Bel­low­ing out the tunes

Ac­cor­dion march­ing band look­ing for new mem­bers

The Compass - - ORTHTE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

If you play ac­cor­dion and are look­ing for an out­let for your mu­si­cal tal­ent, then 41-year-old Richard Neil of South River has a sug­ges­tion: join his Avalon Re­gional Ac­cor­dion March­ing Band which, ac­cord­ing to him, is the first of its kind in the prov­ince.

“ It’s a so­cial ac­tiv­ity. It’s fun, maybe in a lot of cases a stress re­liever,” he said re­cently.

The band has been in ex­is­tence since March, when he is­sued a call for mu­si­cians. The band’s colours are red and black.

He’s pleased with the re­sponse, with 17 mem­bers, rang­ing in age from seven to 50. Still, he’s look­ing for new mem­bers to help fill out the big band sound.

“I’m try­ing to get the word out, but no­body’s hear­ing us,” he said.

Mu­sic runs in blood

Mu­sic runs in Neil’s blood. His late fa­ther Eric played but­ton ac­cor­dion, and his si­b­lings, Lor­raine Gingrich of Cupids Cross­ing, Karen Parsons of But­lerville and John of South River, are mu­si­cians in their own right.

Karen is band­mas­ter of her brother’s band, and her 12-year-old daugh­ter, Robin, is a mem­ber. Richard’s wife, Diane, along with their chil­dren, Ray­mond and Kait­lyn, also play in the band. There are also fa­ther-son and fa­ther-daugh­ter team mem­bers.

“ It’s more of Richard noted.

He’s pre­par­ing his band to play at Christ­mas pa­rades; church, com­mu­nity and Re­mem­brance Day events; and soirées and fes­ti­vals.

“I’m hop­ing that one day ... they’ll con­tact me,” he said.

a fam­ily

A wide swath

thing,”

The band cuts a wide mu­si­cal swath. Richard’s very flex­i­ble about mem­ber­ship. He’s look­ing for mu­si­cians who play both but­ton-and piano ac­cor­dion, as well as bass and snare drum, tam­bourine, tri­an­gle, shaker and mara­cas.

How­ever, mem­ber­ship is also open to “ wannabe” mu­si­cians, in which case Richard’s able and will­ing to teach the rudi­ments of mu­sic. The only re­quire­ment is an in­ter­est in play­ing. In­stru­ments are pro­vided and there are no fees.

Mem­bers meet for prac­tice ev­ery Thurs­day night at the Orange Lodge in Clarke’s Beach. The hall spon­sors the band by pro­vid­ing the fa­cil­ity for prac­tice and fundrais­ing.

Eleven-year-old Ray­mond Neil en­joys play­ing ac­cor­dion, even if he finds it a dif­fi­cult in­stru­ment. Sev­enyear-old Kait­lyn plays tam­bourine. “All I have to do is bang it,” she said. She also likes the new friends she meets. When Richard’s wife, Diane, plays ac­cor­dion, “ev­ery­thing leaves your mind. It’s also good for the fam­ily,” she said.

Richard teaches with the help of YouTube. Once he lo­cates a suit­able tune, he e-mails it to mem­bers to learn.

“ When you get 13 or 15 ac­cor­dions to­gether, and ev­ery­body de­cides to play their own way, it’s noth­ing but a mess,” he said. So he uses a num­ber­ing sys­tem that en­ables ev­ery­body to “play the same thing at the same time,” he added.

Ver­sa­tile band

Richard se­lects a wide va­ri­ety of tunes, whether tra­di­tional Ir­ish/New­found­land, church, Christ­mas or march­ing. “ We’re ver­sa­tile in many ar­eas of mu­sic,” he said.

Fundrais­ing is nec­es­sary, but he doesn’t “want to burn out the band mem­bers be­cause of (it),” he ex­plained. He’s presently seek­ing fund­ing from gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

To Richard, ac­cor­dion play­ing is “part of our cul­ture, our her­itage. We get kids in­volved,” he said.

Read­ers who are in­ter­ested in join­ing the Avalon Re­gional Ac­cord­ing March­ing Band can con­tact Richard Neil atrichard­neil69@hot­mail.co­mor 786-0952. • Age – 41 • Birth­place – St. John’s • Re­sides – South River • Fam­ily – mar­ried to Diane Martin. Two chil­dren, Ray­mond (11) and Kait­lyn (7).

• Oc­cu­pa­tion – elec­tri­cian by trade; in­struc­tor, Col­lege of the North At­lantic (Seal Cove cam­pus)

• In­ter­est – ac­cor­dion, camp­ing with fam­ily, gar­den­ing

Richard Neil, founder of Avalon Re­gional Ac­cor­dion March­ing Band, bel­low­ing out a jig on his Hohner but­ton ac­cort­dion. He is seek­ing new mem­bers.

Kait­lyn, 7, and Ray­mond Neil, 11, do a duet on tam­bourine and but­ton ac­cor­dion. Both play in their dad’s ac­cor­dion march­ing band.

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