Bellowing out the tunes
Accordion marching band looking for new members
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 wide swath
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.