New Bedford Concertina Band

There were quite a few concertina marching bands in England at the turn of the century, but until I saw this photograph I was unaware that there had been any outside the UK. I am grateful to Tony Barrand both for permission to show this photo and for the following words of description that accompany it:

Photo was obtained from Mr. Skinner, first on left at front, in 1978

Back Row: 48 English six-sided wood ends, 30 Anglo six-sided wood, 30 Anglo six-sided metal, 56 English tenor-treble(?) 12-sided wood (Lachenal?), melodeon, 30 Anglo six-sided metal

Front Row: 30 Anglo six-sided metal, 20 Anglo wood (Made by Bevin), 30 Anglo six-sided metal (Jeffreys), 30 Anglo six-sided metal, bass drummer, side-drummer, 30 Anglo six-sided metal, 30 baritone Anglo six-sided wood, Melodeon.

The band was started in 1912 by Mr. Wright (second from left in front) and lasted for three years. John Roberts and I actually got to see the 20-button Bevin and the 30-button Jeffreys when interviewing his son, Mr. John Wright (third from the left) in 1978. He and his father were from Blackburn. John Wright was 31 when the picture was taken. They emigrated in 1905.

On getting the band started: "Well we got two or three of us together..then kept adding another one and two...finally we got a leader of a band...he didn't play concertina...but he knew he started us off."

New Bedford was heavily populated by English immigrants from Lancashire who came to work the mills between 1895 and about 1930 when the mills moved their businesses south. All of the band were mill workers from Lancashire. They had a man who did not play concertina serve as band leader and work out arrangements which were taught by ear. Only three of them read music. They all brought their instruments from England with them.

Mr. John Wright said that his father (and his father's brother) used to play for dances and weddings and parties in Blackburn on the 20 key Bevin ("I don't know where he got was a second hand concertina when he bought it"). Mostly his father would play solo but would also sometimes do jobs with a piano player. His father had a cheap Italian concertina which he learned on and first played for clog dancing. When John Wright got married, he bought the 30 key Jeffreys. He learned to play on the Italian when his father was out doing a job. The first tune he learned was the waltz, "When you are in love, it's the loveliest time of the year".

We fixed up his instruments (which were both in the keys of C/G) and he played that waltz and "Irish Washerwoman" and "Over the Waves". Mostly they played marches and popular tunes. Mr. Wright died in 1980.

Tony Barrand