Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Three Melodions in One Room

Tine and Anja are astoundingly musical
I spent a magical evening in a room crowded with diatonic accordion players. I do believe that three's a crowd applies here, in the most delightful way possible. There we were, three of us holding melodions in our laps: a Castagnari, a Serafini and my Gaillard. It was a veritable who's who of G/C diato makers.

Anja, our Ghent friend, invited Anita and me to a session at Tine's flat, which turned out to be a 15- minute walk from Ballenstraat in a misty drizzle. Well, it could have been a five-minute tram ride but we rushed to the wrong side of the street on the advice of a local, who misunderstood our destination. We arrived at the opposite stop barely in time to watch our tram slide by where we had been standing, moments before. Local knowledge is invaluable on a cruise, despite sometimes being way wrong. We relearned a valuable lesson: ask the right questions and check the charts to be certain you know what you are getting into. It happens.

For the first time in my 67 years -- it was my birthday, after all -- I was with others who actually play mazurkas. Until then YouTube was the only exposure to players. Not to diminish the YouTube experience, but it pales in comparison with actually being there.

Anja and Tine are session buddies and accomplished players. They graciously allowed me to barge into their evening. Hearing them interweave tune and accompaniment made this entire trip worthwhile. Everything else this summer will be frosting on the delicious musical birthday cake that they served up.

Guus makes a mazurka dance
That evening occurred after my first lesson by Guus, a gifted young player who has agreed to coach my diato journey. He started by playing my Gaillard and produced the most astounding music. I had no idea it could sound like that, bouncy and rhythmic, with lots of punch. Nothing wrong with the accordion, Guus declared.

Then he had me play a mazurka or two, same box, different fingers. What a contrast. We agreed that my tunes shuffled slowly around the room as if in a daze, mostly landing on the wrong foot at the wrong time and occasionally sprawling on the floor with an embarrassing splat. I could certainly hear the difference between his version and mine: articulation, dynamics, phrasing, ornamentation, syncopation, harmony and swing, to name a few of the techniques which I should master. Ah, well. That's what this cruise is all about.

I'm confident that Guus will help me improve. Plus, I got the impression he believes there is lots of low-hanging fruit on my musical vine, which is to say that I could make progress in every area. He has bravely signed up for another session a couple of weeks from now.

Now I'm reviewing the video from our first lesson, studying how he grabs a tune, shakes it awake and makes it dance. His virtual fingers never tire and he doesn't mind when I stumble along in his wake. I'm trying to feel Pascale Rubens' Le lac de St-Croix in a new way so that I can land on the right foot at the right time. With any luck I'll be able to replace this rendition with a version that makes a listener think, ah, he's playing a mazurka.

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