|Fisarmonica, amore mio.....a love story with the accordion,
by ALVARO BARSI
|Growing up in postwar Italy of the 1950's, it was painfully obvious that many of the daily necessities of life were in short supply. Some were not available at all, especially for the " regular folk " who lived a basic, often spartan, lifestyle. These people may have been " al verde ", or short in their financial resources, yet, most were cultured and eager patrons of the arts and yearned for every possible occasion when beautiful music or humorous plays would become available in their city, or within reach. Alas, these were infrequent, or too expensive. But.....there was always Sunday!
Sunday, much like a miniature Mardi Gras or Carnival, was the weekly miracle which prompted almost everyone to tend to their most basic calling: the enjoyment of life's pleasures! Couples would start dressing after lunch and a nap on Sunday, and prepare to go out to dance the " Liscio ", or
"Smooth " by late evening and until past midnight, either indoors or out, by the shell, where the band played. The components of the band, named "orchestrina ", usually wore their characteristic white coat, dark pants, and tie. They were regarded very highly by their audience, and were perceived as artists. The lead instrument... the king...was the accordion. Perhaps a white mother of pearl Scandalli, or a Soprani.. The accordionist stood at the very front of the stage, close to the dancers, and gave a rich and skillful rendition of each piece while backed by a four or five piece band, invariably pervading dancers and listeners with a wonderful, unique sensation of melody, pleasure, and romance throughout the evening, playing tangos, beguines, slows and romantic danceable " numbers ", popular songs, or fast, rhythmical pieces. Some of the titles might have been " Blue Tango ", " Siboney ", " Siempre en mi Corazon ", " La Cumparsita ", " La Violetera", " Tango delle Rose ", " Chitarra Romana ", as well as polkas, or musette waltzes and a virtuoso piece now and then in between dances. There was always a cool breeze at night, perhaps a scent of pines, and the locale may have been surrounded by colorful lanterns. Many Italian families were started there...
Also, with the beginning of each new season, from city to village, one could forget all their
worries and blissfully spend weekends of fun, food, music, dancing and friendship by partaking of a yearly " sagra " festival, with many townships presenting local foods or wines, organized by different communities and held either downtown, in the farmland, on the hills, or by the sea.
In Florence, for example, the " Festa del Grillo ", or cricket fair was and is the big event for the Ascension season. Parents would buy their children a tiny cage. then an attractive tuscan cricket with golden markings, and a piece of lettuce. The child was instantly smiling. There were all types of food vendors selling local goodies; there were rides, special events and, above all, music and " Stornelli "! Florence, seat for the region of Tuscany, has its own version of the stornello, a usually humorous or satyrical ballad sang to a compelling duple time which seems to demand participation. Rome, in Latium; Naples, in Campania, and most of the 20 regions, or counties, have their version of this song form.
At these events, there would often be a central band with an accordion. As soon as I heard the music, like many others, I used to run and watch in order to see how such wonderful sounds were being produced. It was exciting every time, and the sounds were unforgettable. Soon, some of the people would start dancing...or listen to the music while having a picnic, happy to be there with the gentle breeze, lasagne, salame, wine, and each other. Due to its versatility, portability, and ability to be a complete instrument, the accordion also became a partner of groups traveling short or long distances on intercity buses, on ships, or on day picnic outings. One of the teenagers at our Boy Scout den in Florence used to be the musician of choice, and carried his eighty bass grey accordion, minus the case, on all trips. All present joined and sang rounds or mountain songs, making the trip even more fun!
On occasion, one could attend a musical afternoon or evening featuring an accomplished accordionist, sometimes with accompaniment. Usually the pieces heard were original compositions written for the "fisarmonica" and not " imported " from other instruments or from songs; these were special performances, where one could see, feel and hear how versatile the accordion can be, and how pleasant its sound. The love felt by Italians for the accordion has always complemented the business of building them. Not only is the very yearly World Championship held in Castelfidardo, but one can easily find a more or less accomplished " volunteer " playing at a local factory...perhaps one of the employees, to be continued after hours.
To this day, accordion music can be heard right in the streets in Italy, often played by a blind man or an older child, waiting for handouts. The money may be meager, but the music is the best. OF COURSE, IT'S ACCORDION MUSIC!
Having lived here in Dallas since 1972, I bring with me these wonderful mental pictures which I enjoy sharing with all of my friends at the Texas Accordion Association during meetings, or one on one. I feel that these images add to the romance of the instrument and of its music. As an added bonus, when traveling back to Italy, it is always a priority for me to bring back some original Italian or French musette accordion music. For example...during a group trip with 13 accordionists and enthusiasts in 1996, Nick Ballarini played several pieces at the Castelfidardo Accordion Museum, being allowed to use local icon Professor Volpi's Scandalli accordion. As thanks, we were each given some collections of Italian composers for the accordion. The publisher was " Ardiente ", from Emilia. I contacted the small company, and found that the owner and founder was Piero Leonelli, a mature musician who composes, performs and publishes his own accordion music. So, I placed an order, and received 3 music booklets, including waltzes, mazurkas, tangos, polkas, beguines, and slows. They are performed by Mr. Leonelli on his chromatic " C " system Beltuna. I like these compositions very much, and enjoy playing some of them at our meetings. Part of what impresses me about them is their clear, exact rendition, played mostly on a lighter Italian musette setting with orchestral accompaniment. Another outstanding Italian accordion composer is Gigi Stok, who wrote lasting music in a brilliant style which highlights the accordion as a lead instrument. While in Italy this June, I also met a gentleman in Arezzo who plays a chromatic and composes accordion music as a hobby. He was happy to share some with me.
|Music is wonderful...
|My Favorite Links|
|Texas Accordion Association|
|Accordion Sound of Mario|
|Accordion hobbyist builder UK|
|Buy sheet music online...|
|More to come.......|
|Free sheet music online...|
|More free music online...|
|Your accordion into a MIDI...|
|2000 TAA Convention Pics|
|...and more pictures.|