Saturday, 20 December 2014

Merry Christmas: Nice Video

Merry Christmas piccolo nerds....

 Here's a thread with a nice video posted in a thread on the Session.

Lovely to hear the piccolo with big voiced Irish American style melodeon.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Next Project: Anonymous English Flageolet

Ok not a piccolo but I picked up a nice looking flageolet from eBay Canada.
It looks like it's uncracked and has the original bone beak.
Here are the ebay photos doctored up a bit.

And lastly a photo of Robert Louis Stevenson playing a flageolet.

Rudall Carte for sale on eBay

Beautiful late reddish cocus Rudall Carte piccolo on eBay.
Rather optimistically priced but really nice shape and presumably  original case.

Description :

Beautifully restored Rudall Carte & Co. Cuban cocuswood piccolo, serial number 8513. Six key. According to Mr. Robert Bigio, it was made in 1932 byBraithwaite. The stamp on the wood says:
Carte & Co. Ltd.
23 Berners Street
  Oxford Street
In like new restored condition. Even the case looks brand new (see pictures). Very little wear and obviously, used very little. A great piece to add to your collection.  Good luck in your bidding!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Jazz Band 1909

Ok this has nothing to do with Irish, Scottish or Northumbrian music  but I like the photo.
Traditional music of New Orleans .
Nice shot of the ivory headed piccolo.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Ballantines

Billy BALLANTINE, a pig farmer at Simonburn, near Wark, on the North Tyne, plays piccolo, an effective instrument for traditional dance music - not only did he play in local bands, but he was also an important collector of local tunes which he dotted down for Peter to pass on - he also talks about the local minstrel troupes - recorded by Peter Kennedy 1954.

From the Folktrax website here

Billy's music is lovely relatively and unornamented obviously drawing on local Northumbrian music as opposed to Doonan who drew his inspiration from Irish music. I hear a nice clear tone with trills.
Many of his tracks are available on iTunes on various compilations of Northumbrian music. I am only beginning to listen to his music.
I hope to find out more about Billy.

Billy's son emigrated to Australia and continued to play whistle and piccolo until his passing this year.
Here  is an article about Bob. I will reprint the text here in case it goes from the website:

"A MUSICIAN who transported the music of Tynedale to audiences Down Under has died at the age of 86.

The late Bob Ballantine is pictured playing his father Billy Ballantine’s piccolo.
Bob Ballantine emigrated to Linton, Victoria, in Australia, in 1961 – but took the spirit of his birthplace with him through music.
A celebrated whistle player, he was born in Simonburn in January 1928 to Emma and Billy Ballantine, and two years later his family moved to Greenhaugh Farm, which remained the family home for another 64 years.
Bob was the only one of seven children to follow in the musical footsteps of his father, a piccolo player who had numerous recordings and radio performances to his credit.
Straight from leaving school, Bob joined the Army in 1942 as an engineering apprentice but kept up the music by joining the Army band playing the flute and piccolo.
He met his wife, Ivy, while serving in Stevenage and, after leaving the army, they moved to Carlisle with Bob taking up a job at the ammunition factory at Spadeadam.
However, in 1961 the couple decided to emigrate to Australia on the popular £10 ticket passage with their three children.
They moved from there on to New Zealand – where their youngest was born – but later returned to settle in Australia at Linton.
Despite working in civil engineering, Bob kept up his love of music, playing with many bands and musicians over the years including regularly with the Rubber Band and dance bands Guy Charmers and Emu Creek.
He was also a regular attendee at folk festivals, including the annual National Folk Festival held in Canberra.
He happily showcased the music of Northumberland with performances and workshops at festivals – as well as playing with groups specialising in Irish, Scottish and even traditional Australian tunes.
His music has been recorded and can be found in the National Library of Australia and his performances have even made their way on to YouTube.
Bob’s family, who still live in the North-East, were among the first recipients of his CD Northumbria Down Under. Showcasing both Northumberland and Scottish folk music, it featured his birth place Simonburn on the front cover.
His sister Joan Benson, who lives in Haydon Bridge, is proud of Bob’s musical legacy.
She said: “When we went to see our father play the piccolo at the local dances, Bob hardly ever got up to dance – he was always watching the musicians.
“I was amazed when we went to visit him in Australia how many people knew him because of his music.”
As well as his music, Bob was also a keen sportsman, excelling in running, rugby, football, cricket and boxing during his army days, and also enjoyed seeking out gemstones.
He is survived by his wife, Ivy, and children Robert, Linda, Paul and David.

Dido Wickham, piccolo player

Here  is an interview from Reg Hall's collection at the British Library Sound archive.

He is interviewing Scan Tester who tells the story of how one Dido Wickham got his ivory piccolo on the way home from the pub.
Price was half a guinea.

The sound archive is an interesting place worth further exploration.
Here  is link to a bio of Reg Hall that notes his great work documenting the tradition particularly in London.

I've yet to find any recording or more info of Didos music.

The photos are of an all ivory piccolo in the Edinburgh collection.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Olwell shop selling a Boosey on eBay.

Here is Patricks text:

     Up for auction is a 19th century piccolo flute in D with 6 keys of the type used in Irish music and sometimes called "simple system".  This flute was made by Boosey in London
at the end of the 19th century,  and is made of ebonite, rather than wood,  with keys of nickel silver. Most people might prefer a wood piccolo,  but this has the advantage of being indestructible. The letters LP are stamped on the body,  indicating this was made at low pitch rather than the high pitch (around A=452)  often used in Britian at the time.  Although low pitch is supposed to be 435,  if find it easy to play this at modern pitch of 440 with the headjoint tuning slide opened about 1/4 inch,  or 6 mm.  The sounding length is 262 mm and the total length without the endcap is 301 mm. As I am a maker of wooden flutes,  I am quite impressed with the skill or craft with which this is made,  especially as all the parts are so small.  The keys work perfectly,  and the springs are well tensioned.  Each spring tip bears down on a round bit of metal on the body of the flute,  a detail not always employed in cheaper instuments. The embouchure is well cut,  and has not been altered.  The tuning slide moves smoothly and the headcork is adjustable at the end-cap,  and the pads are in fine condition. The original leather case is included. At one point early on, before I made flutes that were loud enough,  I played quite a bit of piccolo,  but now am not playing this,  so I send it on to help fund our ongoing building project. Please feel free to email or call the shop (434-277-9215) if you have any questions,  and good luck!   

Here is the auction

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bass Piccolo

 It's a hilarious name but to Basel piccolo players it's the instrument below their d piccolos.
It is a flute in alto G designed to play loud harmony parts for the Basel cliques.

Fourth flutes exist but are not as common as third (f) flutes.
I've seen one by an English maker and two by American makers in my personal experience.

I posted a little while ago about Tom Abei announcing he was making piccolos on his website.
This was great news to me. Remembering Tom uses boxwood and is a fine maker. This got the wheels turning for a boxwood keyed piccolo. A project so far, no one had been much interested in.
Tom and I are in discussion still about what I think will be a very fine piccolo.

So back to Bass piccolos,

Here is what Tom says of his new instrument design on his webpage:

Bass Piccolo

Simple system 6 keyed Flute in G - the so-calledBass Piccolo * - designed for playing the new harmony lines now being added to the scores of the Basler Fasnachts Märsche (drum and piccolo marches of the Carnival of Basel). TheBasler Fasnachts Piccolo itself is essentially the small version of a simple system flute, tuned one octave above the flute. The Bass is a fourth above the D flute and a fifth below the piccolo, and it has a range of nearly three octaves. For the names of notes and keys of this G flute, it appears conveniant to use the terms in D, as connected with piccolos and wooden flutes, rather than the true pitches (and it is done so in the comment below).
 * (Yes, we know, it should rather be “Alto“. Nevertheless, the instrument is originally meant for playing the bass lines, hence, the term “Bass“ has been adopted naturally.)

I used to own a Ralph Sweet G flute that played very well. I have a great deep melodeon
in G . I would like to get ahold of one of Tom's new fourth flutes and belt away a few tunes.

Glasgow Dance Hall Piccolo

I  have had a great interest in Scottish music since moving to Glasgow about four years ago.
Aside from the use of piccolo in the flute band scene in Glasgow,  I had heard that piccolo was sometimes used in old Scottish Dance bands. I found a reference to piccolo playing while looking for other things.
Only someone mad enough to be interested in piccolos could be interested in the hammered dulcimer.
Like the much maligned one row melodeon, banjo mandolin, (other interests of mine) and piccolo, the hammered dulcimer is very much a minority instrument and the subject of jokes, derision, etc.
I came to like the sound from listening  to the music of John Rea of County Antrim.
He was a wonderful player.

So I heard that hammered dulcimer was used in Scotland, particularly in Lanarkshire.
This lead me to Jack Bethel and an interview with an older dulcimer player from the area, Andy Fagan of Coatbridge and finally to my piccolo reference:

JP: 79. Tell us about your early music recollections and who got you going on the musical road.

AF: Well my father was a miner but also he was a great melodeon player and a great piccolo player.  He won the piccolo medal at 17.

JP: Stealing his ideas.  So the melodeon was really your first instrument.

AF: The melodeon was the first instrument I started and I played my first dance when I was 9 - and the dance was 8 o'clock
at night to 6 in the morning! - and the reason I was playing was because the other melodeon player who was to play there took
 pneumonia and my father put me in, in his place.  The band consisted of my father with his concertina and piccolo, a dulcimer
player and myself.  That's when I took a liking to the dulcimer.  He was a nice player and we played the dance from8 o'clock
 at night to 6 in the morning.  Now I got very popular playing the melodeon - going to private functions and even weddings,
house weddings and parties an' that, and my older brother then wanted to get on with it so he asked me would I teach him to play.
  Naturally I just had to teach him the way my father taught me.  So after I got him on the way, I used to just let him play melody
and I played harmony.  Now we got quite a few engagements but it got monotonous with the two melodeons and piccolo.
  So I took an interest then and started the dulcimer.  I wasn't very long learning the dulcimer and after I established the dulcimer
the band got quite good and we decided to give the band a name. So the name we give it was The Excelsior Dance Band and
that was known all over the west of Scotland.  The Excelsior Dance Band.

What great music this must have been to keep people dancing till 6am.
Melodeon, piccolo, and hammered dulcimer.
Theres a joke in there somewhere, like a combination from the elevator music of hell.

I hope to find out more about the Excelsior Dance Band and the piccolo in Glasgow.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Chris Norman, piccolo maker

Anyone reading this will in no doubt be familiar with the name  Chris Norman
There is a nice article about the man himself here.

I had contacted Chris about a new head for my Monzani but have since decided to stick with the current head.
He sent me a price list and on it is a piccolo after Graves , a relatively unknown to me American maker who I think worked in New Hampshire.

I have not seen many piccolos from makers of the Firth Hall/ type flutes but have seen later German style piccolos such as those by Cloos.

I can't see Chris' work being anything but very fine.

From the price list:

A one-keyed piccolo after the American maker Graves circa 1830

Here is a photo of a Graves original from the Shoreys:

Olwell cylindrical

In a recent for sale post an chiff and fipple, the poster referenced having the Olwells make him a cylindrical Blackwood high D flute (fife, piccolo).

Here is the for sale post which was for a bamboo high d.

I will email the Olwells at some point enquiring about their work in higher keys.

I will post any info Patrick won't mind me sharing.

Here is a photo of the bamboo piccolo from the seller:

Friday, 8 August 2014

Fs: Ae Lecomnte Cie, Paris (SOLD)

I am listing a French Flute for sale. Cocus and six nickel keys.
Mark very faint but I believe it's Ae Lecomnte cie, Paris.
Plays nicely in a:440 
200 pounds


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Fs: Murray (Still available) and Improved London, cocus and ivory (SOLD)

Currently for sale:

Murray Blackwood all wood piccolo. 250 pounds


English piccolo, cocus, ivory and nickel, 6 keys
100 pounds

Contact me at

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Tom Abei

Just having a look at Tom Abei's website.

He mentions a piccolo model on his news page, here

I will contact him for more info at some point. Perhaps he'll take an order for a keyed boxwood piccolo.

Tom is based in Basel and he mentions  it's a Fastnacht piccolo.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Another London Improved

 Just won another piccolo marked London Improved D, this one with an Ivory head.

 The last one I did up was a great piccolo for Irish music with a solid low range.

  I'm hoping this one shapes up the same.

Friday, 6 June 2014

ITMA and Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band

The Irish Traditional Music Archive has recently put up a whole sluagh of piccolo recordings from Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band.

The piccolo is featured prominently on loads of these recordings. I think there were a few piccolo players over the years including Murty Rabbet and Owen Frain.

Some of the playing features a strong vibrato which was popular on piccolo recordings of other styles of music at the time. I read that this strong breath vibrato became popular because early recording techniques could not capture a more subtle vibrato. I don't know about this claim as it was disparaging its further use today by classical players of today.

Here is the link

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

On eBay

Someone sold nice looking Eb and D piccolos. They were self made. I never got the name of the maker.
The d went for around 50 pound.

Beautiful silver and cocus piccolo flageolet combo marked Parker sold for 195.

Eb or F Hawkes piccolo (hard to tell from photos but looks smaller) sold for around 45 pound.

Pic marked C Schoter and son Birmingham. Sold for 101 

Beautiful boxwood and ivory Italian (ottavino) piccolo on eBay Italy sold for 121 euros.

Another Italian piccolo stamped Rampone from eBay US, sold for 62 dollars.


Nice looking Metzler and Co. in a nice case, 100 pounds.


Eb Hawkes failed to attract opening bid of 99 pounds.

Nice looking boxwood and ivory piccolo sold with an F flute. Pic was marked Harris , sold for 216 pounds.

Hawkes and Son D restored piccolo went for 86 pounds.


An Antique Piccolo by G Fitzgerald Woolwich c1860/80, boxwood and ivory.

Sold for 42 pound