Monday, September 19, 2011

Accordion Greats- Ronnie Kennedy

PBS was doing their annual fundraising this past week, and one of the featured acts was Irish Country Singer Daniel O'Donnell. He is an impressively good singer, but, of course, I zeroed right in on the accordion player who was not just playing a few good chords of backup. With a little research, I learned that the man is Ronnie Kennedy.

When Ronnie Kennedy was very young he went to see Jimmy Shand, playing in The Theatre Royal, in Dublin. He went home and asked his mother for an accordion. He was soon playing concerts at old folks' homes and for children's parties. As soon as he could he joined a band, eventually working with Johnny McEvoy.

When Daniel O'Donnell saw Ronnie play, he asked Ronnie to join their band, and they have now been together for over 20 years.

Kennedy plays traditional accordion music, but his expertise is such that you will not be left wishing that someone would stop the pain. Here's a video:

Ronnie Kennedy has released four albums of his music:
1999 - Those Were the Days (only available if you can find it used)
2003- Accordion Favourites
2003- Accordion Irish Melodies
2006- O Sole Mio

Ronnie Kennedy web site

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Album Review- Concert Accordion Artistry of Robert Davine

Robert Davine’s album, the Concert Accordion Artistry of Robert Davine, is modern music on a classic instrument. There is a nice sampling of modern classical music, but not much variety.

You are probably asking yourself, "Do I like accordion music enough to buy an entire album of it?"

Probably the bigger question for this album is, "Do I like modern classical music enough to buy an entire album of it?"

The background of some selections is played by the Lamont Chamber Orchestra. The accordion is featured as a solo instrument, but if you don't like the style of the music, you will hardly notice that it's being played on an accordion. Lots of atonal stuff and discordant harmonies. I didn't think there was very much variety in the selections. However, the album is unusual in that most of the pieces are serious music that were written specifically for accordion. That counts for something in itself.

Davine was Professor of Accordion and Theory at the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music. It was one of the three academic music courses offered in the entire United States. Davine founded the school's accordion department in the late 1950s. He taught until his death, at age 77, on November 25, 2001. There is no question that he is a virtuoso accordionist. The issue is whether this style of music is pleasurable to listen to.

There are liner notes which give more information about the selections, the composers, and also about their performance on accordion.

One hour, 18 tracks

Hans Lang: Prelude and Fugue in C- This piece is almost entirely accordion, and is the most pleasant to listen to on the album

Cecil Effinger: Nocturne- another accordion solo piece. This one seems to have snatches of melodies from time to time but then goes off in unexpected patterns, leaving the typical dissatisfaction of modern music.

Paul Creston: Prelude and Dance, opus 69- this solo is unusual in that it was written particularly for accordion. After a long prelude that doesn't speak to me at all, the dance section is actually melodic and makes one feel like dancing.

Ted Zarlengo: Suite for Accordion, Cello and Piano- again, this piece is unusual in that it was written to take advantage of the particular features of these instruments. There are five movements: Prelude, Scherzo, Pastoral, Interlude and Gigue. This piece is a long atonal collections of phrases that leave me cold. It's mostly piano and cello, but the accordion is heard more in Gigue.

Adamo Volpi: Peludio, opus 31- This is a bit like a Bach fugue, and anyone who has tried to play clear, fast runs on the accordion without muddying them will appreciate the rendition.

Normand Lockwood: Sonata- Fantasy- This piece was written for accordion after the composer heard Davine play. There are three movements: Contemplative, Allegro giocoso, and Adagio serioso. The playing is magnificent. The Fantasy will be appreciated only by those who really like discordant and unrhythmic modern music.

John Gart: Vivo- This piece moves with lightning speed, living up to its name.

Carmelo Pino: Concertino for Strings and Accordion- Again, the music is played beautifully, but the atonal patterns won't please if you don't like this kind of music. There are three movements: Allegro, Andante, and Presto.

David Diamond: Night Music- This is a mood piece. The strings are more dominant.

Matyas Seiber: Introduction and Allegro- This is written for cello and accordion, and the richness of the two instruments. I like this piece the most of any on the album. Although it still has the style of modern music, it really plays one instrument against the other, and they both come through sounding great.

I have to say that this is one of my least favorite of all the accordion albums I own, although it's probably important to have just because of the talent of Davine, and the fact that it shows the accordion can be played as a serious instrument.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Comment on Comments

Just discovered that I never set this blog up to notify me when there were comments made, so I've been thinking that no one ever read this blog. Sorry, all those of you who have been reading and commenting, and thought I didn't care!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June is National Accordion Awareness Month

Who knew?

I have to celebrate, right? I'm going to try to practice a little bit every day. We'll see if that results in another video to share. I have to say that my abilities today (after many months of no playing) were rather appalling.

I practiced:
Polka Mazurka
Come Back to Sorrento
Julida Polka
Cadet Boogie
Gay Vienna (named when gay meant happy)

I didn't even try any of the hard stuff. Is anyone out there? Shall I make a poll to let you choose which one I should practice hardest?

Hrustevich Plays "Presto" from Vivaldi's Summer

Here is one amazing piece of accordion playing, and by a young person at that!

He's performing what is called "bellows shake" throughout, and that takes a fantastic amount of arm muscle in addition to actually playing the notes.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Accordion for the Royals at Bucklebury

Did you notice that there was an accordion being played at Bucklebury to celebrate the wedding of William and Kate?

I haven't been a big watcher of all the wedding hoopla, but I admit that I looked up at the word "Buckleberry." Have we suddenly stepped into a Tolkien novel? No, it's really "Bucklebury, but it is truly Kate's hometown, and the non-hobbits turned out to celebrate.

One of them plays a 96-bass piano accordion.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yet Another Disadvantage of Using Cell Phones

"Excuse Me I Can't Play My Accordion Right Now, I Am On The Phone."

This clear design flaw of the cell phone comes to you courtesy of Patrick Gage. You can see his photos on Flickr