrall’s writing is at once extensively documented and lucid. The transcriptions fill just over half of the eighty-five wire-bound pages, the remainder of the volume being a trove of information, photographs, musical analysis, and anecdotes that place Kimber’s music in a rich social context. The book includes: (1) a concise and comprehensive history of the Anglo concertina, covering its distinctive features, development, and playing styles; (2) a brief biography of and stories about Kimber, his dancing and playing, and his family and community life; (3) a detailed analysis of Kimber’s harmonic playing style, including its relation to the Morris tradition and how his playing compares with other Anglo styles and techniques; (4) extensive notes on the tunes, with discussions of their origins, structures, associated lyrics, quotations, and stories; (5) the invaluable transcriptions themselves; and, finally (6) a complete discography of Kimber’s recordings.

Worrall relates the fascinating history of how the Anglo concertina developed from its origins in the simplest of free-reed instruments: the German mouth harp (or harmonica) invented around 1825. Soon after came a number of single-action bellows instruments (each button plays two pitches, one on the push and one on the draw) based on the same basic diatonic system: the one-row accordion, the one-row concertina with five buttons per side, and, with the addition of another row of five buttons a fifth away, the basic 20-button Anglo (-German) concertina. Eventually, additional buttons were added (I play a 45-button Jeffries, circa 1895) in various configurations to make up for the limitations of the 20-button version that, however, still forms the heart of today’s standard 30-button, three-row instrument.

The period during which William Kimber recorded the tunes that Worrall transcribes extended from the 1930s to 1956. However, evidence strongly suggests that Kimber’s Morris tunes were closely derived from what his father—William Kimber, Sr (1849-1931)—played some sixty years before the earliest recordings. Kimber Senior was among the first to use the newfangled concertina for Morris dancing, in the 1870s, when even the fiddle was considered a deviation from the traditional pipe and tabor and the tunes were played without harmonic accompaniment. Perhaps the fundamental elements of the harmonic Anglo style had already arrived in the Oxford countryside by then. Or perhaps, as Worrall writes, the Kimbers ‘independently developed the style in isolation: . . .we may never know. Suffice it to say that William Kimber and his father were trend-setters in applying this style to traditional Morris dance music’ (pp. 5-6). In any event, Kimber Junior was proud to adhere so faithfully to his father’s music. As he famously recounted his father admonishing him: ‘These are the right notes, William, and don’t you play any others’ (p. viii).

Despite the Kimbers’ conservative approach to the Morris melodies, Worrall observes in the recordings a constant element of improvisation in the accompaniment. This keeps the music fresh and flexible throughout the numerous repetitions of a single, immutable melody. Worrall’s transcriptions clearly show this diversity through the multiple statements of the tunes. It is fascinating to see on the page how Kimber alters both the bass notes and the voicings of the chords, and switches from using two-note ‘chords’ to a simpler style of playing in octaves. One example shows a two-measure segment of Country Gardens accompanied four different ways. Worrall notes that the improvisational process can sound

extremely subtle to the listener (especially given the brisk tempo and very brief duration of each crisply played chord or chord fragment), it approaches the degree of frequent change in ornamentation in a traditionally played Irish tune. Such improvisation is ubiquitous in all of his playing, giving us some insight into the Kimbers’ approach to this music. Although the melody was seen as a part of a tradition being passed on to a new generation, the left- hand accompaniment was something of William Senior’s, and/or of his son’s, creation, and William Junior at least felt quite free to modify the left-hand accompaniment at will [p. 19].

William Kimber both danced and played concertina for his team, which may explain why his Anglo playing fits the dancing so well. Morris dancing is usually performed outdoors, with bells jingling and sticks clashing, and it is only natural to want the concertina to have the fullest sound possible. Kimber’s music is lively, brisk and percussive. The chords are short, sharp, and persistent to define the beat clearly. For the tunes in 4 there are persistent quarter-note chords, and for the jigs, equally persistent dotted-quarters predominate.

Kimber plays the melody mainly in the right hand, with the left hand playing chords, often simply two-note, adjacent-button pairs that play in thirds. The resulting harmony, as Worrall puts it, ‘follows the melody around the keyboard’ (p. 16). There are, however, often minor-mode harmonies in unexpected places, giving the music a ‘charm and quaintness’ (p. 16). To my ear, Kimber’s harmonies evoke the delightfully self-trained harmonic treatment heard in the eighteenth-century choral music of William Billings or early American shape-note hymns. This is not the modern style of ‘oom-pah’ playing, and the chords do not always follow the standard I – IV – V progressions. Rather, as Worrall writes:

The Kimbers’ approach. . .arose organically from their rural isolation, their lack of formal musical training, and their adoption of a relatively new instrument. They brought few preconceived notions of how chords for any of these heretofore unaccompanied Morris tunes should sound, and crafted their accompaniment within the limitations of the two-row concertina. Kimber’s [Junior’s] music thus gives a fresh and independent take on musical accompaniment, and stands in strong contrast to the frequent rigidity of standard musical fashion [p 16]..

Worrall’s transcriptions pack a lot of information onto the page, yet his layout is spacious and friendly. There are twenty-eight selections: Morris tunes, country dances, and popular melodies of the day. These are written in standard notation with two treble staves, the top staff being for the right hand and the bottom one for the left. The letters P and D indicate push and draw with respect to the direction of the bellows, and a single-digit number identifies the precise button used.

Though the transcriptions reflect Worrall’s keen ear, I have one misgiving about the layout. The button numbers, the P and D indications, and the letters that mark the sections are stacked above the staff in a way that sometimes places that information too far from the music to which it refers; occasionally these indications are actually closer to the two-staff system above them than they are to the one below, the one to which they belong. However, this is a minor quibble, and a close examination makes the meaning clear.

Whatever quibbles one might have, though, Worrall has made Kimber’s historic playing available to all in black and white, and for Anglo players willing to familiarize themselves with the notation, Worrall’s transcriptions will prove invaluable. Furthermore, Worrall’s book provides us with a detailed and scholarly work that should be of interest to anyone seeking to examine this particular aspect of the rich world of English folk traditions. In all, the book offers an essential guide to the life, times, and music of William Kimber. It is a pleasure to read, and the music is a pleasure to play.

Conquering the Concertina / The Concise English Concertina

Conquering the Concertina: A Comprehensive Guide to the English Concertina, by Les Branchett.
Gloucester: Sherborne House Publications, 2002. 49 pp.

The Concise English Concertina: A Tutor, by Dick Miles.
Cork: Milestone Publications, 2002.32 pp. € 17.

Reviewed by RACHEL HALL

Players of the English concertina fall into a number of categories in terms of their style of playing. There is the ‘classical’ school, which traces its lineage to a mixture of the Victorians—one thinks of Regondi, Blagrove, Case, et al.—and the somewhat later Eastern European school as exemplified, most notably, by the Matusewitch family. The great majority of players, of course, cultivate folk music of one sort or another: some play Irish music and/or a cross-cultural blend of American, Celtic, and Quebecois tunes that are common in the contradance repertory; some focus on English country dance music, while others use the instrument to accompany the voice. A few players have recently begun to revive a number of early twentieth-century traditions, namely those associated with the music hall and vaudeville, on the one hand, and the klezmerin, on the other. And finally, there are those who explore new directions, such as the jazz-inspired playing of Simon Thoumire.

Given this wide range of preferences and styles, how should the newcomer to the English concertina choose a tutor? Clearly, the answer depends on a combination of the player’s level of musical training and the style that he or she prefers. Most recent tutors for the instrument focus on single-line playing of Celtic or English folk tunes. Some also contain suggestions for accompanying songs. In general, these tutors assume an adult player with some prior musical training, an assumption that certainly fits the majority of players I know, most of whom take up the concertina as a second (or even third) instrument.

Two new tutors are now available: Les Branchett’s Conquering the Concertina and Dick Miles’s The Concise Guide to the English Concertina. Of the two, Branchett’s tutor aims at the more elementary level, though it covers a wider range of repertory, as it includes both well-known classical themes and popular songs. Miles, on the other hand, deals exclusively with the folk music of England and Ireland, and though nominally aimed at the beginner, it is really more appropriate for the intermediate player.

Starting with the assumption that ‘readers with at least a basic musical knowledge will wish to skip the preliminaries’ (in other words, the basics of musical notation), Branchett begins with a brief introduction to the keyboard, and follows immediately with the C-major scale, arpeggios, and several well-known melodies in that key (for example, ‘Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes’, and ‘Morning has Broken’). He then proceeds through the keys of G, D, F, and B flat (all major), offering, once again, scales, arpeggios, and tunes for each key. Obviously, this key-by-key method helps the beginner: it is easier to concentrate on learning to play in one key at a time, and Branchett’s use of familiar melodies eliminates some of the difficulties associated with learning unfamiliar material. Following all of this is a selection of pieces, including tunes with chords. Only after these does he address ‘the preliminaries’: general issues such as the basics of musical notation and how to hold the concertina. Finally, he has a section on harmonized scales and chords. In all, I recommend Conquering the Concertina for the beginner, though Branchett’s fairly gentle introduction to the elements of music will not be sufficient for someone with little or no musical training.

Miles’s introduction to the instrument is bound to frustrate the beginner, or at least one with little general experience in making music. For instance, while page 3 deals with so basic an item as holding the instrument, pages 7-8 throw the novice into the ‘Atholl Highlanders’—surely a tune for those with some facility—in A and B flat! On the other hand, Miles offers useful advice for the intermediate player: tips on ornamentation, fingering, and playing chords. Perhaps the most valuable feature of the tutor is the series of seven songs that Miles has arranged for voice and concertina, including two very satisfying treatments of ‘A Fair Maid Walking’.

My main complaint about many tutors for the English concertina is their neglect of how to use and control the bellows (one exception is Allan Atlas’s recent Contemplating the Concertina).1 To my mind, the bellows are the soul of the instrument. Without musically intelligent use of the bellows, the English concertina becomes a musical typewriter of sorts. And though full control of the bellows is difficult to achieve (more so than getting the right finger on the right button), players should be encouraged to explore this aspect of the instrument from the start. Here Branchett does a better job than most. He encourages the player to strive for a ‘bounce’ on some tunes, though he is vague about how this is done. One exercise that I often suggest is to repeat the same note (with or without changing fingers) while using pressure on the bellows to accent first every fourth note, then every third note, and finally every other note. For reels, practice accenting beat two and four of a 4/4 measure. Branchett also suggests that the player experiment with staccato and legato playing, phrasing, and a range of dynamics.

In the end, both Branchett and Miles satisfy a need among concertina players. I would recommend Branchett for the beginner, no matter what style he or she wishes to play. Miles, on the other hand, is probably most appropriate for the intermediate folk player, especially one interested in developing the art of song accompaniment. Both Branchett and Miles, then, have given us welcome additions to the growing number of tutors for the English concertina.2


1. The full title: Contemplating the Concertina: An Historically-Informed Tutor for the English Concertina (Amherst: The Button Box, 2003).

2. Since we’re not likely to see these tutors advertised in neon lights, certainly not in the States: Branchett’s tutor can be had from Sherborne House Publications, 25 Spa Road, Gloucester, GL1 1UY, UK; Miles’s from Dick Miles, Cooragurteen, Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland (or rjmiles@eircom.net).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some readers will no doubt notice that two other recent tutors are not reviewed here: my own Contemplating the Concertina (see note 1) and Pauline De Snoo’s Concertina Course, vol. 1 (Schijndel [NL]: De Snoo, 2002). To have included a review of my own tutor would have constituted a rather blatant conflict of interests. As for Ms De Snoo’s tutor: though we invited Ms De Snoo to send a review copy, she declined the invitation.

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For its Spring 2006 event, the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments at The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, will mount a concert titled ‘VIVA REGONDI’. Among the performers: concertinists Douglas Rogers, Wim Wakker, and Allan Atlas, together with guitarist Alexander Dunn, mezzo-soprano Julia Grella O’Connell, and pianist Jin-Ok Lee. As for the repertory, one thing seems fairly certain at this point: the concert will conclude with Regondi’s arrangement of melodies from Verdi’s La Traviata arranged for two trebles, baritone, and piano. This is likely the first live concert devoted entirely to Regondi’s music since he was laid to rest in 1872. The precise date, time, and venue: Friday, 17 March 2006, 7:30 P.M., Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (Fifth Avenue and 34th Street), New York. We will try to organize workshops for the following day. For further information: <http://web.gc.cuny.edu/freereed> (scroll down to ‘Announcements’ in the left-hand margin).

We might note the founding of a new scholarly society (and a very friendly one at that): the North American British Music Studies Association, which is devoted to fostering research on and performances of—as well as generally publicizing—the rich tradition of British music of all styles and periods. Information about NABMSA (yes, that ‘BM’ is tough) can be found at <http://www.nabmsa.org>. Needless to say, new members are always welcome!

On Friday, 18 June 2005, the Horniman Museum, London, went public with its digitized, online version of the twelve extant nineteenth-century Wheatstone ledgers/day books. Digitized by Robert Gaskins in truly spectacular fashion, the ledgers consist of nine sales ledgers, which are housed in the Wayne Archive (named after Neil Wayne) and list day-to-day sales of instruments from 1835 through 23 May 1870 (with names of buyers, serial numbers of instruments, and, as of 1 January 1851, prices paid), two salary books, one for 1845-1846, the other for 1848-1849, and one production book that dates and describes instruments with serial numbers 18061 (March 1866) – 21353 (22 December 1891) as they came off the ‘assembly line’. One can view the ledgers at <http://www.horniman.info>.

To understate things: with the ledgers now just a click-of-the-mouse away, the Horniman Museum and Robert Gaskins have provided an invaluable impetus to historical research on the concertina. Hats and thumb-straps off to both of them.

Two New Concertinas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Two New Concertinas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Introductory note by J. KENNETH MOORE

As part of a continuous effort to augment and refine its collection, The Department of Musical Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City purchased several free-reed instruments offered at a June 2003 auction in Vichy, France.

Among the instruments purchased were two concertinas manufactured by Wheatstone & Co. One is a very early English concertina, apparently without serial number (Acq. No. 2003.380— see Fig. 1). With its three-fold bellows, hexagonal rosewood casing, and twelve visible levers on each side (with mother-of-pearl key-flaps and ivory buttons), the instrument is a rare example of what Neil Wayne has dubbed Wheatstone’s early ‘open-pallet’ design, 1 and it can probably be dated from 1833-1834 by analogy with both Wheatstone’s well-known No. XXXII, currently housed at the Horniman Museum, London, as part of the Neil Wayne Collection, and an unnumbered Wheatstone in the private collection of Mr Stephen Chambers, Dublin. 2

The second purchase, dating from the 1850s, is an early ‘Duett’ concertina (Acq. No. 2003.381— see Fig. 2), designed in a way that permitted a melody, played in the right hand, to be joined by a simple accompaniment in the left hand. This instrument has a (German-looking) rectangular, mahogany casing, four-fold bellows, and twenty-four buttons, with a range of g to c’’’ (with the only ‘accidental’ being F sharp). 3 To help introduce the instrument, Wheatstone published an instruction book titled Instructions for Performing on Wheatstone’s Patent Duett Concertina (c. 1855),4 along with twelve books of arrangements of popular music. Both instruments were purchased with funds from the Robert Alonzo Lehman Bequest, and are currently on display along with other free-reed instruments, including a Wheatstone symphonion (Acq. No. 89.4.2985).

The museum’s collection also houses two other concertinas of note: another Wheatstone English, No. 11758, probably dating from late 1861/early 1862 (Acq. No. 89.4.1124),5 and a twentieth-century Lachenal, No. 46875 (Acq. No. 63.211.5a,b), which belonged to the well-known folk-singer Burl Ives (1909-1995), who donated it to the museum in 1963. 6

Within the next year the department hopes to mount a temporary exhibition of a selection of its free-reed instruments in the Musical Instrument Galleries.

Finally, the Department of Musical Instruments welcomes serious researchers by appointment. For access, please contact the department at the following address: Department of Musical Instruments, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028.


1. See Neil Wayne, ‘The Wheatstone English Concertina’, Galpin Society Journal, 44 (1991),Plate 2; this article is now available online:< http://www.free-reed.co.uk/galpin>.
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2. Wheatstone No. XXXII is Item CMC 1278 in the Wayne Collection; for a photograph, see the article in note 1; there is a photograph of the instrument in the Chambers collection in Stephen Chambers, ‘An Annotated Catalogue of Historic Free-Reed Instruments from My Private Collection’, in Harmonium und Handharmonika: Bericht des 20. Musikinstrumentbau-Symposiums 1999. Michaelsteiner Konferenzberichte, 62, ed. Monika Lustig (Blankenburg: Stiftung Kloster Michaelstein, 2002), Plate 10; now available online: http://www.maccann-duet.com/. Developed by Mr Robert Gaskins, the website http://www.maccann-duet.com contains a rich collection of materials relating to the concertina, especially the Duett/Duet concertina.
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3. On the early Wheatstone Duetts, the fingering system of which eventually formed the core of John Hill Maccann’s later Maccann-system Duet, see Robert Gaskins, ‘Early Wheatstone Duett System Duets’, online: http://www.maccann-duet.com/. The instrument is ‘German-looking’ enough to have deceived those who compiled the auction catalogue into attributing it to Friedrich Uhlig of Chemnitz.
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4. The tutor is conveniently available online: http://www.maccann-duet.com/, as is the first known advertisement for the instrument, which appeared in the Daily News (London), No. 3064 (13 March 1856), 1: http://www.maccann-duet.com/.
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5. Although the Wheatstone sales ledger C1052 (Horniman Museum, London, Wayne Archive), which lists sales from 21 October 1859 to 30 April 1864, does not have a notice for this particular instrument, we may note the following: (1) an instrument numbered in the 11700s (No. 11734) is sold for the first time on 3 September 1861 (p. 57); (2) the first instrument from the 11750s sequence (No. 11753) was sold on 9 January 1862 (p. 64); and (3) No. 11759 was sold on 21 February 1862 (p. 66). My thanks to Allan Atlas for this information.
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6. I should note that this concertina was actually used in performance by Allan Atlas at a concert given at the museum in December 1997.
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Fig. 1. An early Wheatstone English concertina, ‘open-pallet’ design, c. 1833-1834

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Fig. 2. Early Wheatstone “Duett” Concertina; c. 1850

Ms Mary Baker with Concertina, c. 1857


Ms Mary Baker with Concertina, c. 1857


The PICTURE GALLERY for this issue features a photograph—after a daguerreotype from the London studio of Antoine Claudet, c. 1857—of Ms Mary Baker (d. 1882), nicknamed ‘Min’, holding an English concertina, probably a Wheatstone (see picture).

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Mary ‘Min’ Baker (d. 1882), as shown in a photograph after a daguerreotype
by Antoine Claudet, c. 1857; reproduced courtesy of the Rev. Ian Graham

Mary was one of seven children born to a well-to-do family of merchants with extensive sugar holdings in Jamaica and Mauritius. In 1855, Mary, still unwed (she eventually married into a family named Cawsten), became the surrogate mother to the children of her widowed brother Samuel White Baker (1821-1893), who, after his wife passed away that year, sought solace in hunting and travel. In fact, Sam Baker became well known as a big-game hunter and explorer, and together with his second wife, Florence Szasz (von Sass), set out to search for the source of the Nile and eventually discovered Lake Albert (named after Prince Albert) in 1864 (for which he was knighted in 1866).1

What is particularly interesting about the photo of Mary and her concertina is that we may be able to identify the instrument she is holding and when she bought it. As Allan Atlas has suggested, Mary may well be the Miss Baker who purchased Wheatstone no. 6628 for twelve guineas on 31 October 1854, and later treated herself to two more concertinas: on 3 December 1858, when she borrowed Wheatstone 10663, and 27 August 1859, when she paid £2.0.0 for Wheatstone 9981.2

Finally, Mary might not have been the only member of the family who played the concertina, as the Wheatstone sales ledgers also record transactions for a Mrs and Mr Baker, with the latter having purchased his concertina on 23 August 1859, just four days prior to Ms Baker’s final transaction.


1. I tell the story of the Bakers’ exploration in To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa (New York: William Morris, 2004).
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2. See his ‘Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers: The Gendered Concertina in Victorian England, 1835-1870’, forthcoming in the Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 39 (2006). The three transactions are recorded in the Wheatstone sales ledgers: 31 October 1854 in C1049, p. 29; 3 December 1858 in C1051, p. 54; and 27 August 1859 in C1051, p. 85. The ledgers are housed at the Horniman Museum, London, Wayne Archive, and appear online at www.horniman.info.
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Two Salvation Army Concertina Bands


Two Salvation Army Concertina Bands

Introductory Note by CHRIS ALGAR

Founded as a Mission in 1865 (its name was changed to the present one in 1878), the Salvation Army began as a movement to work amongst the poor in order to help alleviate their hardship. No doubt, the concertina was adopted early in the movement’s history because it was portable and thus suitable for the outdoor meetings that, in the early days, made up the bulk of the Army’s services. Our two photos of Salvation Army Concertina Bands illustrate the change that took place in their make-up during the early twentieth century.

As the photo of the Norwich Citadel Band (1907) makes clear (see Figure 1), the concertina of choice, at least early on, was the Anglo, perhaps because it had the advantage of being the least expensive of the concertinas, and thus the one most likely to be found in the hands of the people to which the Army ministered. The photo shows a band made up of twenty-one Anglos, at least three of which are Jeffries/Crabb-type instruments; in addition, there are a number of twenty-six-button Anglos, which, from the evidence of their gold tooling, might also be of the Jeffries/Crabb type.

Fig.1 The Norwich Citadel Band (1907)

In contrast, the Sergeants’ International Training College Band of 1931 (see Figure 2) had nine concertinas (alongside the brass instruments that were beginning to replace them). Here there are at least five English concertinas—including an Aeola and an instrument recognizable as having been made by George Case—and at least two Triumph Duets. There is not a trace of an Anglo.

The Sergeants International Training College (1931)

This change in instrumentation appears to have taken place around the end of World War I. Prior to that time, it seems that the Anglo was the concertina of choice, only to be supplanted by war’s end by the English and the Duet. I suspect that the reason had to do with versatility: both English and Duet are completely chromatic, with the former being available in models whose ranges extended from bass to piccolo.

Finally, I recently bought a Lachenal amboyna Edeophone from an Army contact: appropriately, it had been painted black!

Barbara Bartell and her Golden Edeophone


Barbara Bartell and her Golden Edeophone

Introductory Note by CHRIS ALGAR

Our picture gallery features a publicity photo of Barbara Bartell (see Fig. 1), a 1920s-30s ‘variety artiste’ whom I met in the early 1980s when, well along in years, she was living in a Brixton (London) flat.

I was introduced to Barbara by her former theatrical agent after I had appeared on television, talking about concertinas. Barbara wanted to sell her two instruments, so I went to London to see her, and learned a good deal in the process.

Barbara was one of two daughters of Mr Stephen Bartle (she adopted ‘Bartell’ as her stage name), who, she told me, had been the ‘World Concertina Champion’ prior to Alexander Prince. When Barbara and her sister were of an age to perform (six or seven), they were taught the concertina, and, with their parents, formed the Royal Bartle Quartet (a performance before the royal family contributed to the name), which made a reputation for itself in the music halls. Barbara, of course, became an outstanding entertainer in her own right, playing concertina and musical glasses. She also did a lot of pantomime, usually as the principal boy (that is, the role of the juvenile male, customarily played by a young lady).

Both of the Bartle sisters played custom-built Lachenal Edeophones, which were made for them under special circumstances: while the Bartles paid for the parts, Lachenal provided the labour free of charge as a tribute to their father. The instruments were dazzling: amboyna casing, brown bellows, all finished off with gold-plated ends, buttons, and fittings.

I bought Barbara’s concertina, along with a miniature soprano that belonged to her father. (Her sister’s Edeophone was eventually purchased by one of the Richardson Brothers of Boys of the Lough fame.) And though I kept the instrument for some years, I eventually passed it on to a wonderful young musician in the Lake District who still plays it.

Looking back at the visit, I now have one regret. Though Barbara offered me a trunk-full of musical memorabilia—posters, programs, photographs, etc.—I politely turned down the offer down since I had no way of taking the materials with me. I guess they are now lost forever. I hope, though, that this little Picture Gallery feature will go some way in restoring the names of both Barbara Bartell and her father, who, though rarely mentioned nowadays, were once among the finest players of their generations.

POSTSCRIPT: My good friend Richard Harrison of Ferrybridge, Yorkshire, a concertinist and collector of 78-rpm concertina recordings, has a rare copy of Stephen Bartle playing ‘Hornpipe Medley/Under the Freedom Flag’ on a World War I-vintage recording issued on the Olympic label (No. 173). It features Bartle on English concertina with piano accompaniment; and, as Richard says, the playing is ‘brilliant’, even more engaging than that on the many 78s that he has of Alexander Prince.

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Fig. 1. Barbara Bartell and her golden Edeophone as shown in a publicity photo from the 1930s (courtesy of Chris Algar, Barleycorn Concertinas).

Concertinas in The Times, 1860


Concertinas in The Times, 1860


In my research for a forthcoming article, ‘Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers: The Gendered Concertina in Victorian England, 1835-1870’,1 I had occasion to sift through the pages of three years worth of The Times (1845, 1855, and 1860) in search of references to the concertina.2 I was not disappointed: notices about the concertina abound, and they contribute powerfully toward the history—the social history in particular—of the instrument in mid-Victorian England.

What follows are seven notices—with brief comments—from the pages of The Times for 1860.

* * * * * * * *

20 April (p. 3): AN AMATEUR is desirous of joining a select MUSICAL PARTY for mutual improvement in concerted music, either instrumental or mixed. Plays the bass concertina, and would take either the bassoon or alto part. Address, with full particulars, to Basso, Stanesby’s Library, Sloane-street, Chelsea.

By ‘alto part’ the writer refers to the viola, and thus attests to the practice of concertinists—both professional and amateur—to form ensembles in which they availed themselves of the string quartet literature. The opportunity to delve into this repertory was especially welcome among women, since string instruments were more or less off limits to them until the final quarter of the century.3

20 April (p. 3): MRS. ARTHUR STONE begs to announce she continues to give LESSONS in SINGING, and on the guitar and concertina—169, Great Portland-street, Portland-place, W.

Mrs Stone is listed as a Professor of Music in the Musical Directory, Register and Almanack for 1855 (p. 70), at which time she resided at 18 Great Portland Street. A frequent visitor to Wheatstone’s shop on Conduit Street—the Wheatstone sales ledgers record nine transactions for her from the late 1840s to 1859—she was one of twelve concertinists who participated together with Richard Blagrove and George Case at a mammoth concertina concert—it featured an ensemble of twelve concertinas—in June 1848. Finally, she is but one of a number of women who played and taught both concertina and guitar.4

19 June (p. 5): GERMAN and ENGLISH CONCERTINA MUSIC:— Regondi’s 200 sacred airs, 1s., and his 200 miscellaneous airs, 1s, for the German concertina; or both works, bound in one vol., cloth, gilt edges, 3s.; Regondi’s celebrated Hand-book, a complete tutor or the German concertina, with 60 melodies (100th edition), 1s.; Regondi’s German Concertina Melodist, in 18 Nos. (30 airs in each), 6d. each; Sedgwick’s 200 airs for the English concertina, 1s.; upwards of 100 books, 1s. each, of vocal and instrumental music. Published only at the Musical Bouquet office, 192, High Holborn.

23 June (p. 1): NOTICE.—Signor GIULIO REGONDI has never Composed or arranged any music for an instrument so called the German concertina.

This is fascinating! Regondi adamantly denies having anything to do with the German concertina (‘Anglo-German’) tutors and song collections that the firm of Charles Sheard was issuing under his name. Clearly, Sheard was cashing in on Regondi’s fame.5

13 July (p. 3): SHELLS of OCEAN, the beautiful Fantasia by [William] Abbot, 3s.; 88th edition of the song, 2s.6d.; two voices, 2s.6d.; glee, 2s.6d.; guitar, 1s.6d.; concertina and piano, 2s; piano duet, 3s.—Holloway, publisher, Hanwaystreet, Oxford-street, W., where may be had all the best music at half-price.

This advertisement attests to the common practice of arranging hit songs for myriad instruments and ensembles. The original song, ‘I Wandered on the Sea-Beat Shore, or The Shells of the Ocean’, was written by Cherry and Lake and published by Holloway & Co. in 1855. William Abbott’s ‘Fantasia’ was one of a number of arrangements for piano.6 I do not know who arranged the song for concertina.

26 July (p. 4): EDUCATION (superior) for YOUNG LADIES: inclusive terms 40 guineas a year.—In old-established finishing school, of high standing, conducted by a lady of talent, assisted by English and foreign governesses and eminent masters daily for all the accomplishments. The instruction comprehends all the higher branches of English, modern languagues, piano, singing, concertina, guitar, drawing, dancing, and calisthenics. The domestic arrangements are on a most liberal scale. The residence is a spacious mansion, delightfully situate, with extensive garden, and the locality not to be surpassed for salubrity. Address A.B., 9, Stanley-gardens, Kensington-park.

14 November (p. 3): MORNING or DAILY GOVERNESS.—A married lady, accustomed to tuition, wishes an ENGAGEMENT. She teaches piano, harp, concertina, singing, French, and Italian fluently, drawing, rudiments of German, and all other requisites To a Lady’s education.—A.B., 5, Lyndon-street, Sussex-gardens, Hyde-park.

These two notices express in quintessential fashion the Victorian notion that, for the well-bred young woman, music was a necessary ‘accomplishment’. They also show that the successful governess had to possess a background in music, with the concertina—and we are dealing with the English concertina only—taking its place alongside the piano, harp, and guitar among instruments that were considered suitable for women.7


1. To appear in the Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 39 (2006).
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2. For his help with the task, I am grateful to Mr Robert Wood, a candidate for the Ph.D. in Music at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York.
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3. On the gendering of string instruments, particularly the violin, see the fine survey in Paula Gillett, Musical Women in England, 1870-1914: “Encroaching on all Man’s Privileges” (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 77-140.
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4. On Mrs Stone, see Atlas, ‘Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers’, which also discusses the intersection between concertina and guitar circles, the most important female member of which was undoubtedly Catherina Josepha Pelzer, later Mrs R. Sidney Pratten. There is a review of the 1848 concert in The Musical World, xxiii/23 (3 June 1848), 3; a similar concert in May 1851, organized by Case, featured an arrangement of Rossini’s Overture to William Tell for twelve concertinas; see Atlas, The Wheatstone English Concertina in Victorian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 68. The nine extant Wheatstone sales ledgers, preserved in the Wayne Archive of the Horniman Museum, London, are available online at www.horniman.info.
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5. The tutors are listed in Randall C. Merris, ‘Instruction Manuals for the English, Anglo, and Duet Concertina: An Annotated Bibliography’, The Free-Reed Journal, 4 (2002 ), 111-12; an updated version of the article appears online at www.concertina.com/merris/index.html.
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6. There is a list of arrangements in the British Library’s Integrated Catalogue, online at http://catalogue.bl.uk.
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7. See my ‘Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers’ for a fuller discussion of the concertina’s role.
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George Grove’s Article on the ‘Concertina’ in the First Edition of A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1878)


George Grove’s Article on the ‘Concertina’ in the First Edition of A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1878)

Introductory Note by ALLAN ATLAS

Published by Macmillan & Co. in four volumes over the course of eleven years—from 1878 to 1889—Sir George Grove’s A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) is a landmark in English-language musical lexicography. Its main goal was, as stated in a pre-publication announcement, to correct the following situation:

There is no one work in English from which an intelligent inquirer can learn, in small compass and in untechnical language, what is meant by a Symphony or Sonata, a Fugue…or any other of the terms which necessarily occur in every description or analysis of a Concert or a piece of Music; or from which he can gain a readable and succinct account of the history of the various branches of the art, or of the rise and progress of the Pianoforte and other instruments, or the main facts and characteristics of the lives of eminent Musicians.1

As such, Grove had an agenda: to teach the public (or at least the ‘cultivated’ portion thereof) about music, specifically the ‘high-brow’ music that was then in the process of being canonized and that his readers would have heard in the concert hall and upper-class drawing rooms. And among the things that he thought worthwhile informing them about was the concertina.

What must strike the present-day concertinist immediately—and perhaps it would have been noticed even by contemporary readers of the Dictionary—is that Grove accounts for one type of concertina only: the ‘English’. Nowhere is there even an allusion to the existence of the ‘Anglo’ or the ‘Duet’, though these would certainly have been known to—if not loved and easily distinguished by—Grove’s ‘intelligent inquirer’ through their presence in such places as street corners and other venues that made up the everyday Victorian soundscape. This, of course, should not surprise us. It is simply a consequence of the English concertina’s contemporary presence in the concert hall and upper-class musical circles in general (though by the late 1870s this was already on the wane), its chamber music repertory (cited in part by Grove), and Grove’s (and thus his Dictionary’s) own prejudices and personal tastes. In other words, it was only in the form of the English that the concertina and Grove’s agenda could share common ground.2

Beyond that, Grove’s article calls for a few comments with respect to its claims about both the instrument and its repertory.

(1) Grove writes that the concertina was ‘patented by the late Sir Charles Wheatstone June 19, 1829’. Now there are two patents that are pertinent to Grove’s claim: No. 5803 of 1829, which deals mainly with the Symphonion, but which alludes to what is at least the drawing-board state of the concertina—though without referring to it by name—in its drawings of a bellows-driven instrument; and No. 10041 of 1844, which offers a full-blown description of the English concertina as it then existed. Now even if the 1844 patent is ‘the definitive concertina patent’, as Neil Wayne calls it,3 Grove was quite right in dating the original patent from 1829. For instance, when Giulio Regondi performed in Ireland in 1834-1835, The Dublin Evening Post announced his concert of 12 June 1834 as follows: ‘Master G Regondi … intends to give two Musical Entertainments on the Guitar and on Wheatstone’s Patent Concertina …’.4 Likewise, when Regondi performed at London’s Haymarket on 28 June 1837, his instrument was once again described as the ‘Patent Concertina’.5 Moreover, as Stephen Chambers has pointed out, Wheatstone’s first real competitor, Joseph Scates, set up shop as a concertina manufacturer in his own right in 1844, that is, the very year in which the patent of 1829 would have run its fourteen-year course (and to chalk that up as sheer coincidence strains creditability).6 Finally, we may clinch the case for Grove. As Wheatstone’s claimed in their price list of 1848, titled The Concertina, A New Musical Instrument …: ‘No instruments, except those manufactured by Messrs. WHEATSTONE and Co. are constructed with the improvements for which a second Patent [my italics] was obtained by them in February, 1844 …’.7

(2) Grove claims that the treble is a ‘double’action instrument (producing ‘the same note both on drawing and pressing the bellows’), while tenor (about which, more presently), bass, and double bass are ‘single’action instruments (producing ‘the sound by pressure only’). He thus uses the ‘single/double’ terminology in two different ways: first to distinguish the English treble from the Anglo, on which the buttons produce different pitches depending on the direction of the bellows, and then to identify instruments that sound only when the bellows are being pressed in. It is a confusing use of the ‘single/double’action terminology, one that persists even today.

(3) With his statement that the tenor concertina is a single-action instrument (that is, that it sounds only when the bellows are going in), Grove opens up a can of worm-like questions at which we can only hint here.8 For instance, the Lachenal price lists of 1859 and 1862 make it clear that ‘Tenor or Baritone’ concertinas are double-action instruments.9 On the other hand, the Wheatstone sales ledger C1052 (p. 35) records the following transaction for 7 November 1860: ‘Boucher [name of customer] —— SH [second hand] Single Act[ion] Tenor’,10 while Rock Chidley exhibited both single- and double-action tenors at the Great Exhibition of 1851.11 Thus tenors were available as both single- and double-action instruments.

But what was the mid-century tenor concertina? As noted above, the Lachenal price lists refer to ‘Tenor or Baritone’ (my italics), and then go on to describe ‘Tenor or Baritone’ as sounding one octave lower than the treble, in which case their lowest note would be G. If, however, they shared the same range, how did they differ from one another? To add to the confusion: the Wheatstone price list of 1848 (see note 7) states that the tenor goes down only to c (an octave beneath middle C), so that it does not reach an octave below the treble (as the Lachenal advertisements claim it does), omits any reference to the baritone altogether, and says nothing about the single- or double-action question. And to further muddy the waters: although I am acquainted with a fair amount of Victorian music for baritone concertina (by Regondi and Case, among others), as I am also with the repertory for concertina ensembles (usually calling for some combination of treble(s) and baritone, with bass thrown in on occasion), I have yet to see a piece that called for tenor concertina. On the other hand, John Hill Maccann’s The Concertinist’s Guide (1888), notes that ‘At the Inventions Exhibition Messrs. Wheatstones’ Recitals … were greatly admired, and the Quartettes … were played on the Treble, Tenor [my italics], and Bass Concertinas …’ (p. 3);12 the Lachenal sisters performed on trebles, tenor, and bass when they toured Scotland in 1865-1866;13 and William Cawdell speaks of ensembles that consisted of tenors and baritones.14 In the end, then, the term ‘tenor’ may well have been applied to more than one kind of concertina, may have varied in its meaning from one manufacturer to another, and may have changed at least some of its characteristics as the second half of the century rolled along.

(4) Much of the music cited by Grove was seemingly never published and is apparently lost. Thus we no longer have either Molique’s concerto in D (while Regondi’s E-flat concerto survives only in manuscript) or the series of pieces by Silas, while Macfarren’s Quintet, the two-movement Romance and Allegro agitato, reaches us only as a single-movement Romance for concertina and piano.15

Grove’s article on the concertina appeared in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. I/fasc. 4 (London: Macmillan, 1878), 386-87.


CONCERTINA, a portable instrument of the Seraphine family, patented by the late Sir Charles Wheatstone June 19, 1829.

It is hexagonal, and has a keyboard at each end, with expansible bellows between the two. The sound is produced by the pressure of air from the bellows on free metallic reeds. The compass of the treble concertina is four octaves [a music example shows the range extending from g to g’’’’, and thus a 56-button instrument], through which it has a complete chromatic scale. This instrument is double action, and produces the same note both on drawing and pressing the bellows. Much variety of tone can be obtained by a skilful player, and it has the power of being played with great expression and complete sostenuto and staccato. Violin, flute, and oboe music can be performed on it without alteration; but music written specially for the concertina cannot be played on any other instrument, except the organ or harmonium. Nothing but the last-named instruments can produce at once the extended harmonies, the sostenuto and staccato combined, of which the concertina is capable. There are also tenor, bass, and double bass concertinas, varying in size and shape. These instruments are single-action, producing the sound by pressure only, and are capable of taking tenor, bass, and double bass parts without alteration. The compass of these is as follows—[a music example shows the ranges of the three instruments: tenor = c – c’’’; bass = C – c’’; double bass = C’ – c’] making the total range of the four instruments 6 5/8 octaves. The late Signor Regondi was the first to make the instrument known, and was followed by Mr. George Case. Mr. Richard Blagrove is now the principal performer and professor. Among the music written specially for the instrument are 2 Concertos in G and D for solo concertina and orchestra, by Molique; 2 ditto ditto in D and Eb, by G. Regondi; Sonata for piano and concertina in Bb, by Molique; Quintet for concertina and strings, by G. A. Macfarren; Adagio for 8 concertinas in E, by E. Silas; Quintet in D for piano, concertina, violin, viola, and cello, by the same; 6 Trios for piano, concertina, and violin, by the same. Much brilliant salon music has also been written for it. Messrs. Wheatstone & Co. are the best makers. [G.]


1. ‘Preparing for Publication: the Dictionary of Music…’ (London: Macmillan, March 1874); cited after Leanne Langley, ‘Roots of a Tradition: the First Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, in George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, ed. Michael Musgrave (London: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003), 169; Langley’s article provides a fascinating glimpse into the Dictionary’s concept, design, editorial processes, publication, and reception. For a well-rounded portrait of the multi-talented Grove (1820-1900)—he was an engineer, biblical scholar, long-time editor of Macmillan’s Magazine, secretary of and writer of program notes for the Crystal Palace concerts, authority on the music of Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn, and first director of the Royal College of Music—see the collection of articles just cited; for a biography, see Percy Young, George Grove, 1820-1900 (London: Macmillan, 1980). Finally, the Dictionary itself went through five editions as of 1954 (with a change of name along the way to Grove’s Dictionary); in 1980 the Dictionary was totally revamped, expanded, made more global-minded, and renamed The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which in turn has now gone through a second, revised edition of 2001; note that New Grove/2 is available online at <http://www.grovemusic.com>, though a subscription is necessary.

2 Indeed, it was not until the Dictionary was totally overhauled in 1980 as The New Grove Dictionary (see note 1) that it began to afford proper and ample coverage to the likes of folk, popular, and non-western music traditions (as well as to the instruments with which those musics are made). Admittedly, my own article on the concertina in The New Grove/2, vi, 236-40, lavishes more space on the English than it does on the Anglo and Duet combined.

3. Wayne, ‘The Wheatstone English Concertina’, The Galpin Society Journal, xliv (1991), 120; available on line: <http://www.free-reed.co.uk/galpin/gl.htm>.

4. Cited after Tom Lawrence, ‘Giulio Regondi and the Concertina in Ireland’, Concertina World: International Concertina Association Newsletter, 411 (July 1998), 22; available on line: <http://www.concertina.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/lawrence.pdf>.

5. My thanks to Alessandro Boris Amisich for calling the announcement of this performance to my attention. Mr Amisich’s article, ‘Where was Giulio Regondi Born?’, will appear in PICA, 3 (2006).

6. Chambers, ‘Louis Lachenal: “Engineer and Concertina Manufacturer”, Pt 1’, The Free-Reed Journal, 1 (1999), 13, sees the 1844 patent ‘largely [as] an attempt to prolong the life of [the] . . .original Symphonium [and concertina] Patent of 1829’ (p. 13); available online: <http://www.concertina.com/chambers/chambers-lachenal-part1.htm>; the two patents are online: <http://www.concertina.com/patents/>.

7. The price list is available in Chambers, ‘Louis Lachenal’, 16-18, the passage just cited appearing on p. 17; the pricelist is available online: <http://www.concertina.com/pricelists/wheatstone-english/#wheatstone-pricelist-1848-C824>.

8. The brief discussion that follows owes much to a stimulating exchange of e-mails with Stephen Chambers, Robert Gaskins, and Chris Algar during the first days of 2005.

9. The price lists are conveniently reproduced in facsimile in Stephen Chambers, ‘ Some Notes on Lachenal Concertina Production and Serial Numbers’, PICA, 1 (2004), 5-6; the pricelists are available online: <http://www.concertina.com/chambers/lachenal-production/>.

10. The entry lacks a serial number for the instrument. The ledger is housed in the Wayne Archive, The Horniman Museum, London. The complete series of nineteenth-century Wheatstone ledgers are available online: <http://www.horniman.info>.

11. See Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, 1851. Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue (London, 1851), 470; for a convenient summary of all the instruments exhibited at the Exhibition, see Peter and Ann Mactaggart, Musical Instruments in the 1851 Exhibition (Welwyn [Herts]: Mac & Me, 1986).

12. Maccann’s Guide is available online: <http://www.concertina.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Maccann-Concertinists-Guide.pdf>.

13. My thanks to Robert Gaskins for this information; Mr Gaskins is preparing his research on the sisters’ Scottish tour for publication online: <http://www.concertina.com/gaskins/lachenal-sisters/>; see also the article by Faye Debenham and Randall C. Merris in this issue of PICA.

14. Cawdell, A Short Account of the English Concertina (London: William Cawdell, 1865), 10, 15; available online: <http://www.concertina.com/cawdell/>.

15. For further information on these pieces, see Allan W. Atlas, The Wheatstone English Concertina in Victorian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 58-68; available online: <http://www.questia.com> (by subscription, though one can ‘preview’ things).