CD Review: Hawkwood Concertina Band: Marches and Tunes
total time: 54:53
review date: January 2010
Marches and Tunes
Review by: Robert Stead
Although I have never taken the time to learn to play one, the concertina has always fascinated me. So, I was delighted when the Hawkwood Concertina Band sent us its Marches and Tunes CD. Here was my chance to hear not just one concertina, but the entire concertina family. In the past concertina bands were easier to come by, but not so today. The Hawkwood group, therefore, does us a great service recapturing both the sound and the virtuosity of the concertina's glory years.
This CD covers a wide range of styles including the march, the hymn, dances, and classical. While each piece is delightful, I was particularly impressed with Fantasy on a Theme of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The overlapping phrases sustained by the concertinas creates a wave of sound. All the inner voices are clearly heard. This arrangement does justice to the full concertina family. At one point a four note motif is played in succession from the highest voice concertina to the lowest. Then next piece, Mortlack's Ground takes us from 20th century England (R. Vaughan Williams) to 17th century England. This piece written by John Blow (Henry Purcell's music tutor) was originally composed for keyboard. Like the previous selection by Williams, this work is polyphonic in nature. The homogenous sonority of the concertina band creates a wonderful layering of voices. Going further back in English music history, we have John Adson's (1587 - 1640) Courtly Masquing Ayres, a delicate piece very effectively rendered by the concertina. The Florentiner March demonstrates both the combined power of the concertina band as well the expressiveness characteristic of free-reed instruments.
The CD notes tell us the following about the current concertina band revival:
In the 1980's the West Country Concertina Players (England) [founded by Bob and Ethel Hayes] began to organise residential weekends, and several members, including the chair, Robert Senior, wanted to play band music. At one of these meetings, Nigel Pickles, who had researched the Mexborough band, gave an illustrated talk and led some band playing. Two old band players who were present, Harry Dunn and Tome Jukes, were very moved -- they thought they would never hear the concertina band sound again. Gathering interest led to Nigel forming the New Mexborough Quartet, and Robert the Butleigh Court Concertina Band. Jenny Cox, who was there at the start, developed her skills in playing, leading and arranging, and organised numerous workshops and get-togethers to play band music. In 1989 Dave Townsend, already an established figure in the folk world, led the WCCP residential weekend. He introduced "In a Persian Market" and "Mortlack's Ground" , some of the first new arrangements specifically for concertina band to be made for decades. Dave and Jenny set up the Concertina at Witney weekends in 1991, which still continue to offer tuition in concertina playing and always feature classes on concertina band.
The fruit of their labor is this delightful collection of "Marches and Tunes". It is a wonderful addition to the free-reed catalog.
For more information on the band, or to order "Marches and Tunes", go to: www.concertinaband.org.uk