Late Wheatstone Chidley System Duet Concertina
Kenneth Vernon Chidley (1892-1964), was a
son of Edward Chidley junior (1858-1941),
and grandson of Edward Chidley senior (1830-1899) both
associated with Wheatstone & Co. going back to the days of
Professor Wheatstone (dates and genealogy from Wes Williams's
K. V. Chidley said that he entered the family business in 1906, and
managed production from 1924. He was a director of C. Wheatstone & Co. in the
mid twentieth century, and is recorded as
experimenting with new fingering for duets before World War II.
At the end of 1950, when Wheatstone was just emerging
from its hibernation of 1939-1949, an article written by
him appeared in "The
Concertina," a section in the World Accordion
Review, of which Chidley was at the time the Technical Advisor. In
the article, he described a new fingering system for
Wheatstone duets (the "Chidley system").
Like the Maccann system, his design had six columns,
but with each column containing a strict alternation of
exactly two notes of the twelve-note scale (for example,
column 3 on the right side contained the notes a,
e’, a’, e’’, a’’,
e’’’, a’’’ ). To a Maccann
player this resembles the Maccann arrangement with all
the "irregularities" removed, and so
Chidley-system instruments are now often referred to as
"Chidley-Variant Maccanns" (and they did
replace the Maccann-system instruments in the Wheatstone
catalog). But Chidley’s discussion in this article
suggests that his thought process was not to modify the
Maccann design, but to go back to earlier Wheatstone
designs and to extend them in a better way than Maccann
had done. Chidley particularly singles out for mention
William Wheatstone’s otherwise-obscure seven-column
design from the patent of 1861 (and from the unique
though unmentioned), and he adopts
a feature seen in #35074, the deeper overlap of one and a
half octaves between the two sides.
This new fingering system in fact began to be
manufactured by Wheatstone just a few months later. In
the Wheatstone production ledgers, instruments with the
Chidley-system fingering are identified as "uniform
keyboard" or "uniform fingering." The
first such instrument was
completed 3 April 1951. But
Wheatstone was making few duets in the 1950s, and some of those were
Maccann-system instruments requested by purchasers; it seems likely that fewer than 50
Chidley-system duets were ever made, all between 1951 and 1966.
The 'Duet' System, discussed by K. V. Chidley
by Kenneth V. Chidley
Review of the history of the duet concertina leading up to
Chidley's own post-war "Chidley System".
As published in World Accordion Review
6:3 (December 1950): 31-32. Also a differing version
as reprinted with notes by Neil Wayne
as K. V. Chidley, "The Duet Concertina--Its History and the Evolution
of its Keyboard," Free Reed: The Concertina Newsletter 17
(Jan/Feb 1974): 15-17.
Posted 15 November 2001
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Fingering Systems of the “Wheatstone” Concertina
by C. Wheatstone & Co.
A leaflet showing the four concertina systems made by Wheatstone in the
late 1950s: English, Anglo, Chidley duet, and Crane/Triumph duet.
As was Wheatstone’s invariable practise, the Chidley system is
called simply the “Wheatstone Duet” (as the Maccann system had
also been styled previously), and there is no mention of the fact that
the keyboard layout has been changed—apart from the evidence of the keyboard diagram.
The printing is apparently before 1956,
but this copy was issued with overstamping dating from at least 1959.
Collected by Chris Algar.
Posted 15 February 2003
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