2004 March Convention Review By Jane Christison

Accordionist/vocalist, Jane Christison attended the Texas Accordion Association's annual accordion extravaganza, March 11-13, 2004, Richardson, Texas (Dallas area). The following is her report.

When I first attended the Texas Accordion Association in 1994, it was as a one-day event. 2004 it has grown to almost three full days of non-stop accordion - piano accordions, bayans, button boxes. There were almost too many choices of things to do: three different levels of accordion orchestras to rehearse and perform with, workshops to attend, a whole floor of rooms to "test drive" a new accordion, a swap room to make an instrument trade, accordion sheet music, CDs and videos for sale, great concerts and, best of all, over 250 accordionists from all over the United States.

I sat down with the schedule ahead of time and highlighted everything I wanted to attend, starting with participating in the Gary Daverne (advanced level) accordion orchestra. Gary is a symphony conductor and composer from Auckland, New Zealand. I had worked with him at the T.A.A. festival in 2000, so I was looking forward to our first rehearsal and was pleased to have been invited to be the Concer Master for this exciting group once again.

Gary had selected quite a variety of music for us, and at least 30 minutes of the Thursday night rehearsal were spent assigning seats and making sure everyone had music. We started out with at least 25 accordionists. At our rehearsal Friday morning, our numbers had shrunk overnight to about 17 people. Had the missing players overslept or had the difficulty of the selections scared them off?

I had to leave the rehearsal early to set up for my 11:00 a.m. workshop on Friday morning, "I Love Playing the Accordion!", a workshop on planning and performing programs for nursing homes, retirement communities and seniors groups.

All workshop presenters were allowed 45 minutes. At times there were three workshops going on at the same time, plus other activities like the accordion repairs room. In addition to the Daverne orchestra, there were also two or three other accordion groups rehearsing at different times. (As a comment, it was hard to get a really big audience at any one workshop because there were so many things going one at the same time.)

I was pleased with my workshop on Friday morning. As soon as it was over I had to move all my things out to make way for the 'K' Trio who presented a workshop on planning programs, repertoire and performance tips. It is always a treat to hear them play . . . musical perfection!

On Friday afternoon as I was heading to another rehearsal, Norman Seaton caught me and said "Jane, come see this." He had invited several local nursing homes to bus in their residents for a free afternoon concert. And what a treat they got: Tony Lovello wowed them with his playing and lead a sing along. When that was over, the audience was asked to walk around the corner to another ballroom for another accordion concert, this time with Alice Aman's T.A.A. accordion group providing the music.

Friday night was a banquet and concert. I had other plans for the evening and missed out on what was said to be an absolutely amazing evening of accordion music.

Betty Jo Simon was in the hotel room next to mine, and I heard her practice sessions getting ready for the concert. If her performance at the concert was anything like her practicing, it must have been incredible! She played Galla-Rini's arrangement of "American in Paris" on her MIDI instrument.

Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. I gave a repeat performance of my workshop then packed up everything and dashed to another ballroom for the 10 - 12 rehearsal with Gary Daverne. The pieces are starting to sound pretty good. We've got one last rehearsal late this afternoon.

Popped into the ballroom to hear Havard Svendsrud concert at noon. He and his wife flew in from Norway for the T.A.A. festival. They arrived on schedule, but their accordions never showed up. Havard borrowed Stas Venglevski's bayan and played the concert. (I purchased his CD "American Victory March" and have really enjoyed listening to it.)

I saw Havard and his wife as I was leaving on Sunday morning. They had to cancel their 40 concert dates and return home because their accordions still hadn't been found.

Anyway, after Havard's concert, I attended Betty Jo Simon's (pictured left) workshop on Anthony Galla-Rini and his music. Mr. Galla-Rini turned 100 in January. She presented an interesting look at his life, his music and his role in development of the accordion.

Time out to wander back to the fourth floor and look at a couple more accordions, then off to the final rehearsal with Gary Daverne's orchestra before tonight's big concert. Where is our drummer? Has anybody seen the drummer? Oh well, we started off with a last run through of our march medley. I noticed Norman Seaton strolling in with a glass of water in hand, but didn't pay much attention because he is continually walking around checking on how everything is going. Gary stopped us midway through the piece to ask the drummer a question. I look back, and there is Norman Seaton sitting in on the drumset! Norman is everywhere and seems to have more talents we might have guessed!

6:00 p.m. Saturday night banquet, then 7:15 p.m. sound check for all of us performing on the Saturday night concert.

7:50 p.m. the concert starts off. Each performer is limited to 10 minutes. Norman Seaton as M.C. tries to keep the concert on schedule. What an incredible evening of accordion music. There was classical music, and Russian music, and original music, and Czech music, and country music, and music from the 1940's, and I have to say I felt rather humbled to be included on a program with so many wonderful musicians.

The evening was capped off by The Gary Daverne Accordion Orchestra. In less then seven hours of rehearsal time we had prepared almost 40 minutes of music. We played:

  • Salut to Sousa a medley of marches by J.P. Sousa
  • La Scala Di Seta (The Silken Ladder) by Rossini
  • 3rd Mov. - Accordion Concerto No. 1 in G Minor by Galla-Rini
    Betty Jo Simon - Soloist
  • Ol' Man River from "Showboat" - Jerome Kern - arranged by Galla-Rini
  • The Fox and Hound by Frank Muceola
    Mary Tokarski - Soloist
  • Colonel Bogey March by Kenneth J. Alford

    Gary Daverne made sure the audience knew that Kenneth Alford was from New Zealand. He had a rehearsal with the audience so that they whistled at the correct times and on pitch. In the middle of the piece, in marched Jim Rommel and his crew of strolling tuba players, euphonium and even a trombone. The audience went wild!

  • Glen Miller Medley arranged by Gary Daverne was next.
  • Orange Blossom Special arranged by Gary Daverne was the finale.

After almost 3 1/2 hours of accordion music, the audience still hadn't heard enough, so we repeated Orange Blossom Special.

What a weekend! Thanks to Norman Seaton "The Delegator" and all his helpers that made possible such a wonderful weekend of accordion.