Quick Links: Remembering Frank Vidergar

A tireless promoter of Slovenian culture and button accordion music, Frank Vidergar passed away late last month. Vidergar started the Far West Button Accordion Jamboree, an event that drew hundreds of button accordionists to Fontana, CA, every year for a weekend of spirited music and dancing. The Jamboree recently evolved into the National Button Accordion Festival, now held on Memorial Day weekend in Yukon, OK.

  • In the Fontana Herald-News, Philip Rue remembers a past Jamboree where Vidergar “directed a patriotic program as 30 accordions and button boxes en masse played ‘God Bless America’ with the audience singing along.”
  • The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has an excellent article on Vidergar’s life, focusing on his Slovenian roots and dedication to the community
  • Accordion USA also has a nice memorial to Frank Vidergar

Accordion Crackdown in Norway

File this one under “Buskers Gone Bad”: Police in Tromsø, Norway, are cracking down on accordion street musicians after fielding numerous complaints from residents. Police chief Truls Fyhn says:

“The reports we’ve had indicate that people are being driven mad by the tunes coming from the accordions all day long… I have myself stopped to listen, and let me make it clear: The quality of the music is very, very low.”

Ouch, that’s a harsh review. According to the article, it’s now only legal to play accordion music outside in the city’s main central square. I think what this town really needs is some better accordion players; who’s up for a trip?

Book Review: Sights by Susanna Vance

There aren’t many young adult novels involving accordions, but Bruce Triggs found one. Bruce — co-host of the excellent Accordion Noir radio show in Vancouver — penned this book review for Let’s Polka:

Sights by Susanna VanceI picked up Susanna Vance’s book Sights, because the (hardback) cover is of a girl playing accordion. I was literally on my way to the Vancouver (BC) Accordion Circle, where I was quick to show it off.

Sights tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who’s had what’s euphemistically called a “tough” childhood, moving to a new school and making friends with some other outcasts and forming a band. She plays accordion… they rock… cool! I wanted her to be a big Johnny Grande fan (accordionist with Bill Haley and the Comets), but he isn’t mentioned.

I was really impressed with the “sound” of the narrator (whose name is Baby Girl). Without telling where she is from, she gives a really consistent rural USA sound to the book. I’ve lived a lot of places in America, and she sounded kind of Okie/Appalachian. I’m not sure where she’s from, but it’s really nice.

It has grimmer aspects than Victoria Miles’ Magnifico, the other teen book I know with accordion content. People should be aware that it deals matter-of-factly with subjects like child abuse and adolescent sexuality, but I do recommend it. (I similarly have to remember to tell people that Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes is kinda violent, which I overlook in the richness of it all.)

There are elements of fantasy in the story’s vision of 1950’s USA. I wouldn’t call it realistic; even the violence is rather odd. But if you’re prepared (by reading this), you should be in for a swell time.

You can listen to Accordion Noir, co-hosted by Bruce Triggs and Rowan Lipkovitz, every Friday night on CFRO CO-OP Radio, 102.7 FM in Vancouver, or download episodes online at accordionnoir.org.

Register for Lark Camp

Registration for Lark Camp has begun! This is the 28th year of the world music and dance camp that takes place in the Mendocino Woodlands in Northern California, August 1-9 2008. You can register for full camp (all 8 days) or half camp (4 days) either online or by mail.

Along with an extensive list of dance and vocal instructors, there is an instructor in practically every acoustic instrument and world music style that you can imagine. Accordion instructors include Javier Blanco (Galician Accordion), Claudette Boudreaux (Cajun & Creole Button Accordion, Cajun French Songs), Alan Keith (Button Accordion), Louis Leger (French Canadian Songs, Quebecois Button Accordion), Keith Livingstone (Piano Accordion), and Vickie Yancy (French Music & Button Accordion). There are also a variety of jam circles (Cajun/Zydeco, English country dance music, Old time music) to join in!

Check their website for more information about prices, registration and to hear some great sound bytes of the instructors’ music.

Koharu and Minority Orchestra

I usually associate bulky, five-row chromatic accordions with stern Eastern European men who play Rachmaninoff for fun. Not pony-tailed 19-year-old Japanese girls in short skirts. But this video of Koharu, accordionist for the all-female street band Minority Orchestra, has changed my perception. I tried running her website through Google’s translator, but then it made even less sense. Fortunately, her playing needs no translation.

If you enjoy this clip, be sure to watch her band performing in a vegetable patch.

[Found via Boing Boing]

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Quick Links: Finch’s Favs, Galla-Rini, AccNoir

  • Everybody Must Polka When Brave Combo Comes to Town
    Carl Finch of Brave Combo lists five polka albums which “helped shape the face of polka in this country.” In addition to classic albums by Scrubby and the Dynatones, Steve Jordan, and Happy Louie, his list of essential polka artists ranges from the Connecticut Twins to Polkacide.
  • Tony Loved to Learn
    A new children’s picture book on the life of master accordionist and teacher Anthony Galla-Rini, who passed away in 2006. Written by Sharon Riddle and Nancy Sanders.
  • Accordion Noir: Best of 2007
    Vancouver’s finest all-accordion radio show celebrates its first year with a recap of their 2007 favorites. The perfect soundtrack for a long winter’s night, you can download the shows directly from their website.

New Hohner Accordions for 2008

Gilbert Reyes of Reyes Accordions recently shared some photos of the new diatonic accordions that Hohner will unveil at the NAMM Show later this month. These three new “Xtreme” models have 34 buttons (the standard Corona has 31) and include reed switches — three on the Tex-Mex Corona II Xtreme and five on the norteño and vallenato tuned Corona III Xtremes. They certainly seem designed to compete with Gabbanelli accordions, which have long been popular in the Conjunto/Tejano scene.

Hohner Corona II Xtreme (red)Hohner Corona II Xtreme

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