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Chemnitzer Concertina!

February 7, 2011

I got a chemnitzer concertina!  It’s really pretty.

Our friend Alan scours craigslist for “accordions, accordians, concertinas, melodions….” and turned up a used chemnitzer right here in East Vancouver – that’s unlikely.  It turns out our other friend Chris Urquhart got it a year or more ago and even though we had asked on the radio if there were any teachers in the area, no luck.

Chris is heading out on the road now researching a book on rough travelling kids, who play a lot of (portable, loud) accordions and concertinas.  We await her return to hear about her adventures, including recordings to go with the book. Amazing project – but sadly not one you want lug a fifteen pound mailbox on.  We’re happy to keep it in the family so she can see it when she gets back.

Chemnitzer concertinas are a rarity, developed in Chemitz, Germany and closely related to Heinrich Band’s bandoneón.  They look similar, but the chemnitzer (in Germany sometimes konzertina) is usually more decorative (ie. more mother of pearl and more colours!)  In North America they’re mostly limited to certain ethnic dance/polka styles in the upper midwest.  (This one came from Illinois by internet-special.)  Two rock-bands I know of also play them, David Eugene Edwards, and a Seattle band called Guardian Alien.

air valve/lever

It’s pretty.

It was swell to meet Chris finally, and we talked about accordions for a while and I recorded a bit of our yakin to share on the radio.  It was cool to discuss our books with another author.  I think I want to find a writers’ group to give me deadlines, and Chris suggested I’m ready to do some proposing to publishers.  We’ll see.

Get more on chemnitzers:

Here’s a swell article from the Polish American Journal

or check the in-depth US Concertina Assn. site, where they even have a new book I want to review.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 12:23 pm

    im so glad it went to a great home! keep me in the loop on your progress!


  2. February 14, 2011 10:27 pm

    Hey (from your host Bruce),

    We got an informative email that I’ll include here:



    I looked at your blog about your recent find. It looks to be a 102-key
    (51 button) chemnitzer concertina manufactured in Germany by Alfred
    Arnold (note the “A” in the decorative badge on the front of the

    Ernest Arnold began manufacturing free reed instruments in Carlsfeldt,
    Germany in 1864. His son Alfred took over the business some time
    later, and then Alfred’s son Arno took over the business from him. The
    Arnold family was best known for their bandonions / bandoneons.
    However, they also produced many chemnitzer concertinas for export to
    the United States prior to World War I. Once World War I began,
    materials for constructing concertinas in Germany became scarce which
    put an end to the import activity. That is what really prompted the
    manufacture of instruments in the United States. Arno began to export
    concertinas to the United States again in the 1950s and 1960s to offer
    a less expensive alternative to the domestically produced models.

    Arnold concertinas made while Alfred ran the company would have been
    manufactured sometime between 1900 and 1940. I cannot date your
    instrument exactly, but based upon the features and decorative
    designs, I suspect that your Arnold concertina was manufactured
    sometime between 1910 and 1930.

    The early Arnold concertinas were well made, but suffer from being
    vintage import instruments. As you may already know, these vintage
    instruments are cherished more for their nostalgic value rather than
    their musical quality. Most models do not offer the sound quality or
    performance of instruments produced later in the United States when
    more care was taken with design and material selection. These imported
    instruments are generally not as desirable to today’s professional
    musicians and serious hobbyists, although some specific early models
    are known to be exceptional performers.

    The original sales price depended on the number of buttons, sets and
    types of reeds, and exterior finish. Prices fell within the range of a
    couple of hundred to several hundred dollars; a lot of money during
    those years.

    Valuing these instruments is always difficult. So many variables can
    affect their eventual sales price. An assessment must be made of the
    instrument’s playing condition; do all buttons operate, do all reeds
    operate, are there no air leaks (you can suspend the ‘box from one
    handle with little or no leaks), is the finish good (no chips, cracks
    or missing pieces), is the bellows leather good, is there a musty or
    mildew odor, are all reeds in good tune, etc. Based on the photo that
    you published, I believe that this is a double reed model (two reeds
    sound for each button that is pressed) with 102 keys or tones (51
    buttons) and that it is likely tuned to the key of C. This particular
    instrument looks to be in fair cosmetic condition, and could be worth
    between $200 and $400 in today’s market.

    I hope that this information is helpful. Please let me know if you
    have any other questions or if we can be of any other assistance.

    Kenneth W. Yagelski
    Executive Director
    United States Concertina Association –
    Find us on Facebook.

  3. Jason Berg permalink
    November 19, 2011 5:31 pm


    I just picked up a Chemnitzer Concertina the other day from a friend of mine. On the in side it has a stamping of Henry Silberhorn and his address located inside. It also has marking that are very very much the same. Could you get in touch with me so that i may be able to get in touch with the gentleman that has given you this information. Thanks.


  4. michael meade permalink
    February 27, 2014 4:01 pm

    how can I buy one of these?

  5. March 24, 2014 11:22 am

    Bruce, I play the Chemnitz Concertina and have been in Vancouver for the past week, leave March 25. If you would like a quick lesson, I’d be happy to stop by. You can reach me at I’m also a member of the Czech Area Concertina Club in Minnesota. Short notice, sorry.
    Pat Boulay
    Minneapolis, MN

    • March 25, 2014 11:27 am

      Oh Pat! Sorry to miss you! It would have been great if you could have been on the radio show with us. You might have looked at my broken-down chemnitzer here too. I’m curious how much it would cost to get fixed up. Ah, well, next time? Hope you had a good trip.

  6. Jake permalink
    November 20, 2014 6:26 pm

    I live near Portland, OR. My grandparents had a polka band for years and I grew up listening to my mom and relatives play. Back in 2008, I got a concertina and decided to teach myself how to play. Lots of fun.. Get some music on the net and just start to peck away at it. It comes in time and is really a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Watch out though, the tunes stay in your head!!!!

    • pboulay permalink
      March 9, 2015 3:14 pm

      Jake, lots of free music at More than 3,000 tunes. Enjoy

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