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.

Basel Piccolos

       Simple system six keyed piccolos are also used in groups known as cliques as part of the per lent carnival known as Fastnacht. From what I have read the piccolos are a recent addition to the drum groups (1970s). I find it interesting how simple system pics were chosen rather than the Boehm.  Most players seem to be playing metal headed instruments with barrell or moustache embouchers.

      Here is a nice short little film with some information from Basel piccolo maker Erwin Oesch.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Son of Sam

           My new Murray piccolo has arrived today. It's a nice simple design with simple lines. I believe  it was made by Sean, Sam's son. It is  unlined, with integral wood rings, in blackwood. It is easy to play right off the bat. It is chunky and thick. Rather Sweet like in appearance. I've got to put it down or neighbours might have me killed. Must learn to tame it.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Piccolo Cylinder Recording 1897

Here is a link to what I'm assuming is the earliest recording of piccolo played in traditional music. The performer is George Schweinfest. There is a spoken introduction. Irish Reels.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Unusual Hudson C Piccolos (Band Flutes)

        While browsing the Edinburgh University Musical Instrument Collection I came across two instruments pitched in C (in folk terms) made by John Hudson. These may be more properly called band flutes while piccolo is reserved for instruments D and above. Nomenclature aside they are the same instrument pitched lower. By non folk nomenclature they are Bb instruments in that fingered c plays a Bb.
         John Hudson made the earliest flutes named after English flute virtuoso Robert Sydney Pratten. Pratten flutes are highly sought after for Irish music.

What is interesting is that one of these instruments is is eight keyed going down to Bb if the notes are correct, here

The second is keyless with no evidence of a missing Eb. I would think this is unusual for a conical flute in C at this time.

I would be delighted to find an antique C pitched piccolo. I have a lot of time for my Bb band flutes.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

New England Contradance Piccolo

         This piccolo/ flute set is for sale David and Nina Shorey Antique and Handmade flutes in the US. The flute is a lovely Euler with block mounted keys and low B foot. The piccolo is an original Meyer. What is  interesting is that this well worn little piccolo was used to play for contra dances in New Hampshire in the 1880s.

From the website:
     Condition: This flute (and the accompanying piccolo) have seen many good times in the hands of Mr. L. J. Dean of Peterborough, N.H. (U.S.A.). Evidence of this is seen in the repaired headjoint cracks, the mark of a long fingernail on the C# hole, a small socket crack on the lower joint, and the wear of usage on the tone holes (especially on the piccolo). Nonetheless the flute itself is in fine usable condition. The piccolo is so heavily worn from use at the tone holes that one suspects Mr. Dean's piccolo technique to have been very well rehearsed. The accompanying tune book of 16 manuscript contra dance tunes, marked "Piccolo/L. J. Dean", with the heavily worn piccolo, show not only that the instrumentation at the contra dances has not changed to this day, but the traditional tunes are still in use today. The dances of New England are one of the few venues that have not changed over the years; here in Maine (in 1980) we enjoy one player using an 1832 system Badger, one playing a Meachum of Albany 4 keyed flute, several with English romantic 8 keyed flutes, and keyed piccolos of various nationalities.

With the set is a tune book marked "piccolo"  and the original owners name.
From the website:
Mr. Louis J. Dean was a shoemaker in Peterborough, N.H. from Oct. 1881. His manuscript tune book includes 16 contra-dance tunes, including Money Musk in A, Hulls Victory in F, College Hornpipe in Bb, and Widow Bedott Reel in E. Clearly Mr. Dean was an accomplished piccoloist, and the wear on the tone holes of his piccolo attest to this.

Dean must have been accomplished enough to play outside the "normal keys" of traditional players. It's nice to see evidence of flute playing in contra dance prior to revivalists. I've not played a Meyer piccolo but the original Meyer flute I am acquainted with plays very well with a very unique feel and response for traditional music.