Chateau d'Ars

Featuring guest blogger Geoff Woof!

UPDATE: The official festival website is HERE.

Laurent Geoffroy and Aurélien Claranbaux.
Of the group Zef. (photo Geoff Wooff)
Chateau d'Ars is one of the great festivals for those of us interested in French music, accordéons, vielles, and pipes; with a special focus on instrument makers. Geoff Wooff is a legendary uilleann pipe maker living in France. I "met" him on where we had some good conversations about tunes and tunebooks and such. I'm thrilled that Geoff agreed to report back from Chateau d'Ars sending pictures and stories.

I start here with some pictures of Laurent Geoffrey and Simone Bottasso at the stand of Serafini accordeons. These boys are the new generation of diato players who use three row boxes with reorganized keyboards and 18 basses that allow chromatique music to be played. They follow the principles laid down by the likes of Norbert Pignol and Stéphane Milleret. To hear these guys just search for videos on YouTube.

An old friend -- and concertina player -- began playing the Diato when he moved from Australia to England more than 20 years ago.  He is now studying under Laurent Geoffrey in Bordeaux and got his new Castagnari a couple of weeks ago which is made to the Bottasso design.  He says it is so different that it will take him all summer to figure out how to play it. On his old two and a half row Diatos he was a very good player so he tried to explain the new keyboard and arrangements of the basses which really meant very little to me as I do not play the Diato. However I was very impressed by the music that these boys played.

I have included a few pictures of other musicians having sessions and some general views to give you an idea of the set up of the instrument makers stands, under the trees in the park of the chateau. Unfortunately the weather did prove difficult at times this year and not quite so much music was being played.

I want to go to there! (photo Geoff Wooff)
A cold day in July! (photo Geoff Wooff)
Some sun among the accordéons (photo Geoff Wooff)
Sunday was a better day but I had friends in tow and they wanted specific information on other subjects and that kept me very busy. I did not get to see any of the concerts but then that is me. I prefer to catch a bit of spontaneous music and spend the day talking to the makers and looking closely at what is on offer.

As you might expect, in a country where the accordéon is ever present, there are a lot of makers and it is possible to have anything made for you in the way of a Bespoke instrument. I talked to several makers about the problems of the accordionist in our band who plays a 'Mixte' box... this has a Diatonic keyboard C/G/B and a Stradella type Base end ... the problem being that it is old (1928) and in the French pitch of 435hz. So I was asking if they made new instruments like that which would have the sound of the old fashioned musette accordéons of the '20s and '30s ... I found many of them to be very interested and willing to do such a thing.

At Chateau d'Ars there is a warm atmosphere and a very enjoyable time can be had. Instrument makers from all over Europe and even one from USA ... a flute and whistle maker from Oregon who uses Carbon fibre to produce a range of instruments ...

Thank you Geoff Wooff! More to come!

UPDATE: Over on, the worthy Chris Ryall has posted his own account of the festival. 

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