By Patrick Dunn
Having presented popular shows last season featuring the ukulele, mandolin and bass saxophone, University Musical Society programming director Michael Kondziolka knew just what obscure instrument he wanted to highlight next.
“We had a lot of positive response to most of the concerts on that … curatorial line that ran through our season,” Kondziolka says. “So it was very much in my mind that we still needed to do something with the accordion.”
The instrument will receive its moment in the spotlight Saturday at Hill Auditorium in an “accordion summit” titled “The Big Squeeze.” Several individual accordionists will be featured, as well as the Accordion Virtuosi of Russia, a 35-member ensemble. Kondziolka says he envisioned the performance as a tour through the cultural history of the accordion, with the Virtuosi as “our accordion house band.”
“It’s pretty shocking that almost every culture has their own manifestation of the accordion, which in many ways is just a portable organ,” he says. “So it’s really fun, when you start thinking about the accordion and how it manifests itself in different cultures, how you can put an evening together.”
Hot Club of Detroit member Julien Labro will represent the South American heritage of the accordion and its “cousin,” the bandoneon, which features heavily in the music of Argentine tango legend Astor Piazzolla. Labro, who is also co-curating the summit, recalls first being “mesmerized” by the accordion when he saw it on TV at age nine. Full interview here