It’s been a dream for me to play music with my kids and I was able last weekend to do that! And I recorded. Here are Brigid and I playing a scottish by by Frédéric Paris and a hanter dro by Sylvain Piron. Also, I sing in French for the first time on video!
A conversation over at Mel.Net has gotten me thinking about my favorite bourrées. These are sort of the reels of the Bal Folk world in that they are uniquely foundational to the dance and music culture. So, here are five bourrées that knock my socks off.
St. Pierre is a thing of beauty — so simple — but then the vielle a roue (played by Patrick Bouffard) starts droning and you almost physically feel like you’re taking flight. Carnet de Bal is one of the most influential recordings amongst the accordéonaire junta — still transports me every time.
Marcel Plane, La Planette (from L’accordéon En Auvergne)
An archival, anthology recording put out in the US on Sylex records. This particular recording is, I believe, from 1931. The music was very different then … not folk, not archival, but contemporary. And very speedy! I’ve been working at this tune for a while. Almost there.
The second tune is the star of this set. You’ll know you’ve gotten there when you suddenly feel like celebrating a victory. Bouffard’s trio (with Cyril Roche on accordion) is one of the most energetic units on the planet. The counter melodies are mind-boggling … also something I’m trying to learn how to do.
Every Monday, I will be posting a new or newly discovered (newly by me, anyway) video of French accordionistics. If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here.
Thank you, Anahata!
At a rehearsal last week over at a friend’s place I spotted a cassette sitting on top of his formidable array of stereo equipment. It had a familiar look. The red italic lettering. The black bar at top and bottom. The name of the performers in white, just above the smallest text, the title, in quotation marks. There’s the circular stamp: MUSIQUE EN AUVERGNE. And the stylized AMTA logo.
This particular cassette was by La Jimbr’tée, and called Virage. The cover shows five men and one woman, an array of vielle, accordéon, and pipes.
Seeing the cassette there, I was cast into a fugue state. I was thrilled. These were the cassettes that changed everything.
I believe I have mentioned before, the role that AMTA cassettes have played in my musical life. The AMTA — Agences des Musiques des Territoires d’Auvergne — is an especially effective regional cultural organization that somehow managed to export its music to Amherst, Massachusetts, which is where the Button Box was located at the time.
In 1998, I traveled to the Button Box to pick up my first box — a red Hohner Corso (G/C) tuned very wet — and saw a bunch of these black/red/AMTA cassettes on the shelf. I picked up Frédéric Paris’s, Carnet de Bal, and Jacque Lavergne’s, Cadences d’Auvergne. After getting home, I called the store back and asked them to send a few others, including the hardcore Bal Auvergnat duo of Guy Letur and Pierre Ladonne on chromatic button accordéon and cabrette.
All of my copies of these cassettes have either broken, melted, or disintegrated into iron dust. (All the more amazing that my friend’s were in great shape). My cassettes had lived in my car, mostly, which is never ideal for a music delivery medium. A good number of them I’ve managed to find in digital form. But that doesn’t change the magic of that discovery at the Button Box. The sheer abundance of discovery. The amount of this music suddenly to hand, this joyous, amazing music.
I’d love to hear how you discovered this music. What early finds inspired you? Feel free to add your story to the comments.
In the meantime, thank you AMTA!
A contributor over on mel.net posted the below video of Frédéric Paris playing “A Bord, Mon Bel Enfant” at a workshop in 2012. It’s rare to see Paris playing accordéon on YouTube. Rare, and wonderful.
In the United States, the fourth thursday of November is Thanksgiving. I love this holiday and love having the opportunity to express my gratitude for the extraordinary blessings in my life, many of which center on the accordéon, its music, and its masters.
- Speaking of masters, first on the list would have be my wife, who has been generally and genuinely supporting of my accordéon efforts during the course of our marriage. Just as one example, she did NOT send back the Castagnari Nik when it arrived in the post last February, when I was at work. Instead, she sent a picture on my phone, and called me up so I could hear how it sounded.
- Thanks to the folks who have willingly discussed with me things accordéon related, including Frédéric Paris, Sylvain Piron, Dave Mallinson, Alexandra Brown, and, most recently, Andy Cutting.
- Thanks to the friends of this blog — whether they know it or not — who have been willing to discuss issues with me as I developed posts. Some have actually written stuff that I’ve published here. Thank you, Andy of Vermont, Chris Ryall, Geoff Wooff, Owen Woods, Steve Mansfield, Chuck Boody, et many al. Tom McDonald — despite being a non-accordéonist — has been a real help just on the blogging and inspiration front.
- Thanks to melodeon.net! Not enough to be said about that friendly, squeeze congregation’s influence on my quality of life! Just today, a quorum from that parish helped talk me off the ledge over a reed that seemed to be going sour.
- Thanks to everyone involved in the collective effort to bring the “La Bourrée” tune book out, a huge important task! The folks at concertina.net really stepped up for this one.
- Thanks to my kids — Max, Brigid, Emma, Julia, and Sarah — who somehow think that it’s cool that their old man plays obscure accordéon music. They continue showing up to my gigs.
- Thanks to Amy and Rob, at the Water St. Cafe, in Gardiner, who have given me a place to play regularly in the past few months, so that I could get my chops into shape.
- Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. Having just crossed the 40,000 hits line, I have no idea, really, who you all are (the occasional comment would go a long way!) … and I monetize the blog in only a very minor way … but this blog was started because I wanted to talk about accordéons with people who wanted to listen to me talk about accordéons. Thank you.
In a conversation over on the Chiff and Fipple (devoted to tin whistles, but with some considerable discussion about other folk instrumentation) an aspiring piper asked about the “canon” of tradFrench. Which are the recordings he should listen to? Which are the tunebooks to be acquired? One conversant linked to an item I’d never seen before: 80 Airs à Danser du Centre-France, La Chavannée (click for PDF). It’s dated 1991, and Frédéric Paris is himself listed as the transcriber. Consider my gob to be thoroughly smacked. I never knew that this tune book existed, and am now swooning deliriously. Am I the only one who didn’t know? If anyone out there has any ideas about its provenance, how widely available it was, stories or lost weekends, etc … I would love to hear them.
Last week, I had a minor celebration as the hits ticker crossed over the 25K line. For a blog like this one, covering an instrument and music genre that could both be described as obscure, that’s pretty danged good. The title of the blog – a French-ish word that doesn’t actually exist – came from an album I put out in 2003. I created this blog just as a space to explore my fascination and to find others interested in doing the same. It worked!
Some facts that you might find interesting:
- My first post, in January 2011, was a tribute to Bernard Loffett.
- The two posts that draw most traffic are A Brief History of French Accordion (1046 hits) and Frédéric Paris and La Chavanée. (1257)
- I’ve done two series that I’m proud of, the first about my trip to Alsace, the second about the “La Bourrée” tunebook from 1929.
- Easily the most exciting thing I’ve done with the blog is interview Frédéric Paris himself. Fan boi? Moi?
- I’ve been averaging about 70 hits a day, though there are spikes when a new piece goes up. There are always a few bots hitting the page, though. At one point, a bot on a friend’s blog took aim at mine and my page a few hundred times over a week. I have no idea why anyone would do that.
- The top referring site, by far, is melodeon.net, followed by concertina.net. Many of the pieces that I’ve written here, have started out as a conversation on one of those boards.
- “Frédéric Paris” is the number one search term that leads here. “Lõõtspill” is number ten.
- Through this whole process, Andy from Vermont, has been a great ally, support, and resource. Thank you, Andy!
This blogging stuff has been a blast, and has inspired me to play more then ever. I appreciate the readers, and will endeavor to continue giving satisfaction. I’m hoping to do an interview with Sylvain Piron, and, fingers crossed, Jean Blanchard. I missed an opportunity when I recently had my Saltarelle worked on and forgot to ask the fettler to take pictures, so I’m hoping to take a pilgrimage to The Button Box and talk extensively with the folks there.
Again. Thanks, everyone.