This Week in Accordion: Accordion Pops

Some highlights from this week’s accordion calendar:

  • Accordion Pops: Concert of Hope (Saturday in Philadelphia, PA)
    The Accordion Pops Orchestra presents their third “Concert of Hope” to benefit the ALS Hope Foundation. Listen to the East Coast’s only professional accordion orchestra perform the works of Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Mancini, and more, for a good cause.
  • Los Reyes De La Calle Seis (Saturday in Austin, TX)
    Relive the glory days of Austin’s famous 6th Street in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, with the musicians who were there. Features a special guest appearance by Grammy winner, Flaco Jimenez.
  • Polka Melodies Appreciation Dance (Sunday in Muskegon, MI)
    Party with Tom and Mary from the Polka Melodies radio show in Michigan. Performers include the Steve Meisner Band, Diddle Styx Polka Band, Ray Watkoski Family Band, and the Grabinski Orchestra.

There are plenty of other squeezin’ happenings, too, including Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner touring the West Coast, Stas Venglevski and John Simkus in Maryland, and Dick Contino and Friends up in Yakima, Washington. Drop us a line if there’s anything in your area that we’ve missed.

Never Too Old to Polka

Del HeinsHere’s a feel-good story for your weekend: a Monroe Times piece on Del Heins, a Wisconsin accordionist who’s been entertaining local audiences for more than 60 years. In the mid-1950s, he formed a polka band, the Heins Brothers Combo, with his two older brothers. After they passed away, he mostly played small gatherings and family celebrations but in the past few years, business has been booming. He plays the monthly fish fry at Turner Hall, a steady stream of gigs at senior centers in the Monroe area, and an assortment of polka masses and Cheese Days (this is Wisconsin, after all).

“I’ve never played somewhere where someone wasn’t tapping their toe or swaying to the music… I play these songs over and over and over, and people still enjoy them… It’s happy music… It makes me feel good, and it makes other people feed good.”

Further proof, indeed, that polka is happiness.

Event Cancellation: San Jose Conjunto Jam

Into every life a little rain must fall… and such is the forecast for San Jose tomorrow. As a result, the Conjunto/Tejano Accordion Jam scheduled for Saturday in Kelley Park has been cancelled. I’ve taken it off our calendar, but spread the word if you know anyone who was planning on attending. Sorry!

Anyone Going to ATAM Festival?

The Accordion Teachers Association of Massachusetts (ATAM) is holding their annual New England Music Festival this weekend in Newton, MA. The festival includes an accordion ensemble and band competition on Saturday and Sunday, as well as individual competitions.

As it happens, Anna and I will be in the Boston area this weekend and we’re hoping to swing by the festival on Saturday to hear some music and pass out a few Let’s Polka stickers. If you’re going to be there, send us an email or leave a comment on this post and we’ll keep an eye out for you.

More Eurovision Madness: Verka Serduchka

Like American Idol, the annual Eurovision Song Contest is one of my favorite musical guilty pleasures. Ridiculously cheesy songs delivered with over-the-top drama, usually in a language I can’t understand… what’s not to like?

I wrote about Israel’s controversial entry, “Push the Button”, last month but today I came across some lighter fare. “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” is the Ukraine’s entry — a high-energy dance number (with accordion, of course) sung by a cross-dressing guy who calls himself Verka Serduchka. He reminded me of San Francisco’s accordion-playing drag queen, Kielbasia, but if she had stayed in the old country and become a pop diva.

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Building an Accordion Tuning Table

Accordion Tuning Table“Uncle Bob” from the newsgroup has an interesting project going; he’s building a tuning table for testing accordion reeds and reed blocks. Even better, he’s documenting the entire process on his website with plenty of photos. According tuning is a tricky (but not impossible) art, and this is a fascinating look at what it takes to build a solid test bench.

Be sure to check out some of his other photo galleries, too, including a series where he repairs an old Austrian Styrische accordion and some photos of a quirky Colombo that he recently picked up.

Dyngus Day Explained

For those who are still wondering what Dyngus Day is, here’s a helpful clip from “Polonia: Western New York’s Polish-American Legacy”, a documentary produced by WNED-TV in Buffalo. Just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day.

This Week in Accordion: Dyngus Day

In Poland, Easter Monday is known as Dyngus Day — a holiday celebrating Polish heritage and traditions following Lent. Here in the United States, in cities like Buffalo, Chicago, and South Bend, it’s the perfect occasion to indulge in some kielbasa and polka music. LOTS of polka music.

But Dyngus Day is far from the only thing on our accordion calendar this week. There’s Kutshers Polka Weekend featuring Jimmy Sturr, Spring Oktoberfest in Philadelphia, the International Polka Association Benefit Dinner/Dance in Maryland, and a whole lot more.

If there’s something in your neighborhood that we’ve missed, let us know!

Orange County Klezmers

Orange County may not sound like a klezmer hotspot, but the Orange County Klezmers are bringing the sounds of Eastern Europe to sunny Southern California. This week, the Orange County Weekly has a brief interview with their founder/accordionist, Barry Friedland, who gives an overview of klezmer and its history, along with a testimonial to the accordion’s power to impress:

“Accordion has never been the cool instrument to play. But I stayed with it and remember playing at the school talent show in high school… I blew everybody away. It was really exciting… People had never heard an instrument do what an accordion can do. It’s a very versatile machine.”

The Orange County Klezmers’ album, Echoes of Vilna: Songs of Remembrance from the Ghettos, is a collection of klezmer music written in World War II-era ghettos. Even when played as instrumentals (Friedland worried that most people would be unable to handle the emotional lyrics), the music is moving, haunting, and captivating. The Orange County Klezmers do an excellent job of keeping this music alive.

Man Shoots Accordion. Film at 11.

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix comes this odd news item about a 66-year-old Regina man who shot his accordion during a domestic dispute. The article is short on details, but he was described in court as being “deeply upset over a church-related matter” at the time of the incident. Maybe he was angry because his church wouldn’t have a polka mass?

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