Some tributes from the Concertina Convergence mail group.
Australian Made Australian Played Article
Born in 1945 in Coventry, England, Richard Evans (Bell, NSW) emigrated to Australia in 1951. He served a five-year apprenticeship with NSW railways to qualify as a machinist, then took courses in management, heat engines and tool making. On a completely different note, he spent 1968-69 in Europe as a racing motorcycle mechanic. Motorcycling around Australia in 1970, he discovered many folk clubs and an interest in concertinas. Since then, he has taken some time to build a house, chook house, a motorcycle workshop and set up an instrument workshop. Like many other makers, repairs take up much of his spare time, but he says this helps him keep in touch with good players. And like a lot of folk instrument makers, he made an instrument because he wanted to play the music himself. With a great sense of humour Evans calls his instrument making work the Bell Concertina Construction Company.
Because the concertina is a product of the Industrial Revolution, many of its parts had to be stamped out or pressed in quantity, but Richard believes that ‘The present makers in England – Dipper, Dickerson, and Crab – jealously guard their spare parts. So, it means anyone who wants to make an instrument must go right back to first principles’.
Richard uses Australian timber on all the visible parts of the concertina, for stability and machinability. He is also using some Western Australian she-oak for the ‘nice, freckled look’. It took him 10 years to learn to make bellows, and he modestly admits he has yet to reach the standard of the designer of the original concertina, Wheatstone.
Besides making and repairing, he is dedicated to editing and producing the Concertina Magazine, a testament to the seriousness of the revival of a major part of Australia’s folk heritage: ‘It is very satisfying but non-profit of course and all in all I guess it takes about six weeks a year out of valuable bellows construction time’.
Excerpt From: Michael Atherton, Australian made…Australian played 1991
It was 45 years ago, prior to the internet, when I started playing folk music on a mandolin. My only contact with concertinas was a very bad Bastari but someone at the Longford Folk Festival gave me Richard’s number. Three days after a long phone call a wonderful 12 sided English Lachenal turned up for my inspection – sent purely on trust. I fortunately worked out which was up as there were no resources available in Tassie for new players. This started a long relationship with Richard. I paid him three extended visits on my way to NFFs where he taught me how to tune reeds, make bellows and general maintenance. These lessons helped me to keep my own instruments going but also put me in demand from desperate piano accordion players in Tassie. I was always blown away with Richard’s knowledge and his willingness to help out. I thought he treated me as someone special until I realized that he treated everyone that way. Every time there has been a fire in the Blue Mountains I feared for Richard and Eva’s safety but also for the contents of his shed. Richard was a gentleman who will never be replaced.
A great resource published quarterly from 1982-1988 and edited by Richard. Many hours of work in collating articles and pictures for the 25 issues with contributions and subscriptions from all over Australia and the concertina world. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Concertina Magazine put Australia to the forefront in the world of concertina enthusiasts.
In my own concertina journey Richard was the first port of call after I bought my first concertina in the mid 1970s. Made by C Jeffries it had a very sad bellows and was in keys for brass band. Richard made a lovely set of 7-fold bellows “So I’d have plenty of air to play with” and organised a reed swap for Jeffries C/G reeds. This instrument has allowed me to explore the Australian dance tunes that I enjoy. Later I bought one of his Kookaburra concertinas – a D/G both for the useful keys and also out of a sense of loyalty and respect for Richard’s work.
1982 saw the first of the 25 editions of the Concertina Magazine that Richard edited. This publication provided articles and pictures and diagrams on a wide range of concertina related topics and was recognised by the international concertina community. My personally bound copy of the full set takes pride of place in my library alongside similarly bound Australian Tradition and Singabout.
In about 1977 Richard joined Ralph Pride, Chris Moore and myself in a band lineup called Pinchgut Colonial Band which Malcolm Clapp described at the time as the new “super bush band”. Richard played his duet concertina and I recall his favourite tune set was the Delacourt Bouquet – a set of three quite complicated polkas published in Tasmania in the 1800s – The Elvina Polka, The Wanderer Polka and The Wanderer’s Return After Richard decided that the Pinchgut commitments were impinging on concertina workshop time he left the band, but was always up for the annual
Bush Music Club Heritage Ball. Initially the Heritage Ensemble was a small select group of musicians and the ball was held in the Sydney Town Hall in all its historic architectural splendour. Richard was an important part of the lineup with his concertina adding considerably to the mix.
As I became more and more confident with doing my own concertina repair work, Richard’s sound advice and experience was just a phone call away. He was always willingly helpful and keen to impart a wealth of information peripheral to the initial query.
So to end this brief tribute I say “Thanks mate”.
“Mind the driveway! Probably best to walk” said Richard as he had dug out an electrical trench between the concrete pads of the driveway from street to house, no mean feat, that looked more like the grand canyon. He was definitely a hands on person.
I was then treated as a special guest, shown the workshop, multiple concertinas and invited to lunch … and this was “just” to receive my concertina for a tuneup. A true gentleman with a heart of gold. As others have said, I held my breath whenever there were bush fires nearby, fortunately none impacted house or workshop … but I believe they came close.
Learning the concertina in the 80’s, and learning music and everything else in the 80’s, Richard was a go-to rock and the magazines were like gold, I relished every page, you made me feel “special”. To say he had a huge positive impact on me, concertinas in Australia and elsewhere is a bit of an understatement.
I will always hold special memories of you and your “creations”, no matter they were wood, metal, leather, folded paper or concrete.
Like others, “thanks Richard”.
Like many others I was saddened to hear that Richard had died.
I first met Richard in the 1980’s when a friend took me to his fascinating terrace house in Chippendale in inner city Sydney. I felt like i had stepped back in time and for some reason Richard reminded me of Robin Hood ( it could have been his haircut).
The next thing I heard was that he and Eva had moved to Bell in the Blue Mountains and that Richard was making concertinas.
I ordered a D/G .It took me 2 years to pay for it and luckily it took Richard 2 years to make it!
Whenever I had spare cash I would put it in an envelope and post it to Bell. Eventually I took charge of Kookaburra number 11.
Subsequently I made many trips to Bell to fine tune my concertina and at the same time got to know Richard.
I live in Katoomba and don’t drive so more often than not I would get friends to drive me to Bell. They were always surprised and delighted meeting Richard and seeing his workshop as well as by the surroundings with it’s wallabies, numerous outbuildings and enclosures for Eva’s collection of exotic fowls.
I loved those trips to Bell chatting with Richard while he sorted out my concertina.
We discovered we had both emigrated from England as children.
We also both loved cats. Richard and Eva rescued and housed many moggies. Some that appeared from the bush. The cats often had humorous names. One I remember was called “Claudius”.
Richard was always very amiable and would put aside any current project to sort out my instrument. He also offered technical information over the phone. If a note wasn’t working he advised me to unscrew the concertina and blow on the appropriate reed as it probably had some dust lodged in it. That usually did the trick.
I have not seen Richard for quite a few years but I will always cherish my memories of our chats, his generosity, humour and uniqueness.
I was a concertina minnow in 1984 when I got my first concertina. Richard was very helpful, kind and generous when I had problems with it. He certainly was a real gentleman. Four concertinas later I still enjoy playing the concertina. Like Dave, I say “Thanks, Richard.”
P J Cullen
Very sad news about Richard and a great loss to the concertina world. Over the last few years we at Concertinashop.com.au have been in regular contact with Richard, his encyclopaedic knowledge and freely given advice will be missed, besides that, he was a really good bloke.
Richard will be sadly missed. I greatly appreciated his work making my ancient, old-tuning Anglo playable some 40-odd years ago, and then more recently replacing the bellows and restoring it beautifully. Such skills have been rare, and are rarer now. Losing Richard, and also Ian Simpson in such quick succession is quite a blow to the squeezebox community, and to friends and loved ones.
Lesley Silvester and Mike Murray
(Now living in WA)
We lived in Sydney at one time (1987) and were renting in Cremorne. Walking past a secondhand shop on Military Road I saw a concertina in the window. I asked if I could have a closer look and how much it was. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was a Jeffries Anglo with a $100 price tag!
We found out about Richard and made our way up to see him…of course, as newbies to Sydney and prior to SatNav, we had to find our way and eventually found Richard who did a wonderful job of restoring it to glory. Never played it, I’m a Wheatstone English girl, but sold it to a good home a few years later.
From then on, it was always good to know that we could go to Richard if we needed concertina hospital.
It has been wonderful reading all the tributes, he will be missed.