Music that never fails to make me feel better for listening is the kind made on the accordion – especially Scottish dance band stuff, though any accordion, in almost any style, will do. Piano or button key, the accordion is boxtastic.
Accordion players and bagpipers are kindred spirits: both play an instrument that people either love or hate. I can clearly remember as a kid countless trips to 48th Highlanders band practice in Aberdonian George Walker’s canary yellow Austin Mini. His natural Northeast taste in music satisfied by a huge in-car cassette collection of Scottish dance band music: John Ellis, Fergie MacDonald, Jimmy Shand: the background music of each trip to and fro’ Moss Park Armouries (always played louder on trips home).
An awful lot of Scottish accordion music draws on the bagpipe repertoire, and sometimes returns the favour to pipers and provides us with great tunes like Phil Cunningham’s “The Centenary Jewel” and Jimmy Shand’s “Kirkwall Bay”.
Pipe tunes suit the accordion perfectly: structure, rhythm, embellishment and tonality; the ingredients for fine interpretations of pipe music are all there. “John MacColl’s March to Kilbowie Cottage”, “Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban”, all the big competition marches, in fact, all the big competition tunes, take on a powerful new dimension when played well on the accordion. One of the reasons? On most accordions melody and accompaniment can by played at the same time: the right hand usually plays the tune and left hand the chords. Sweet.
So as I (happily) listen in the office to Robbie Shepherd’s radio show it strikes me that pipe bands might be missing out on some of the accordion’s “left hand stuff” – chords, harmonies.
Harmonies in competitive march, strathspey and reel sets! Why not? A whole new musical dimension awaits. Another fun way, too, to fire up the intransigent pipe band adjudicator (rare as they may be).
I wonder if the TPPB guys will go for it!
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