Wednesday, 18 December 2013

John McGuire (Sean's father)

Looking for something else I came across this little bit about John McGuire father of the famous fiddle player:

"Born Sean Stephen Maguire on 26 December 1927, he later changed his name to McGuire. His father, John, from Co. Cavan, who had come to Belfast to work in 1918, was an accomplished musician with his own ceilidh band. John played piccolo, concert flute, whistle and fiddle. It was a musical family; Sean’s brother Jim was a fiddle player and they recorded an album together in 1982"

The full article is an interesting read  about Sean and can be found Here

Jem Hammond Cylindrical Piccolos

The absolute best deal in piccolos are Jem Hammond's plastic PVC piccolos. They are cylindrical with a wedge in the head joint. They sell for under 20 pounds. They are in tune and play excellently. Mine was so good I carried it everywhere with me and eventually lost it.

Jem is based in Wales and also restores and sells wooden flutes. He is a regular contributed to Chiff and Fipple.

  Here is Jems latest commercial post

And Here is Jems older commercial post.

Monday, 16 December 2013

On eBay

There have been quite a few non anonymous piccolos on eBay on the last while.
I have kept track of them but haven't really had time to post them all.
Here are a few that stood out.

This first one was originally described as anonymous. I was puzzled when it sky rocketed to over 400 pounds. It turns out the seller had found the Hawkes and Son Crowne AZ marking. It was made of ebonite I believe. Highest price I've seen.

This next little piccolo / flageolet sold for only 33 pounds. I thought it looked in good shape and with ivory beak.

Here is a French cylindrical piccolo marked Chapelain Ferdinand. Don't know if it sold but it failed to get its buy it now price of 300 pound the first time around.

This Rudall Carte in Eb has been up for sale a couple of times I think. The last time I was watching it did not attract any bids with a starting price of 250 pounds. It is now relisted with a bit it now of 300. I think it is in restored condition. (Not sure of the sellers selling strategy just keeps relisting it higher and higher 475 now.)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Erwin Oesch Piccolo

There have been a good few interesting piccolos on eBay lately and at some point I'll record their passing but first here's one I purchased myself.

It is marked E. Oesch Basel. I paid 45 quid including shipping. I went for it based on the fact. That Peter Worrell is basing his piccolo on a Basel piccolo and I once heard a clip of one with a barrell embouchure. I thought it sounded good.

It's not in my hands yet but even the pads look good based on the photos. According to the description it's a wooden head with a plastic body. It looks brand new.

Looking forward to its arrival. eBay still has it's surprises.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Potted History

Here is a nice little potted history of the piccolo with some nice little facts about composers and such.
And buts about those who made developments in the instruments history.

It come from the website  of Israeli fluter Lior Eitan.

Mary Collins Instrumental Group, unknown piccolo player

Been a while without new stuff but I stumbled across a couple of tracks in the Irish Traditional Music Archive playlists


Tracks 4 and 5 seem to feature piccolo.

I like the arrangement of Drowsy Maggie with things dropping in and out. A bit ahead of the Chieftains I'd say.

I'm sure there's more. in these playlists.

There  has been loads of interesting piccolos on eBay. lately I hope to have time soon to report on some of them.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

On eBay

    Been another quiet spell at least for non anonymous piccolos on eBay. This first item I'm pointing out is really a fife although it may have a conical bore. It sold for 343 pounds.

I'm not sure whether the bidders were after the fife or the Georgian flute tutor. Seemed like way too high a price.

The second item is a Hawkes Sonorous Class Eb. It has attracted no bids with a rather high starting price of 300 quid.

Eugene Leddy Ceili Band, 1950s

        I found this photo on another blog. I believe the piccolo player's name is Tommy Curren.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tommy Makem, 1954

      Found this great photo on Tommy Makem and the Clancy's website. In the photo Tommy is playing piccolo, Jack Makem on pipes, and Peter Makem on fiddle.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

C Gerock Ivory Piccolo

         This lovely looking all ivory pic was posted a few places on the web. No price was recorded. I wonder if it ever sold or what became of it. It looked a gorgeous instrument.

Here was one posting for it on Chiff.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Rose-Morris on Chiff

Here is a nice piccolo for sale from Lorenzo on Chiff and Fipple.

It marked Rose-Morris 1978, ebonite and nickel.

He has priced it at 110 euros.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Jim Ward, Kilfenora-Corcomroe Ceili Band, 1946

          I came across this old photo of the legendary Kilfenora in the forties. Third in from the left is a fellow holding a piccolo. I think the piccolo player is Jim Ward. Oddly enough, Jim Ward has a Wikipedia page here. There are bits of info about the man. I was immediately thinking of Jim Ward's the jig but thought that was named after a banjo player. The wiki suggests it is indeed the same Ward, having switched to banjo later on.

T: Jim Ward's
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj

It has also been suggested that in this youtube here is the man himself lilting the jig that bears his name.

Sounds from Kevin Rietmann's Collection

The following was sent to me from Kevin. It's nice to hear a range of piccolos from different countries. Earlier on I posted photos of Kevin's collection. It's nice to hear them as well.

Hi Patrick,

Here's a recording of some of my squeaky little guys: Feel free to post this link and my observations on your blog. Not all are in the best of operating order and I just flew into whatever tune popped into my head and don't play flutes much any more either so there's your heap of caveats. 

I announce each before playing it, here's the list in order of appearance:

George Cloos 
V Koelhert & Sons
Boosey & Co
D Noblet
HF Meyer

The Koelhert, IMPROVED, and Boosey are working well. I gave my better Cloos picc (I have/had two) to a very talented young local fluter with the promise of payment in the future, he'll do great things with it I'm sure. The Cloos on the recording has its head entirely jacked in metal, I was always struggling to plug up all the leaks, not always with success. The NACH and HF Meyer are tricky to play without bumping into their keys and squeaking, the Noblet just isn't padded correctly, it's the one with keywork to cover the fingerholes. I suspect its intonation is a bit diabolical anyway, though. I'd like to have a good French picc, my Martin Freres 8 key flute is by far the easiest transverse flute I've ever played - including Olwell, Grinter, Gemeindhart, etc. Those were all great players but the Freres just speaks without any effort whatsoever. A picc like that would be grand. 

The recording's of interest to hear the wide spectrum of tone makers from different nations had in mind, the English flutes as you'd expect have larger holes and a reedier sound, the German style ones (including the Cloos) have smaller bores and holes and a sweeter or darker sound. The very low pitch Kohlert has a surprisingly dirty tone, though. The NACH MEYER has by far the thickest body and sweetest sound. Different piccs have varying degrees of noise in the blowing, too. The English ones are a lot louder, as you'd expect. Most play close to A=440. It's harder to find full size flutes made outside of England or France that are in pitch, but I seemed to have better luck with the piccolos, it seems.

All the best,

Thanks to KR

On eBay

This piccolo is marked Carl Fischer. It looks like a typical German eBay piccolo but is advertised as being fully overhauled that's why I thought I'd mention it. The Buy it Now is set at around 150 dollars.

The second is an anonymous piccolo marked made in Germany. I just thought it looked unusual for a German piccolo with the English band flute like bulge. The starting price on this is a high 500 dollars. It has the name of a confederate Civil War veteran hand engraved on the bands. I saw many a flute for sale in antique shops and flea markets. Sellers were always trying to attach some Civil War provenance to them.

Ok the last is not a piccolo but a band flute, flageolet combination instrument marked Improved London B. it sold a few weeks ago for about 50 pounds. I meant to bid and forgot.

Walt Sweet, Maker

      Above is Walt Sweet's  latest design, the Umbra, which can be purchased with a whistle head as well. It is designed as a mini Irish flute  (piccolo) with a particularly strong 1st and 2nd octaves.
I asked Walt a few questions and tell us a little about the piccolo in Contradance music in New England. Here is his reply:
I grew up in a drumcorps family in Connecticut, where everyone was expected to play the fife or the drum. That activity is a culture behind the scenes from Massachusetts to New Jersey and beyond, connecting thousands of participants across generations. Of course there are legitimate fifers and drummers elsewhere. I'm talking about the narrow, straightbore, ±Bb fife that plays loud outdoor music in the 2nd and 3rd octaves. The repertoire and performance practices are associated with rope-tension drums and rudimental drumming, whose roots are traceable to the 1830s and before. We typically wear "Colonial" uniforms and march in firemen's parades to raise money for the corps to buy drums, uniforms and refreshments (!). The contemporary repertoire has a small handful of tunes that can be documented to manuscripts of the Revolutionary Period, a fair number of modern compositions in the traditional style, and much of the repertoire dates from the latter 1800s. Only some of the music heard today was ever official military music, the rest being folk tunes, 'pop music' and songs of a bygone era. Being its own scene, only some of the music and musicians overlap other genres. 

When I was 13 years old, I wanted one of those new-fangled 10-hole fifes, but the folks couldn't justify the expense. In response, I got hold of a Cooperman maple fife and used a pistol drill to drill the extra holes for accidentals. I also used steel wool on a gun-cleaning rod to smooth the bore. That was the beginning of my life as an instrument-maker in 1971. Of course, I like to think I've graduated to more sophisticated methods and designs now. 

When Dad was a teenager, he had wanted to become a square-dance caller, and thought that the fife (or some manifestation) would be good in the band. We're talking about a diatonic piccolo in D with a large bore, and this was his first type of instrument offered in 1973. The bore at 1/2" favors the low octaves for playing in the same way as an Irish flute or pennywhistle, not for drumcorps or modern bands. For that reason, I prefer to call it a "High Flute." With some refinements, the UMBRA in polymer and 15/32" (12mm) bore is essentially the same. The standard Boehm piccolo has an 11mm bore, good for playing into the 3rd octave where it can transcend 76 trombones and 110 cornets. 

By 1974, we were playing for contradances, using the traditional fiddle repertoire. Many dance series were active in the 1970s in New England, connected directly or indirectly with Dudley Laufman. On the scene with me at the time were Chuck Malloch, Dave Cantieni and Ron Grosslein, all good players. Deanna Stiles is prominent and still active, but on the standard Boehm piccolo. Other flute players have been known to double on the piccolo or HiD fife. I'm more likely to see these instruments in contradance bands or at the New England Folk Festival than at the local Irish session. 

The UMBRA in HiD is really a modern invention, with little historic precedent. I have designed it using my years of experience in designing similar instruments. In the future I'll make another model with a bigger bore to give a little more dynamic headroom. Many of today's flute makers also make, or can make piccolos. I'll leave it to others to weigh-in on that issue. Right now I'm working on DULCINEA, a Boehm flute in F above C, whose compass more closely matches the range of the 
violin. This way, I'll play everything the fiddles play, especially in the extended range below and low D and above high B (into fiddle's 3rd position, etc.).

Walt Sweet

The Sweets were just down the road from me growing up, in Holyoke, Ma. A visited their shop a good few times over the years. Ralph helped me out a few times doing emergency repairs. 

Big thank you to the Sweets.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Gallowglass Ceili Band


         Here  is a clip I found on youtube of Mick Dempsey playing piccolo with the Gallowglass Ceili Band. Mick normally played sax. I am assuming the piccolo is a Boehm system. Loads of trills and bouncing around the melody here as well. Would like to hear more with the sax.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

On eBay

Someone snagged a tidy looking piccolo on eBay last night. I was going to bid till it went above 50 quid. It is made of cocus and nickel and was marked as follows:


The mouthpiece and tuning barrel are also stamped as follows
figure of a STAR

It sold for about 100 pounds.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Hammy Hamilton, Maker

          Wooden flute maker Hammy Hamilton also makes piccolos in his shop in Macroom, Co. Cork. The above piccolo is one he made for Jim Gornall. As can be seen he makes both keyed and keyless pics and concert flutes with up to eight keys. He also makes flutes in other pitches including E and B. I asked him a few questions about his piccolos. Here is his reply:

When did you make your first piccolo? What inspired you to try and make s pic?

I made my first piccolo in 2000...although I had made fifes for quite a while before that. I think part of the inspiration was the research I'd done into commercial recordings for my PhD, where I discovered that the piccolo was quite a significant instrument in the American recordings in the 1920s.

Do you make many? Do you play piccolo much yourself?

To date I've made 13, and I have a few ( I think 4) on order at the moment.
I don't play it too much myself, and in fact don't currently have one, but you've given me the idea that I should make one for myself when I'm doing these next ones. I have a piece of cocus that's just about big enough

Do you know or have you met any older players?

The only "older" player that I know ( in fact I think he's younger than me!) is Jim Gornall.
One player that you might not be aware of is the Japanese player know as Hatao, who plays one of my piccolos. Quite a few of my instruments have gone to Japan, largely due to his influence. 

(I have been planning to do a post on Hatao and will try and contact him)

All the best,
Hammy Hamilton

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

German 8 keyed photo

          Here is a photo of a German 8 keyed piccolo. It is one of only a handful of 8 keyed instruments I've come across.

It has been quiet on eBay as of late aside from some overpriced German pics and a few Bb band flutes mislabeled as pics, but I came across an old eBay photo with a very English looking French piccolo in a nice box. It is marked Jerome Thiboville Lamy and sold for around  £85.

Monday, 26 August 2013

More McCusker

1     Here is another clip from 1996 with the McCuskers. I am assuming the piccolo player is still Kevin.   I am looking for more information. I am not sure if Kevin is still with us.

2      There is no information about the second clip, but it features the same lovely piccolo playing.

The Mc Cusker Brother's Ceilidh Band

     I recently purchased a great recording by Dermot Rafferty the album is called The Green Bunch of Joy and is truly lovely  recording of unaccompanied flute and a bit of fiddle. I really enjoyed his take on Irish Cry from Bunting. Ok so no piccolo but there is some Bb band flutes. Anyway here are the notes to track one, which lead me to some of the best piccolo music I've heard to date.

1. McKennas (Slow Reel)  2.16
This tune was recorded by the Mc Cusker brothers Ceilidh band in the 1950s. and Vincent, one of the fiddle players was married to my Aunt Mary .   The band had a distinctive sound due to Kevin’s roving piccolo lines .  I go to the other end of the flute spectrum and play this tune on an alto flute and at a much slower tempo. (Alto flute)

Kevin McCusker's piccolo playing is brilliant. Light and airy feeling with glottal or tongued accents, the pic blends well with the din of the accordions and fiddle. But the most interesting thing is his sparse use of normal ornaments but heavy use of trills. He also dances around the melody a bit. I can see how Dermot termed it "roving piccolo lines." I have been using trills for sometime in my own playing being influenced by certain pipers. McCuskers trills are different and have an almost trained feel to them. It is very interesting listening.

Here are some links

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

John Doonan and Dave Bulmer

 Here is a recording I was sent of John Doonan with box player Dave Bulmer, at De Zon folkclub Dranouter, Belgium March 25th, 1977. 

Sometimes you lose the bottom few notes of the pic among the piano box's noise.

Special Thanks to KK 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Golden Age of the Piccolo

Here is a link to a recording of early piccolo soloists. Notice the first performer is George Schweinfest the same who recorded the cylinder of Irish reels. Track one appears to be a couple of Schottishes. I am unsure how many tracks are simple system or how many are Boehm, but note the piccolo pictured.

Special thanks to Walt Sweet for passing this on.

I hope to hear it someday.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

John Doonan's Style

            A little digging around Chiff and Fipple turned up this old thread with some interesting comments from Norman Holmes and Tom Mclevogue. The thread touches on whether he used the tongue or glottal  / diaphragmatic rhythmic emphasis.

"His finger work was simply awesome producing a wonderful bubbly style of playing. I learned a huge amount from playing with Johnmostly from his fingering but also the rhythm which was ingeniously injected through combinations of cuts and tonguing.John's use of cuts and rolls from my memory was closer to the style of Seamus Tansey's in which Seamus Tansey also had fantastic big flowery rolls employing cuts in places nobody else seems to. They remind me of the exquisite rolls Joe Burke uses on the accordion quite unlike any other accordionist and maybe that is where these style of rolls and ornamentation come from? ."

I will have to ask Tom and Norman if they have any old stories of the man and his music.
Thanks to them.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A Beautiful Pair

             Of  Rudalls...... These two lovely instruments are owned by Ben Hall. A beautiful Rudall and Rose Patent Head flute with extra Chris Wilkes head joint and a Rudall Carte and Co. piccolo, no.3331. They are both kept in the lovely handmade box by Andrew Crawford.

Michael Clarkson Collection

      Here is a photo from Michael Clarkson. In the photo are a Rudall Carte, Besson, Boosey, two Hawkes in D and Eb, a Butler, maybe a German or two.

He also sent these lovely clips:

Rudall Carte
Hawkes and Son Eb
Hawkes and Son D
Boosey and Co.

Michael keeps an excellent website of  flute tunes here

Also go out and buy his  excellent CDs
The Pleasures of Hope w/ Harry Bradley
The Far Set w/ Gerry Jones
(Really enjoy the song, Shipyard Slips)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Owen Frain, photos

         Owen Frain was the piccolo player on some recordings of Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band.  Owen is pictured here playing with his son Gene. He was from Mayo and came to the Boston area. Both are mentioned in See You at the Hall, an excellent book on Irish music in Boston particularly the large dancehall scene in Dudley St. Roxbury.  Here is a thread from the touching on Frain and the Shamrock Band.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Jim Gornall

             As far as I know there are only three full length piccolo recordings of Irish music, the Doonan records, and Picturesque Piccolo, by Jim Gornall Jim now lives in Listowel, Co. Kerry,  He plays a Hammy Hamilton piccolo. I asked Jim a couple of questions.

How did you get started playing? 

 I was 25 and had been learning the tin whistle for about a year. I went to the folk club in Liverpool and heard John Doonan playing. That did it for me. I decided there and then that i wanted to play the piccolo. I got cassette recordings of his 2 LPs and learnt them off, trying to copy his style and ornamentation. Once I started learning new tunes then I began to develop my own style. Not deliberately, but it just happened over years.

Do you play the flute as well? 

 I have a flute and i used to play it many years ago but gave it up. I found it adversely affected my piccolo playing.

Do you feel the piccolo offers any advantage over the flute? Or why have you chosen the piccolo for your solo recording? 

Piccolo is a great session instrument. You don't need much room and can clearly hear yourself. Other than that it's just good to be playing something different.

What make is your instrument? Hammy? What instrument did you start on? Did you have any trouble finding a good? Piccolo? 

My first decent piccolo was a wedding present from the late Mick Johnson, a noted fiddle and concertina player who was living in Liverpool at the time. It was ok but was way out of tune at the bottom end. I believe they were actually made that way on purpose because it made it easier to get the third octave.Later I picked one up from a mail order firm called Hobgoblin.It was a great buy for, I think, £25 at the time. That lasted me for years even though I had to get Hammy ( Colin Hamilton, Coolea, Co. Cork ) to repair it and re-pad it a few times. I actually used it for my CD before Hammy declared it unrepairable eventually and made me a new one which is,by the way, a fabulous instrument.

Have you met many others who play? Have you had any contact with older players? 

I have been playing for over 35 years and John Doonan is still the only player I have actually seen. I have been in touch with Mick, one of his sons, who I believe still plays the piccolo although he plays the the pipes too.

Here is a clip of Jim playing a couple of hornpipes

Special thanks to Jim Gornall

On eBay this week

           Here are a couple of  piccolos that sold on eBay recently.

The first is a Hawkes and Sons Crown AZ. These flutes are highly sought after by flute bands. This piccolo sold for £311.75. A high price for a simple system  piccolo. I am not sure why these attract much more attention.

The second is a boxwood piccolo marked J. Russell. It failed to attract any bids with a starting price of £125.

The third  is a fine looking French ebony and ivory piccolo with silver key and separate foot.  The buy it now is a high   625 dollars.

There is also a Ralph Sweet keyless rosewood piccolo
With a buy it now of £75.

I will try to only post interesting instruments that have ended or have a buy it now.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Terry McGee, maker

         Terry McGee a well known wooden flute maker in Malua Bay, Australia, also makes simple system wooden piccolos. These beautiful examples are in red ivory wood and boxwood, with silver rings and slides. Terry mentions keys on his page so would probably do a keyed version as well. I asked Terry a few questions:

Are you still making them and taking orders for them?

Orders are pretty rare, but I probably still could make them (I'd need to check on tubing supplies if tuning slide is needed).

When did you make your first?

Probably back in the late 1970's or early 1980's.

What was the model?

My first model was a simple cylindrical type.  I mostly made these for kids, as they find the stretch on conical wooden flutes impossible.  Later I acquired a Rudall Carte conical piccolo and made some copies of these, but felt that they were a bit shrill for Irish music, due to the thin (11mm) bore required to cover three octaves in orchestral use.  So I then developed a 12.5mm bore instrument, which returned power and richness to the bottom octave.  I experimented with bores up to 14mm, but, while the bottom octave became fabulous, the 2nd octave starts to become sullen.

How did you decide to give one a go?

I was already making flutes (since about 1975), but kids couldn't handle the stretch.  It was awful to think that kids wanted to learn flute but couldn't.  It was clear that something had to be done!

Do you play much piccolo yourself?

No.  Flute and guitar are my main instruments

I think you can get a decent idea of the sound of a McGee piccolo in this clip

Special thanks to Terry McGee.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Butler Flageolet / Piccolo Combination

        This Butler combination set was sold through Early Musical Treasures. They come up on eBay fairly frequently. This example has the original ivory beak. Last week a band flute/ flageolet in B marked Improved sold for about 50 pounds. It was missing its beak. I wondered where one would get  a replacement beak made.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Painting: Boy with Piccolo

            A painting by John French Sloan dated 1909. Sloan was a well known member of the so called Ashcan school who were noted for painting urban New York City scenes and the impoverished.

Aughrim Slopes Céilí Band 1968

Nice clip of the Aughrim Slopes Ceili Band in 1968 can be found here on youtube. Not sure of the piccolo player's name. Nice example of how the piccolo really cuts through and floats above the rest of the band. Note the flute at the player's feet.

Special thanks to Lorenzo for heads up on the clip. I hadn't seen this one.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Rudall and Rose Eight Keyed F Piccolo

                Here is a photo of a cocus, silver, and, ivory piccolo in f. Note the tiny foot keys. This instrument once belonged to the late Andrew Kirby. I saved the photo many years ago. Not sure of the whereabouts now. I wonder if I'd be able to play it. I struggle with a piccolo in E and the blocks can get in the way. Still like to see this up close, though.