Around Newfoundland and Labrador, most everyone plays something. Guitar is quite popular these days; you are bound to see several at any cabin party. You might also see a mandolin or banjo if you are lucky.
Historically though, the fiddle and accordion were the house-party instruments of choice.
Now, when I say 'accordion' to someone local, I am pretty certain that the image they get in their head is that of a button accordion. But there is another accordion- the piano accordion.
The piano accordion was one of the instruments my Dad played, and it is my experience that they are scarcer than hen's teeth around NL.
The button and the piano accordion have a lot in common. But they are also pretty different.
The most obvious difference is that the button accordion has buttons for both the treble and the bass, whereas the piano accordion has piano keys for the treble and buttons for the bass.
Another distinction is that the piano accordion is unisonoric; the bellows produce the same pitch whether squeezed in or out. The button accordion is bisonoric, giving two different pitches depending on the direction of the bellow movement. And that my friend, is a very big difference if you have ever tried to play them!
And yet another difference between the piano and button accordions can be the size. Although you can get small piano accordions, you can also get rather massive ones.
Dad had one I affectionately referred to as 'Big Red', and another I called 'Little Black'. I named them after the horses in the kids book titled "Little Black, A Pony" (by Walter Farley, one of my favourite books as a kid. I can still hear my Mom reading it to me).
Big Red was GINORMOUS. It weighed around 20 pounds! And still, he somehow managed to play it 'close to the floor' (i.e. very fast jiggs and reels). I have included a picture of Big Red and Little Black, compliments of my sister (thanks!).
I was dusting off Little Black the other day and thought...it is time. Time for an accordion photo shoot. As I was photographing, I was wishing he was still around to see the piano accordion getting so much use by a few of the young, and crazy-talented, local bands.
Sherman Downey and The Ambiguous Case. Anyone who knows me know that I LOVE Sherman and The Case. LOVE. Their music is filled with instruments including the keyboard, guitar, brass, mandolin, harmonica and even the occasional kazoo. AND the piano accordion which is played by Bill Allan from the west coast of NL. I honestly can not listen to their music without becoming at the very least a little bit happier, and often a big bit happier. Feel-good music. note- since I wrote this post, Sherman and The Case have decided to disband. Sherman is going solo and I imagine The Case are going to be in demand as well. I will sure miss hearing them play together.
The Fortunate Ones. I had heard a bit of their music over the last few months and really liked it; beautiful vocals! I only recently learned that the female half of The Fortunate Ones is actually Bill Allan's sister, Catherine, and, you guessed it, she also plays the piano accordion! The Fortunate Ones have just released their debut album called 'The Bliss', and it is delightful!
You know, I actually have a piano accordion 'self-help' book, but I have yet to do anything with it. It is just underneath the mandolin 'self-help' book, which I have actually managed to do something with! As my sister says, so much music, so little time. Sigh.
I've included a couple of snaps of Dad, compliments of my sister.
He had a generous smile when he was around music and friends!
A few macro shots of Little Black.
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