I bought my first concertina
from Neville Crabb in London, in 1974, but a busy life and a preoccupation with the flute
meant I could never get into it. The concertina I bought was
nothing special - a wooden-ended Lachanel Anglo, but it had been
refurbished by Neville, and so was in good shape. It set me
back 50 pounds at the time.
But a chance happening in
late 2013 brought concertinas back to the front of the mind. Perth
musician Sergio Patuto was looking for a flute, and offered me a swap -
one of my keyed flutes for an Anglo made by Ian Simpson in Australia's
Snowy Mountains. I'd just reached retirement age (whatever that
means!) and so felt able to give myself permission to indulge my
youthful ambition. The deal was done.
But it's one thing to have a
nice concertina, and quite another to learn to play it. We had
moved from Canberra to Malua Bay on the south coast of NSW in 2007, and
surprise surprise, our little seaside village of a few thousand souls
didn't seem to include an Anglo concertina teacher. Scarcely
credible, I know! But, looking to the Internet, I found the
On-line Academy of Irish Music had no less than three series of lessons
devoted to the instrument. With their guidance, I found I made
rapid progress. What's that about old dogs and new tricks?
But, you know me - can't
leave anything alone. It wasn't long before I started to wonder
about the workings of these things. What sorts of pressures are
involved, and flow rates? What constitutes a leaky bellows?
How are reeds tuned, what's the ideal button pressure, and so on?
So I joined concertina.net, and soon found myself among others so
afflicted. Even so, I found that the questions I asked weren't
always answered. I thought maybe I should look into them myself.
As a flute maker and
researcher, I already had some instrumentation that would be of help in
understanding concertinas, so I set about ordering what I needed to fill
the gaps. While that was in train, I devised a means of putting it
all together to form a flexible pneumatics lab. And a great long
list of issues to start with.
So, you may well be wondering
by now, why am I telling you all this? There's something I need to
make clear. I'm not a world authority on concertina
physics, indeed I'm not even a good concertina player (about 6 months
in). I'm just an enquiring mind, with some scientific and
engineering background, keen to explore some matters of musical
interest. So, be warned - don't take anything at face value, but
do feel free to question and quibble - you'll find I take criticism
well. I'm in this for the journey, so if you want to tag along,
and offer suggestions from time to time, we should get along famously!