Monday, September 19, 2011

Accordion Festival at the Williamsburg Regional Library

I had a blast this weekend at the accordion festival held at the Williamsburg Regional Library where the club I'm in VALOV (Accordion Lovers of Virginia) met with W.M.A.S (Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society), and the Maryland Accordion Club.

The first day we met up for a party at the home of Jim Rice, who is the President of Accordion Revolution, plays solo and also in two groups that played at the festival: the Wise Guys and Clan MacCool; Jim also is responsible for hosting and organizing the festival itself! Talk about one hell of a party too- Dale Wise notably played a lot of requests for the last couple hours of the party and Jim Rice and the Wise Guys gave us a real treat of only some of what was to come the next day in the theater! I had a really nice conversation along with some words of wisdom from the highly talented Nancy Leonard of W.MA.S (Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society) and a really interesting conversation with Bob from W.M.AS. too. Were both into the Palmer Hughes material quite a bit- also turns out we both dig French Musette tunes and listen to Dan Newton's Cafe Accordion Orchestra.
There were only two parts to this trip that were semi-um-not-good hahaha. On the first day before I got to the party- I got to Williamsburg hours early..... other than the festival itself- it suddenly dawned on me- that there isn't really much to do in Williamsburg (at least not that I could find)- and I thought hmmm they should put up a sign that says, "If you're not here to eat pancakes, sleep, visit historical museums, or go to Busch Gardens..... leave." Don't get me wrong- I don't like to simplistically vilify an entire city- but Williamsburg is a bit of a boring place. HOWEVER, this is also partially my fault- I didn't plan ahead to find anything to do plus perhaps when I locked myself out of the car, which was the biggest hassle and cause a little financial restrain- I suppose that put me in a bad mood that I wouldn't have been in otherwise! Losing $55 to get Pop-A-Lock to open the car was a bit of a downer, but eh I got over it and of course that immediately faded once the party and festival started!

Dale Wise.

David Gussman.
The workshop was conducted by Dale Wise- who had limitless knowledge to share and techniques and songs from pretty much anywhere you'd let you're finger land on a map!

Dale took us through the songs: You Can't Be True Dear and Seeman (German songs), Halsa dem Darhemma (a Scandanavian song I've now fallen in love with!), Black Velvet Band- followed with Irish Eyes/Notre Dame/4 Leaf Clover (Irish stuff), Caminito, Por Una Cabeza, Oh Marie and Le Mamme (Italian songs), Tarantella (I love this one too!), God Bless America, Katushka/Oh Susanna/Hava Nagila.

Then David Gussman gave a particularly highly interesting neat short segment of the workshop on Klezmer music and discussed the history of it along with some rhythmic techniques and its usage of the accordion in that area of Eastern European music- which was to me a highlight of the workshop. Dale Wise then continued the rest of the workshop as he went through the Charlie Chaplin tune Limelight, Moulin Rouge, and last but certainly not least the Beer Barrel Polka.

to the left- Tip Ciotti, to the right- Sid Sward.
Then it was time for the concert itself, as Nancy Leonard played in the main hall as the concert was being set up- the concert then took off as Dale Wise played the National Anthem. Then Sid Sward and Mike McKenna played, and up third was the incredibly talented Andre Fry, who played a Charles Magante tune along with an original he wrote and finished with an original composition his father wrote. His performance was definitely a standout of the evening.

Dale Wise continued with some french material, then Phil Heim played on his 12-bass, then Tip Ciotti did this incredible Spanish number (I was lucky enough to hear him do it just once before at one of our club meetings), then Mike Takash played, and then I myself got to play a short original polka I wrote for everyone called the J.B. Polka (the J.B. is for Jordan Bostic- a friend of mine- who I was haning out with at his house when I wrote the first draft of this song).

Then, Bob Jacobs went up and did klezmer and also some jazz. Adam Gicz and Sid Sward did a duet together. Then one of my favorites, Andy Armano did his great swinging version of the Frank Valli & the Four Seasons hit, "You're Just Too Good To Be True". Henry Hancock then played some Italian for us, followed by Dave Gussman who did more wonderful klezmer for us. Then Cynthia Cross played for us on her Bassetti accordion, after her was Joel Stokes who did some great French numbers. Sid and David Tetrault did a duet together, then Dale Wise joined Jim Rice for a duet as Jim would then kick it off with his group the Wise Guys, Jim would then stay on to do some really nice energetic Celtic music with his group Clan MacCool.

Then the Bean Soup Project happened, while there accordion Duffy came out playing his electric accordion while singing and strolling through the audience, gradually making his way to the stage for an electrifying and exciting performance. I got a kick out of his slogan for his band, "Original Music for Original People"- that guy is awesome. I had the pleasure of chatting with him the night before, and he has great music and big ideas and whether he's performing or just talking to you. Either way you can't lose because he's always great to listen to.
Nancy Leonard.

The grand finale was accordion master William Cosby who plays a very large free-bass accordion- never in my life have I seen an accordionist play quite this fast. He briefly explained the free-bass system, and his left hand would play melodies simultaneously with different leads in the right. I don't totally understand the free-bass accordion, but it was great to listen to and to watch him do it.

We wrapped up the night with a celebration at a German restaurant just down the street, where Dale Wise (somehow! This guy has more energy than most- he is Energizer bunny of the accordion hahaha) would continue to play for tables and even took my request of, "Night and Day", Duffy played a bit more at the tables before he left, and so did a few other accordionists. I myself played my Neutral Milk Hotel cover of, "Aeroplane Over the Sea" and also jammed on the Beer Barrel Polka with two other fellow accordionists. The festival was an amazing experience and I really enjoyed the concert performances too. I hope to catch another one soon.


  1. Hehe! I'm writing up a "what to do in Williamsburg" blog post. I'm afraid you're right about Williamsburg--it's a little boring if you don't want to do historical or Busch Gardens or eat pancakes. LOL! But under the surface there are a lot of community events. It's just difficult to find out what's happening in town if you're new.

  2. Great blog Miles. You have obviously been bitten by the "box" bug.
    Thank you for your kind remarks and keen observations regarding our Williamsburg accordion events. Give me a call, 757-880-3308. Jim Rice
    Accordion Revolution
    Williamsburg, Va