Ac­cor­dions take the spot­light

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

Iby Alexan­der Varty

f you love the ac­cor­dion, can­cel your plans and book a ferry.

Next week, from No­vem­ber 10 to 16, Vic­to­ria will host the 68th an­nual Trophée Mon­dial de l’ac­cordéon, the world’s big­gest ac­cor­dion com­pe­ti­tion, which will see hun­dreds of squeeze­box vir­tu­osos from more than 40 coun­tries joust­ing for prizes of up to $10,000. It’s the first time the event has been held in Canada—and it co­in­cides with the World Ac­cor­dion and Tango Fes­ti­val, so there’ll be some sen­su­ous dance moves on of­fer, too.

But if you only like the ac­cor­dion, take heart: three for­mer Trophée Mon­dial grand-prize win­ners are com­ing to you. When they share a Van­cou­ver stage this Fri­day, Vic­to­ria res­i­dent Je­lena Milo­je­vic, Bei­jing’s Jianan Tian, and New Zealand’s Grayson Mase­field should of­fer an ideal sam­pling of cur­rent direc­tions in ac­cor­dion artistry.

“I’d say that we’re all very dif­fer­ent,” Mase­field ex­plains, in a tele­phone in­ter­view from a Seat­tle tour stop. “We’re all from dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents. Dif­fer­ent styles of train­ing, dif­fer­ent reper­toire—ev­ery­thing! You have Je­lena, from the east­ern Euro­pean style, ver­sus some­one from China, from the Bei­jing con­ser­va­tory, while I’m from New Zealand and have stud­ied in France. So I think that’s very in­ter­est­ing, be­cause it show­cases the di­ver­sity of what the ac­cor­dion can re­ally do.”

Mase­field’s own set might prove sur­pris­ingly di­verse in it­self. While he’s con­sid­ered one of the world’s top clas­si­cal ac­cor­dion­ists, he likes to mix things up in con­cert. “I’ll start with a baroque or clas­si­cal tran­scrip­tion, move on to con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal ac­cor­dion works, and then play more of the lighter stuff,” he says. “I try to re­ally ex­pose the au­di­ence to what the in­stru­ment can do, be­cause most peo­ple don’t know the in­stru­ment that well. Ob­vi­ously, it’s heard as some­thing for polkas or Ir­ish mu­sic—more tra­di­tional stuff—but it is re­ally ca­pa­ble of quite a bit more.”

Mase­field read­ily ad­mits that he ini­tially took the in­stru­ment for granted, de­spite—or per­haps be­cause of—be­ing a third-gen­er­a­tion mem­ber of a fam­ily of ac­cor­dion play­ers, teach­ers, and re­tail­ers. “It’s quite in­ter­est­ing,” he says, laugh­ing. “My grand­fa­ther im­ported ac­cor­dions into New Zealand, and be­cause of that his three chil­dren—my mother and her two older broth­ers— all play. My fa­ther met my mother through the ac­cor­dion, and my sis­ter plays as well. So I’ve been quite lucky that I’ve al­ways had mu­sic around me my whole life.”

And yet, he con­tin­ues, it took a rude shock be­fore he be­gan to take his her­itage se­ri­ously. “I never re­ally prac­tised un­til I was 18,” he says, and that was only af­ter a mis­er­able show­ing at New Zealand’s an­nual ac­cor­dion com­pe­ti­tion. “I came sec­ond-to-last, and I didn’t re­ally like that!” Through the com­pe­ti­tion, how­ever, he met the mu­si­cian who would be­come his men­tor, French ac­cor­dion­ist Frédéric Deschamps—and that, he says. “kind of opened the door”.

“And, of course, my fam­ily all be­ing ac­cor­dion­ists,” he adds, “I had their full sup­port and back­ing.”

But was Mase­field ever tempted to rebel and take up, say, the man­dolin?

“My mom had a thing: she said, ‘You can choose any in­stru­ment you want to play, as long as you play the ac­cor­dion as well,’” he says. “So I could have, if I’d re­ally wanted to, but ac­cor­dion was enough.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.