Welcome!

I’ve kept this blog since 2011, and I go through phases of writing a lot and then not writing much. Right now, I’m in the middle of the lengthy and obsessive Bal Folk Tune Book Project. The posts written over the years seem to stand up pretty well. From tributes to heroes of mine (e.g., Yann-Fanch Perroches and Daniel Thonon), or an interview with Frédéric Paris or Andy Cutting. I take deep dives into specific tunes (e.g., On d’onoren Garda and Le Cotillon Vert). On the menu bar are links to a bunch of things: interviews, a great tune book, my own CD, and a story about my trip to Alsace.

What I’m saying is that there’s a lot of cool stuff here that I had a lot of fun writing — all of it about French and Breton button accordion (and related environs). I invite you to explore the 270 or so posts that are here.

Thanks

Gary

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Featured post

“Excursion (Huaka’i) Waltz” (#114)

Actually, this is “Villapourçon,” which I have used as the soundtrack for an excursion (huaka’i) on the Parker Pond Headlands. It’s an interesting tune, with the A section in D, but being played on the G/C accordion (the Mory), and then it changes to G for the B section and seems to have this amazing feeling of levitation.

I have been learning video editing during the quarantine, and I used this 1:36 to experiment with a bunch of stuff. It ended up being very time consuming. If I continue down this rabbit hole, I will never get through the Bal Folk Tune Book Project.

Bourrée d’Aurore Sand (#155)

This one was actually in the process of entering the Le Bon Truc repertoire thanks to Steve Gruverman. We tried it in a bunch of places on a bunch of accordions, and think we ended up in G minor. Here, on the G/C Mory, it fits on the pull minor (Amin), but I’m playing it here on the push minor (Emin), as notated in the Bal Folk Tune Book. My harmonies are simple Emin to Amin and back again (repeat). For the video, I tried something different. Doing a slide show of Auvergnat postcards. I did this at a performance at the Hubbard Library in Hallowell a good number of years ago — projecting the slideshow behind me while I played. It was nice, I think, for the audience to have something to look at besides me. Part of the Bal Folk Tune Book Project.

And for a bonus, here’s a troupe from Berry doing the same piece, probably with more authenticity, and certainly with nicer hats.

Bourrées à Deux Temps (#143, 152, 151)

Here are three of the good-old old ones. Le Ruban Bleu, Youp’ Nanette, and (the other) Youp’ Nanette. Yes, there are two. That Nanette! Must have been something. Like that lovely Nancy who keeps showing up in English songs. Played on the Hohner Erica A/D.

Allez! Allez!

I wrote this “mazurka vite!” 27 years ago on the occasion of my nephew’s birth. I recently revisited it. Been working on video skills and decided to add whistle and guitar. It was very fun! Sheet music below.

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Four bourrées (#75, 71, 72, 76) à trois temps

I’ve been hanging out on page 16 of the Bal Folk Tune book and recorded these four bourrées in three. Played on my Castagnari Mory G/C, with a lot of the stops in. Trying to create a light sound. I notice I am a real push/pull player when it comes to bourrées, rather than crossing rows often. I don’t really know how that fits with the idiom, especially with its roots in the very legato Chromatic Button Accordion. I’ll think about this.

75 Para Lou Loup Petiote 71 Bourrée 72 Prends Garde au Loup 76 La Mourolliado

I notice as this project progresses that I tend to play tunes “straight,” i.e., as I imagine they would be for dancing. This is great, but with my group and in my stage performances I am more theatrical or cinematic (like, what’s the story that this tune is the background music for, what story is this tune telling). In fact, I’ve been accused of being Wagnerian. I am not sure how I will proceed, but I WILL proceed. Stay tuned.

P.S., I learn in the comments below that #71 is called “Lou Moridon Cotet”

Two Waltzes: La Marianne (#115) and Brezon Valse (#100)

I’ve always assumed “Brezon Valse” meant “Breton Waltze,” but I don’t know that for a fact. I learn in the comments below that Brezon is a valley in Auvergne, and I feel a little foolish. But thank you Emmanuel Lazinier, for letting me know! I’ve only heard it played by Auvergnat players, Gentiane and Michel Esbelin — it’s a great tune with an ABCB structure, which means you practice the B section twice as much as all the other sections. “La Marianne” is a Frédéric Paris tune from his fantastically important Carnet de Bal cassette. I’ve recorded it a few times, including once playing with my Dad.

Had to switch computer systems last night and went back to old video editing software, not such a fan. In the old software I would have cropped out the vacuum cleaner.

This is part of the Bal Folk Tune Book Project. Go check it out and buy the tune book!

Three Scottishes (#9, 7, and 4)

Scottish des Oiselets (the second tune) is by Trevor Upham — one of a number of tunes by him and Chris Shaw from the George Inn Giant Ceili Band that were added to the Bal Folk Tune Book when Mally Productions took it over from Dragonfly. It’s a tricky tune and I had one of those things happen where, even though I’ve been playing it all week, when the camera was going I couldn’t get through without a flub. Finally, I got it, and here it is. A sweet tune that feels more cinematic the dance-ish. The other two tunes were less dramatic in their nascence, being traditional and somewhat less twisty.

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