Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

What tunings were the old grey PS accordions in? Billy McComisey plays one in a clip somewhere on the Comhaltas website (Man of the house and the Rainy Day). This is Sean McGlynn’s old box that BM had restored.

I guess this is a roundabout way (indulge me this once please 😉 ) of asking, what key is he playing these tunes in?

In any case, it’s a great sounding box. How does the sound compare to their original sound - from the ‘50’s?

thanks

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

I had a couple of tunes on that box last year Brown Creeper. Lovely instrument, very individual. You could feel the history in it. I believe it was restored to it’s original specs. I found the buttons a bit narrow for my style.

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

yeah, they do look really narrow. You’re fingers would need to be really precise.

I’ve been wondering for a while about the tunings of the old grey PS boxes - and the B/C, C#/D thing. As examples (very limited ones, I know) Larry Egan and Billy McComiskey play grey and red ones; both are B/C players. Although I’m pretty sure Larry is reasonably comfortable with C#/D fingering too. Seamus Begley and Tony MacMahon play Eb/D grey boxes.

What tunings were the old grey ones available in?

Cheers

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

The box in that clip of Billy Mc is playing in Emin and looks like B/C fingers to me. I would have thought the grey paolos were available in all B/C/C#/D/D# back in the day.

Although Billy’s playing is great as always, I think the box set up this way sounds much more like a red paolo a la Joe Burke etc, with the LMM(M) sound that is so distinctive. I’d say I prefer the grey box sound of Cooley, MacMahon and more recently, Paul Finn of Teada and Danny O’Mahoney. If it takes so much effort to make a grey sound like a red, why not just get a red? I think Billy Mac’s latest album would sound better with MM or MMM reeds, dry or wet. No complaints about the tunes or the quality of his playing, both of which are excellent.

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

[I think Billy Mac’s latest album would sound better with MM or MMM reeds, dry or wet.] you’re playing my tune there, for sure. i couldn’t agree more as to billy or any other of the b/c wizards who insist on the low-reed orthodoxy. i find this sound to be cold, robotic and monotone. there seems to be a macho orthodoxy on this one—the late paddy o’brien of tipperary, ur-b/c-master of all time, usually played that setting, so they all play it. but i believe they are ill-served by it. it is the middle-reed players of all tunings & ornamental styles, who are winning hearts and minds, regardless of who gets the comhaltas fleadh awards. i have heard joe burke playing a MMM grey charlie harris-tuned box in a pinch when he was without his dry-tuned low-reed gaillard, and i’m here to tell you that he is one of the most soulful and emotional interpreters out there in addition to being a technique whiz. unfortunately, this emotional dimension of his playing is hard to discern on his low-reed box…..i also think that seamus bugler of feakle, an exquisite b/c player in the style of the late paddy o’brien, who usually plays his red paolo in the standard-issue low-reed sound, is another super-sweet player who would be a real heartmelter on a middle-reed box……

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

When I’m playing on my own every so often I enjoy opening all four reeds - I think my C#/D Castagnari is LMMM with a slight sweet swing tuning. However whenever I play with others I don’t like that sound as much and play just the MMM, it doesn’t sound so rough or tend to dominate the other instruments.

I can totally see where you’re coming from ceemonster.

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

Question Posed - What was the tuning of the old Paolo Sopranis. Known what I know now I’d say that they were mostly B/C - C#/D and D/D#
I started on a two row Hohner (Poker Finish) Had never heard of different tuning at the time so just played up and down melodion style on the outside row and often wondered what the inside row was for. A friend got a Red Paolo Soprani so I traded in the Hohner as a deposit on a Grey Paolo Soprani 2 row 3 voice on February 18th 1955. (They didn’t have any red ones in stock) I bought it at our local Electrical Shop. It cost £32 - 9 shillings I got £6 - 10 shillings as a trade in and then paid £2 - 3 - 3 monthly for 12 months. What tuning was it? Do you know I hadn’t a clue nor had anybody else local who could play the box. I do remember that somebody suggested that I would better playing on the inside row as that was how he saw a guy in a local ceili band playing a grey two row box. I’m inclined to think that it was a B/C because after I went to a lot of trouble to learn the Rambling Pitchfork (by ear of course) a fiddle player told me that I was playing it in C and that the written key for the tune was D. It was about three years later with the help of Captain Reilly’s Accordion Tudor that I learnt to play properly and could play The Rambling Pitchfork in D. A couple of years ago I met a guy of my own age group (70s) playing the same Paolo that he bought in the fifties. Sad to say he still had no idea what key he was playing in and still talked about ‘Playing on the draw’ The expression they used in the fifties for been able to play a tune in Key A (Most of the notes in the tune being draw notes)

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

That is an awesome story Free Reed - thank you.

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

Free Reed, I’ll give you double, no no, triple what you paid for the box. Great story. I’ve definitely heard of playing on the press for C#/D and on the draw for B/C. I guess it’s the Dmaj triad which suggests these names.

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

I have an old grey Paolo S. that my Mother bought me in 1952 when I was twelve years old. She paid £12 for it.
It is a D/D# and had been previously owned by Tommy Nolan of Bohermore, Galway.
I have recently had the bellows overhauled by Theo Gibb. and the reed blocks have been cleaned up by Joe (Jackie) Coogan
of Gallowglass fame.
Like the fellow in Free Reed’s letter, I have no idea as to what key I am playing in and it doesn’t worry me as I only play for my own enjoyment.
Vesey Lodge.

Re: Billy McComiskey’s Grey Paolo Soprani

I was able to win one on eBay a few years ago – 4-voice B/C. The buttons are indeed smaller – but same distance apart as other Paolos and most Irish boxes – so, if you are not precise and miss a button even a little bit, you land on the blank space between buttons. The “bucktooth” couplers also tend to get in the way – maybe that’s why you don’t see them any more. but, the sound is worth it. Billy McC said these boxes date from the mid-to-late 1940s. Some days I play it well, others not so well.