Saturday, 6 September 2014

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.

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