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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 3:05 pm 
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Anyone have any input as to what melodeons are commonly used for morris dancing?

Is one row or two row preferred? Are some brands more common than others? What keys? Any other considerations?

(As an aside, I'm partial to the Hohner 2-stop in D for playing Celtic and the like, would that be an unsuitable 'box for morris?)

Thanks for any info!


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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 7:05 pm 
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MatthewVanitas wrote:
Anyone have any input as to what melodeons are commonly used for morris dancing?

Is one row or two row preferred? Are some brands more common than others? What keys? Any other considerations?

(As an aside, I'm partial to the Hohner 2-stop in D for playing Celtic and the like, would that be an unsuitable 'box for morris?)

Thanks for any info!


A two-row box in D/G is the standard. The Hohner "pokerwork" ruled sway for decades but nowadays a lot of people are playing Italian boxes so far as I can gather. Your Hohner 2-stop would be fine but of course you'd be stuck for anything in G major - and quite a lot of morris tunes are in G major.

If you're playing for dancing outside, unamplified, you'll want something loud.

You'll find lots of morris players to answer all these questions better than I can at http://forum.melodeon.net/

Cheers
Steve


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 1:47 pm 
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Hi Matthew,

I play for Cotswold Morris dances in England, and have watched dozens of sides dancing at various events round the country, as well as having played and danced for 3 years.

As StevieJ says, the "standard" box is a Hohner Pokerwork in D/G. Anything in D/G will do, but the Hohner gives great bang for your buck, and is fine, a great starting point, and may be all you ever need.

If you want something compact and light, the most popular choice is a Castagnari Lilly, but they're expensive. Not as expensive as many melodeons, but more than twice what a Pokerwork will cost you. The Castagnari only has one reed to each button on the melody side, so it doens't give the fuller sound of a Pokerwork, but they're tremendously popular because they're so small.

A one row isn't going to work for Morris at all I'm afraid, at least not the way we play in the UK. It may be totally different where you live.

A couple of sides I've seen use different tunings, as they have brass instruments in the mix. A melodeon player can pick up a C/F box and play exactly the same tunes in the same way, but transposed, so this is no big deal except for buying a second box.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 7:36 pm 
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My experience with Morris goes back 30 years - I played fiddle with a Cotswold side for a year or two, can't remember now exactly how long. Curiously the three tunes that stuck in my memory thereafter, probably because I liked them more than most, were all tunes that could not have been played on a D/G melodeon.

There was a particularly fine tune in C, I think it the name might have been Old Molly Oxford, a lovely setting of the Cuckoo's nest in G dorian and a version of the Sheriff's Ride in D minor. As far as I recall, all of them were printed in those keys in "the black book".

Although D/G melodeon is now the standard, it's worth bearing in mind that it's a fairly recent standard (at least from the perspective of Morris dancing, the origins of which are lost in the mists of antiquity). As I understand it D/G melodeons weren't even made until the 1950s when they were "invented" by Peter Kennedy as being more suitable for playing along with fiddlers in British Isles music than the G/Cs and C/Fs of continental Europe.

I don't know what most of the men (no women in Morris in those days!) from whom Cecil Sharp collected the Cotswold tunes in the early part of the 20th century were playing - pipe and tabor? C/G anglo concertinas? but they certainly weren't playing D/G melodeons.

All this to say that it must depend very much on whom you are playing with. So, if you are the only box player providing the music for a team, I don't know why you couldn't transpose the tunes to fit on your one-row.

PS The musician for the nearest Morris side to the one I played with was an Irish box player - and I mean an Irishman - with a red and black Hohner. I don't know whether it was a B/C or D/G but anyway he used to play Roisin Dubh and similar fare late at night after dancing bashes and nobody seemed to mind! Although the piano accordionist with our side made a few sotto voce comments to me about his excessive ornamentation in Morris tunes, frowned on as foreign-sounding evidently.
:)


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:38 am 
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StevieJ wrote:
I don't know what most of the men (no women in Morris in those days!) from whom Cecil Sharp collected the Cotswold tunes in the early part of the 20th century were playing - pipe and tabor? C/G anglo concertinas? but they certainly weren't playing D/G melodeons.


They were probably playing fiddles, though there would have been both English and Anglo concertinas about, and piano accordions - certainly as you say, not D/G melodeons. Pipe and Tabor is still used occasionally, but it's a skilled musician who can manage it.

Unfortunately the D/G IS now the standard, recent or not, it's been around longer than most currently active Morris Men, and a tune in C is more likely to be transposed to fit on a D/G than for a box player to carry a second box to play that one tune in C.

I was disappointed to have learnt Postman's Knock in D, as it is in the Black Book, only to find my side wanted it in G, as there's some singing involved and D didn't suit their vocal range. I now know it in both keys. Lionel Bacon's Black Book is itself over 30 years old, even the second edition is over 20 years old.

Of course if you're the only musician, and there's no singing involved, you can play on any key melodeon you like, and who's to argue? Most of our dancers don't know what keys are anyway, they're not even sure about time signatures.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:33 pm 
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The Castagnari Tommy is a popular choice for the same reason as the Lily, but the extra reeds make them far more audible over the crowd and give you more options when you're playing in sessions etc.


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