My current level of understanding!
Let's start off with a caveat! I have only been playing the Anglo Concertina for three years and I very much still see myself as a learner/improver. I have no academic background in this subject! During my playing time, I have done a variety of courses, which included online Irish concertina courses and I have now attended three in-person weekends at Quantock Lodge with the WCCP. I find it interesting to learn more about and experience the different styles of playing the Anglo Concertina. For the benefit of non-Anglo players, the Anglo concertina is bisonoric, i.e., there is a different note on the push or the pull. I will say a little more about the styles of play below, as it is not just about the push or the pull!
Playing in ‘the Irish Style’
As a beginner, who enjoys Irish music, it was natural for me to choose to learn to play the Anglo using a range of Irish online courses. I therefore describe myself as playing in the Irish Style. This means that I mainly play the melody line across the rows. I use both the left hand and right hand to play the melody and I use both of the C (middle) and G (bottom) rows, choosing which notes are on the push or the pull. Quite a lot of the online Irish courses I have done, guide the learner in which buttons it is best to play for each tune – often giving a rationale for the button selection.
The advantage of playing in the Irish style is that I have been able to join in with tunes with other concertina systems (English and Duet) playing a tune as written (in the same octave) and I have been used to thinking of the most appropriate button to play e.g. Right or Left Hand, Push or Pull. With more practice, I will add more ornamentation to my playing. At the moment, I tend to play chords less, but I hope these will come with more practice time. We all have a limited mental capacity sometimes!
Playing in a Harmonic Style
One aspect that I find most interesting about attending the Autumn Residential weekend at Quantock Lodge, is that I am usually taught by tutors who play the Anglo concertina in a more Harmonic Style. In broad terms, they play the melody with the right hand and the accompaniment with the left hand, or I have heard some tutors play lots of chords together with both hands, at the same time. This is a great style for self-accompaniment.
In the Anglo Improvers’ class at this year's Quantock Lodge weekend, we played most of the melody with the right hand, in an octave higher than what was written, which enabled some chords to be played with the left hand. This was challenging for me, as I had to get used to playing the higher notes on the right-hand side and shift my hands to get to the higher notes. We also covered some music theory about which chords we could add on the left-hand side, either on a push or a pull.
Everyone will come to the Anglo from their own musical background or musical preferences. I think that playing in the Irish Style will still be my home style. That said, I do want to practice my right hand more and get better at including chords. It will be interesting to see whether my style turns out to be more hybrid?! Maybe every Anglo player develops their own style a bit over time, as they piece together different teachings?
The next Quantock Lodge weekend will take place late September/Early October 23. We would love more beginner and improver Anglo players to join us. Regardless or your standard or style of playing, you always learn a lot and the weekend is great fun. Plus, you get to hear other concertina systems (English and Duet), so it is a great melting pot for the concertina. In the meantime, if you can play a bit, the WCCP offers general playing sessions on Zoom, so you don’t even need to be based in the West Country.
Alison Walsh, Anglo Concertina Learner
3 October 2022