By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
A celebration of all things accordion is coming to Coaldale.
Going June 23, the 2018 Great Accordion Classic will be held at the Coaldale Community Centre, attracting accordion players from across Alberta. The festival is put on by the Accordion Association of Calgary, who first began showcasing accordion players in 1990.
“The Calgary Accordion Association took over having accordion in a festival, and it’s been wonderful, it’s been a real rock-solid mainstay for accordion players in Alberta,” said Helen Layton, a local accordion teacher. “I have students here, and it’s a huge motivator for them. It keeps them practicing, they really want to play and do well, and they not only compete against each other — because my students do compete against each other in the festival — but they compete against other students in the rest of the province, and then they see what everyone else is playing and how well they’re playing, and it gives them insights into what else the accordion can do, and they get really motivated by that.”
This is the second time the event has been hosted in Coaldale, with the previous one taking place in 2013. Normally, the festival has been held in Calgary, and the 2013 festival was the first time it had taken place outside of Calgary.
“It was the first time they ever ventured out of Calgary, and they just thought it was a new venue for their people, in Calgary and area. And it just offer an opportunity for them to see that accordion is alive elsewhere too.”
The festival will start at 9 a.m., and will feature classes and performances throughout the day. Irish and Irish Celtic workshops for accordion players will run from 3-4 p.m., and the main attraction comes in the evening with the Gala Concert.
“The big deal is on Saturday night is the gala, it’s a concert,” said Layton. “It’s the highlights of the festival; so the winners of the categories get to play, present their songs or whatever they choose, and the bands play.
“It’s a competition too though for the bands, because the judicators will be judicating the groups as they play.”
Festivals such as this one are great for introducing people, particularly those in younger generations, to the instrument and it’s sound, said Layton. Acknowledging that the accordion has fallen into the “background”, she says it’s the most “structured” instrument she’s encountered for learning and playing.
“Because of it’s structure, it’s easier to pick up then other instruments. The two sides — one is a keyboard, one is buttons — they’re different, and so you never get confused,” said Layton. “It’s very structured, and they’re learning songs that they can relate to, songs that make sense to them — Old MacDonald Had a Farm — from quite an early level, like right from the very beginning, they can relate to the music. It’s not just one string at a time, or something they can’t relate to. They can relate to the instrument right from the beginning.”
The accordion can play every style of music, so people can expect a wide range at the festival. Although it is often stereotyped as polka and waltz music, artists such as Alice Cooper and John Mellencamp have been using it in their music.
For more information on the festival, visit http://www.accordion-now.com/festival.html