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June 28, 2011


Meeting Notes

For a latecomer, it was amazing to enter the meeting room on Sunday, June 19, and find row upon row of accordion-wearing audience members, their eyes trained on one accordion-wearing presenter in the front of the room. Joan Grauman’s workshop on ethnic music styles was, in the words of one participant, “a fantastic opportunity.” He elaborated: “Her accordion, dance, and choreography background uniquely qualifies her to conduct such a workshop. Joan really brings the accordion to life, and she is obviously an excellent teacher. I am going to work on some of the expression and ornamentation tips that she showed us.”

Another participant, known for his Russian repertoire, declared the workshop inspired him to take up Irish music!

We may want to take another meeting to go into more depth on one or two of the styles, say Irish and Scandinavian.

Joan’s handout for the workshop is included below.

Next Meeting

Sunday, July 10, 4 pm meeting: Our friend Rita Davidson will come from New Jersey to present a concert and workshop on the uplifting, challenging, and truly beautiful music of Eugene Ettore. An honors music education graduate and Ettore protégée, Rita Davidson has presented Ettore’s music and life story in concerts and workshops throughout the United States. She is an amazing musician, and you will not want to miss this performance. We hope to see all of you there!

August – no meeting


Coming Up …

Ocotrillo at An Die Musik in Baltimore July 21

  • Ocotrillo
    Gabe Hall-Rodrigues, acccordion and vocals
    Sean Brogan, bass
    Wes Anderson, drums

Thursday, July 21, 8 pm
An die Musik LIVE!
A Classical, Jazz & World Music Concert Venue
409 N. Charles Street
Baltimore MD 21201


Ocotrillo's program contains a variety of music styles including classic jazz and standards, older styles such as Dixieland or New Orleans jazz as well as music from various parts of Brazil including numbers by Tom Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Luiz Gonzaga, and more.

Tickets: $10 at 410-385-2638


Stas Venglevski Concert and Potluck Picnic August 15

Joyce Palmer will be hosting a concert with accordionist/composer Stas Venglevski on Monday, August 15, in her backyard on Capitol Hill. For those who have not experienced Stas’s amazing skills on the Russian bayan -- or his gorgeous music -- you are in for a real treat! Visit his website at http://www.stasv.com. The Capitol Hill Accordion Orchestra Society (CHAOS) will play a few old tunes to start the evening.

WMAS members* and their guests are welcome to attend the concert and a potluck picnic honoring Stas and his wife Rosa.

The price of the 6 pm event is a picnic dish and a lawn chair. Please call Joyce at 202-543-3860 to obtain directions and let her know what dish you will be bringing.

Joyce says: The concert should be a real treat. Space is limited, but I will have a tent set up on the side lawn for additional seating. I hope you will enjoy my home and you are most welcome. Capitol Hill is a lovely venue, but it will be a Monday evening and traffic may be difficult. Street parking should not be a big issue, but you might want to take the Metro. I’m right near the Union Station Metro station.

* If you are not sure of your membership status, please email peter@musicisforever.com.



History & Styles of the Ethnic Music from Ireland, Italy, Germany & Austria, and Scandinavia, and Klezmer Music of Eastern Europe

Prepared by Joan Grauman

This workshop [on June 19, 2011] was designed to familiarize accordionists with the unique characteristics of the music of these chosen regions where the accordion plays a major role.

Irish Folk Music

Irish traditional music was largely meant (to the best of our current knowledge) for dancing at celebrations for weddings, saint’s days or other observances. Tunes are most usually divided into two eight-bar strains which are each played as many times as the performers feel is appropriate; Irish dance music is isometric. (16 measures are known as a "step", with one 8 bar strain for a "right foot" and the second for the "left foot" of the step. Tunes that are not so evenly divided are called "crooked".) This makes for an eminently danceable music, and Irish dance has been widely exported abroad.

Traditional dances and tunes include reels (4/4), hornpipes (4/4 with swung eighth notes), and jigs (double and single jigs are in 6/8 time), as well as imported waltzes, mazurkas, polkas, and highlands or barn dances (a sort of Irish version of the Scottish strathspev). Jigs come in various other forms for dancing — the slip jig and hop jig are commonly written in 9/8 time, the slide in 12/8. (The dance the hop jig is no longer performed under the auspices of An Coimisiun.) The forms of jig danced in hardshoe are known as double or treble jigs (for the doubles/trebles performed with the tip of the hardshoe), and the jigs danced in ghillies/pomps/slippers are known as light jigs.

Polkas are a type of 2/4 tune mostly found in the Sliabh Luachra area, at the border of Cork and Kerry, in the south of Ireland. Another distinctive Munster rhythm is the Slide, like a fast single jig in 12/8 time. The main differences between these types of tunes are in the time signature, tempo, and rhythmic emphasis. It should be noted that, as an aural music form, Irish traditional music is rather artificially confined within time signatures, which are not really capable of conveying the particular emphasis for each type of tune. An easy demonstration of this is any attempt to notate a slow air on the musical stave. Similarly, attempts by classically trained musicians to play traditional music by reading the common transcriptions are almost unrecognizable - the transcriptions exist only as a kind of shorthand.

The concept of 'style' is of large importance to Irish traditional musicians. At the start of the last century, distinct variation in regional styles of performance existed. With increased communications and travel opportunities, regional styles have become more standardised, with soloists aiming now to create their own, unique, distinctive style, often hybrids of whatever other influences the musician has chosen to include within their style.

Due to the importance placed on the melody in Irish music, harmony should be kept simple (although, fitting with the melodic structure of most Irish tunes, this usually does not mean a "basic" I-IV-V chord progression), and instruments are played in strict unison, always following the leading player. True counterpoint is mostly unknown to traditional music, although a form of improvised "countermelody" is often used in the accompaniments of bouzouki and guitar players. Much of the local character of a style comes from the type of decoration that is added to a tune.

  • When observing Irish dance, one sees that the dancer’s body is always straight and the steps are in a definite “up and down” movement, versus “side to side”. The music is played with the same feeling: up and down (vertical). The dance is light and happy, but controlled – same with the music.

Music of Italy

The music of Italy ranges across a broad spectrum of opera and instrumental classical music and a body of popular music drawn from both native and imported sources. Music has traditionally been one of the cultural markers of Italian national and ethnic identity and holds an important position in society and in politics. Italian innovation in musical scales, harmony, notation, and theater enabled the development of opera in the late 16th century, and much of modern European classical music, such as the symphony and concerto.

Instrumental and vocal classical music is an iconic part of Italian identity, spanning experimental art music and international fusions to symphonic music and opera. Opera is integral to Italian musical culture, and has become a major segment of popular music. The Neapolitan song, canzone Napoletana, and the cantautori singer-songwriter traditions are also popular domestic styles that form an important part of the Italian music industry, alongside imported genres like jazz, rock and hip hop. Italian folk music is an important part of the country's musical heritage, and spans a diverse array of regional styles, instruments and dances.

  • Italians stress beauty and emotion in their folk music. Italian music speaks from the heart and is not “real” unless it is played this way. However, when playing “set dance” music, such as the Tarantella, the beat is the most important thing to stress, so emotion is more difficult to express in this form of music.

History of the Austrian & German Waltz

There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim. The French philosopher Montaigne wrote of a dance he saw in 1580 in Augsburg, where the dancers held each other so closely that their faces touched. Kunz Haas, of approximately the same period wrote that, "Now they are dancing the godless, Weller or Spinner. The vigorous peasant dancer, following an instinctive knowledge of the weight of fall, utilizes his surplus energy to press all his strength into the proper beat of the measure, thus intensifying his personal enjoyment in dancing". The wide, wild steps of the country people became shorter and more elegant when introduced to higher society. Hans Sachs wrote of the dance in his 1568 Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände(1568).

At the Austrian Court in Vienna in the late 17th century (1698) ladies were conducted around the room to the tune of a 2 beat measure, which then became the 3/4 of the Nach Tanz (After Dance), upon which couples got into the position for the Weller and waltzed around the room with gliding steps as in an engraving of the Wirtschaft (Inn Festival) given for Peter the Great.

The peasants of Bavaria, Tyrol, and Styria began dancing a dance called Walzer, a dance for couples, around 1750. The Ländler, also known as the Schleifer, a country dance in 3/4 time, was popular in Bohemia, Austria, and Bavaria, and spread from the countryside to the suburbs of the city. While the eighteenth century upper classes continued to dance the minuet, bored noblemen slipped away to the balls of their servants.

  • The Austrian Ländler is considered a high form of “dancing art” in Austria today. Played in ¾ time, the accents are strong on the first beat and slightly strong on the third beat creating an accented “1 - 3” feeling, or a “held back” effect.

Traditional Nordic Dance Music

Traditional Nordic dance music is a type of traditional music or folk music that once was common in the mainland part of the Nordic countries — Scandinavia plus Finland. The person who plays this kind of music might be called speleman (Swedish/Norwegian), spelman (Swedish), spel(l)emann (Norwegian), pelimanni (Finnish) or spillemand (Danish). Finnish traditional dance music is often called pelimanni music in English, while there does not seem to exist a similar, widespread term for the corresponding music from the other countries. It is often more meaningful to distinguish between the traditional dance music from different regions than between music from the countries as such. Some concepts in the field can be defined as Norwegian or Finnish, but most are either common to all four countries or local. Besides the dance music tradition, all countries also have other traditions of folk music that are not shared to a similar extent.

Nordic folk dance music consists of various dance rhythms that do not originate in the Nordic countries but once were the fashion dances among the European nobility. With time these dances spread to common people, and in some cases they remained there long after the nobility had exchanged them for new fashionable dances. Many of these rhythms can also be found in other parts of Europe, and some of them have also been used in classical music.

The majority of the tunes are in minor keys. Traditionally, there were many tunes in keys that can not be classified as either minor or major (Modes). Traces of this still exist, but most of that disappeared when the accordion became popular. The majority of the dances that go with this music are partner dances, though exceptions do exist. Such exceptions include the minuets that are common in some parts of Finland and that can also be found in parts of Sweden, the solo-dance halling, generally considered typically Norwegian but also found in parts of Sweden, and the Finnish quadrille danced by several couples in formation. The most common dance rhythm is the polska. It is in 3/4 (three beats to the bar). In the most common polskas, the third beat is accentuated as well as the first. There are many local versions of the polska rhythm, and generally local variations of the accompanying dance correspond to these differences, though many of these local dances have disappeared. The schottische, also known as reinlender, polka and waltz are other common dance rhythms. In addition there are many other more uncommon dance rhythms (e.g. the anglais), despite a small number of surviving tunes.

The most typical instrument is the fiddle. In most cases normal violins are used, but there are exceptions such as the hardingfelle, used in parts of Norway, which has a set of sympathetic strings in addition to the normal four strings. Another unique instrument, the nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle), probably once existed in a large part of Europe, but survived until modern times only in Sweden. Other instruments that were used traditionally were simple clarinets, and later accordions. Contemporary Nordic traditional dance musicians might also use other less traditional instruments, as well as writing new tunes in the old style.

  • Scandinavian waltzes are noticeably heavy on the first beat of each measure. The dancers have a “relaxed” appearance as they glide across the floor in their beautiful, weighty costumes and they dip to accent the first beat. Therefore, the music should be played with this in mind: play the waltzes in a linear, relaxed manor and give a heavy accent to the first beat of three. Also, as this is the “music of the folk”. Therefore, do not play the arpeggios legato or very staccato. Play them “clean” and unlabored.

Klezmer Music

The term klezmer comes from a combination of Hebrew words: kley, meaning "a useful or prepared instrument, tool, or utensil" and zemer, meaning "to make music"; leading to k'li zemer ?????? ?????, literally "vessels of song" = "musical instrument").

Originally, klezmer referred to musical instruments, and was later extended to refer to musicians themselves. It was not until the mid-to-late 20th Century that the word was used to identify a musical genre. Early 20th Century recordings and writings most often refer to the style as "Yiddish" music, although it is also sometimes called Freilech music (Yiddish, literally "Happy music").

Klezmer is easily identifiable by its characteristic expressive melodies, reminiscent of the human voice, complete with laughing and weeping. This is not a coincidence; the style is meant to imitate khazone and paraliturgical singing. A number of dreydlekh (a Yiddish word for musical ornaments), such as krekhts ('sobs') are used to produce this style.

Above all the musical styles which influenced the traditional Klezmer musicians, the Romanian influence seems to be the strongest and most enduring. Traditional Romanian music was heard, adopted and adapted by Klezmer musicians. This fact is reflected in the dance forms found throughout the entire surviving Klezmer music repertoire (e.g., Horas, Doinas, Sirbas and Bulgars, etc.).

  • In the towns of Eastern Europe where Klezmer music was heard everywhere – at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and at other celebrations, some musicians were professional and some were self-taught. Musicians would gather for these “gigs” and, since so many could not read musical notation, all were all expected to play in the key of D minor. To this day, most Klezmer tunes are in D minor.


  • One should always remember, when playing “music of the folk”, that this music was generally played by self-taught musicians. Therefore, elaborate chords (ex. the diminished chord), and elaborate harmonies and counterpoint are to be avoided. Play as though you are part of the dance itself. Play with your heart.

All “bulleted” items in Italics were written by Joan Grauman. All other information was taken from Wikipedia.