Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Excellent article on the anglo concertina, with references to minstrel playing

Some of you will be interested, as I was:

 

http://www.concertina.com/worrall/anglo-in-united-states/index.htm

 

Our old friends, Howe and Winner, get a mention, and there are some good photos including banjo players, which I hadn't seen before.

 

Rob

PS I'm wondering what the sound balance would be between a concertina and a minstrel banjo? 

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There is also a picture there of the banjo being held by a member of the Salvation Army. Anyone done research into the Sally Army and the banjo?

Not to get off the subject of the concertina, but there seems to be an image of a Boucher "Rabbit Ear" banjo in one of the images of the article.  Although I have seen two of this style Boucher banjo in person, one at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and one in a private collection,  this is the first period photo documentation of this banjo I have seen - if that is what this musician is holding? See the rabbit ears?

Jim

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I thought you might like that image, Jim! First time I'd seen it as well.

Hi Rob,

Nice to hear from you again.

Good article. The balance between my 1870s concertina and my gut-strung tackhead can be pretty even. I think at a distance you'd probably hear more concertina, just since the single reeds have a very pure tone. There's a video of "Old Dan" at last year's AEBG where you can still hear the concertina over about 25 banjos bones, tambo and a jawbone. It's in the video section under the filename "Old Dan.mov" The concertina doesn't really come in until Carl starts singing.

 

Of course this begs the question - "What keys were they playing in?" You can't retune a concertina at a barn dance.

 

Most of the old Anglo-German concertinas that you see in pictures like these were 20-button models in C and G. (they're diatonic, like harmonicas) The tutors have everything written out in C & G. You can also play in modes that will let you get away with tunes in D, Em, Am and Dm. (like cross harp on harmonica) There were concertinas in other keys as well, like G & G. 

 

The instruments that the Sally Ann players have in the pictures are almost all 30 button instruments they have a third row of accidentals and are essentially (with some practice) chromatic. The SA also had flat key instruments made for them to facilitate playing along with their brass musicians.

Correction..."concertinas in other keys as well, G & D."
Interesting, Ian. I really would like to get together with a concertina player. There must be one around here somewhere...

Look what I found - http://englishconcertina.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=anglo&ac...

The "Anglo Concertina Players In Scotland"website! You may already know some of these folks. If not I may just have come for a visit sometime.

Interesting, Ian. I really would like to get together with a concertina player. There must be one around here somewhere...
You would be welcome :-) Thanks for the link. Very interesting!

Glad you folks liked my concertina article. I got so interested in that topic that I researched it farther...and wrote a book (The Anglo-German Concertina, a Social History; Amazon books; described at www.angloconcertina.org). The minstrels were of course enormously popular abroad, and I have many stories and photos in my book of concertinas and banjos playing minstrel music together in England, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and of course the USA.  I play a version of Old Dan Tucker collected from a concertina player in Australia, a version of the minstrel tune Getting Upstairs from an old recording of a concertina player in England; and some Irish sentimental songs written for the minstrels as played in South Africa.

 

I'm in Houson; anyone play minstrel banjo there? I've got some friends who play such old time American music here, but we can never find a banjo player around here for anything but bluegrass music.

 

You have a nice website here!



Rob MacKillop said:

Interesting, Ian. I really would like to get together with a concertina player. There must be one around here somewhere...

Hi Dan,

 

Nice to see you here! I really enjoyed reading your article, and will get the book you mention. 99 per cent of the members here live in the States, and as it is a small country, you should find a player near you :-)

 

Rob

Ian said: Of course this begs the question - "What keys were they playing in?" You can't retune a concertina at a barn dance.

 

True. But you could capo a banjo. Buckley mentions the use of a capo in his 1860 Method, although he also encourages the installation of wire frets, i.e. raised, not flush. Capos don't work so well on fretless banjos.

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