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19-May-2017

Mayor of Superior declares World Accordion Day - USA

Mayor Proclaimation
Kevin Friedrich and Helmi HarringtonAbove: A sample video of the weekend’s activities.

The Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin, Jim Paine, declared May 6th, as World Accordion Day in his official proclamation. A World of Accordions Museum was the venue for a magnificent World Accordion Day celebration held in honor of the late Dr. Willard A. Palmer.

An initiative of the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA), the event was organized by Museum curator Helmi Harrington, Ph.D. The official opening remarks were presented by CIA Ambassador Kevin Friedrich, and included greetings from the CIA President Raymond Bodell.

The event featured a weekend of Concerts, Workshops, Lectures, two Festival Orchestras and visits to the Museum housing more than 3,000 accordions and over a million pieces of accordion sheet music.

One hundred years after the birth of Dr. Willard A. Palmer (January 31, 1917), he is still recognized as a leader in pedagogy and performance practice through nearly 800 published books for keyboard instruments. His methodology and meticulous scholarship have been lauded by teachers, artists and students worldwide.

2017 celebrates the fifth anniversary of the receipt of Palmer’s estate into A World of Accordions Museum. His massive output fills our third-floor library and is in use every day.

The American musician, composer, scholar and music educator, Willard (Bill) A. Palmer was a child prodigy. At 13, he played the piano on the radio. He studied both piano and accordion which were to form the basis of his musical endeavors.

After the war, Willard A. Palmer and his former student, Bill Hughes joined forces. They can be credited with the high point in accordion performance in the USA. Palmer collaborated with Hughes in producing a series of accordion method books which have had world wide impact. Sales ran into the millions making it the cornerstone of the Alfred Publishing Co.

As an educator, Willard A. Palmer was ahead of his time - instrumental in carving an indisputable niche for the accordion at the university level. He and Hughes took the accordion beyond mere college acceptance, into the realm of establishing an actual accordion department within the University of Houston, where they were faculty members enabling young accordionists to earn both Bachelor's and Master's degrees with their instrument. Palmer also founded the "Palmer-Hughes Accordion Symphony", a superb orchestra which appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York.

During his period as a professional accordionist, Willard A. Palmer sought to perfect his yet-evolving instrument and contributed significantly to the development of the stradella-free bass "convertor" or "quint" accordion. He designed the "Palmer Emperor Convertor", and collaborated with Titano Accordions to achieve the realization of his creative ideas.

Willard W. Palmer eventually became one of the most important editors of keyboard music in the United States. His editions of works of the masters are highly acclaimed and respected in the most elite music circles. Palmer is noted especially for his painstaking detail and care in the scholarly researching of original editions. He became Alfred Publishing Company's Senior Editor in 1964, researching the original manuscripts of the great masters of keyboard literature, with special emphasis on the study of performance practices in the Baroque, Classic and Romantic eras. He achieved recognition as the leading authority on Baroque ornamentation and lectured on the subject at various colleges, universities and music festivals throughout the country.

While achieving accolades for his educational works for other instruments, Willard W. Palmer remained a steadfast supporter of his beloved accordion. Willard A. Palmer's revolutionary teaching principles were reflected in 789 of his published works, which included an accordion method, several piano methods, a method for Hammond Chord Organ, a guitar method, hundreds of solo pieces and many choral works.

In 2013 his son, Willard Palmer, III, donated his father’s musical estate to the Museum, that includes one of the finest accordions of the museum (Titano Super Emperor V, 1996) and the decorous two-manual, eleven-pedal harpsichord (A. Cecil Taylor, 1979) that graces the Hanni Strahl Concert Hall.

The World Accordion Day event featured guests including Kevin Friedrich (NewYork, NY) CIA Ambassador who gave the opening address and made an official presentation of the CIA Honored Friend of the Accordion Award to Helmi Harrington. He also performed in the Festival Orchestras and took part in the panel discussions, Stas Venglevski (Milwaukee, WI), who presented a concert of accordion masterworks by composer Zolotariew in addition to his own original compositions among others. Canadian artist Michael Bridge (Toronto, Canada), gave an informative workshop on Interpretation while demonstrating the rare Cello accordion from the Museum display and also presented a concert of classical and entertainment repertoire.

John Scaffeo (Thunder Bay, Canada) presented a seminar and performance utilizing the Digital accordion while Dee Langley (Minneapolis, MN) shared her expertise in Balkan related music and rhythms in her performance and instruction sessions, including leading a workshop with more than a dozen accordionists participating. Dr. Michael Middleton (Belton, TX) shared his experiences growing up with the Palmer and Hughes Accordion method, tracking the progression of the popular pedagogy methods, and then performing some of his entertainment music both as soloist and jamming with Michael Bridge.

The festival featured two orchestras, one conducted by Stas Venglevski and the other by retired member of Duluth and Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO), Tracey Gibbens (Duluth, MN). Tracey is a respected performer, teacher, musician and conductor and he currently conducts The Northshore Philharmonic Orchestra, The Duluth Symphonic Winds, and The Proctor Community Band.

In addition to Tracey Gibbens, a recently retired violinist from the DSSO, Carolyn Carver (Duluth, MN) performed in the various ensembles.
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