Wheatstone Aeola English Concertina - #28618 (1920)
Eva Booth (1865-1950), was the daughter of General William Booth who founded the Salvation Army. Besides being a concertina player of note, she became Territorial Commander of the Army in Canada between 1896-1904.
Being one of the first to notice that Americans were in more need of salvation than most, she then left to head the US chapter of the Army, and so was not with the large Salvation Army contingent that went down with 1000 souls on the Empress of Ireland in 1914. That event also caused the largest loss of concertinas in Canadian history...
Eva was a tremendous personality who changed her name to Evangeline to help the cause. She never married because her father asked her not to, so that she could be more single-mindedly devoted to the cause of the Salvation Army.
Noted as a powerful speaker, she later became the fourth General of the Salvation Army (1934-1939). She lies buried in New York state.
.A duplicate concertina of the above Aeola, only manufactured four years later, on October 23, 1924.
It too has 64 keys and eight bellows, with nickle-silver capped keys.
And its manufacturing data is also noted in the Wheatstone log books for the factory, from 1924, noted below.
But missing from this massive instrument are the hangers above the thumb straps, from which a cord could be hung around the neck to help suspend the instrument when standing up. Both instruments are more prefereably played in the tradidional style, supported on the knee.
Also missing on this one are the wrist straps which come in very handy when pumping the strong 8-fold leather bellows back and forth.
Since both instruments are the top of the line English concertinas ever put out by Wheatstone, how once-in-a-lifetime fortunate is the happy player who ends up with one.
Wheatstone Aeola English Concertina - #28618 (1920)
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure||
This is an English concertina, as distinct from an Anglo concertina, its closest, and more unruly, cousin.
The English concertina plays the same note when the bellows go in or out, whereas the Anglo is like a harmonica, with a different note when blowing or drawing, or bellowing in or out.
This means the English concertina can sustain notes longer and so is preferable for accompanying folk songs, and for lyrical, and melodious, slower popular songs, even symphonic compositions, whereas, when the Anglo reaches the end of the bellows run you have no choice but to change notes...
Anglos are the preferred concertina for fast Irish music, where jigs and reels and rebel songs don't demand long notes but rather rapid note changes. An Anglo is therefore pumped and is full of energy and preferred by wild men in wild folk bands.
An English concertina is for intellectuals, but can play fast tunes just as well, but it's harder work since you can't just pump the bellows, like in an Anglo, to get your next note, but have to make a finger change on a button as well.
|Wheatstone Aeola Concertina - Manf'd Oct. 20, 1920|
|Orig. concertina - Size - 23 x 23 cm
Found - Paris, ON
Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875) - The concertina was patented in 1829, by Charles Wheatstone, a British inventor and professor who also invented the stereoscope photo..
The Wheatstone became famous as the finest of the concertina instruments ever made. Because the instrument became so popular other manufacturers started up, by men who had worked for Wheatstone, like Lachenal. Lachenal and Jefferies instruments became famous as high quality as well but today the Wheatstone is recognized as the finest ever made and collectors and musicians search it out more than any other. Many concertina players today prefer to play Wheatstones made from the 1860s on to modern ones.
Wheatstone made many kinds of concertinas varying the number of buttons from 20 to 30, with the most common being 48. Treble models were made, as well as baritone, bass, and duet variations. Bellows were originally of paper then were made out of leather and sometimes were highly decorated. The ends were made of mahogany, amboena wood or later metal.
The Wheatstone Aeola - The finest instrument Wheatstone ever made - in homage to Aeolus, the God of Wind - was the top-of- the-line 64 button Aeola model, which first appeared in 1898. It dwarfs its cousins in size, power, and quality, and was considered so special that Wheatstone gave it billing status separate from its concertinas on the company patent and manufacturing label right.
The Aeola was designed for the professional who plays in concert halls before huge audiences. In the days before radio, movie, and television entertainment, music and concert halls were the main entertainment forum for people from every strata of society. And this is where the Aeola was designed to perform.
This superb 64 key Aeola - most have 48 or 54 keys - has a full octave of rich lower notes below those found on the usual 48 key treble models. It is considerably larger than other concertinas to permit a louder voice, when necessary. Metal sides were used to provide a crisper clearer sound, to reduce the muddiness of the rich lower notes when played together.
To make this powerhouse of glorious sound easier to handle, for musicians who play in concerts standing up, metal loops were attached on top, to which a neck cord could be attached.
Right is the playing position of the instrument for the left hand. The hand would slip under the wrist strap - which provides extra heft for pulling the bellows open - the thumb would slip into the dark thumb strap and the little finger into the curved guide below.
The instrument is actually supported entirely by the thumb and little finger, which provide the lift and the anchor points for the hand as the three middle fingers pick out the notes between.
Notes are played singly or as chords of two and three notes. A note might be played on the left hand while a complementary chord is played with the right, providing a rich and full melodic voice that needs no other instruments to sound full and complete. It is common, for advanced players to play four or five related notes at the same time.
Wheatstone was so high on production quality that each instrument was logged into its production books. These have been preserved by the Horniman Museum, London, UK. Below the production log from 1920 to 1925 covering instruments with serial numbers from 25000 to 28749.
It shows that on October 25, 1920, Wheatstone logged in the manufacturing of this Aeola as Black 64 Keys 8 3/4" and NP 64 Keys - for nickel plated - for the serial number 28618.
It also notes Metal Labels shown here for the Wheatstone copyright as well as serial number affixed to the instrument. Most previous Wheatstones had paper labels.
To help sustain the notes on English concertinas more folds on the bellows are wanted. Many have only 4 or 5, six folds being preferable.
Eight folds, like on this top of the line Aeola, are very fine indeed for professional quality playing.
The suspension system - wrist straps, top hooks - for the high-end Aeola is not found on other instruments.
The steel reeds, each held in a brass rack by two screws, on the wooden tray (reed pan). The octagonal reed pan looks the same when flipped over, featuring 32 identical reeds to play the same note when the bellows are reversed. On the other end of the concertina is another reed pan, with 64 more reeds again repeating 32 more notes on opposite sides..
The steel reeds are mounted in tiny air tight compartments, on the reed pan. When the lid is put down only a small circular hole - covered by a flap operated by one of the keys - allows air into each reed compartment.
Beside each reed is a leather flap that covers the reed on the opposite side to keep it from getting air till the bellows changes direction. The pins are there to hold down the flap, and keep it from getting blown back by an overly vigorous player.
For all you never wanted to know - with pictures, text and music arrangements - about the history of concertinas and their huge role in the lifestyle of 19th and 20th century peoples
David Livingstone above the famous African explorer and missionary was also an avid English concertina player.
He probably played hymns for his flock as many churches were using concertinas where congregations could not afford organs. Africans would have been wowed by the concertina music.
Far left the legendary Peggy Seeger, for thirty years the wife of the late Ewan MacColl, famous British folk song writer and performer, playing her Wheatstone Aeola.
From the beginning, the English concertina won acclaim from all sectors of society. Left is Mary Baker with her Wheatstone in 1857 - her brother the famous African explorer Sir Samuel Baker.
Below famous concert concertinist Marie Lachenal in 1885. Her father started up as competition for Wheatstone with a concertina line almost as desirable today as Wheatstones. Marie, not just a folk song player, performed high class pieces from the classic composers - like Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini - to wild acclaim, in front of huge audiences in big halls.
Above crewmen aboard Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance on Aug. 1, 1914, on their way to their Antarctic adventures. That's Joe Irving with his English concertina. Sir Ernest himself was also apparently a player.
No doubt the songs they played were not the kind one could have heard in public concert halls but might loosely have fallen into the category of "national airs" for which the instrument was eminently suited.
No group was more identified with the concertina than the Salvation Army. (In fact in the early 70s we phoned many chapters trying to locate a Wheatstone or Lachenal that members no longer wanted. But we failed to find one.)
From the 1890s on, the Salvation Army had numerous concertina bands all over the British Isles. It is estimated that one-third to one-half of Army men and women could play the concertina during the first half of the 20th century.
The reason is simple. The instrument was extremely portable. Men and women could play it with equal facility. Hell many women could play it better...
It could play either melodies or chords, or both at the same time, and you could sing along as well.
And when a whole group played together it made a glorious sound that would transport the soul of the meanest creature on the face of the earth... And convinced many to give... and others to give up... booze...
With the end cover - which contains all the keys and keyholes for controlling which notes are to get air and so will sound - removed, the reed pan is shown.
The small steel reeds provide the high notes; the long ones the deep throaty tones.
When the bellows are compressed, air pressure builds up inside the concertina. When a key is pressed, a pad lifts off the small round hole over one of the squarish compartments left, sending a powerful stream of the breath of Aeolus to vibrate a reed.
The large hole is to let air go behind the reed pan for blowing air across the second set of reeds when the bellows changes direction.
Flipped over from covering the reed pan is the underside of the end panel showing the pads at the end of the levers triggered by the buttons that control air getting through to the reed pan compartments over which the lid is tightened.
Below, another concertina taken apart. The key pad covers over the round holes are in the end plate, one each providing a trap door to each reed compartment below it.
|Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005|
The Concertina in Canada
The English concertina is an English invention, patented in 1829 by Charles Wheatstone, an English inventor, who registered updated improvements in 1844. The instrument became wildly popular in early Victorian times (1837 -1860).
That is also the period in which a huge influx of people from the British Isles came to Canada, including retired Army officers like the husbands of famous Canadian writers Susanna Moodie and her sister Catharine Parr Traill.
Instruments of choice, in genteel families, were the various versions of pianos, but these were too bulky to bring to Canada. Which is why a flood of portable folk instruments were brought instead. The Scots brought the fiddle; the Irish the Anglo concertina; and the English the English concertina.
Actually Inuit girls in Arctic Canada, in the middle of the 19th century, were among the first Canadians to be seduced by the dulcet tones of the concertina, as they were being serenaded by love-struck whalers marooned for months in arctic waters. As a result, the concertina was long the instrument of choice among the nomadic Inuit people. The women found the guitar and fiddle just too cumbersome to pack about on their backs...
(Though, as Inuit people settled down, these instruments became more popular; the gramophone brought in the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, whose songs are still favourites among guitar players in the high arctic.)
No doubt many of these concertinas were brought over in immigrant trunks, played lovingly for decades, then with the change in fashions, put in the attic for decades, until auctions rooted them out into the light of day.
Both the pre-Confederation Rock Chidley (1850) and the Lachenal (1909) came from Canadian estate sales.
There are no famous Canadian historical concertina players we know of.
The only Canadians noted for their talents, in a closely related pursuit, are Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan left noted for their skill in spreading concertina wire to keep them a safe distance from the locals they are apparently there to help...
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure||
An absolutely rare and heavily rugged souvenir pitcher from the period of Canadian arctic exploration.
|Pitcher, Eskimo Girl Clara (Mikok) - 1893|
|Orig. stoneware - Size - 18 x 18 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
Prov - The Copeland Coll
|Clara, or Mikok, was a Labrador Inuit girl, whom legendary arctic explorer, and sometime North Pole discoverer, Dr. Frederick Cook took - along with a male child with their parents' permission - to promote his lecture tour in cities of the eastern seaboard of the United States in 1893-1894, to raise money for another expedition. He used to exhibit them as "wild Eskimos" to draw in the crowds. She would be typical of the girls the whalemen played their concertinas for, in the high arctic during this period of "early contact."|