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The ICA YouTube channel


Swaledale Squeeze 2010

I filmed the Swaledale Squeeze Sunday Afternoon Concert by participants and tutors. Jan, the husband of Pauline de Snoo, made this compilation:

Swaledale Squeeze impressions 2010

Three ICA committee members

The second movie: Pauline, Jeremy and me, three members of the ICA committee, playing trio music arranged by me. The tunes: Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot, Wals voor Polle (Wim Poesen), Hole in the Wall and Cradle Song (Scott Skinner).

Jeremy, Michel and Pauline playing trio arrangements

We hope that many more members will follow this example and will add their videos. Sharing their joy of playing the concertina and playing together. You can visit ICA on YouTube and join us there.

Concertinas in Japan

On my first night I found myself in The Hartford Café, an Aladdin’s cave of vinyl in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Prompted by a photo of my Wheatstone the owner, Mr Yanagisawa, disappeared behind the bar and emerged triumphantly with a John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris album. This was followed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s “Manchester Angel” and “A Tale of Ale”, a Free Reed recording of British drinking songs.

My next face-to-face encounter was with a Lachenal Anglo sitting proudly in a museum display cabinet in Nagasaki. The museum was housed in a former dock house of the Mitsubishi Company, which had once been used for sailors’ lodgings.

But my best concertina encounter by far – and an absolute highlight of my holiday – was a meeting with Miho Tohmatsu (Mipo when she performs) and Minako Orikasa, two keen English concertina players from Tokyo. I first saw Miho playing on YouTube and wrote to suggest a meeting. As a player for six years, Miho enjoys traditional music, from both Japan and Europe as well as composing her own work. Miho informed me that concertinas were very popular at one time in Japan, as market traders would hope that their playing would attract customers and differentiate themselves from the more common accordion playing. Minako enjoys European traditional music, with music from Ireland being a particular favourite. We spent a very memorable afternoon playing tunes and recordings in a sunny park and we’ve continued to share music over the past few weeks. There’ll be an interview with Miho in a forthcoming ICA newsletter. In the meantime, you can enjoy her playing one of her own compositions with her musical collaborator, Macky.

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 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, , phone (00353) 656821727, e-mail:

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

And a brand new arrangement of the piece for English Concertina by Stephen Taggart is available to ICA members by emailing librarian – 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: 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.