UPDATE: Originally, I said the tune was written by Perrone. It wasn’t.
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.
Over on concertina.net, Kautilya did some research and noticed that the Lique Auvergnate & du Massif Central — the organization that originally published the Recueil — continues in existance! I followed up on this and discovered that one of their “branches” is La Bourrée de Paris. This research was done in the context of a conversation about copyright and permissions, etc. I have sent a note to the president of La Bourrée, letting him know what I’m doing. In other news, folks at concertina.net and melodeon.net have embraced my plea for help and have begun work on putting together some sort of “free to the public” on-line tune book thingamajig.
Here’s a mazurka I learned off the compilation, Accordeons Diatonique en Bretagne. On that recording it was played by Christian Desnos. I don’t know if that makes it a “Breton” mazurka or not, but it’s a good tune. For more mazurkas, I invite you to go here and here. Also, you can check out Melodeon.net‘s “Theme of the Month” — featuring mazurkas — from some months back.
I’ve generally managed to keep my priorities between accordeon and life in order (hint: more accordeon). Until now. This has been the last year of my coursework in my doctoral program, AND the beginning of a new job as a researcher and writer for the State of Maine Department of Education. My accordeon-obsessive-cred is suffering under the weight of white hot deadlines and my damnably anxious work ethic! Which is why you haven’t heard much from me lately.
To fill the gap, I present two fellow accordeon (or melodeon) bloggers. The first is the blog of Toko, a Japanese box player who keeps a prolific blog. Being in Japanese, of course, I can’t read it. But the videos of Toko and other photos are fabulous. Here’s Toko and Tamiko playing two bourrées. Note the infant expressing his (or her) appreciation throughout.
The second blog is that of Owen Woods, a British melodeonist who is also working towards his graduate degree, and choosing to spend scads of time gigging around the sceptred isle. An eloquent melodeonist, Owen does that thing that I love most in a writer: communicates his enthusiasm, fascination, and love for the music. Here’s himself performing at the Tudor Folk Club. UPDATE: Shout out to Lester Bailey, a devilishly good looking melodeonist himself and repair guy, who filmed this clip.
I don’t post many polkas (or any, really), but I do play them in the comfort of my home and at dances, and I do love them! They just aren’t as interesting to me as the other types of tunes I play (bourrées, mazurkas, waltzes, etc.), so I leave them for others. A recent video by Melodeon.net doyen Clive Williams has had me rethinking this. His performance, below, of two polkas is a thing of beauty, with the left-hand adding tremendously to the colors of these fairly basic tunes.
For my other post on the elusive, well-played polka, check out Rikke van Ommeren.
Another Breton tune, learned from clarinetist Steve Gruverman (tune finder extraordinaire). The hanter dro is that rare thing, an intimate line dance. Moving to the 3/2 meter, the dancers snake around the floor, spiraling, encircling, ensorceling the musicians. I try to embody the apparent Breton motto — “repetition is the soul of wit” — by matching an entrancing melody with a sweet, innocent harmony. Against current practice, I am a big fan of 3rds in my chords.
The Theme of the Month over on Melodeon.net is Tunes from Brittany and I urge anyone who enjoys that sort of thing to head over for a listen. The tunes and videos being posted are wonderful. Also, Andy of Vermont recently posted a Yann Dour tune played on his 3-row Castagnari Jacky. Check it out.
|How’s the bourrée? Ask the dancers.|
In response to Friday’s post about what it means to play a bourrée well, a number of Mel.net and concertina.net worthies responded that you know you’re playing a bourrée well when the dancers are dancing a good bourrée. This, indeed, is an excellent functional definition of “a good bourrée,” and you could do far worse than relying on utility as your criteria for success. I could (and did) quibble about how, while this is dance music, it’s not just dance music, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s essentially a good point. Knowing your context — dance, concert, parking lot — changes everything.
A number of folks responded, “Get thee to a dance floor!” It has been a while, for a bunch of reasons. It’s time to do just that.
A Jean Blanchard tune, this one also goes by the name, “The LNB Polka.” Blanchard, who I’ve written about briefly, is one of those credited with reviving rural French folk music in the early ’70s. I recorded this video as part of Melodeon.net‘s Tune of the Month festivities. Even though it’s called “The LNB Polka,” there are some who say it is not, in fact, a polka, but a scottish. Having not heard Blanchard’s version I played it the way it made sense to me. Enjoy.
|Photo by Brigid Chapin.|
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.