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July 21, 2006


Meeting Notes from the President

The July 11 meeting covered a few bases. Joan Grauman presented a short hands-on workshop on bellows control, and then Lamont Park Deluxe – Rick Nunno and Mara Cherkasky on accordion with Adam Carter Nafziger on guitar – performed about a dozen pieces.

“What role do the bellows play in creating music with an accordion?” was the question Joan posed at the beginning of the workshop. “To me, the bellows are everything!”

Here are some of the points she stressed:

Check out your instrument to make sure the bellows aren’t leaking. The accordion needs to fit snugly against your body. Use a back strap, and keep the bass strap tight against your left wrist.

Never “break” the bellows (change directions) in the middle of a tied note, half or whole note, or legato phrase.

It is easier to control the bellows when you are seated.

Do not limit yourself to rules such as “two measures out – two measures in.” You can pull the bellows out quite a ways but not so far than you can’t easily push them back in or control dynamics.

Do not play with the bottom bellows strap snapped. This tremendously limits any efforts to add emotion or accents.

Here are a few short exercises in bellows control:

- Choose a key on the right side. Play the key four times staccato and accented while pulling out the bellows. Don't play bass. Then, play the key four times staccato and accented while pushing in the bellows. Listen closely and make sure the notes sound the same to you in each direction. Practice over and over until you're comfortable and the exercise becomes effortless. This requires short, quick bellows pulls and pushes.

- Choose a key and corresponding bass note. Play both simultaneously as softly as you can, almost a whisper. Play them four times out and four times in and try to make them sound exactly the same.

- Play left hand only using bass-chord-chord in waltz rhythm. Play two measures out and two measures in. Accent only the first of the three beats. Again, listen closely and make sure the pattern sounds the same whether pushing in or pulling out the bellows.

Other exercises:

- Practice being more spontaneous. Do you feel you always need to change bellows direction in the same places in your songs? Practice not doing this. Start a familiar song with the bellows open, instead of closed as usual. Try to accent and use dynamics while changing the old bellows patterns.

- Listen, listen, listen. Tape yourself playing and listen for the spots and patterns that need attention.

After the exercises, the group tried playing “Marushya,” which Joan said was a great piece for practicing accents, not breaking bellows during the many tied notes, and playing with feeling.

Thanks, Joan, for taking a break from packing to give us these great pointers. The bellows don’t often receive this much attention! (Joan and Dan were leaving the next morning at 4 am for the American Accordionists' Association festival in Buffalo!)

Following the workshop, Lamont Park Deluxe played a farewell concert. Adam, the guitarist who has been playing with Rick and Mara since September, will be moving to Indiana in August, so this was his last chance to play for WMAS. Sad but true. The trio played a set of mostly fiddle tunes from Scandinavia, Ireland, Scotland and the United States (listen to "Galen's Arrival"). Afterwards Adam thanked WMAS for making him feel welcome despite his not being an accordionist.

We haven’t made a point of it, but we’re always happy to have other instruments accompany us. We'll miss Adam.


Upcoming Meetings

Next month (August 8) has been billed as a giant jam session. But first Lee and Karen will lead the group in a little workshop on improvisation. They have chosen a variety of familiar songs and everyone will be encouraged to play along with them. The pair will probably play each song about a half a dozen times to give everyone a chance to catch on and/or enhance it with chords, harmony and other fancy stuff. We look forward to having a fun evening. We also look forward to hearing about the AAA festival in Buffalo and some of the other events people have been participating in.

September 12 will be “Dance Night,” so start brushing up on your dance numbers, including polkas, waltzes, tangos, and others.

Also, make sure you mark your calendar for October 10, when Manny Bobenreith is on the program. If you’re not familiar with Manny’s playing, you’re in for a treat!

Composer Peter DiGiovanni

We're proud to report that our own Peter DiGiovanni won first place in a composition competion at a balalaika convention earlier this month. According to reports, the composition was performed at the convention by three of the best balalaika players in the world. Quite an accomplishment!


Mike Rubin in Hexagon at Lubber Run Park Saturday, July 22

Hexagon Revue: You Only Run Twice: Hexagon is Washington’s only original, political, satirical, musical comedy revue. Since 1956 they have been mounting an annual show that, in addition to skewering those in high places and low, in politics, the arts and in the news, raises money for a different charity each year. “Making fun of everyone is what Hexagon does”, they say in their opening song. And as this is Washington, there is plenty to make fun of. 8 p.m. Free. For a map to Lubber Run, check the link below. Lubber Run Amphitheatre 703-228-1850 http://www.arlingtonarts.org/cultural_affairs/alfresco.htm#lubber.