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  In November 2018 writer and accordionist Rob Howard was asked by the British Music Hall Society to write an article for their magazine ‘Call Boy’, which was duly published in January 2019. That article – ‘Accordions in the eras of Music Hall and Variety’ – inspired and formed the basis of a new book, ‘Accordion Anthology 2’ (a sequel to Accordion Anthology published in 2016). The article looked at the presence of the accordion, concertina and other free reed instruments in the Music Hall and Variety eras of the 19th and 20th Centuries, and featured the contributions of such notable musicians as Grock, Peter Honri, George Scott-Wood, Primo Scala, Nick & Carmino Capaldi, Louis Cabrelli, Toralf Tollefsen, Charles Camilleri, Jack Emblow, Pearl Fawcett, Gordon Glenn, Shirley Evans, Reg Varney, Eric Dabrowski, Valentino, Lawrie Adam, The Alexander Brothers, Borrah Minevitch, Reed & Delroy, Ricky T. Sargent, and others.

Accordion Anthology 2 presents a variety of articles and biographies, including several interesting autobiographical contributions from some well-known players. Like its predecessor, ‘Accordion Anthology’ (still available), this is a near A4 sized high quality hardback, fully illustrated with 375 photographs, and is aimed at enthusiasts.

Articles: Accordion Family Members; Accordions in the eras of Music Hall and Variety; Looking After Your Accordion; Caroline’s Antique Accordions; Castelfidardo; Diatonic Accordion Musings (by George Garside); CD & DVD Reviews (Peter Wood Shetland Dance Band DVD, David Vernon CD, Mantovani DVD, Mario Conway CD, Cambridge Buskers CD box set); The Impact of British Accordion Composition (by Lauren Farquharson); The No 1 Ladies Accordion Orchestra; The Serious Performer (by Douglas Ward); Learning the accordion – a work in progress…(by Rob Howard); Using the Accordion for Vocal Accompaniment (by Jack Emblow); Tales & Trivia; The London Accordion Orchestra; Accordion Clubs; Accordion Festivals; The Midland Accordion Festival (by Barry Smith); Scotland’s Accordion Heritage; Ireland’s Accordion Heritage; Overseas accordionists who have performed in the UK; 1829…and more milestones in the accordion’s history.

Biographical articles: Yvette Horner, Harry Hussey, Jonny Kerry, Owen Murray, Dermot O’Brien Remembered, Sharon Shannon, George Syrett, Douglas Ward, Charlie Watkins Remembered.

Autobiographical articles: Gary Blair, Gina Brannelli, Julie Best, Jean Corrighan, Mario Conway, Dave Cormack, Brian Forrest, Jean Hanger, Roy Hendrie, Rob Howard’s French Connection, Seamus O’Sullivan, Nigel Pasby, Bert Santilly, Gordon Shand, Karen Street, Karen Tweed, Robert Whitehead, Blackpool 1942 – Francis Wright’s memories.

About the Author Rob Howard

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Book Review

I recently received in the post an A4 size padded envelope which was addressed to me in a handwriting that I recognised. I was surprised to find that Rob Howard had sent me his latest book, ‘Accordion Anthology 2’, to review. He has written eight highly readable and well-illustrated books on the accordion since 2003 and I assumed that his last one, ‘Accordion Anthology’, written in 2016, would be his last. This is because there is so much information in these eight books that I wondered whether he could find enough material to write another. However, I was wrong.

Although the format and style is the same as ‘Accordion Anthology’, aimed as all the others were on the accordion player and those who like the instrument, this latest book was written by Rob following an article – ‘Accordions in the eras of Music Hall and Variety’ - he wrote for the British Music Hall Society’s magazine ‘Call Boy’.

Although some of the material covers topics that are found in Rob’s previous books, none of the material is repeated and the biographical entries that have been written about previously are either updated or expanded. In fact there are completely new photographs of the subjects of these biographies.

What makes the book so enjoyable to read are the numerous excellent colour photographs, the only black and white photographs being those taken a long while ago. Although Rob has written some of the articles, others are by those who are specialists in a particular area of the accordion, such as George Garside (‘The Diatonic Accordion’), Douglas Ward (‘The Serious Performer’) and Jack Emblow (‘Using the Accordion for Vocal Accompaniment’). I particularly enjoyed reading the article ‘Castelfidardo A Place of Pilgrimage For Accordionists Everywhere’, as it contained some interesting facts that I never knew about, such as a list of accordion manufacturers, with their dates of activity and production statistics for 1953, the year of highest production. This was when I was learning to play the accordion, when the instrument reached its height of popularity and you could buy an instrument from Bell Accordions of Surbiton for as little as 5/- weekly. I have been surprised how some people treat their accordions by the state that I see some of them. The article ‘Looking After Your Accordion’ gives good advice and if adhered to by all players would ensure that fewer instruments would get into the poor state that some I have seen.

Although most of the biographical articles are of people that I either knew of or have met, there are some whom I had no knowledge of. Even those familiar to me contained information that I was not aware of as well as some new photographs. Most of these biographies are autobiographies and consequently they vary in their readability. I particularly enjoyed reading those by Bert Santilly (‘How I Came To Learn The Accordion’) and Rob (‘Rob Howard’s French Connection’). Rob’s article ‘Learning The Accordion – A Work In Progress’ is also very interesting. I suppose why I enjoyed these articles is because they convey the satisfaction they have obtained from playing the instrument and the varied experiences they have encountered through the many activities with the instrument. This is more interesting to read than a biography that mostly lists the achievements the writer has gained.

So this latest book can be enjoyed by players, whether of little or great experience, or by those who do not play, but simply enjoy the instrument. There is certainly much new material and its pictures and production is of the usual high standard of all of Rob’s previous books, especially with its numerous high quality photographs and illustrations. I can, without hesitation, thoroughly recommend its purchase.

Peter Ayers (MD Norvic Concordia), Norwich

A few customer comments:

“Accordion Anthology 2 is beautifully laid out and very, very interesting.” – Don Ferguson, Cumbria
“I am most impressed with your book.” - Alex Govier, Cornwall
“Hi Rob. Your book is a brilliant read.” Lauren Farquharson, Dundalk, Ireland
“Well done on an excellent job with Accordion Anthology 2” - Seamus O’Sullivan, Glasgow
“I love Anthology 2 Rob. It is so beautifully produced and interesting to read” – Tony Compton, Essex
“It's tea is cold, my eyes are closing but I am still reading Accordion Anthology 2. Thanks - a mine of accordion information & so many lovely memories of old friends from the past! Truly a great 'read'. Thanks.” Adrienne Sharpe, Stockport
“Thank you for the book, beautifully laid out, and a really lovely read” – Gina Brannelli, Blackpool
“Hi there Rob, love the new book, a mine of information - an encyclopedia of the accordion world and its players” – Den Proctor, Lincolnshire
“I also think the new book is GREAT” – Harry Kipling, Hull
“I think so too Rob!” – Alma Painter, Halifax, West Yorkshire

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