More photos from Brigid Chapin of the newly acquired Castagnari Nik. Brigid’s portfolio can be found here.
So I got it. Officially. Paid for and everything. Had to sell two other accordions and Fender Telecaster with amp. Worth every cent. Don’t expect an objective review. Rather, expect a panegyric, an encomium, an elaborate laudation. I have brought the Castagnari Nik home. Paid for it. Begun getting to know it. What a ridiculously effortless ease-of-play it has! Brigid has taken some pictures. Happy.
Happy! Don’t want to appear materialistic. Acquiring this thing, being happy. But I am. The sounds that come out of the Castagnari Nik. These sounds will improve my quality of life. Unfortunately, I don’t have the recording savvy to create a document that will truly communicate how wonderfully sonorous the Nik is. I will be going into a recording studio this summer. Here are two videos I shot, recently.
The first is a classic French Waltz, Belle Bergére (“Beautiful Shepherdess”). The left hand sounds a little honky on the YouTube. Sounds better in person.
The second video is another rendition of The Cheshire Waltz. I wasn’t very happy with the version I shot on the Saltarelle, and then a colleague said, “Bet that would sound great on your Nik.” And it does.
Is it the last accordion I’ll ever buy? That’s a beacon of grail shaped dimensions. This two-row, G/C, MM, no-stops box? This simple accordion … with it’s sweet sound and exquisite, unbelievable touch? Let’s just say, if it were the last accordion I ever bought, I’d be quite okay.
Over at Gumshoe Arcana, Monk has written an excellent and brief comprehensive explanation of how the reed blocks in an accordion work. Very clear! Check it out.
|“Daring, come see where we are!”|
|Bethany, Gary, Sylvain, Alban, et Romain, in Strasbourg|
|A tapestry from the 15th century showing hairy men
in the New World
|Corrupting the youth at the pique-diatonique.
Photo by François
It is with envy that I follow the Pique-diatonique, an occasional gathering of diatoniste and their closest allies in Alsace, France. My friends, Sylvain Piron and Catherine Piron-Paira, are regular attenders, as are many of the players I met while in France. This year’s event takes place on May 29, in the village of Dahlenheim, near Strasbourg.
For those of us unable to attend, I want to suggest that we create a new holiday — Pique-diatonique Day. On May 29, the diatonic diaspora will join in spirit and music with the Pique-diatoniste. Either alone or in groups, gather with baskets, sausage, cheese, and wine (gewürztraminer?), and play a few tunes from the Pique-diatonique Tunebook, Le petit bréviaire du diatoniste d’Alsace et d’ailleurs (clicking gets you to the tunebook). The tunes are given as sheet music, and accordion tab. There are a good number of Alsatian tunes, but most come from all over France, including Brittany. Given time, I’m sure that we, les absents, can come up with other traditions to celebrate our Alsatian brethren and sisteren. Something with storks?
|Photo by Knut Utler|
In comments on the Accordion Workshop post, the inquisitive TomB wrote:
The most striking thing to me about these photos is just how much metal is inside these instruments. Has that always been the case?
Building materials are not my forte, so I asked my buddy, Andy from Vermont. In very quick order, he replied:
As far as I know, metal has always been used on the part that I would call the pallet rods, which connect the button lever (the part attached to the button) to the pallet. However, the button levers were (and still are, in many accordions) made out of wood. I believe that the pallets themselves were historically made out of wood (and again, still are wooden in many accordions), but some modern accordions use aluminum pallets.
My Melodie has nylon (possibly Delrin) button levers, copper pallet rods, and wooden pallets. Your Nik has wooden button levers, and probably aluminum pallet rods. You can check under the grille and see whether the pallets themselves are wooden or metal. [I checked and they are wood. GC] I’ve seen some old bandoneons with wooden pallet rods. The only modern button accordion that I’ve seen (in pictures only) with wood pallet rods is a model made by a French builder, Stephan Le Lan.
An advantage of metal is stability despite humidity changes. If pallet rods shrink or expand, the result can pull the pallets away from the action board, which would result in air leaks and reeds that sound even when the button isn’t depressed.
Thank you, Andy from Vermont!
The tune is “Le Roulier,” a traditional piece that I first heard on Frédéric Paris’ Carnet de Bal. The images are photos taken by my daughter, Brigid.
Off topic from the usual French stuff, the Melodeon.net Theme of the Month is music from Scotland. I’ve loved harper Robin Williamson for years. This tune, “Lady Cassili’s Lilt,” is on Williamson’s Legacy of the Scottish Harpers.
UPDATE: A listener over on Melodeon.net supplied the following information “Lady Cassilis’ Lilt” is a very old tune (she died in 1642) and was used for the ballad Johnny Faa and the Earl of Cassillis’ Lady, the origin of Gypsy Davy/Gypsy Laddie/Gypsy Rover. It’s most commonly heard nowadays as the tune for the Jacobite song “Wae’s Me for Prince Chairlie.”
I pulled this out of the Patrick Lefebvre post because I thought it would stand better on its own. Apologies if I’m wrong. As always, comments, questions, and corrections are welcome.
|Bombarde and Biniou Duo:
Piercing and Piercing-er
Breton accordion music is not something I mentioned in my foregoing post, A Brief History of French Accordion, and I’ve been chided for it. Breton music, the music of Brittany, is a parallel tradition to the musique traditionelle du centre France. The two traditions rarely encountered one another. Brittany is the celtic region in northern France, and its music is characterized by small pieces of melody repeated, repeated with slight variation, and trance-making persistence. About a hundred years ago, accordions joined the Breton musical ensemble, along with the bombardes (shawm) and biniou (bagpipe). When I stumbled onto Patrick Lefebvre in 2003 I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as a Breton accordion tradition. But there is. There is.
One of the things I learned from Andy of Vermont was that one of the ways Lefebvre “did it” (i.e., played so fleetly with such amazing basses and chords) was that he played a chromatic accordion on many tracks, not a diatonic. It seems so obvious, now, but at the time I hadn’t noticed. At first I was a bit crestfallen. I was a bit of a diatonic purist, then — unlike now. (Hey!) But what is fantastic about Accordéon Gavotte isn’t the technique, or the fleetness, or the easy way with basses and chords. What is fantastic about Accordéon Gavotte is Lefebvre’s marshaling of these elements in a way that is traditional and intensely creative, simultaneously. He makes the melodies shine. His legato sections — intensely sad with fermata — may be the most tragic moments in all music. The shift to dance are equally joyous releases. What’s fantastic about Accordéon Gavotte is the endlessly rich stream of melodies. It’s sequel, War Hent Skrigneg (Accordéon Gavotte), is equally rich. You should get both. They will improve your quality of life.
UPDATE: Here is an excellent article introducing the music of Brittany.
UPDATE 2: You can get War Hent Skrigneg (Accordéon Gavotte) at iTunes and eMusic.