by Mickie Zekley
MICKIE Colin, how did you get into making concertinas?
COLIN It's a long story. I bought a couple of crashed Jeffries concertinas when I was 14 and started working on them and managed to get them together in some form or another. And a lot of dealings with Crabb’s early on made me want new instruments. I wanted an Anglo built to my specifications and they didn't feel they could do it at the time, so I went about making my own, and several other people wanted a similar thing. I soon found I had 4 or 5 orders and we were working at the time, my brother and I, at college, started working on antique musical instruments, because we were always interested in them. So, the first instruments we made were at school because the school band was a brass band. There was a great interest in folk music at that time and we wanted some guitars and couldn't buy them so we went out and made some. My interest in stringed musical instruments started then. We were repairing antique musical instrument in college then, too. And there was a collector of concertinas who brought up some early concertinas and I started working on those. It was starting there that I decided it would be worthwhile to make new concertinas. They're very interesting instruments these early concertinas. Though the technical expertise wasn't very high, the standard of craftsmanship was superb. So we started out making concertinas then and took a big chance and left work as an industrial designer and design engineer, left London and came here and set up a workshop.
MICKIE What kind of innovations have you done on the concertina?
COLIN We've tried a great number of design changes mainly to do with the layout of the reedpan itself which lend them most capable to taking the tone. We've found that we can alter the resonance of the reed by adjusting the reed chamber, increasing the depth on the tipside of the reed. That has some beneficial effect, but we're still playing around with many variations. We can now make an instrument in the time required, although it's very difficult to find out what each persons interpretation of that amount is. I wish we could have a nice showroom full of instruments, but we can't afford to do it.
MICKIE Your wife Rosalee works with you now.
COLIN Yes, she does most of the woodwork and the fretted metal ends.
MICKIE You work in the attic of your house. How old is the house?
COLIN It was built in about 1790, after the great fire of Heytsbury. It started on the west end of Heyt street which is here...The walls of the room we're sitting in are much earlier, though, they're what was left from the old village built around the 1600's.
MICKIE You're interested in all the old Celtic monuments, too?
COLIN Yes, both my brothers and I were always climbing up to the old hill forts and staring across looking for the alignments, and walking about with dowsing sticks. Whenever we can we seem to come back to that. We live right in the middle of it over here, on every hill around here there's a hill fort and we're not far from Stonehenge and Avebury and Glastonbury and the Maiden castle to the south.
MICKIE Bertram Levy was telling me a story once about you and your brother Drew getting some chalk and going from monument to monument and having some strange experiences, at least Bertram did.
COLIN Oh yes, I think that was the time we took the dowsing sticks up to the barrows and I must admit we had some very strange electrical effects round about the barrows. I'd like to try it some more but we haven't had the time.
MICKIE What is the strangest concertina you've ever seen?
COLIN We had one that was an Anglo that had black and white notes like a small piano accordion. that was very strange, it had one row of bone white buttons and the semi-tones in black. I've never seen another one of those, it was a Lachenal.
Colin is an accomplished musician, playing the Concertina, Melodeon and Serpent. Colin plays with a band and performs locally to his area.