Pique Diatonique Tomorrow!

Sylvain Piron

Tomorrow is May 29, and therefore time for the long awaited Pique-diatonique in Dahlenheim, Alsace. Though, I’ll be thousands of miles away, I plan to have a picnic tomorrow and play a bunch of tunes from the Pique-diatonique tunebook. To get into the spirit of things — pour les absents — I thought I’d post recordings of a few tunes from that tune book. The first two are MP3s by the inestimable Sylvain Piron. The first is a traditional piece that I’ve heard in a number of versions, “Le Maitre de la Maison.” The second, “Le Chemin,” is a mazurka written by Sylvain himself.

Sylvain Piron, “Le Maitre de la Maison”

Sylvain Piron, “Le Chemin”

Sylvain’s albums are available as downloads for free here.

Finally, I thought I’d include one of my favorite Pique-diatonique waltzes — actually, one of my favorite all time waltzes — “Sur les Bord de la Riviére.” Played on my Salterelle, this was my second post on YouTube, four years ago.

So that’s the plan. Find a picnic. Record some accordion tunes. Ready, set …

One-Row Goodness

Castagnari Max, One-Row

Diatonic Accordion players speak affectionately of the warmth or lift generated by the push/pull action of their boxes. It’s better for dancing, they might say, or, it has a character to it that’s different from (read better than) chromatic or piano accordions. I don’t believe that this is always true — Patrick Lefebvre’s chromatic playing has plenty of lift, rhythm, and character — but when played well … wow … one-row, pushing/pulling accordions can really get a little somethin’ somethin’ going.

Andy from Vermont recently posted three recordings of himself playing Quebecois tunes on his Melodie one-row in D and I find myself completely besotted. Go see for yourself. Wonderful.

Playing the Low Lonesome Reed

One of the things I love about my Salterelle Pastourelle III is its three banks of reeds on the right hand, tuned LMM (see Accordion Speak 101 for a complete explanation). My Castagnari Nik has a lovely, light, willowy sound, with its MM reeds tuned Tremolo Americano. But the low reed on the Pastourelle gives that intrument a lush fullness that knocks my romantic socks off. I very much enjoy having the choice of that full sound, and also having the choice of playing the low reed all on its own.  It gives the instrument an entirely new character not to have all three reeds blasting away. This might be a case where putting in some stops — rather than “pulling out all the stops” — will lead to a better outcome. A close, intimate sound.

Here’s a recording whereon I feature the low lonesome reed as voice on the Pastourelle. The tune is a waltz found on a recording by La Chavanée, Le Long de la Riviére. The tune was written by Philippe Prieur, cornemuse. It can be found in “the pink book.”

Pour les Absents

Debauchery in Dahlenheim

It’s coming. As I reported in a previous post, on May 29, a group of Alsatian diatonistes and their closest friends will be gathering in Dahlenheim for their accordion, picnic basket bacchanal, the Pique-diatonique. As usual, I am unable to attend, and I was thinking to myself, “Self, you could surely use such an event.” At the very least, I would like to express my solidarity with the pique-diatonistes. In that previous post, I suggested a sort of international holiday, Pique-diatonique Day. The UN declined to act on my request.  C’est la vie.

Still, to all who cannot attend, on May 29, I invite you to go have a picnic and play accordion tunes from the pique-diatonique tune book. (Note that the three tunes adopted for this year are here.)

Further, if you so wish, I invite you to record yourself in audio or video, and post it to YouTube or whatever service you prefer. I will gather these recordings into an Anthologie Vidéo de l’Absent, and feature them here.

Update: Bal Folk Tune Book

Dave Mallinson

After posting my review of the Bal Folk tune book, I managed to talk to both Dave Mallinson — publisher of the tunebook — and Mel Stevens — compiler of the iconic pink/blue Massif Central tune books that Mallinson’s book is based on. I had some questions. First, how did Mallinson go about editing the two books into one? How did he make the decisions he made? Second, who are Trevor Upham and Chris Shaw, who wrote a bunch of tunes in the new book? And, third, why isn’t Mel Stevens even mentioned on the new edition? He did, after all, transcribe and compile the master set.
Mallinson explained in an e-mail:

I published Bal Folk because I bought the Dragonfly catalogue several years ago. The selection was made by eliminating any tunes that had possible copyright problems. Trevor Upham and Chris Shaw are friends of Mel Stevens who write excellent tunes in the style of the rest of the book. All the editing, re-naming and additions were at the request of Mel Stevens. Bal Folk has been thoroughly checked by Mel and extensive corrections have been made.

Mel Stevens wrote:

When I first became interested in French music there was very little in print. During the period 1979-1984 I picked up a lot of music in France. This came from recordings I made of folklore displays, folkdance workshops, dances, sessions, and festivals, anywhere where trad music was being played. This was initially to develop my own repertoire. These are the tunes that ended up in the Massif Central tune books.

I have, however, been unhappy about these books and their inaccuracy for several years, and when Dave Mallinson took over Dragonfly, I told him that I did not want them reprinted. Bal Folk was a compromise whereby Dave took over ownership and kept a French tune collection for his catalogue.

Stevens requested that his name not be on the book.

Additionally, Trevor Upham and Chris Shaw are not merely friends of Mel Stevens, but bandmates in the group GIGCB (The George Inn Giant Ceili Band). So, cheers to Stevens for compiling the original thing, and to Mallinson, Upham, and Shaw for keeping this vital resource alive!