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August 7, 2008


Meeting Notes

At our July 20 meeting: Richard Dangel led us on a tour through Tin Pan Alley, that section of West 28th Street in New York City that gave rise to so many wonderful tunes between the 1890s and the mid-1950s. Dick played and sang about 20 songs including such standards as Jerome Kern’s “Look for the Silver Lining” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark.” (He defines standards as songs that have a melody, an interesting chord progression, familiar and pleasing lyrics, as well as rhythm.) In a couple of trips away from the alley Dick gave us “Amazing Grace” and “Beer Barrel Polka.”

After retiring from a career in engineering management with the U.S. Navy, Dick studied music theory. Besides playing the accordion – he used a Roland in his WMAS program – Dick also sings barbershop. He recommended three books: Dick Hyman’s All the Right Changes (about chord changes); Frank Marocco and Ralph Stricker’s Jazz Theory and Improvisation; and David A. Jasen’s Tin Pan Alley. One or more of these might be just the thing to help keep you cool this summer.

Upcoming Meetings

Please remember we will not be meeting in August. Instead we encourage everyone to attend the American Accordionists’ Association festival in Arlington, Va. (actually, Rosslyn) from August 13 to 17 (more on this below).

We have something very exciting lined up for September: a special concert featuring accordionist Antonio Barbarena from Mexico. But please note that the concert will take place Sunday, September 14, not the 21st as originally announced. The time and place will not change: 4 pm at Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church. As usual for these special concerts, we will be asking nonmembers for a donation, so September will be a good time to become a member.

Mr. Barbarena will stick around after the concert for a potluck and jam session. Please plan to bring a dish to share, and your accordion. More details will follow.


WMAS Music Library

Lee Paulson has sorted the sheet music and books Karen received from her father, the former director of an accordion school, and developed a database of all the titles. If you are a member and would like to see a copy of the database on an Excel spreadsheet, please reply to this message. You may then ask to borrow music from the collection. You will have to pick it up at a meeting, however; Karen will not mail it.

American Accordionists’ Association August 13-17

The festival opens with a “Press and Squeeze Party” on Wednesday, August 13, at 7 pm.

On Thursday, August 14, at 10:30 am, Ray Oreggia – who performed a concert for us in June with Dominic Karcic (see below) – will present a workshop on Charles Magnante, His Life and Recordings.

The U.S. Air Force Strolling Strings with accordionist Frank Busso will be the luncheon concert performers on Thursday at 11:30 am.

At 1:15 on Thursday Dominic Karcic and Ray Orteggia will present a workshop on the Music of the Vartaro Musette. If you missed their WMAS concert, here’s your chance. If you attended their WMAS concert, you know you want to see them again!

At 2:15 pm on Thursday, Joan Grauman will present a multi-media accordion memorabilia workshop. She will cover the history and founders of the AAA; old recordings by favorites such as Frosini, Myron Floren, and Magnante; and books, advertisements, photos, cartoons, and stories of the past 70 wonderful years of the accordion in the United States.

At 3:15 pm on Thursday Dr. Robert Young McMahan will present a workshop on the Accordion in the Symphony Orchestra from Tchaikovsky to the Present.

Rehearsals will fill the rest of the afternoon. The evening’s offerings include the Belfiore International Entertainment Competition at 7 pm and the Vivian Vivio Stolaruk International Entertainment Competition at 8 pm.

On Friday buses will take participants on a sightseeing tour of Northern Virginia starting at 11 am. A gala concert at 7 pm will feature Joe Cerrito, Mary Tokarski, and Alexander Poeluev among other virtuosos.

On Saturday competitions start at 9 am. A workshop presented by Alexander Poeluev is scheduled for 10 am; other events include a 2 pm awards concert and a banquet starting with a cocktail hour at 6 pm.

See www.ameraccord.com for more details.


Dale Wise’s Advice on How to Choose an Accordion

Friends of the accordion:

Please share this information with those who you think are in search of an accordion that is right for them.

It's easy to get confused, so here are some thoughts and information to help with decisions.

As to new accordions, consider only those that are appealing as to size, weight, sound and quality of reeds, color, cost, can be returned if not completely safisfied, and come with a five-year warranty on all parts and repair. Used instruments must follow the same considerations, and have at least a two-year warranty on all parts and repair.

Here's what is commonly available in new accordions.

+ Italian-made





+ Size of treble keyboard (lowest to highest white key):

Small (16 1/8") w/34 keys (G1-E3); white key = .77" wide

Intermediate (17") w/41 keys (F1-A4); white key = .67" wide

Medium (17 3/4") w/37 keys (F1-F4); white key = .77" wide

Medium+ (17 3/4") w/41 keys (F1-A4); white key = .71" wide

Large (19 1/8") w/41 keys (F1-A4); white key = .77" wide

+ Weights: 16.25 lbs.; 18 lbs.; 22 lbs.; 24 lbs; 26-29 lbs.

+ Reed Quality: Commercial; Handmade Type; Special Export; Handmade; (There is also a reedless electronic type)

+ Sets of Reeds: RH (2, 3, or 4); LH (4 or 5)

+ Tuning: Wet = Musette (available in various "speeds" of vibrato) or Dry

+ Tuning Standard = A 440 or A 442

+ Tone Chamber: Enriches tone, and is available on professional-type instruments

+ Most common number of Basses: 72 (covers everything that ever has been or could be written for music); 96 (has 24 repeats); 120 (has 48 repeats)

+ Lowest Bass Note: C (most common); A (European); G or E (German)

+ Most common colors: Black, Red Pearl, White Pearl

+ Soft Cases are lighter than Hard Cases, and can be carried onboard most airplanes.

+ Shoulder Straps come in many shapes and sizes, some being more comfortable than others.

Questions invited. Remember, "The proof is in the pudding."

Best regards,

Dale E. Wise, M.M.E.
Accordion Plus, LLC
P.O. Box 53
Burr Hill, VA 22433
(540) 854-5209
Email: Accordionplus@aol.com
Website: www.Accordionplus.com


Greetings from WMAS expatriates and the Accordion Club of South Florida

Forty-two people turned out for the July 7 meeting of the Accordion Club of South Florida. The minutes can be found at www.accordionclubofsouthflorida.com. Ron and Lola Charvet attended the meeting and then spent a night with us and had a blast (see photo below). The head of the entertainment committee that books groups at the American German Club also attended the meeting. He was so taken with everything that he also wants to join the club. Peter Lapira received a call from another local paper here, i.e., The Sun Sentinal, and they want to visit him and will be taking a video person along as well. The advertising in all of the local newspapers has really been a great success.

-- Ben and Brigitte Valenti

The following article appeared in the Palm Beach Post.

Have an accordion? Bring it to Boynton Club


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mention accordions and some people in South Florida think of shutters. But not Boynton Beach residents Brigitte Valenti and Peter Lapira, who are launching the Accordion Club of South Florida.

The group will hold a meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 7, at Sunny South Estates Clubhouse, 8710 Sunny South Ave. in Boynton Beach.

Valenti moved here a year ago and was a member of an accordion group in Virginia.

She says she misses the camaraderie and music.

"This is a group for people who just want to play and have fun and share our music," said Valenti, who learned to play in Germany.

Valenti, a retired sales person, is hoping the group will perform at various venues, including nursing homes. The group also plans to socialize, perhaps with potluck meals or other events, she said.

"We're just looking for accordion buddies. We can meet and decide what we want to do," Valenti said.

For Lapira, who repairs, restores and rebuilds accordions, the group is a way to promote accordion playing.

"This may not be the most popular instrument, but it makes beautiful music and gives your brain a workout," said Lapira, who is teaching his 6-year-old granddaughter how to play.

Lapira's dad was a professional accordion player and he hopes the instrument's popularity makes a resurgeance.

Future meetings will be held on the first Monday of each month at the same time and place. The club will not meet in September. For more information, call Lapira at (561) 281-2738 or visit www.accordionclubof southflorida.com.


The following article was written by Joan Grauman for the AAA newsletter. This is the unabridged version.

2007 Was a Great Year for the Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society (WMAS)

By Joan Grauman, Vice President, WMAS

After fighting the rush hour traffic for 4 years to get to our Tuesday night meetings, WMAS has moved to the 3rd Sunday of the month. To celebrate this move in March, we brought in the "Busso Trio" for a delightful concert that was enjoyed by a record crowd. Since moving to Sundays, we are able to bring in occasional guest artists. Next on our list was a delightful weekend in September with Mary Tokarski, filled with master classes, a terrific workshop on hand exercises, and a wonderful concert. We all wish that Mary was a "local"! And speaking of locals, the club is looking forward to a workshop, in April 2008, with our very own Dr. Carmelo Pino, on the versatility of the accordion.

Between guest performances, our club meetings are filled with workshops given by our members, theme parties, such as waltz night and Scandinavian night, as well as a very enjoyable opportunity in the fall to play in an orchestra setting. Every year, I introduce new arrangements of seasonal music, and conduct an accordion orchestra open to all members. The orchestra will perform on December 16 at our annual holiday concert which is, as are all of our events, open to the public. Three years ago, I started a small ensemble of club members called the "Potomac Ensemble". The ensemble enjoys playing new music together, learning new techniques, and all in a relaxed and friendly setting. Our little group has even started performing at local festivals and at an accordion convention.

Having the 2007 Coupe Mondiale right in our backyard this year was a special treat, and our club president, Karen Malan-Uribe summed it up beautifully: "Coupe was an experience beyond words...I loved seeing the younger people play with such passion". Karen also had the joy of sharing this experience with her 84 year-old father, Allan Malan, who once owned an accordion school in Dearborn, Michigan. "It was wonderful to watch him at 11:00 at night still drawing energy from the performers," Karen said. Mr. Malan was also thrilled to reconnect with old friends, such as Faithe Deffner and Joan Cochran Sommers.

Our club members jumped at the chance to help out at Coupe. One member, a newcomer to the accordion world, Mary Smith, was a terrific help and, being a Washington, DC native, was also very helpful with answering questions and giving directions. "It amazed me to meet and talk to different accordionists from around the world. What amazed me even more were all the many different kinds of accordions that I saw at the exhibit tables at the Coupe!"

For photos and for a terrific review of the 2007 Coupe Mondiale by our webmaster, Mara Cherkasky, please go to the WMAS website: www.washingtonaccordions.org.

WMAS will celebrate its fifth birthday in February 2008. It has been five great years, and we are so pleased with all of the efforts put forth by our members -- all for the celebration of the instrument we love. Mary Smith said it so well, "I feel proud to be part of a club that includes beginners, professionals and masters of the instrument, as well as those who share an interest in sitting quietly and just enjoying the music. I think that is what is so appealing and makes WMAS unique.”

All of our members were very excited to hear that the 70th anniversary celebration of AAA will be in Arlington, Virginia this coming August. What a treat for our club to have another wonderful accordion event in our “neck of the woods”!

To conclude, I would like to share an excerpt of a little article sent to me by one of our club members, our publicity chairperson, Lee Paulson. She wrote about her experience working with Mary Tokarski in her master class this past September. It is so lovely and expresses what was felt by all:

“...I knew Mary was a friendly, cheerful person, so I wasn’t surprised when she welcomed me into her "studio," the quickly converted den in Joan Grauman’s home. After chatting a few moments, she asked what my goals were in spending time with her. I told her about my "pain in the neck", and she said, "Oh, that’s easy to fix" and quickly set about adjusting the straps. She told me to give it a try for a few days to see if things got better. Of course, they did, and I haven’t had the problem since.

Needless to say, we had lots of time remaining, so we set about playing some of the music I had brought. In just a few moments, she corrected bad habits I had unknowingly developed, showed me more efficient fingering for some tough passages, smoothed out my jerky bellows, and made me realize that even us "old folks" can learn new tricks, and enjoy doing it! Her pleasant personality and easy manner of instruction made me feel that at that moment, her attention was entirely on making me a better player. I already knew Mary was a great performer, now I know she is a terrific teacher too!”

– The Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society welcomes all to our monthly meetings. Let us know when you are in the area (see website above)!