The Chifferobe Set

This past week I picked up Tiny, who had undergone repair, and then went to stay at my sister’s for a day or two. Her place has great sound and is very dramatic. She’s got a chifferobe (portmanteau of “chiffonier” and “wardrobe” — Fun Fact Gary!) that has quite a character. I shot two pieces in its vicinity. The first is Wim Poesen’s amazing Wals vor Polle.


The second is Mazurka de Comptoir

Notice how much the Chifferobe contributes. That there is a piece of furniture! My sister says I look too serious. They don’t know about accordion face, these civilians. Any accordionistx would know that I am brimming with joy in both of these.

What’s Been Going On?

Hello, all, I’ve been silent on the blog for some months, and I don’t necessarily apologize for it. We all go through periods like this. I’ve been keeping this blog since 2011 and the depth of my passion has not dwindled a bit, even if my volubility has. Here are some things.

The Button Box

BennyYesterday, I swung by the Button Box because my Concertino organetto had sticking keys. It wasn’t always the same keys, but there were always some keys sticking on that thing. I do some work out in Western Mass, and took the opportunity to visit. While there I tried an amazing beauty of a Castagnari Benny (G/C/Acc), a thing of beauty, a wonder to behold. And so damn light! I played a bunch on it and left it behind, grateful for the chance to touch it. While there I also picked up to Irish music CDs.

Bobby Gardiner and Dave Munnelly

gardinerIt was an unusual move for me! The jigs and reels have plenty of representation in my life, and you may have noticed that this blog is devoted to French-ish music of an accordion sort. And yet … I have developed an obsession with Irish melodeonists, which, in this context, means players of Irish music on the one-row box. I’ve loved this sort of thing since I heard Tom Doherty’s Catch the Bull by the Horns, CD, back in the 90s. Lately, I’ve been stalking Dave Munnelly’s YouTube page, and then saw reference to Bobby Gardiner — the doyen of the D row — and saw each of them with a CD for sale at the Button Box.

St. John’s, Newfoundland

CaptureBecause Maine isn’t cold and wind blasted enough in February, last week I took a trip to Newfoundland, which has an amazing button accordion tradition (you don’t need me to tell you that). I went to the legendary O’Brien’s Music Store. Tried the boxes and talked to the folks. It was a good time! Looking forward to going back. That night — sans box — we went to Erin’s Pub, where a storytelling circle was being held (Newfoundland!! Amirite??). I got up and sang a thing. No accordions involved, but a good story song.

Upcoming Performances!

On March 30, I’ll be playing with my quintet Nouveau Chapeau at the Down East Country Dance Festival, which is mostly contra-dancing but has lots of other stuff going on, like the Bal Folk session that we’re playing for. That’s in Topsham, Maine.

On March 31, my trio, Le Bon Truc will be playing the inaugural concert of the Crockerbox House Concert series in Hallowell, Maine.


Le Bon Truc Concert videos

I lead a good life. On May 2nd, my trio, Le Bon Truc, played at Blue, in Portland (Maine). We managed to pack the place and then play perhaps our best ever. It was super and felt great. Friend of the band, Sunshine Perlis, took video of eleven of the sets. The lighting is suboptimal, but the sound is great. I’ve put these together into a playlist so you who wish may enjoy our good fortune!

We’re hitting five years of playing together, and our lax variety of ambition has served us well. I love these two, and I love the music we make.

Suite des Aigrettes

A suite of tunes written by myself: The Egret’s Suite. Written in what was intended to be a breton-ish style (but drifted). The first tune is definitely one idea of what Breton folks might write as mazurka, if they wrote mazurkas. The second tune is influenced by my hero, Yann-Fañch PERROCHES. You can hear it in the 7th chords, though it’s a bit of a heavy handed approach compared to le maestro. The third tune is a happy retreat — a release from regrets and aggression.

This was created as a sort of demo for my band. Here are the dots!

Suite des Aigrettes

Wouter and the Dragon

Wouter Kuyper is an accordionist from the Netherlands. He’s a member of the bal folk band, Lirio, and recently joined in duo with Joris Alblas (guitar) on a new recording, Wouter en de Draak. Via the interwebs I got into a convo with Wouter about his music, his accordions, and the bal folk scene in the Netherlands, which seems so far away from here. The interview was conducted via email. Emoticons are Wouter’s.  🙂

Click here to listen to Wouter en de Draak while reading the interview.

Wouter Kuyper

How did you come into the world and find the accordion?


I was born in 1978, and I live in the Netherlands. I started playing music when my parents took me to some sort of traditional music camp when i was 10 years old. For our family this was really the first encounter with this kind of music. No one played before that. But we started going there year after year, and my mom took up the accordion, and I started playing the pipes, at 12. I still play and love those, but at the age of 15 I picked up my moms accordion when she wasn’t home. I absolutely loved the fact that you can accompany your own melody, a thing I missed when playing pipes or flutes/whistles/recorders/etc.

The nights at those gatherings were awesome. Especially for a kid my age. During the day you would get music lessons, which was fun and all, but it was really about the nights. People were dancing until the sun came up again. I really wanted that too, but for a 12 year old boy it was easier to sit in a corner on stage trying to play along with the session, than to dare ask a girl to a dance that you never danced before…I still learned to dance the dances in that period too 🙂

Could you talk about your recordings? Two with Lirio, and then Wouter en De Draak (Wouter and the Dragon).

Those are the three closest to my heart, yes, those really feel like my own bands, in which we play a lot of my own tunes. But with Lirio we recorded some stuff for albums together with others as well. And I also recorded some albums with singers, still folky, Dutch language, but not as trad as Lirio or Wouter en de Draak. “Laroux” has a bit of Zydeco-flavor sometimes, but i mostly play pipes and whistles there, and De Vliering is a bit singer-songwriter-folk-like… (you can both find them on YouTube and/or Spotify)

Lirio Hanterdroom

How did Lirio come together? What were you trying to achieve?

Well, I must have been around 20 years old when we started the band, I knew Gerdien, our violinist who is a couple of years younger from another band (medieval) that died not much later. Her boyfriend at the time was Sander, the guitar player. All of us were really just starting in bands and making music and stuff. Over the last 15/20 years it has been great. Seeing each other grow, both musically and as human beings 🙂

What we were trying to achieve? We wanted to create the atmosphere in the Netherlands that we found at several gatherings/festivals in Belgium and France. At those places we saw such intense music and dancing, by young people, too, that we thought we could and should bring that to the Netherlands. So we started a band, and started organizing bal folks. And we tried inspiring each other and other people too. And it worked, even now, when we don’t do any organizing anymore, there is a foundation to keep this scene alive, there is a nice national website, which has all the bal folks on it, where you can find dancing classes, music workshops etc etc. It isn’t that big a community, but it is very alive.

The last couple 2 or 3 years we don’t play that much anymore, life gets in the way, the others got real jobs. 😉

Is this why you did Wouter en de Draak? The new group? (Love the flute!) What are your goals with this work?

Love the flute too! Music is good, more music is better. 🙂 At the moment we started this band I was playing solo a lot. And i really like that, but for my own variety and the dancers’ variety I wanted another band, Joris was a guitarist who always jumped in my ear when i heard him play in other bands, and a very lovable person too, so I gave him a call … and here we are. We normally play with just the two of us, but for the CD we wanted to do something extra, so we called in the cavalry 🙂 I am very happy to have such wonderful musicians as friends playing on our album (Ies Muller, Flute, Frank van der Vliet Trumpet/Bugle and Roeland Uitdewilligen on percussion).

And about goals … making beautiful music, seeing people dance before us and having fun, and have fun ourselves on as many stages as possible :-). At the moment I am looking around to see if we can play more in countries around us, the Dutch scene isn’t that big. It is hard finding good spots.

The name? Just a joke, is Saint George and the Dragon a myth that you know? I thought “Joris en de Draak” (the myth in Dutch) would be a fun name because of the guitarist’s name. But he preferred this one.

Can we talk about the scene there? From here it seems like there’s an accordion movement going on in the Netherlands and Belgium. Is there actually such a movement? Or does it just look that way from afar?

It is a bit difficult question. There are quite a few different scenes here that don’t interact a lot. For instance, i have very little knowledge of who plays what in the Irish scene. Most people playing diatonics around here, play shanties, and music like that. I am pretty sure both those scenes don’t use 3 row accordions. I only follow the diato-world (bisonoric) a bit. I know nothing of the chromatic world (unisonoric).

But if you look at the bal folk scene here, then yes “three row is the way to go.” I think it started with Bruno Le Tron teaching in Belgium a couple of times, having Didier Laloy as one of his students, and later playing with Wim Claeys (in Tref) who has had lots of students. Then, of course, Naragonia. In Belgium in the last few years you can learn diato at several main stream music schools, and they require a third row with accidentals. I must be honest, and tell you that i jumped on that wagon a lot later. I have been playing 2 rows for a very long time, and i teach all my students on 2 row, rather then 3 rows. I think it is better to comprehend the playing of a diato on a 2 row, and then later add the options of the third row.

I still don’t play a lot of tunes in different scales than the scales that work on a two row. I try to stick to scales that only require one extra accidental (on a GC for instance Dm, or Bm) so as to keep the logic and feeling still the same.

Milleret and Pignol had their influence on the bal folk scene as well, mostly through the playing of Aurelien Claranbaux who played here a lot. So yeah … especially in Belgium, but also in the Netherlands bal folk style playing is mostly on a 3 row, other styles not so much.

[In] the current bal folk scene … all balls are organised by individuals, enthusiastic volunteers. Mostly people who have been dancing for a couple of years, and want to dance closer to their homes. Utrecht, a city right in the middle of the Netherlands has been the centre of the scene for over a decade, with bal folk nights about monthly. When we had a big and cheap location at the [height of the scene] we would get close to 300 people in. Nowadays, smaller locations, a big ball is for around 140 people, but most evenings get around 50-80 people. When I organised evenings, we would get mostly students (17-25) but lately the crowd has grown a bit older (like i did 😉 ) i think most people are now 25-35, mostly highly educated. Of course, you see all other ages as well 🙂 Most people come for the atmosphere, and they like the dance and the music too, in that order 😉 We’ve been giving dancing lessons as well, at several locations.

There are not enough musicians in the scene here in the Netherlands, it is quite a small country … and since it isn’t really traditional we need to import music too. Sometimes from Belgium, sometimes from France. If I am not on stage, it is usually a band from abroad. Which isn’t bad, per se, but it would be nice to have more bands and musicians just from close by.

What is next for you?

Ha ha, I am not a planning person that much. 🙂 I just try to take and see opportunities as they come along. But making sure the the bal folk scene survives and making music for it will always be on the top of my list. With my kids growing older (youngest is now 4, eldest 10) everything keeps changing anyway. 🙂

For more info on the bal folk scene in the Netherlands go to the official Dutch bal folk website.