Accordion History


The diatonic accordion was first imported into the United Kingdom around 1840. Sometimes they arrived in pieces, which had to be assembled by shopkeepers. The accordion became popular at the turn of the century in the form of the melodeon. This was adopted by the working classes, along with the concertina. The middle classes preferred the harmonium or the organ.

The first cylindrical form accordion was invented by two Scotsmen, the Wymper brothers, Peter (1871-1950) and Daniel (1882-1957). Daniel Wymper was a cornet player in an orchestra of miners, sometimes performing with his brother.

Famous early accordionists were George "Pamby" Dick (1863-1932), who was the Great Britain Northern Champion on the 19 key accordion in 1887, 1888 and 1890. Peter Leatham was widely known as the best player in Edinburgh between 1900-1920. At the beginning of the century there were numerous accordion competitions at locations including the Crystal Palace, the Belle Vue Garden in Manchester, and the Alexander Palace in London.

The piano accordion was introduced to England in 1907. It was first used by pianists to play the Tango in dance orchestras, in place of the bandoneon. Some of the pioneers of the piano accordion were George Scott-Wood, Al Davidson, Donald Thorne and Conway Graves. Al Davidson (1885-1936) was the organist of the Ely Cathedral, and the recipient of many distinguished musical diplomas.

During the 1930's, the Hohner School of Accordions ran correspondence courses under the direction of Al Davidson and Eric Little. The British College of Accordionists (BCA) evolved from this in 1936, then a range of musical and teaching certificates developed. In 1935, a magazine called "Accordion Times" was published, and regional and national championships were organised. Some well known teachers, such as E. Pett and Martyas Seiber came to the fore. In 1946, Desmond Hart created the "Accordion Review" which was published by Modern Accordion Publications. In 1947 the Accordion Teachers Guild was founded, which led to the creation of the National Accordion Organisation (NAO) in 1949. One of the best known current professional English accordionists is John Kirkpatrick.

Scottish Diatonic accordion player Jimmy Shand became famous in 1940, when he founded his first orchestra. He recorded numerous records and participated in many television and radio broadcasts. He officially retired in 1972, but continued to record occasionally. His son, Jimmy Shand Jnr. also had a dance orchestra.

Ireland has produced as impressive a number of diatonic accordionists. Carmino Capaldi, born in 1904, performed in music halls with his brother Mario as the Capaldi Brothers. Harry Krein (b 1905) started playing the accordion with his father's orchestra who played for the BBC. He began his own orchestra, called the Montmartre Players Quartet. Primo Scala was born in 1898. He was a pianist in his father's orchestra, and although he did not play the acordion himself, he put together a famous orchestra of accordions which included many big names of the day: Red Manus, Tommy Nicol, Bill Bowness, Warwick Bidgood, Emilio, Reg Hogarh, Syd Hellier, Gerald Crossman and Peter Wise. During the 1950's, many master accordionists began to play in dance orchestras, including Ronald Binge (1910-1979), accordionist for the Mantovani orchestra.

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