Accordion History

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, European immigrants brought the popular concertina and the diatonic accordions to Australia.

They first appeared in the city of Melbourne, and around the State of Victoria. The diatonic accordion developed a good following, and it is still very popular today.

In the mid 1850's, a German immigrant, Conrad "Con" Klippel, brought an accordion with him to Australia. This was a 'flutina' model, similar to the accordions of the 1830's Romantic European era. He settled in Victoria and performed at 'Kitchen Balls' for many years. ('Kitchen Balls' were so called because they took place in the kitchen, which was usually the only living area in the house.) One night, on his way to play at a Kitchen Ball, Con Klippel disappeared. His horse and accordion were found at the edge of a river, he was never seen again.

The first diatonic accordion models in Australia that were imported came from Great Britain, and were soon followed by German models. These often arrived in Australia with distinctive logos showing Australian animals. They were called 'bush accordions', because they could withstand the very hot climate.

Bill McGlashan, born in Castlemaine, was considered one of the best pioneer accordionists in the country. His father and grandfather played the concertina. The first piano-accordionist was Peter Piccini, who began his career in 1924. Called "The Father of the Accordion in Australia", he was the country's first solo accordionist. His career included concerts, film soundtracks and records. He passed away in 1989.

The first chromatic accordionists in Australia were immigrants from Italy and Germany. As elsewhere, the accordions popularity increased throughout the 1920's and 30's, until the 1940's.

Ossie Mazzei arrived in Australia in 1930. He played a button-keyed chromatic accordion, but later changed to the piano accordion. He played for the army during the war. After returning to Australia, he opened a school in Windsor. In 1949, he founded the Queensland Accordion Orchestra, which still plays today.

Lou Campara was another accordion celebrity who became famous internationally. In Great Britain in the 1950's, he regularly performed for radio programmes and BBC Television, most notably on the Benny Hill and Mel Torme shows. He also played in France. Charles Magnante wrote an article about him in the "Accordion World" magazine.

In the 1970's there was a decline in the popularity of the accordion. Sadly, it disappeared completely from some regions where it was once extremely popular. 1970, however, was also the year in which the Accordion Society of Australia (ASA) was founded by Else Brandman. From this, a more serious accordion infrastructure evolved. Catherine Day is the current President.

The first Australian manufacturer, Peter Hyde, opened his shop in 1986. He sells copies of old style accordion models, and also makes models to order.

In 1993 a new organisation was set up in Australia, called "The Australia Accordion Teachers Association". The President is Tania Lukic-Marx.

Approximately 150,000 people play the accordion in Australia today.

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