Accordion to Whom?

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Accordion Player, Venice, Italy

After a difficult lesson the accordion player left the music hall. He loaded his trusty accordion into the back seat of his car and drove toward home. Along the way he decided to stop at the store. As he finished shopping he was stricken with panic when he remembered that he had forgotten to lock his car. He rushed out only to have his worst fears confirmed. Now there were TWO accordions in the back seat!

Accordions, like Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect.

Accordions are rare in modern popular music in many countries. But they anchor the sound of many acoustic folk music traditions. I love to listen to Parisian café music and eastern European traditional music filled with accordions or concertinas. The music is simple, clean, and honest. It fills my mind with images.

I remember a jovial accordion player in the middle of Pont Neuf in Paris. I can still hear the easy flowing melodies and cheerful greeting. I am sure that he had played that tune thousands of times for thousands of tourists, but it still sounded pure and fun.

To me, accordions are happy and unpretentious instruments. They seem to say, “You may think that I am not cool, but I am going to play this beautiful melody anyway. Relax, smile, and enjoy it. Set aside your cynicism for a few moments and enjoy life!”

Wandering the streets with an accordion, fiddle, guitar, flute etc. is a hard gig. The sound that you enjoy is the jingle of Euros in your case or hat.

When I took this photograph I was just finishing a long lunch at an outside café in Venice. I was tired from a long frantic morning of photographing while the light lasted. The tuna panini and vino rosso had really hit the spot. I was chatting with fellow travelers at the next table. In the distance I could hear accordion music. The accordionist worked his way down the narrow cobblestone street toward us. He played nearby and then politely held his hat out for donations.

When he reached us I told him that we really couldn’t hear him very well. He smiled and played a lilting song just for me.  What’s a photographer to do? I took pictures and enjoyed every note! It was a kind gesture that was appreciated and rewarded with a solid jingle in the hat.

Live music creates vivid memories. I can still hear a beautiful large choir inside the cathedral in Geneva and the fiddle player playing for tips outside the train station in Geneva. I can hear organ grinders, flute players echoing off of old buildings, a guitar ensemble by the beach in Puerto Vallarta, an impromptu flamenco guitarist and singer in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, and shrill horns and drums pushing through narrow alleys in Fez, Morocco. The most memorable music is the live acoustic music played outside for your entertainment. It makes the day a celebration. It is worth a few coins in the hat!

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