A DIFFERENT KIND OF LEARNING
It seemed appropriate to have a ‘bucket list’ for my 60th year. (My 61st year, I suppose, if you consider that my birthday marked the end of 60 years!)
So, I thought a modest bucket list would be achievable, and made a mental list. It only had three things on it. Halfway through the year, I hadn’t achieved one of them – it wasn’t looking good.
- Visit Bath
- Visit Chawton House (the Jane Austen museum)
- Learn to play the accordion
Why the accordion? Well, I feel that it’s all very well being a musicologist who plays the piano and arranges Scottish and Regency tunes, but as a musicologist with a PhD in Scottish Georgian and Victorian tunes, I occupy a strange, liminal existence where I’m neither a Classical nor a trad musician. I’m not a virtuoso performer at all, to be honest, though my piano and organ-playing have stood me in good stead in a number of different contexts. And as for trad – well, a sixty-year old will never learn the fiddle nor the flute, nor pick up the bagpipes well enough to play with other people. Yes, I have recorders, and I suppose I could learn the whistle, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to this option. Neither am I likely to be invited to play keyboards in a ceilidh band. What to do?
Of course, there was another consideration … I’m the Honorary Librarian of the Friends of Wighton in Dundee, and I’ve been cataloguing Jimmy Shand’s music. Now, this wouldn’t have influenced my choice of new instrument, would it?! As it happens, Jimmy played a button accordion. That WASN’T in my calculations!
Yes, I decided to teach myself the piano accordion. Not to play Georgian and Victorian tunes of any description, just to be able to play something that I might one day be able to use in some kind of amateur group context. I was generously lent an instrument from the Traditional Music department at work – a 48 bass Parrot. It’s quite old, but fully functional (though there’s a rotating wheel thing that I would have assumed was a volume control – and it does nothing at all!) – and just needed new straps. That done, I found a chart, and now understand the cycle of fifths that determines the pattern of the chord buttons – and what each row of buttons actually does. Borrowing an instrument has been a good idea, not least because I now know that if I were to buy a secondhand instrument, I will need more buttons. At the moment I can play major and minor chords, but not diminished or 7th ones. So The Parrot has prevented me from buying something that I would later find limiting!
I borrowed the instrument a little over a week ago, and brought it home last Saturday afternoon. I’ve devoted quite a few hours to my self-instruction, and have recorded the results. I’m not a prodigy!
Weekend 2. (Believe me, if all those endearing young charms)