Melodeons look like the picture on the right, similar in some ways to Piano Accordions to look at, but with buttons instead of piano keys. They are also fundamentally different to play, as each button plays a different note on the ‘blow’ and the ‘suck’. They are often louder than Accordions, too, as well as being much lighter. The kind of Melodeons favoured by Morris musicians are generally tuned to only two keys, G and D.
Music and singing are traditions enjoyed by many Morris sides, and ones of which we are quietly proud. One reason is that we still have one of our founder members, after 60 years, playing for us. Jim Hoare has been dancing and playing fiddle with the side since 1953. He currently plays fiddle in many of our local appearances, as well as during the long dark winter evenings of practice sessions, and was active on the folk and dance scene in Sussex even before we started dancing. He is pictured on the left here, outside St. Peter’s Church, Henfield, at a recent ‘Gardens and Arts’ weekend.
Concertinas are often hexagonal in shape, with a similar-looking array of buttons at either end. They are smaller than Melodeons, and can come in several different formats, Anglo, English, and Duet among them. They have the potential for a loudness that belies their size, and were often favoured by sailors in the nineteenth century for their compactness and versatile range.
Most people know what Piano Accordions look like - they are often associated with continental street musicians, particularly in France and Italy, but have a versatility that can be greater than either Melodeons or Concertinas, albeit with a considerable weight penalty. This one is unusual in that the white keys are black and the black ones white! How does he manage to play it?? The answer is ‘very well indeed’.
Another reason is that we are lucky to have a good number of men who play traditional instruments associated with Morris Dancing. The Melodeon and Concertina are favoured by the majority, with a couple of Piano Accordions making occasional appearances. A drum is used for North-West Clog, and a Bodhrán or two can be seen on occasion, to add a bit of percussion.
As well as playing music and dancing, we are often inclined to retire to a pub after a strenuous evening’s dancing, where we sing as well as play music, in a ‘session’ which can last for a couple of hours on some occasions. We have our own repertoire of songs which have traditionally been sung by the side, with some more recent additions from our more active singing members.
A Bodhrán (pronounced bah-RAHN in Britain) is pictured here, an instrument mainly used in folk traditions but also finding favour in acoustic music of many sorts.
A music ‘Session’ at the Partridge, in Partridge Green, the Brewery Tap of Dark Star Brewing Co.