Introducing the second Free Reed Liberation Orchestra tune, La Françounette, a waltz which also happens to be #108 in the Bal Folk Tune Book. This is eleven box players (all from melodeon.net), one clarinetist, one fiddler, and two strummy-strummy players. I said this for the last FRLO recording (which was also the first). this is among the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life, and I am very grateful to everyone playing and listening.
Many boxes, one piece. The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra is a notional (and virtual) orchestra to which any accordionist who wants can belong (and friends, like banjo uke and bass clarinet players). This is our debut upon the world. The tune is a bog norme bourrée, a tune that will get you a free drink at any Bal Trad Pub you might come across. This agglomeration of individuals are mostly habitués of melodeon.net — my home parish for diatonic squeeze matters. This tune is also known as La bourrée tourante, and is tune #32 in the Bal Folk Tune Book. This project is on the very short list of coolest things I have ever done. The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra (Oct 2020 edition) is Anahata, Matthew Bampton, Gary Chapin, Steve Gruverman, Benjamin Hemmendinger, Gren Penn, Pete (playandteach), Julian Scholefield, Janneke Slagter, Greg Smith, Barbara Truex. Video by Gary Chapin
One of my very favorite waltzes, by Roger Tallroth of Väsen. I learned it from the version by Dervish, which is very winsome and almost sentimental — but goddammit it always gets me the third time through when drum kicks up! Very inspiring. This is specifically NOT a sentimental version. Trying something different. A straight-ish French waltz at French-waltz pace.
The Theme of the Month at mel,net is “Something in Four.” It’s for the odds and sods tunes. The march, polka, or whatever that seems somehow different and out of place. This tune is one that I learned from a fiddler about fifteen years ago. I don’t know if I ever knew what it was called, but I certainly don’t now. I can’t honestly even say what type of tune it is or its provenance. It sounds Breton? Maybe and an dro? If YOU know, please say so in the comments.
P.S., I used my phone for this recording and I’m still figuring out the best way to do that. I’ll do better next time.
Today I took delivery of my new box, a Hohner Erica A/D, sent from England by its previous owner, a denizen of the inestimable melodeon.net.
I’ve had my eye out for an A/D box for a while. I found myself playing in situations where my disdain for “the peoples’ key” was becoming more than a charming eccentricity. I had boxes that played in C, G, F, Bb, and Eb. I needed an A and a D. (Anything beyond three sharps or three flats seems a vulgar affectation.)
So, did I want posh box (oh, a Tommy!)? A less expensive posh box (a Lilly)? Or a tiny box (Giordy)? Or a Baffetti organato? I didn’t know. Then this box showed up for sale on mel.net.
I was intrigued. I always had a thing for that old fashion Hohner sound, and had actually started on a mighty Corso. The Erica is a classic bog norm box. Jean Blanchard played one back in the day. Then, accordion fettler, bold Lester Bailey, pointed out that he had worked on the Erica and that it was an excellent model of the species. Also, that the seller was very trustworthy. That was enough for me.
After adjusting all the straps to suit my massive frame, I made some videos. Be kind, still getting used the action and all that.
I wanted to bring your attention to two blogs of interest to the accordéon-centric. The first (nepotism alert) is that of my daughter, Brigid. Quite the photographer, she is responsible for many of the photos on this site, and undertook to document the most recent performance of my trio, Le Bon Truc. These photos are posted on her blog, Brigid and the World. The photos of her trip to Costa Rica are also amazing.
The second blog is Loafing Aboard. Doc is a denizen of mel.net, and recently spent the summer in Ghent conducting a sort of dream-turned-real accordéon bacchanal. His most recent post is a beautiful essay about that trip.
Here’s a tune I learned from storyteller Catherine Piron-Paira and her husband Sylvain Piron, both of Saverne, Alsace. Catherine played it on psaltery, thus I tend to call it “Catherine’s Psaltery.” I feature this tune on my new CD, but with added clarinets and recorders, and with vastly improved sound quality. I recorded this to include in the melodeon.net Theme of the Month for July 2013, French Tunes.
I’m not sure why my pants figure so heavily in this video. I apologize.
The Dino Baffetti Tex-Mex II/34 arrived on Thursday! Very exciting! I had intended to do an internal examination of the box, a laOwen Woods or Daddy Long Les, but I found I couldn’t bear to take a screw driver to it, not even to remove the grill. I’m made of less stern stuff than that, it seems.
Instead, I’ve been playing the heck out of it. Here are some first thoughts:
Big one! Playing a three row is different from playing two or two-and-a-half row or even two-row-plus-accidentals. Possibly this is obvious. The three row quint box can do different things that I don’t yet know how to do. New frontiers!
The two row repertoire works just fine on this one. Even if it is obvious that playing up-and-down the rows is not what it was built to do, everything I’ve been learning for the last 15 years is essentially transferable!
At melodeon.net there is a recurring discussion about stepped keyboards vs. flat keyboards. Playing a flat keyboard for the first time in years has made no difference to me.
Even though this is an F/Bb/Eb box (which is exactly what I was after) I’m choosing to name it as G/C/F and recognize that it’s a transposing instrument. All of the sheet music and tab is for G/C/F, so this seems simplest.
It sounds AMAZING. Essentially, as one colleague mentioned, it’s a clone of a Hohner Corona, done to a absurdly high level of quality. The sound is so very sweet. And the touch is effortless. I do have fond feelings for Hohner accordions, but this is a cut above.
I love it.
It is a little silly that with five rows of box to my name, I still don’t have a D row. What sort of psychological block am I dealing with? Is it PTSD from the Minneapolis Irish sessions?
Here are three videos with the Baffetti. The first is a hanter dro written by Sylvain Piron.
The second is another hanter dro, traditional, that I learned from Steve Gruverman.
The third is a Breton March, traditional, that I learned from the playing of Daniel Thonon.