Concertina Convergence 3rd – 5th February, 2023
A review by Margaret Fagan and Tony Romeo
World Concertina Day is celebrated on the 6th of February, the birthday of Charles Wheatstone, English physicist and inventor who came up with the ingenious idea of the concertina, and patented it in 1829. 2023 saw the second international celebration of WCD, with events being held in many countries across the globe.
Australia marked the occasion with a Concertina Convergence held at the charming and historic Goulburn Club, in the heart of beautiful Goulburn. About 60 concertina enthusiasts attended. Players came from almost every state and territory to enjoy a fantastic two and a half days of workshops, presentations, sessions, a concert and a film. There was a great variety, with something for every player, no matter what their style or type of concertina or skill level. To set the mood, the foyer of the club and each room were decorated with concertina-related photographs and drawings, as well as a number of concertina-playing figurines for our “amusement and diversion”. Quite delightful.
The events kicked off with a session on Friday night with the theme being songs or poems about or mentioning concertinas – a challenge that was accepted by everyone in a display of just how much material there is out there, and we probably only scratched the surface!
Then through the weekend generous contributors took us through a variety of techniques and tunes: octave playing as used by “Dooley” Chapman (Gary Lovejoy), Irish style (Chris Ghent), the joy of waltzes (Carole Helman), playing by ear (Sandy Gray), English tunes on English concertina (Greg Wilson), off-beat English accompaniment (Steve Wilson) and duets (Dave Johnson). All thoroughly enjoyable. In addition to these, Helen Romeo and Wayne Richmond taught lovely tunes and harmonies which were then presented by groups in the Saturday evening concert.
In addition to the participatory events there was a session in which Bruce Kurtz played the tunes of his grandfather, Fred Holland. Bruce played these tunes on Fred’s original Stanley concertina. John Stanley was a late 19th century character (a bit of a charlatan) who made and worked on concertinas in the Bathurst area, as illustrated in an interesting talk by Chris Ghent. Also, Gary Lovejoy showed us a film he’d made just recently of Dave de Hugard playing tunes he’d collected from Albert “Dooley” Chapman, Kathy Ditton and Ma Seal. Wonderful stuff.
George Bolliger gave a presentation on diagnosing and solving concertina problems, and did quite a few running repairs for folks over the weekend. There was a variety of instruments for sale including ones from maker David Hornet and from the Concertina Shop.
The excellent Saturday night concert was held in the ideal setting of the 19th century Durack Room and showcased a great variety of styles and concertinas. Workshop & session presenters all had a spot, and the average age in the room was mercifully lowered by wonderful contributions from Tristan & Millicent White and Lee Knight. Lee also did a superb job as MC for the evening.
A Concertina Caterpillar event was held in Belmore Park in an attempt to tackle a new Australian record but the Melbourne record remains unbroken. The weekend also featured a tribute to Richard Evans, an expert concertina player, builder and repairer who sadly had recently passed away, and a particularly poignant moment occurred when attendees were asked how many of them had had their instruments repaired by Richard. About half the room raised their hands.
All in all it was a packed and well-thought-out program, and a really enjoyable weekend of joy and camaraderie. Huge thanks to Dave Johnson for putting it all together, and to all the presenters and volunteers for their hard work. Given the enthusiasm shown amongst this year’s participants, there’s little doubt we’ll need to wait another four and a half years for the next Concertina Convergence. It was a wonderful and inspiring weekend.
Margaret Fagan and Tony Romeo