James C. Morrison's Accordion Tutor

How to Play the Globe Accordeon Irish Style

The Meisel Simplified Method: How to Play the Globe Accordeon Irish Style. An Easy and Practical Method for Self-Instruction. Also Contains Selections of Irish Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes, Long Dances, Airs, Ballads and Other Popular Music / arranged by James C. Morrison. New York: C. Meisel Inc., 1931

[tune titles listed below on left]

By the 1920s, melodeons and accordions had become well established in Irish traditional music, especially in Irish America where they were popular band instruments. Agents for Globe accordions in particular were successfully targeting Irish players in the United States by the mid-1920s with a variety of amateur and professional instruments, and using the prominent Cork-Boston accordion player Jerry O’Brien in advertising campaigns. At the end of the decade New York resident James C. Morrison of Riverstown, Co Sligo, well known in the city on stage, record and radio, was commissioned to write a tutor for the Globe accordion. ‘Professor’ Morrison (1893–1947) was primarily famous as a fiddle player, but he also sold, played and taught the accordion, among other instruments. He included in the tutor a selection of tunes suitable for beginners, reproduced on the left, from the popular contemporary repertory, most of which had been published on Irish commercial recordings in New York.

The diatonic Globe accordion for which Morrison wrote the tutor would today be described as a ten-key melodeon. Since he left no recordings as an accordion or melodeon player, we have no idea of his proficiency on the instrument, but he is known to have had close associations with noted players of the instrument of his day, including the melodeon player P.J. Conlon and the accordionist Tom Carmody, with both of whom he recorded. While the ten-key melodeon has great expressive possibilities, particularly for dance music, it is quite limited in musical compass in comparison to other instruments in the Irish tradition. Judging from his music scores, Morrison had a well-grounded understanding of the strengths and limitations of the instrument. He modifies tunes where necessary to fit them to the compass of the instrument, and carefully tailors each element of the scores to its characteristics.

A Globe accordion played by James Morrison in New York has recently been donated to the James Morrison Music Festival in his native Riverstown: see here. For a biography of Morrison by Harry Bradshaw and 30 remastered tracks of his music, see the double audio cassette James Morrison: The Professor (Viva Voce 001, Dublin, 1989). Morrison’s tutor and tune book of 1931 was doubtless an exemplar for an accordion tutor and tune book of 1949 by Jerry O’Brien in Boston (see here).

The Irish Traditional Music Archive has a photocopy of Morrison’s accordion tutor, kindly donated to it by Hugh E. O'Rourke of New York, from which these tunes were set. It would always welcome a donation of the original tutor, or a loan of it for digital scanning.

NC, TH & JS, 23 May 2013

Tunes in this collection