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: