Playing the base broom beat

By: 
Lisa Ingebrand

George Korbel (right) smiles while demonstrating the base broom during the Old Time Musicians Jamboree in Montgomery on July 28. Jerry Minar is pictured with his concertina. (Lisa Ingebrand Photo)

His childhood memories dance to the beat of a base broom, a simple instrument, comprised of a broom and a wooden box. 

 

For musician George Korbel of Kilkenny, the unique instrument is pure enjoyment. 

 

“Some people call it the poor man’s tuba because it sounds similar to a tuba. Some people make fun of it. Some people ignore it. I don't know… I have fun doing it,” stated Korbel, who also plays the concertina. “My family has played it forever.” 

 

Korbel credits his uncle, Ed Honza, with introducing him to the instrument. 

 

“He’d just come back from Czechoslovakia at the time, and that’s what he saw them use as instruments—a broom, a saw, spoons, washtubs or things like that. They didn’t have money for instruments, so they just made do, and we carried it on with family,” Korbel stated. “I grew up with it.” 

 

Korbel remembers trying the instrument for the first time when he was about 10 years old. 

 

“I just started playing round with it and having fun, same with my grandkids. There are a couple (grandkids) that will play it, not real often, but when they see me playing it, they want to try,” he stated. “There are no notes or keys. You just gotta learn the sound of the music.” 

 

Over the years, Korbel has played the base broom for Montgomery’s Czech Singers, the All-You-Can-Eat Band, the local concertina club, at various music events, and for his family—just like when he was growing up.

 

“Years back, there were a lot of house parties — family gatherings — no band or nothing,” he stated. “But, most homes had a button accordion, at least in this area they did. One brother would play the accordion and the other the broom.”

 

See more in the print edition.

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