Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Learning to Love the Accordion

There is a phrase I never thought I would write. But life is funny and after spending a couple hours last night with an Irish band that included two accordions (one piano, one button) I've developed a greater appreciation for the most maligned of instruments. I'm still not a fan of the polka (the music most often associated with an accordion) but in Irish music the sound can be awfully sweet.

I'm being offered a slow musical education. One of my knitting friends, Lee, has a husband who plays in an Irish band. We've had our knitting nights correspond with their jam sessions a couple of times but last night was one of the few times where it's really been just Lee and I (and her husband and Jeff). We knit for an hour or two at the coffee shop before the musicians arrived and then settled in to knit and listen to some music. Lee sat next to me and pointed out all the instruments. I learned how different tippers make different sounds on a bodhran. I learned how an accordion can sound exactly like a harmonica. I learned how there are accordions with make different noises on expansion or contraction. And I learned that the sound of a lone fiddle can produce one of the sweetest, saddest sounds known to man. In short, I had a fantastic time.

The group is made up of whoever wants to come. Last night there were two fiddle players, a guitar player, two accordion players (one who's a local politician), a dulcimer/harmonica player, a bodhran/whistle player, and Lee's husband Connor who is a mandolin player. I got introduced to most of the musician and then just sat back and listened while Lee and the other wife there explained the pieces played and how the instruments worked. Most of the time one player would just start a tune while the rest quickly joined in. Lee's husband was the only one reading music, while the rest played by ear. It was clear that they were having a good time and playing for the sheer enjoyment of it. One of the fiddle players is just learning the songs and spent most of the night either kidding or being kidded about her slower playing. She seemed to have a blast. At the end of the night she wowed all of us with a rendition of Niel Gow's Lament For the Death of His Second Wife (a very nice rendition here with some wonderful images of Scotland) which left the musicians and the listeners speechless.

My plan had been to leave at 9:30 after about an hour of playing. Jeff headed off about that time and I thought about it. I haven't been to bed before 11 in well over a week. But I stayed. I simply couldn't pull myself away. I stayed until the musicians began to put away their instruments and I still wasn't tired. Home by 11 and in bed shortly afterwards. I'm a bit tired today but it was worth it. I'll be heading back for the next jam session. I've always loved Irish music and I'm slowly learning to love the accordion.


Corrine said...

How about coming to Ames to Dublin Bay to listen to them sometime?? I would love to go this summer.

Cat B said...

Sure. Sounds great. I get to see you and I get to listen to Irish music, perfect! I know they meet the last Tuesday of the month. Let me know which month works. I could sure go for a good Irish beer and I think I'm going to come back around to Guinness.

Salt said...


Oh, sorry, was reading the comments, and momentarily forgot what I was going to say.

I thought the bagpipes were the most maligned instrument. :-) "The Who" sang a song about accordions, they can't be THAT bad.

Cat B said...

I didn't know you were a Guiness fan. Good to know.

Hmmm bagpipes, accordions. I'm not sure. Why don't we split the difference and say the ukulele.