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NEW! Overtons and Chieftains: A Field Report by William Porter

 

NEW!! REVIEW OF OVERTON LOW D, high Bb AND high D by Dale Wisely

You been transported from either the "Expensive" or "Low" whistle guide to enter the shadowy, confusing world of Overton/Chieftain/Kerry/Songbird. Sorting out these whistles is rather complicated and deserves a separate area. This involves whistles that come in a wide variety of high and low keys (and even a new classification of whistles which we will call "Really Low Whistles.") This page also grows out of a long effort on my part to sort out confusion about the whistles included in this little dysfunctional family of whistles. It's an effort I would have abandoned long ago if I could get my medications properly regulated.

History

In the 1970s an Englishman named Bernard Overton, along with a few musicians (notably Finbar Furey (The Fureys) pioneered the low whistle. For some time, the low D was largely synonymous with the Overton Low D. Subsequently, these handmade instruments became available in an entire range of high and low keys. At this point, all was well, the karmic energy of the universe was balanced, yada yada.

Several years ago, Bernard Overton decided to retire, a simple decision which set off a chain of events which may yet cause the fragile "whistle futures" market to collapse. Bernard sold the rights to make the Overton to two men: Colin Goldie and Phil Hardy. Mr. Hardy was interested in the sales part of the business. Fairly quickly, he decided to develop a new line of whistles, based on the Overton, but factory-made instead of handmade. Here's an excerpt from a paper which Mr. Hardy distributes:

Things began to change in the 90's when the makers of Overton whistles designed a new whistle called the Chieftain. Unlike its older brother, the Overton, the Chieftain has been manufactured with price reduction in mind, making it more affordable to beginners but with no loss of quality. Like the Overtons, the Chieftains are available in every key and are no available tuneable, with integral tuning slide. Both makes of whistle are affected by changes in temperature, so professionals can make subtle tuning adjustments without any problems.

Mr. Hardy went on to focus his effort on this new line of whistles.  Around 1998 or so, I saw them listed at Lark in the Morning under the name “Nefilim.”  This name didn’t stick and fairly quickly they were re-named “Chieftains.”

Chieftains are now fairly widely available in a full range of low and high keys, tunable and nontunable models available.

Subsequently Phil Hardy then expanded his business to include a new line of low whistles which he calls "Kerry." These are aluminum alloy, cylindrical shaft whistles with a plastic mouthpieces available now in the low keys of G, F, E, Eb, C and D. He also handmakes Low whistles under the name Kerry Pro.  The Kerry Pro I own and have played is virtually identical to the Overton Low D I own made by Colin Goldie.

Even more recently, Phil started making another line of whistles called Songbirds, which are available in high and low models.  The low Songbird has a curved blade in the mouthpiece and a very different mouthpiece design from the CHieftains and Kerrys and Kerry Pros.

Meanwhile, what of the Overtons? For awhile in the early days of Chiff & Fipple (96-98 or so), many people, including myself, were under the impression that the Chieftains had replaced the Overtons. As it turns out, Overtons had continued to be available and continued to be produced. At present, Bernard Overton has come out of retirement to hand-make them. He also licenses Colin Goldie to continue to hand-make them. There still is confusion sometimes about Chieftains and Overtons because they are relatively close in appearance. If you want an Overton and not a Kerry whistle, or vice versa, you'll need to take extra care to make sure you're getting what you want.  Unfortunately, even some vendors confuse them and we know cases where Chieftains were sold as Overtons. And, as I say, the Overton and Kerry Pro are so similar that I'd get a headache trying to tell them apart.

All Overtons have an Overton-stamp on the tube. The O is a bit bigger than the following letters and also is centered to the rest of the name. You will find some older whistles made by Colin stamped CSG OVERTON.  All Overtons are supplied with bags and high-quality certificates of authenticity. 

 

NEW!! REVIEW OF OVERTON LOW D, high Bb AND high D by Dale Wisely

___________________________________

OVERTONS. Cylindrical, tunable, built in fipple. Hand made in the full range of keys by Bernard Overton, by Colin Goldie. Overtons are fine whistles, with consistently good reviews, favored by many professional players. The Overton Low D was the original Low D whistle.

Here's a recent Overton Price list and contact information for Overtons. PRICES ARE IN EUROS

Models Available

Soprano F, E, Eb, D, C#, C    € 125

Mezzo-Soprano: B, Bb, A      € 142

Alto: Ab, G, F                     € 158

Tenor:  E, Eb, D, C#            € 175

Baritone: C, B                     € 190

Bass: Bb, A,                       € 206

Bass: G                             € 230

 

Now, note that Overton is making BASS whistles. That's lower than low. We'll call these "Really Low whistles." I am sure they are impossible to play, but that's another story.) 

 

Bernard Overton

61, Heath Lane

Brinklow, Rugby

Warwickshire CV23 0NR

ENGLAND

Telephone: (01788) 832404

Colin Goldie

Email: goldie@overton.de 

 

Colin Goldie anodized Overtons.

Colin Goldie is now creating some whistles which are done in special colors through an anodizing process. It's more expensive, but it looks great. He is only doing this by custom order.

 

Much more information on the Overton website:

http://www.overton.de

 

CHIEFTAINS. Factory-made whistles which were probably originally patterned after Overtons. My own bias is that the factory approach may lower the price a bit (which is a good thing) but I would imagine that some decline in quality may be the compromise.  This has been debated a great deal. The whistles are cylindrical aluminum alloy, built in fipple, tunable and nontunable models available. Phil Hardy developed these during the time he was a licensed maker of Overtons. Because of the confusion, Chieftains were sometimes sold as Overtons. The prices are somewhat lower than Overtons. I believe non-tunable range from about $110-$200. I believe tunables should be around $180-190. I have generally heard positive reviews on Chieftain whistles. My overall impression is that they are very good whistles, but I am not at all convinced at this point that they are as good as Overtons.  This is, of course, a matter of opinion.

I got this from an email sent to me by Phil in January 2004:

Since jan 2003 all Chieftains have been remodeled and that the tuneables now carry a first class greased cork slide tuneing system with over body collet,on-body engraving of name and key.

 

UPDATE (12/8/99):  Phil Hardy sent me a Chieftain “Gold” Low D for review.  It’s a new line of brass models which are pretty much similar to the Overton design except for some different features to the mouthpiece.  It’s a very nice whistle with a fine sound, a deep low end, and accurate tuning.  The tone is very much like the Overton.  It’s heavy (because of the brass) but it is physically balanced.  I like it.

Update, 2004:  Mr. Hardy informs me these have been discontinued.

KERRY. Low whistles with cylindrical shafts and plastic mouthpieces (Like the Howard). Made by the people who make Chieftains (Phil Hardy). This was originally only available in Low D but now they're available in G, F, E, Eb, and C. I own a Low D, which I like pretty well, although I prefer the Howard Low D...which is the whistle it is most like. It is a rather tough whistle to play in tune. The lowest hole is quite a stretch and the whistle really MUST be played with the flat finger style. I've yet to communicate with anyone who owns any of the other keys. Kerrys are fairly low priced, usually in the $80-$90 range. I got a sample from Phil.  It had a persistent buzzing sound in the mouthpiece I could never eliminate.  I preferred the Howard to the Kerry.

KERRY PRO. Is the name for the more expensive line of whistles that Mr. Hardy handmakes. The one I own is virtually identical to the Overton Low D I own, which also means it is excellent.

Kerry Songbird.  A new soprano whistle and, as of 2004 or 2005, a Low D version is available.   I’ve not seen or played the soprano version, but I've played the Low which I like a great deal.

My thanks to: Kevin Popejoy, Brigitte Frein, Bernard Overton, Phil Hardy, Colin Goldie, William Porter, and the Tinwhistle Collective.

Kerry Whistles has a fine and entertaining commercial website at http://www.kerrywhistles.com .  It contains a lot of really useful video and audio recordings of whistle players in performance.  Be sure to check out their forum, where they say some nasty things about me and Chiff & Fipple.  But, that's a story for another day.

NEW! Overtons and Chieftains: A Field Report by William Porter

 

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