Art of Accordion: Akkordeon-Rap

I’m hoping one of our German-speaking readers can help me out on this one. It’s a video interview with Art of Accordion, a German quintet who won the International Competition for Ensemble Music at the Coupe Mondiale earlier this year. The interview is interspersed with clips of the group slapping their accordions rhythmically while singing/rapping. I’m curious to know what they’re singing about and where they came up with this style.

Daccorduett: It Takes Two

Enjoy jazz or showtunes? Check out Daccorduett — a new project from singer Konni Deppe and accordionist Andreas Hermeyer. Together, they give warm treatments to classic melodies like Henry Mancini’s “Crazy World” and “You and Me” (both from Victor/Victoria). They’ve played a handful of shows in Germany so far and are hoping to release a full album sometime this summer.

Flickr Find: Wurstfest Photos

Classic Texas Accordion
uploaded by -Dons
While I can’t to make it to this year’s Wurstfest, I can live vicariously through this excellent slideshow I found on Flickr. For a minute, I thought I was actually in New Braunfels, TX — listening to the accordions and tubas, watching the dancers in their authentic German garb, and eating all of that tasty, tasty sausage. Mmm…

Wurstfest: A Salute to Sausage

When it started in 1961, Wurstfest was a small, one-day affair. It capped a week where the restaurants and meat markets of New Braunfels, Texas showcased the sausage-making techniques their ancestors brought from Germany over 100 years earlier.

Today, Wurstfest is more than just a sausage festival. Drawing over 100,000 people from around the world, Wurstfest lasts ten days and pays homage to all things German: the food, the music, and the culture. Naturally, amidst the sausages, strudels, and beer, there’ll be plenty of accordion and polka music (and dancing). Featured performers include 15-time Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, the Al Meixner Trio, the Seven Dutchmen Orchestra, Die Schlauberger, Alpenfest, and many more.

Wurstfest kicks off tomorrow and the official “biting of the sausages” will take place at 5pm. Good Morning America will be doing a live preview of the festival early tomorrow morning though, be warned, it’ll probably make you hungry for pigs in a blanket.

Kids Enjoy Playing Accordion. Film at 11.

There’s an interesting AP story today about high school students in Wishek, North Dakota who are learning to play the accordion and — gasp! — actually enjoying it. Located just down the road from Lawrence Welk’s hometown (Strasburg), Wishek is a town steeped in German traditions, where many older residents still speak German. For 15-year-old Christy Schaffer, playing the accordion is a great way connect with her heritage, and assert her individuality:

“When I was younger, I thought it was something different to do… My grandpa did it. And I thought it would be interesting to play something different, that no other kid was playing.”

Janet Wolff, the music teacher at Wishek High, has done a fantastic job of getting kids excited about playing the accordion. That’s exactly what the accordion needs: more representation in schools.

Does anyone know of other accordion programs like this at the elementary or high school level? If so, leave a comment here and let us know. We want to get the word out!

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Polka Happy Hour at Schroeder’s

The San Francisco Chronicle has finally picked up on what Let’s Polka readers already know; namely, that the Friday night “Polka Happy Hour” at Schroeder’s German Restaurant in San Francisco is a blast. Live polka music, polka dancing (and lessons), great German food and beer, drinking contests… what more could you ask for?

This audio slideshow on the Chronicle website includes some great photos from a recent Friday night at Schroeder’s and features the sights and sounds of Big Lou’s Polka Casserole and the Golden Gate Bavarian Club. This quote from a polka dancing patron sums it up nicely:

“Oh, I love polka; it’s cheaper than aerobics and more fun. Plus the music’s better. And, there’s beer. In aerobics, there is no beer. You may quote me on that one.”

It’s not too late to join the fun — there’s another party this Friday (with Joe Smiell’s band playing) and there’ll be more parties throughout the fall. Check the Schroeder’s calendar for details.

Golden Gate Bavarian Club

As I attend more polka events, I’m starting to realize there are three key ingredients for a rollicking polka party: good music (preferably accordion-fueled), good beer, and lots of dancing. I’ve developed a healthy appreciation for the first two ingredients over the years, but I need some help with the dancing.

Fortunately, the Golden Gate Bavarian Club is here to help. The Golden Gate Bavarian Club is dedicated to preserving the traditions of southern Bavaria — including regional dialects, costumes, dances, and music — and passing them on to future generations.

We were lucky enough to see them in action last Friday night at Schroeder’s in San Francisco, where they sported authentic Bavarian costumes and danced the night away to the sounds of Big Lou’s Polka Casserole. They looked like they were having a fantastic time and they’ve even promised to help us with our dancing. Catch them at Schroeders’ next “polka happy hour” on September 29 (also with Big Lou) or at the Speisekammer’s Oktoberfest in Alameda later this month.

Oktoberfest Season Begins

It’s time to break out the lederhosen, dust off your beer steins, and roll out the barrel. Oktoberfest season has begun and it’s a busy time for accordionists. Just ask Nick Ballarini who played at Addison Oktoberfest last weekend and was profiled in the Dallas Morning News. In the piece, he talks about the variety of musical styles available to an accordionist:

“It’s a great way to express yourself. You can get a different feeling out of it by controlling the bellows or even the way you attack the keyboard. If you want to sound like a Frenchman, you put on a beret.”

Nick is a veteran of the accordion scene, having performed with Luciano Pavarotti, Mel Torme, The Chieftains, among others. Along with Frank Marocco, he also runs the annual Marocco-Ballarini Accordion Camp, which takes place January 24-28, 2007, in Mesa, Arizona.

Self-Playing Button Accordion for the Lazy

Want to sound like an honest-to-goodness accordion player, but without all that pesky practice and hard work? Well, check out this accordion built by Hessmuller — it looks like a real button accordion but, in fact, it uses a small mini disc player and speakers to play over 100 Bavarian-German songs (including “Beer Barrel Polka”). Here’s the pitch:

“Have your own Octoberfest! You can convince them all that you are a musical wizard. This is a real button accordion built by Hessmuller of Morgenroethe Saxony (Germany), but instead of the usual reed sets it uses mini discs playing professionally sampled accordion solos of traditional polkas, marches, waltzes, tangos etc. played by real German accordion players… All the player has to do is move the bellows and play the buttons (keys are all functional) convincingly and people will marvel at your skills.”

Of course, becoming a “musical wizard” overnight has its price — typically $1,595 when it pops up on eBay. My advice: save your money and put it towards some accordion lessons. [Found via Squeezytunes]

Muenster (Texas) Germanfest This Weekend

The town of Muenster, TX, is holding its 31st annual Germanfest this weekend, an event “where Texas hospitality and German customs meet.” Now that might sound like an odd combination, but Muenster was founded around the turn of the century by German immigrants, whose descendants now celebrate their heritage with a festival filled with food, fun, and, of course, music.

Events include a 5k/15k fun run, a bicycle rally, a sausage and rib cook-off (save me some!), and a number of other competitions including Nagelshlagen — where a spike is hammered into a tree stump by contestants to see who can hammer the spike into the stump with the fewest swings. If you’re looking for accordion tunes, you won’t be disappointed either — performers at this year’s Germanfest include Brave Combo, The Polka Kings (from Lawton, OK), Alpenfest, and more.

It’s also worth mentioning that admission is free if you arrive in “complete ethnic German costume,” so break out that lederhosen and get over to the Germanfest this weekend!