Accordion History in Canada
Accordion History


In the 1840's and 1850's, the accordion was increasing in popularity. Children used to play the melodeon at religious festivals. Alfred Montmarquette was one of the better accordionists in the last part of the nineteenth century. He played the diatonic accordion and was considered a pioneer of the diatonic accordion, influencing many new accordionists throughout his lifetime. He died in 1944.

From the end of the 19th century, manufacturers had set up shop, importing other brands also. After the turn of the century, traditional folk music was dying out, and with it the accordion.

It was around this time that accordionist Pascal Marraza arrived from Italy, and in 1915 he founded an accordion school. From then an infrastructure began to develop, with many of the higher class taking up the accordion. An accordionist around this time was known as Ludwig Pine Tree, so called because each switch of his accordions were decorated with a picture of a pine tree.

Around 1930 the piano accordion first appeared. It is thought that it was brought to Canada by the Italian immigrants. It's popularity grew quickly because of the piano keyboard and soon outnumbered the diatonics.

In 1935 Paul Drollet and Billy and Charlie Harris founded an accordion group, called the Maontagnards Laurentiens. They played on radio every Saturday night for 20 years. One of the best players of the diatonic accordion in the 1930's was Philippe Bruneau. He was the first Canadian to write completely original works for the instrument.

There was a general decline in interest over the next decade, but in the 1950's the accordion gained popularity again with Italian, German and Scandinavian immigrants bringing in new models and reaching more people. Artists of this era include Boris Borgstrom. He also teaches and plays the piano. He was one of the instigators that got the accordion introduced into universities. He wrote a textbook for the chromatic bass accordion and also taught composition and music history. Another famous teacher was Alf Carson, who taught Joe Morelli, who was the first Canadian accordionist to play with a symphony orchestra.

At the beginning of the 1970's the folk music revival brought accordion music once again to the fore and with it numerous festivals. Over the next two decades, workshops were opened to help service this renewed interest.
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