Accordéon Resolutions (featuring a bonus polka!)

BONUS POLKA DOWN BELOW!

Let’s review resolutions for last year:

Music is my joy

1: Keep playing! (Don’t know if I dare be more specific than that)
2: Keep blogging … a tremendous amount of fun this year, and I have some very nice big projects in the works.

3: Sing and play … at the same time. My eternal resolution.

How did I do? It’s complicated. (Forgive me for perhaps over-sharing, but I can’t write this if it’s not honest.)

I’m going to say that, in many areas, this has been the worst year of my adult life. My wife ended our marriage after fourteen years. And twelve days ago I lost my job.

But music … music has been my salvation. I recorded and released my CD of French music, L’Autre Diatoniste, an amazing artistic experience working with friend musicians and a very smart, collaborative sound engineer, Caleb Orion.

I have begun work with a new group featuring clarinet, mountain dulcimer, me on accordion, and a French mezzo … the group is Le Bon Truc. I have to tell you … I don’t have a great history with bands. The psychological element of playing in a band is very difficult for me … But these musicians … it is an amazing experience playing with them. We’ve had about four gigs, and have four more lined up already between now and March.

And also, the tattoo

I acquired a Dino Baffetti three-row F/Bb/Eb. Acquiring things is always nice, of course, but the point is that getting this new instrument with a three-row quint tuning (as opposed to a two-row + acc) has really made me pay attention to both instruments in a new way. I’ve thought about getting the Baffetti tuned F/Bb/acc so that the fingerings between my two boxes would be transferable (and transposing), but I feel like the two boxes being subtly different is actually making me a better player.

Blogging has dropped off in the past few months, because of events, but the year as a whole has been very active.

Thus, in terms of my resolutions, I have played more. I have blogged more. I have not worked on singing while playing. Instead I joined a group with a vocalist.

MEET THE NEW RESOLUTIONS. Same as the old resolutions (more or less).

1) Play more.
2) Blog more.
3) Work on group playing (i.e., being more flexible in terms of harmonies, accompaniments, and melody. Friend clarinetist, Steve, plays these amazing obligatos. I would love to be able to do that.)

The barrier to these is a creeping (occasionally raging) depression. I’m working on it. Seeing someone. Medicating. Doing what I think is necessary. But it’s gotten bad.

I look to my music for respite and joy. When in doubt, do your art. Here’s a set of polkas performed by Le Bon Truc. They always make me happy.

Thanks for listening.

Performance, September 8

On Sunday, September 8, the trio Bon Truc will be playing at the Royal Bean, in Yarmouth, Maine, from 1:00 to 3:00. The trio comprises Gary Chapin (me) on accordéon, Steve Gruverman on woodwinds, and Barbara Truex on mountain dulcimer and percussion. Our repertoire is a quality blend of music centre France, Brittany, Alsace, and other places … plus some originals. We’ve played together for some time within the context of the dance band, Nouveau Chapeau. Recently, we started working specifically as a trio. After our first gig at the beginning of August, I felt, “Oh, yeah, THIS is why I started playing music.” It was very sweet.

So join us on September 8. Drink some coffee. Eat pastry. Listen to great music.

Download my new CD!

It’s finally ready! Download!

My new CD, L’Autre Diatoniste, is now ready for download over at bandcamp! Minimum cost is seven dollars, which was bandcamp’s recommendation. Here’s a track list:

L’Autre Diatoniste at bandcamp

1. La Souflette 3:29
2. FRLO Anthem 4:53
3. Polka Piquee & Polka de l’Aveyron 2:42
4. L’intermittent 2:29
5. Les Filles de Saint Nicholas 2:57
6. Catherine’s Psaltery 3:15
7. Two Mazurkas 2:34
8. Hanter Dro 3:16
9. Not That Guy’s Gavotte 2:00
10. Two Scottishes 2:55
11. Twentieth Century Rondeau 3:41
12. Ballad Of The Bachelor 4:40

I am very pleased with how this all turned out. The recording itself came out great and the process that made it was fantastic and joyful. I’m going to miss working on this project.

I am grateful. Producer Caleb Orion was generous in his time and expertise. And excellent critical friend. Steve Gruverman – of clarinet, sax, and bombarde – has been a part of my musical journey for years. A good number of tunes here, I learned from him. He is an amazing tune finder! Thanks to Will Leavitt. Thanks to Thierry Laplaud, Frèdèric Bordois, and Au Gre des Vents (Danyéle Besserer and Gilles Péquignot), for letting me use their amazing tunes. Thanks also to all the folks over at melodeon.net who have been an invaluable and general support over the past two years.

First Tunes with the Baffetti

Videos down below!

The Dino Baffetti Tex-Mex II/34 arrived on Thursday! Very exciting! I had intended to do an internal examination of the box, a la Owen 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.

A New Polka Wot I Helped Write

Here’s a new polka written by myself and clarinetist Steve Gruverman. I improvised the theme in connection to a recording project, a song called “The Ballad of the Bachelor.” Steve took the theme and morphed it into this, “The Bachelor’s Polka.” I did mess around just a bit with Steve’s harmonies, which I hope he doesn’t mind. Here’s the tune. The sheet music is below.

French Dance Fundraiser, Augusta, ME

A Night of Traditional French Music and Dance will be held on Saturday, April 6, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Augusta, Maine. Two bands will play.  Nouveau Chapeau — featuring me on accordéon, Steve Gruverman on clarinet, and Barbara Truex on dulcimer and percussion — plays music from central France and Brittany. Roy, West, and Friends play New England contra music with a heavy Franco-Canadian influence. The fabulous Marie Wendt will teach and lead dances.
The evening is a benefit for World Teach volunteer, Brigid Chapin (my daughter), who is going to Costa Rica in May to teach English to kids there.  

L’intermittent

UPDATE: Gilles Péquignot of Au Gré des Vent has pointed me to their more current web site — Association Carnet de Bal. On that site, four of the group’s albums are available for streaming. They also have about twenty-five tunes available as sheet music.

Continuing my fascination with asymmetric tunes — and my fascination with the Alsatian duo Au Gré des Vents — I present one of their most infectious tunes. “L’intermittent” is the opening track of their album Fraxinelles. It’s a scottisch-marche-valse composed by Danyèle Besserer. Here’s their recording of the tune.

“L’intermittent” excerpt by Au Gre des Vents

And here’s a recording of my band, Le Bon Truc, performing same. As Gilles pointed out to me, we take the tune much more freely in this context. He calls it “Wagnerian,” which is fair. For dancers, of course, regularity is everything (all of the “ones” are an equal distance apart).

And for those who want to try such a thing for themselves, here are the dots for the tune, as transcribed by the inestimable Steve Gruverman.

Gilles Péquignot and Danyèle Besserer, with

Sylvain Piron in the tricorn hat.

BONUS Picture, sent to me by Mary Line, of the Journal d’Alsace. That’s the duo on the right, with Sylvain Piron in the tricorn hat.

Hanter Dro

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.

Ridée: Bannielou Lambaol

Here’s a tune I learned from Steve Gruverman. My approach to it is informed by the fact that when I typically play this kind of thing for dancers, I’m told to slow down. It strikes me as a charming, mid-tempo piece with a nice, argumentative bit just at the beginning of the B section. I’m willing to be corrected on any statement in this paragraph.

Notice that I still have done nothing about my “accordion face,” and that my chin-action on the stops is exactly the reason you should go for switches if you have the chance.

UPDATE: Steve Gruverman tells me I got the temp just right! Well done, me!