Bella CiaoIf there’s anything I love more than baseball, it’s a good theme or promotional night at the ballpark. Hot Dog Eating Contest Night? I’m there. Vinnie Chulk Bobblehead Night? Awesome! Disco Demolition Night? Sounds dangerous, but I’d probably still go.
That’s why I’m sorry I missed the Italian Heritage Night put on by the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. San Francisco band Bella Ciao, led by accordionist Tom Torriglia, entertained fans with a set of retro-Italiano hits in Willie Mays Plaza before the game and then took the field and became the first band to play the Italian National Anthem at a major league baseball game. Later, they led the crowd in an a cappella rendition of the 7th inning stretch classic “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Fortunately, if you’re like me and you missed Bella Ciao at the game, you can make up for it by catching them at the Cotati Accordion Festival this Sunday. And if you’re looking for another baseball theme night, the Giants are hosting “Oktoberfest at the Ballpark” on Tuesday, September 26. No word yet on whether any local polka bands will be performing.
I scanned in this photo from a recent issue of the University of Nevada-Reno magazine, Silver and Blue. (Thanks Ellen!) The photo was a contribution to UNR’s Oral History Program and is part of a project to tell the story of the influence of Italian Americans on northern Nevada’s history:
“If you were an Italian American growing up in the early to mid-20th century, chances are that you or a sibling or one of your friends was forced to play the accordion. So it was for 9-year-old Al Lazzarone, seen here (third row, third from left) playing with a band in Sacramento in 1932.”
Looking at this young accordion army, I’d like to think that they were the Those Darn Accordions or Main Squeeze Accordion Orchestra of their day. What was their repertoire like? Did any of them go on to accordion stardom? How many of them kept playing later in life? So many questions…
Accordionist Dan Chouinard is hosting “Mambo Italiano”, an exploration of the Italian roots of American popular music, tomorrow (Saturday) night at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, MN. Inspired by the summer Chouinard spent biking across Europe with his accordion, the show features Italian music ranging from peasant songs and opera to postwar hits from the likes of Louis Prima, Antonio Bennett and Concetta Francis. Even if you can’t make it to the show, there’s an excellent preview and interview with some of the performers on the Minnesota Public Radio website. You can also read a review of “Cafe Europa”, a similar (but more autobiographical) show that Chouinard put on last year.
Want to learn the diatonic (button) accordion, but can’t leave the house? The Italian Accordion Academy has the answer for you!
The Academy has started offering online courses for diatonic accordion. Each lesson is dedicated to a specific tune and includes video, audio clips, exercises and tips for improving your technique. The lessons are available in both Italian and English and all you need is a web browser. You’ll learn not only Italian folk music, but also French waltzes, Spanish fandangos, Irish jigs, and klezmer tunes. (There seem to be audio clips on the site, but I couldn’t get them to work.) Contact the Academy for more information and send us a review if you try their lessons.