Courtesy of the Voice Of America's website...

Washington Becomes International Accordion Capital for One Week


24 August 2007

Washington, D.C., became the accordion capital of the world for one week in mid-August [Aug 13-18] when top players came to compete for the Coupe Mondiale, the World Cup of accordionists.  The event attracted plenty of other accordion players as well.

 
Helmi Harrigton who teaches accordion in Wisconsin, says anyone can learn to play the accordion
Helmi Harrigton who teaches accordion in Wisconsin, says anyone can learn to play the accordion
Accordionists of all ages and skill levels came for the annual gathering, not just to compete, but also to celebrate an instrument that Helmi Harrington, who has an accordion studio and museum in Wisconsin, says almost anyone can play.  "It is a very easy instrument to learn on a preliminary basis.  Most people can teach themselves how to play a bit."

And, says Frank Busso, who teaches accordion in New York, theyíre likely to have fun doing it.  "You know when somebody mentions the accordion, there is a smile on their face, because itís a fun instrument."

 
Scores of accordionists played in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol during the Coupe Mondiale
Scores of accordionists played in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol during the Coupe Mondiale
To show Washingtonians just how fun the accordion can be, Busso brought some accordionists to the National Mall to perform a patriotic march by John Phillip Sousa. They were only a fraction of the hundreds who came to Washington from around the world for the events surrounding the Coupe Mondiale. 

"We just have a lot of people who love the accordion," says Faithe Deffner, vice president of the International Confederation of Accordionists and host of this yearís Coupe Mondiale.  "Itís been 26 years since the last time they were with us in the United States, so for us itís quite an auspicious event."

It was also a serious one for the 70 musicians who came from 25 nations to compete in six different categories.  Top players were invited to take the stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Deffner says much of the music they performed is not usually associated with the instrument, at least not here in the United States.  "Weíre playing a lot of very classical and significant music," she noted.  "A lot of it has been written specifically for the accordion, and is therefore not known."

 
160 accordionists from the U.S., Europe and China performed in the World Accordion Orchestra
160 accordionists from the U.S., Europe and China performed in the World Accordion Orchestra
A new composition was commissioned specifically for the 60th Coupe Mondiale and the World Accordion Orchestra, which was made up of 160 accordionists.  The performed Leonard Stackís tone poem, Lest We Forget, which Stack describes as his first composition for the instrument. 

For young players, like 13-year-old Andrew Janocha, the ability to see so many talented accordionists in one place was inspiring.  "It gives you a feeling of what you can be doing in the future," he says.

 
Amy Jo Sawyer plays accordion with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
Amy Jo Sawyer plays accordion with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
 
 
 
Amy Jo Sawyer is living the dream to which many young accordionists aspire.  She plays with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the cityís opera company. 

Sawyer says seeing so many young people playing accordion makes her hopeful about the instrumentís future, "because if the youth donít play it, pretty soon there will be no one playing accordion."

A world without accordions is difficult to imagine at the 60th Annual Coupe Mondiale.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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