Sunday, 21 January 2018

a new musical experience

This afternoon I went to the music society's accordion recital.  My cold had abated enough for me to feel some enthusiasm for the idea, and to worry that turnout might be embarrassingly low.  The classical accordion is a fairly obscure instrument, which might not be at the top of many people's Must Hear At Least Once list, and it was pouring with rain, having finished snowing.  I asked the Systems Administrator whether he would like to come too, but the SA indicated politely that he would leave me to it.

I felt some responsibility for the accordion recital, because I had spoken up in favour of the idea at the committee meeting when the choice of young artist from the sponsored scheme the society belongs to was discussed.  I did have a rationale, apart from a random desire to hear what the classical accordion sounded like, which was that the accordion player's career seemed to be several years further advanced than most of the young artists on the scheme.  On that basis I thought he might be relatively good, the best accordion player we ever had.  In fairness to the other young artists the bar is set pretty high for them to get on to the scheme at all, but still they would all be anything between five and twenty-five years behind all the other musicians appearing at the music society.  And I was curious to hear a classical accordion player.  It is good to try new things.  And the club would be taking less of a financial risk booking an unusual instrument with a sponsored young artist.  I explained my reasoning to the committee, and the chairman bravely said that she fancied trying the accordion, and nobody else had the heart to argue us out of it, but still I would have felt responsible if there had only been ten people in the audience.

I arrived early, and noticed that the chairs were generously spaced, as organisers will do when they are worried about numbers and want the room to look full.  Happily the chairs filled up, despite the weather, and we had to put two more rows out.  Even more happily, the accordion player was really good.

He was playing a large button accordion.  As he said to us, some people might only have seen accordions with a keyboard like a piano, but the buttons allowed for more notes, so his instrument had a range of five octaves.  I thought he must have worked his programme out carefully.  He eased us into the sound world of accordion with a transcription of a Scarlatti sonata, a reassuringly familiar Baroque construction.  After that we were firmly in the twentieth century for the rest of the first half, and began to hear what the accordion could really do, which turned out to be more than I imagined, as modern accordion music doesn't just use the bellows to sound notes, but enlists the noises they can make by themselves as percussion and sound effects.  By the time we'd heard pieces inspired by the ruins of Dresden's firebombed cathedral and the gulags I was starting to wonder why no film producer had commissioned a soundtrack made entirely of accordion music.  But the accordion player had a shrewd idea of how much programme music an average audience could take, and sweetened the mixture with some pretty things and an accordion transcription of a Bach keyboard transcription of an oboe concerto, rounding off his performance with Piazzolla's Libertango.

It was good, and somebody who had come to support his other half admitted to me that he hadn't been looking forward to an evening of classical accordion beforehand, and had enjoyed it.  You can't ask for more than that.  There were even a couple there who had never been to any of our concerts before, and came to this one specially because she was learning the accordion.

I bumped into one of my former colleagues from the plant centre and we sat together.  She too has had a cold.  Felt awful for ages, runny nose, unable to concentrate on anything, dodgy stomach.  Sounds like the same thing everybody else has had.

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