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Accordions Around the World

posted Aug 17, 2015, 3:02 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Aug 17, 2015, 3:03 PM ]
For the past three summers Bryant Park has reached out to over 300 accordionists of different traditions to create a free cross-cultural musical journey with accordions, harmoniums, concertinas, and bandoneons. Called Accordions Around the World, the format this year is ten musicians play each Wednesday in August from 6:00 – 8:00 PM in various pockets of Bryant Park, offering us an opportunity to hear an assortment of styles played by this instrument invented in 19th century Europe.

The concertina was developed in England in 1829; while at the same time Vienna was independently patenting a similar instrument called the accordion, which is German for “harmony”. It’s played by squeezing the bellows to generate airflow while pressing buttons or keys to open valves that guide that air across vibrating reeds to produce sound. As Europeans emigrated around the world, its mobility made its popularity spread rapidly.

In keeping with the festival’s name, the emphasis is on international genres. So if you go on a scavenger hunt this week through the park, you can hear traditional Irish music and American rock and blues; or dance to Yiddish klezmer or Louisiana zydeco. Listen to the musette, a folk dance from southern France originally played on a small bagpipe. Enjoy the vallenato and cumbia from Columbia, where the world's largest accordion competition is held. Once every decade there, the King of Kings takes place, when winners of previous contests compete for the highest honor. And the bandoneon is a type of concertina in Argentina essential to both traditional tango and pop music.

Then on Friday, August 28th, six bands will play from 4:30 – 10:00 
PM, with solo accordion interludes during the transitions. You can take the F train directly to Bryant Park, and if you see me there, give me a squeeze!