This one is suitable for dancing! The June 2021 edition of the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra plays two bog norm scottishes. The group this time is mostly stalwarts with one new member – hello, David Barnet!
The group is:
Anahata, Matthew Bampton, David Barnert, Gary Chapin, Margaret Cox, Andrew Edgington, Steve Gruverman, Eric Johnson, Howard Mitchell, Gren Penn, Julian Scholefield, Janneke Slagter
How do you start a kickass international accordion orchestra – and why would you do such a thing?
A month ago I was asked by SEED+SPARK if I’d talk about the creation of the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra as part of their arts/ecology/creativity series The Seed Hour 2021. I did it and here’s the recording of that conversation. Steve Gruverman and Matthew Bampton, orchestra members, joined for the conversation. There’s a bit of front matter, including the wonderful Jasmine Gillison singing two songs, and then the accordion talk begins. Enjoy!
This was a piece I wrote (lyrics) for my second CD (which you can listen to over on the right, or download from Bandcamp). The idea was that there was this fictional between-the-wars crypto-anarchist, quasi-mystical accordion orchestra uniting squeezers everywhere. And this is their anthem.
I had no idea, at the time, that the FRLO would become and actual real thing nearly two decades later. I am grateful beyond measure for everyone in the group — squeezers and friends — who, I think, experienced a bit of trepidation when I asked them to sing.
There was also some emotion with the line about mothers, which should not have surprised me (mothers are complicated things). Steve said to me, “I don’t get this line about mothers.” To which I replied.
I wrote this around the time after my Mom died. It’s not really ABOUT MY MOM, just that I was feeling warmly about the idea of mothers. The FRLO in my mind, in 2006, was a … dance band that played in dives in a 1930s Svengali landscape. John Barrymore might bring Marion Marsh there while they’re on vacation in Vienna, trying to avoid the press and the police, and maybe get their hands on some absinth. The FRLO would be playing there, and they might dance, or they might not.
This march is dedicated to the wonderful British accordionist, Chris Parkinson, who was the box player for my favorite group, The House Band. That band, made up of Parkinson (also playing keyboards), Ged Foley (guitar, small pipes, singing), John Skelton (flute and bombarde), and Roger Wilson (fiddle, singing), had a huge impact on me as I shifted into folk music. To the point where I remember handing three of their CDs off to a potential band mate, and I said, “This is the kind of music I want to play.” It wasn’t just the Celtic, or the pan-Celtic, or the Breton, or any specific genre focused thing, it was the energy of the group and the mix of talents and choices. I saw them once in Minneapolis and they were all kind enough to hang out after and speak to me. Skelton provided “some comfort” on a bombarde question I had, and Parkinson gave me a tour of his instruments and laid down some breadcrumbs for me to find my way to the box as my instrument not long after.
Some four weeks ago, I was wondering what the next FRLO tune would be and was driving in the car with Sunshine (my wife) and “The Rock in the Mountain” came on. She said, “That’s the next Orchestra tune.” And it is. The images are all Sisyphus. Get it? The rock in the mountain? I guess it was low hanging fruit, but it amused me.
A few interesting things. This video has eleven musicians, but eighteen tracks of music. Many of us are playing multiple tracks, which is fantastic. Anahata’s cello makes its first appearance in the orchestra, as does Howard’s bass concertina (which I erroneously termed “baritone”), and Barb’s faux snare drum. This is the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra, and it is MOSTLY accordions and concertinas, but we are super grateful for friends like Barb, Margaret, and Eric on their respective stringy things. The backbone of this effort is the wall of reeds that comes in the second time the tune plays, laying down a solid solid melody and allowing the other tomfoolery to happen. This process does tax my computer, though. Sometimes listening to it do the math is like watching men move heavy objects. “You got it? I got it.” Two of the videos submitted refused to work, so you get a still pic of Julian and Barb. I will try to solve by next piece.
House Band type music is still “the kind of music” I want to play, even if my version would be a bit less celtic and a lot more French. I think there’s room in the world for such a thing.
The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra is Anahata, accordion, concertina, cello Matthew Bampton, accordion Gary Chapin, accordion, whistle Margaret Cox, fiddle Little Eggy, accordion Eric Johnson, guitar Howard Mitchell, concertinas, accordion Gren Penn, accordion Julian Scholefield, accordion Janneke Slagter, accordion Barbara Truex, tenor guitar, faux snare
directed by Gary Chapin All are welcome! If you want in on the next project contact Gary
The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra returns with a waltz which Steve Gruverman and I first heard on a cornemuse anthology, Landes de Gascogne. A couple of interesting points. First, a bunch of people play multiple tracks, but even though they are multiply audio-ed, they are only shown once in video. Also, Anahata with the pipes! I am smitten. And, first FRLO piece with puppets, thanks to Janneke.
Free Reed Liberation Orchestra (February 2021 edition) Anahata, Matthew Bampton, Gary Chapin, Steve Gruverman, Ben Hemmendinger, Little Eggy, Gren Penn, Rick St. John, Julian Scholefield, Janneke Slagter, Barbara Truex
Puppets by Janneke Slagter Directed by Gary Chapin accordeonaire.com
Huzzah! I have not only created a logo for the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra, but also set up a small shop and created some merch. Go over to the Accordeonaire shop for all the mugs, tee shirts, hoodies, stickers, etc. that you need, AND support the FRLO and accordion love in the process. Thank you!
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