The Gospel Accordion Zebadiah

“Why the pouty lip Bridget?” Marcie asked her obviously chagrined daughter who had wandered into the kitchen.

“Dad’s hogging Accordion Hero again!” Bridget lamented, adding with a rather disconsolate shrug, “I’m never gonna be a Feis musician”.

“BOB! Let Bridget have a turn once in a while!” Marcie yelled in a practiced voice just loud enough to cut through the din of the family room.

“Can’t stop now honey!” Bob gasped, struggling with the Xbox controller, “I’m in the middle of Dean Crouch’s ‘Reel Medley’!”

If you’ve read this far, you are now an unwitting participant in the second of a series of articles on Irish musical instruments titled “Irish Music 101 – The Accordion”.

The accordion (or hand-held, bellows-driven, free reed aerophone as it is often called) comes in a variety of forms, shapes, and sizes from which musical sounding noises are extracted by pushing buttons or keys and squeezing.

Lots of squeezing.

While a mainstay in a variety of music genres, the accordion has not received the level of respect one would expect of such a versatile instrument. To find out why, I interviewed a “primary source” of information on the subject of accordions, to wit, my daughter.

My daughter happens to be an accomplished musician who has twice competed in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (pronounced Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann), which is essentially a Big Honking Irish Music Festival. She first graciously explained to me the taxonomy of humiliating terminology applied to the musically inclined at her high school. Band members are irreverently referred to as “Band Geeks”, and the String Orchestra members are flippantly called “Orch Dorks” (my daughter being one).

When I asked what degrading term kids might use to describe an accordion player, she thought about it for a few moments and responded, “Accordion Player”.

Wishing to expand my research, I then turned to my dog-eared copy of “The Idiots Guide to Hand-held, Bellows-driven, Free Reed Aerophones” to provide some additional insights and little known facts about this rather unique instrument.

For instance:

Famous “celebrity” accordionists include Richard Nixon and Idi Amin…

When dropped, the accordion is the only instrument that emits a sound similar to the noise of a flatulent cat being stepped on.

The first mention of accordion music comes from the bible: “And they cast him out into the desert for the sound was not pleasing unto them.” (Abominations 16:32).

In a recent survey, thirty five percent of respondents cited lack of accordion classes being offered by their school districts in their decision to home-school their children.

Listening to accordion music is one of only two birth control methods condoned by the Catholic Church. (And 27% more effective than the rhythm method).

And the list goes on and on….

In truth, as a young lad, I myself played a distant cousin of the accordion called the melodica, which was basically a keyboard with a blow tube.

And it was because of the melodica that I became the first student to receive a three-day suspension at Corpus Christi Elementary School, in Levittown, New Jersey. Apparently the nuns did not think playing the second stanza of “Tantum Ergo” using my nose to blow the melodica during a Lenten observance was as witty and charming as one would think.

The Corpus Christi Elementary School Melodica Marching Band (comprised of me and a strange asthmatic kid named Leo) gave concerts at local nursing homes over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Leo would immediately begin coughing and wheezing while I belted out a rather irreverent version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

After one of our bedside recitals, a rather emaciated octogenarian stretched out his withered, trembling hand towards the nurse and in a whispered voice gasped, “I’m not afraid of dying now”.

“How are you doing on the Accordion Hero, Bridget?” Marcie asked checking in on her daughter after dutifully banishing her husband from the family room.

“Great Mom! But this Lawrence Welk guy is kicking my butt!” adding, “Lady of Pain is hard!”

“Spain,” Marcie corrected, “Lady of Spain.”

“What?” Bridget mumbled somewhat distracted, her fingers quivering on the controller trying to keep pace.

“Come to think of it, maybe you’re right,” Marcie thought to herself.

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