In the field of folk music in Ireland, the accordion and concertina resemble as the most vital musical instruments since their appearance in the late 1800s. Many Irish musicians have developed their craft through these two distinct instruments, especially the accordion which has two rows of buttons that come along with it. Also popular in certain Irish parts is the melodeon – a ten-key instrument – which is specially played in the Connemara area.
What separates the Irish accordion from its other counterparts in the Western hemisphere is that there are distinct semi-tones among the two rows of buttons. This ensures that the music to be played comes along harmoniously or with colour. The best examples of combinatory semi-tones are C#/D and B/C. In the latter, the accordion is played in a more formed manner, a type of music that is generally appreciated during the mid-20th century, popularised by musicians Sonny Brogan, Joe Burke, and Paddy O’Brien. Eventually, James Keane of Dublin brought along the accordion on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, thus giving the accordion the exposure as Keane became popular in the States.
As for the B/C semitone, musicians Keane, Finbarr Dwyer, and Bobby Gardiner gave prominence to it. It has a more upbeat or slightly dramatic quality that is comparable to a polka dance. During the same duration as discussed previously, the Irish accordion has become a staple among the composers and musical artists of Ireland, and such can be said the same at present. It is dubbed as a folk instrument among the Irish in the process, for its ease in handling, variety in melody, and distinct quality even if the pitch is changed higher or lower, thus different bands – even Scottish ones – gave it the deserved exposure.
The music in Ireland created a further boom two decades after, and the accordion followed suit along with a development of its style through the years that followed. The greenhorn musical artists preferred a more mellow style that complements a rhythmic variety. Thus came the emergence of free-reed musical instruments, such as the concertina which is a relative of the accordion. With its both parts having horns and buttons, the movements are synced when these are depressed. This instrument originated in England and Germany, having varied nomenclatures in the past. To date, its renewed version has been widely adopted by many musicians in the vicinity of Ireland.
In the past century, England and Germany developed two distinct types of concertina. To date, the Irish stuck to a combined version of the two earlier types as the concertina gained immense following by the masses. Such was the distinction between the two earlier types that the biggest distinction lies in the stature of a person playing it. The German concertina is generally played by the middle class, while the English version is preferred by the elite. As the years go by, the English type is more preferred in rendering classical music, while the German version gave justice to the more upbeat and groovy types.
The combined factors involving an immense following of the more stable accordion, as well as the preference of other types of musical instruments led to an impending phase-out of the concertina due to a far less patronisation. While some craftsmen still make them on an occasional basis, a further concern with budget constraints gave additional problems. This was further impeded by the effects of the two world war, with the infiltration of the Nazi made music in Europe lost a bit of magic. In the process, so did the concertina. However, the 60s decade indeed gave a rebirth to the instrument due to the renaissance of traditional music. In this era, the English concertina made its mark further among the bands of Ireland at that time. This has paved the way for its prominence around the United Kingdom.
For the accordion, the musical arrangement can be tweaked in more than a few manners. For Ireland, the Anglo style seems more prevalent. In an Anglo style, the distinction lies in the notion that each button pressed yields a distinct tune. This does not even count whether the horns are being compressed or not. An Anglo style ranges between two or three rows of buttons. It also includes an additional button where the accordion player uses with the right thumb as a way to manipulate the horns either filled or not.
An Anglo style employing a two-row type consists of ten buttons per row for a total of twenty button. For this type, the range of tunes become more widespread rather than restricted, hence this is not utilised widely in Ireland.
In contrast, a Anglo style employing a three-row type utilises a third row dedicated to flats and sharp, along with the inclusion of other repetitive notes. This makes the accordion capable of playing any playable tune. Because of this style, accordion players became more accustomed to frequently adjusting the direction of the horns, thus giving distinctions between the notes being played. Further, this provides a resemblance to a repetitive rhythm.
Meanwhile, the accordion’s English version gives a similar tune without regard to the button and the positioning of the horns. In this manner, any note can be orchestrated in any comfortable manner, making the rhythm be undisrupted if the horn’s direction is to be changed.
Despite the elegance provided by the English accordion and the more upbeat and vibrant resonance brought by the Anglo style, a competent Irish accordion player should adapt to both types of accordion.
With the notion that both the concertina and accordion have withstood the tests of time, it is worth appreciating that these instruments propagated by Ireland have indeed created a welcome revival in the musical scene. The development of such variants in playing styles have denoted progress of the instruments for a better purpose, or else the contributions of these amazing instruments would have been long gone in oblivion.