Tag Archives: Concertina

The female accordion

The first concertinas to arrive in County Clare, Ireland, were inexpensive German instruments, a far cry from the elegant parlor instrument invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1829 and popularized among the social elite of Victorian England. They were disseminated by traveling peddlers and local and more distant shops—and probably by maritime traffic, given Clare’s position at the mouth of the Shannon estuary, the last port of call for tall ships about to cross the Atlantic.

By the end of the nineteenth century the concertina had all but replaced the uilleann pipes in popularity there, and Clare had already developed a reputation as a treasure-trove of concertina music and the home of some of the instrument’s finest players. After its completion in 1892 the West Clare Railway carried concertinas into formerly inaccessible rural areas, and before World War II the instrument became particularly popular among women musicians, earning it the nickname bean-cháirdin (female accordion).

This according to “Clare: Heartland of the Irish concertina” by Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin (Papers of the International Concertina Association III [2006] pp. 1–19). Above, Ó hAllmhuráin learns a tune from the 101-year-old Clare concertina player Molly Carthy in 1997. Below, the Clare concertina player Kate McNamara plays two reels: Sergeant Early’s dream and The plough and the stars.

BONUS: Read about the gendering of another traditional Irish instrument in The female harp.

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Filed under Europe, Instruments, World music

Concertina library

Concertina library: Digital reference collection for concertinas is an online collection of English, Anglo, and duet concertina resources, with entries ranging from research-based articles to instruction manuals, sheet music, and organological studies. Created by the computer scientist and concertina player Robert Gaskins, the library aims to compile and index all of the writings by leading authors on concertina matters, making them available to the public for free.

Above: Marie Lachenal with her concertina, ca. 1885.

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Filed under Instruments, Resources

Carlo Minasi

Carlo Minasi (1817–91) was a London-based pianist and concertina player who also taught both instruments, a prolific composer and arranger for the concertina and other instruments, the author of 21 instrumental tutors (13 for the concertina), and a talented inventor. He produced 42 albums of songs and tunes—22 for the English concertina, 10 for the German concertina, and 10 for general use—and he obtained patents on concertinas of his own design and on several specific improvements. He also patented improvements in firearm and furniture design, as well as one for a poultry incubator.

Despite his accomplishments, Minasi is not profiled in any of the standard music encyclopedias; as far as we know, the only comprehensive source for information about him is Randall C. Merris’s Carlo Minasi: Composer, arranger, and teacher, concertina and piano in Papers of the International Concertina Association volume 6 (2009), pp. 17–45.

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Filed under Curiosities, Instruments, Romantic era

Patent applications

Patent applications for new instruments—or for improvements to already existing ones—usually involve one or more technical drawings. These can be of historical interest for several reasons; for example, the article Piano wars: The legal machinations of London pianoforte makers, 1795–1806 by George S. Bozarth and Margaret Debenham (RMA research chronicle XLII, 45–108) makes use of original drawings and descriptions for patents by William Southwell (1794) and his son, William junior (1837), to reconstruct the issues and outcomes of legal actions involving many of England’s top piano manufacturers in the early nineteenth century.

Reproduced above is a page from Brian Hayden’s 1984 patent application for a new way of arranging the buttons on a concertina.

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Filed under Iconography, Instruments, Publication types