Listen to my CD!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Trio Gig Friday, May 27

The trio rehearsed today and sounds pretty dang sweet. Come on to Augusta. Listen to some beautiful music, in a beautiful space. And eat pastry. Donations go to my daughter to help her in her studies abroad.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Help With the Left Hand

Left Hand: Le Grand Mystère
During my hiatus I received the following letter from a person I'll call John because that's his name. John is a newish player on the button box, asking for help getting a handle on the bass end of the instrument. Uniting the left and right hand is always sort of Kierkegaardian Leap of Gosh I Hope This Works. Here's John's letter, followed by my response. If anyone out there has advice or encouragement for John (or corrections for me) be sure to post it in the comments.

John's Letter

Gary,

I am writing because I have very much enjoyed your blog as an amazing resource for the sounds of French Accordion music. I am new to the accordion, having started just last spring, but am playing every day and progressing slowly. I however have been enthralled with the french accordion music (some accordion is just too much oom pah oom pah for me!), perhaps because of the years I spent living there.

I see that you recommend a specific book Bal Folk: Traditional Dance Music From Central France for learning some French tunes. My question to you is this: From the google images of the pages, I see that the music scores for that book have no notation for the bass notes. Is there some theory on how to add these in, or does it become intuitive at some point? Any thoughts on how this works? Am I missing something here? I notice the ABC notation format also has this same issue (I like listening to Lester Bailey's tunes, but wouldn't know how to add the bass to those either.)

I think I could get the right hand down for some of these tunes, but when it comes to just guessing what bass notes would work and when, this might be still a bit difficult for my ear to render...

Thanks for considering this email. Any thoughts you have would greatly help this new accordion player.

John

And my response ...

Hey, John,

Thank you for your kind words about my blog … it is amazingly gratifying to hear that people get something out of it. I didn’t do it for attention or some obscure form of fame. I was just stoking my own fascination with the instrument and the repertoire.

To answer your question about the basses … these are easily the hardest part for people to come to grips with. Getting the left and right hands to go together. The good news is that it not only becomes intuitive, but the system is actually built into the mechanism of the two row box. But how to go about getting there? You have a number of options. Here are your bass/chord buttons:

1 2
3 4
5 6
7 8

The even buttons are closer to the bellows. The higher numbers are closer to the floor. 

First you can recognize some basic tenets: the inside right hand row TENDS TO go with buttons 5 and 7 (Bass/chord); the outside right hand row TENDS TO go with buttons 1 and 3. If you start there, playing one row tunes just using those bass buttons, that will start you to hearing how the Tonic (I) and Dominant (V) work together. Second (meanwhile), start boning up on some basic theory around folk music … it may seem obscure and cryptic, but it’s really not. You only have six bass/chord combinations to deal with on the box. I once wrote a tune for a student that used all of those combinations. It is tricky, and requires you sometimes to squint and think a bit. But not too much. Don’t think too much. Third, I would urge you to find a French tune book (or web site) that had some accordion tab in it. I find I still learn stuff from tab, which tells you where to put what finger when.

I don’t really know what’s in print anymore. But there are a lot of websites out there. I would start with the CADB website (Collectif Accordeon Diatonique Bretagne). Another source is Bernard Loffett, an accordion builder in Brittany, he’s connected with CADB, but has his own great page here. He’s also the very first person I wrote about when starting this blog. Doing these three things, it took me about a year to know what to do with the basses, even if I wasn’t doing it well.

The other thing to do would be get a teacher, but I understand that everyone learns in different ways.

Gary Chapin

Monday, October 6, 2014

Photos of L'Accordeonaire

I have been out of action since June, because of arthritis in my right arm. I've recently been able to play again, and am getting ready for a gig on November 1, at AcousticArtisans in Portland, Maine! Yesterday, my daughter took me over to the park for pictures. Enjoy.

All photos by Brigid Chapin, Copyright 2014






Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mazurka Return



Feels like it's been a very long time since I've posted. It hasn't been very long, but it feels that way just because so much else has been going on. With the divorce, and moving, and my brother being ill ... after the end of "Folk Dance Season" in New England, I put down the box for a few months and just didn't think about it. But now I am in the new place. There is space and light, and the Shadows seem to have fled from the land. Let's hear it for new beginnings, which, as usually, I celebrate by playing old songs.

The mazurka in this video is one of the old ones, untitled, collected by Mel Stevens, and available in the Mallinson's Bal Folk book. As is my wont with untitled tunes, while teaching it to a student, I gave it the title, "Hannibal's Mazurka." I do love my Roman/Carthaginian history, and who are we to deny elephant's in the alps their right to mazurka? For some reason, that landing on the IV chord at the beginning of the B part seems especially touching. Hits you right in the feels.

UPDATE: Yes, I have shaved my head. And, no, I did not realize my legs looked like THAT.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

More Dance Videos

Gregory Dyke, on his dance blog Movement Creates Connection has posted an amazing set of videos of French dance and music, along with a great essay on the state of tradFrench music today. I urge you to check it out here. If you scroll further down, you'll see an entry for a post called, Expression (in Dance and Music), also worth reading!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Breton Dance Field Recordings (and other places)



The An Dro snakes through! Pic by Chris Ryall
UPDATE: I've gotten some push back on this post from folks (great stuff in the comment section), essentially saying that some of these videos are not exemplars of their regional styles, but are just examples of dances done at the Big Bal. I think that's fair, but still think it's interesting to see these as documentations of what's going on at the Big Bal, especially for those of us who would have a hard time ever making it there.

Following up from the post of French Dance Field Recordings, here is the second half of Chris Ryall's amazing collection of videos, or dance as he found it in the wild. Chris writes, "Breton dance is often done in lines, traditionally snaking around the floor intertwining and 'meeting people.'" Here is the repository:

Breton

Rond St. Vincent - a very simple village dance that has become a standard
An Dro (An Dro = "the turn")
Another An Dro - Wild at the end!
Tricot (mixed An Dro and Hanter Dro)
Plinn (Simple, very peasant, gets wild improv from musicians)
Another Plinn
Suite Plinn (Same rhythm. Couples dance with fast and slow parts)
"Standard" Gavotte" (Danced as a suite with varying speeds)
Gavotte de l'Aven (small valley in the Cornouaille with it's own "dreamy sway" style - this is just part of a "suite gavotte"
Le Ridée (aka Laridé)

Other Regional Dances from France

Auvergne (and other mountain areas): Rigaudon
Basque Country: Fandango
Basque Country: La Saute
Gascony: Gascon Rondo - done in pairs in a big circle
Alsace: asymmetric waltzes (5/8, 8/8, 11/8)


And two imports

Swedish Polska

Another Swedish Polska

Untold quantities of gratitude to Chris for this work and for permission to put this together here. Thank you, sir!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Castagnari Tommy D/G at the Button Box

A few weeks ago my job took me within stopping distance of Sunderland, MA, so I stopped at the Button Box. It was a great time. I met Margaret of the e-mails and got to sit among the instruments. One stood out among the rest. A used Castagnari Tommy in D/G that's there. I enjoyed most of the instruments I tried, but this one was just magical. The feel was effortless, so very responsive. Here's me playing "Mominette," a scottish by Maxou, of La Chavannée fame. This tune has become my "go to" piece for trying out instruments. If I had the cash, it would be hard to pass this one up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book of Bourrées from Berry

Blog reader Mark van Nieuwstadt wrote me informing me of a bourrée tune book he had come across. It's in Dutch, he writes, "but it contains an interesting collection of bourrée tunes from the Berry region, and detailed descriptions of dances. I happen to know that the writer, Harry Franken, was a very knowledgeable amateur musicologist."  Aside from this collection of bourrées, Franken "collected many tunes in the field and published an impressive collection of tunes from the southern part of the Netherlands."

The tune book is called Youp 'Nannette. It is posted as a series of images on Picasa and can be found here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

VIDEO: L'Autre Diatonist and Tattoo

Bangor Daily News photographer, videographer, blogger, and box player Troy Bennett (who I corresponded with here) is producing a series of short videos about Mainers and their tattoos for the BDN blog. Last week he came to my home to talk about my tattoo and French accordeon music.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

French Dance Field Recordings (Part 1)


Part Two is here.

Melodeonist Chris Ryall spent August of 2013 at Fête Embraud (La Chavanée) and Grand Bal de l'Europe St. Gervais. He shot a lot of video. He writes:

"The collection was intended to inform some of the ... shall we say, 'different' ... versions of these dance rhythms heard in UK pub sessions. The general focus on the dancers and their movement is intentional. If your play of a melody 'informs the feet' ... it is probably about right!"

Some of the videos are posted on Facebook (possibly requiring Flash); others are on YouTube. The first batch of videos presented here focus on French dances. Breton dances will be featured in the next post.

French Dance Videos

Basic French Waltz (played faster and smoother than English waltz)

Scottiche (note "skip")
Another Scottiche (delightfully light - Accordzéâm)

Mazurka current "Bal" style (generally 9/8)
Another Mazurka -- Accordzéâm - great accordion solo

Mazurka Morvan style "simple, straight 3/4)


Circassian Circle - same as UK - sometimes even to the same tunes!
Another Circassian Circle

Medley of Various Dances (Lucas Thebaut says this set was made up = non Trad)



Bourrées

Bourrée du Centre - Grande Bourbonnaise (the main line bourrée, 4/4 rhythm)

Bourrée d'Auvergne (fast 3/8 rhythm) Auvergne = Massif Central
Another Bourrée d'Auvergne (fast bourrée with variation - St. Gervais BIG dance!!)
Yet Another Bourrée d'Auvergne (Komred, with the great Etienne Loic on accordion, at Embraud -- watch those feet!)

Bourree de Morvan (simpler, 3/8) Morvan is the hilly part of Burgundy

Fast 3/8 circle bourrée - duo Thebault are from Charantes, so "Poitou" style?