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March 19, 2014


Meeting Notes

Sixty people turned out, despite dire weather forecasts, for WMAS’s international mini-festival last Sunday. The event was so successful, and such fun, that we are now calling it WMAS’s first international mini-festival. Because of time constraints, the presentations had to stay short and we had to turn down some people who offered to present, but we will remedy that situation with a second edition sometime in the near future.

Here’s a synopsis of our brief musical trip around the world.

Steve Albertini, our greeter, kicked off the meeting with a variety of pieces: “Canadian Sunset,” “Cumbia Cantina,” “Hesitation Blues,” and “Fan It.”

The formal program started with Mike Rubin who, dressed as a klezmer musician, presented a brief history of Jewish music. According to Mike, Jewish music can be organized into seven categories: Cantorial or Liturgical; Ladino; Klezmer; Yiddish; Israeli; Holiday; and American Jewish music. He played a selection or two in each category and distributed a handout that included the sheet music for those pieces.

Yimeng Huang played recordings of traditional Chinese music, showed pictures of traditional instruments, and explained the Chinese scale and notation system, both of which are completely different from their Western counterparts. She then introduced her friend Liping He, who sang a few Chinese folk songs to Yimeng’s accordion accompaniment. Yimeng had prepared some display boards showing more details about the instruments, notation, and other aspects of Chinese music, and she invited audience members to check them out after the program.

Robert Ford, who grew up in La Paz, Bolivia, and twice represented that country at the Coupe Mondiale accordion competition, played examples of Bolivian folk songs from various regions. He remembered that, in Bolivia, parties would start out with popular music (disco at the time), but as the evening progressed, people would sing, and they would always return to the old folk songs.

Joan Grauman, dressed in a traditional-style Bulgarian dress, played examples of the Bulgarian and Macedonian folk dances she and her Balkan/Gypsy band BAMCO performed together for 18 years, until 2001. Joan was accompanied by former bandmate Brad Sidwell on dumbek, the Middle Eastern drum that is also used in Balkan music. Joan had also brought items to display: mainly clothing and photographs.

The final presentation of the afternoon was by Frank Vidergar, who played examples of Slovenian and Slovenian-American pieces on the three-row diatonic accordion. Many people are familiar with Cleveland’s Frankie Yankovich, and when Frank played “Just Because,” the audience sang along. The music was irresistibly danceable, as Mike Rubin, Davita Hayes, and Joyce Day demonstrated.

Jim Vandelly, Valentine and Donna Zadnik, Paul Aebersold, Joyce Day, and Karen and Luis Uribe wore traditional dress from Russia, Slovenia, Bavaria, Austria, and Mexico, respectively, and Jim also brought a number of items to display, among them photographs, song books, a small bayan, and a balalaika. Jim demonstrated the balalaika after the formal program, and Frank Vidergar played duets with John Grahor, a new member who brought along his own three-row diatonic accordion.

We had planned to try out sheet music provided by each presenter but decided to postpone because it had started to snow.

Thanks to everyone who helped make Sunday such a success!


Next Month

On Sunday, April 13, at 4 pm, Pat Racciopa will lead a workshop on basic accordion repairs and then perform a concert for us. Please bring your accordions for a play-along afterwards. Please note that Pat will not be repairing accordions but rather teaching us how to make the repairs ourselves. Paul Aebersold will be the greeter for April.

Speaking of Paul …
Please hold the date for his annual Boat Party: June 14. An invitation is attached, and we’ll send a reminder closer to the date.


May 18 Meeting

On Sunday, May 18, at 4 pm, we will welcome guest artists Volodymyr and Natalia Marunych, from Kiev, playing the bayan and domra. The pair will be accompanied by the Washington Balalaika Society’s Russkiye Musikanti ensemble, which includes our own Peter DiGiovanni on accordion.

Following the concert we’ll distribute lead sheets and try playing some of this uplifting music ourselves, so please bring your accordions!

As usual for our guest-artist concerts, we will be asking nonmembers for an $8 donation at the door.

By the way, the Marunyches will be the guest soloists in the Washington Balalaika Society concerts on May 31 and June 1 (details below). 


Also Coming Up …

Last Polka at Blob’s

Blob’s Park, a German biergarten operating in Jessup, Maryland, since the 1930s, will be closing its doors for good at end of this month – and this time it really is the end. Our friend Mike Surratt and his band The Continentals will be serenading Blob’s into the great beyond:
Sunday, March 30, 4:30-8:30 pm – The Last Polka Dance at BLOB’S PARK - Jessup, MD - 410-799-7130 - http://www.blobspark.net - $8.


WMAS member Halina Banas-Jones will be singing in two upcoming choral concerts:

The NOVA Community Chorus will perform the world premiere of Reiss’s Sea Surface Full of Clouds with the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic, in these two concerts:

Sunday, March 30, 3 pm at
TC Williams HS
3300 King Street
Alexandria, VA

Sunday, April 6, 3 pm
Church of the Epiphany
1317 G Street, NW
Washington DC


AAMS Festival March 28-30, Whippany, NJ

The American Accordion Musicological Society (AAMS) will be honoring Jim Vandelly at its March 28-30, 2014, festival at the Marriott Hotel in Whippany, New Jersey. The tribute banquet will take place Saturday, March 29, at 6 pm, and the Potomac Ensemble will perform that evening, along with a number of other artists. Another not-to-be-missed event will take place Friday evening the 28th: Rik Kaplan will be organizing a “French Experience” concert featuring the Crawdaddies with accordionist Kraig Greff (who’s performed for our club), the Musette Project with Dallas Vietty (ditto), Dee Langley, and Joanna Darrow.

The festival schedule also includes lots of workshops (Joan Grauman will lead one on playing Balkan folk music), and the weekend is always packed with fun.

More information is at www.aamsaccordionfestival.com. Please register ASAP by mailing your registration form, menu choice for the banquet, and check to:
Joanna Arnold Darrow
322 Haddon Avenue 
Westmont, NJ 08108
Questions to 856-854-6628 or


Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra

The 55-piece Washington Balalaika Society will be presenting its spring concerts on May 31 at 8 pm at the Fitzgerald Theater, 603 Edmonston Road, Rockville, and on June 1 at 3 pm at the Yorktown High School Theater, 5201 28th Street N., Arlington. Under the professional baton of conductor Svetlana Nikonova, this orchestra is the largest Russian folk orchestra outside of Russia. The music is a wonderful combination of the scintillating sound of the picked and strummed instruments, uplifting melodies, engaging rhythms, and satisfying harmonies. Peter DiGiovanni will have tickets for the Virginia concert; while the Fitzgerald handles its own tickets. More info will be available on our next update – meanwhile, this selection from a 2008 performance will whet your appetite!