Accordion Articles - Accordion Contest


Written by: Chiz Bishop
Publication: World Accordion Review
Date written: September 1950

You are entering an Accordion contest are you? Ha! Ha! Ha!! Don’t let me discourage you- but do you REALLY know what you are letting yourself in for? Don’t you? Well, my friend, let me tell you: There are several types of people one finds entering contests but the majority belong to one or the other of three types which I itemise herewith:


Type One
The fellow who thinks to himself, "you poor fish! What chance do you think you’ll stand?" This is the TIMID type.

Type Two
The bloke who thinks, "Contests? Pooh! I’ll walk away with it!" This is the CONCEITED type.

Type Three
The chap who thinks, "Well I’m going to do my best, but if another fellow wins, then good luck to him!" He is the NON-EXISTANT type!

Still it takes all sorts to make a contest, as the monkey said when he did something or other. Right, then, you are now entering the contest of the year - in fact, the contest of your life!


Let us take it for granted that you have done your preliminary training, practiced your piece, changed your "own choice" at the last minute and played at sufficient gigs, weddings, and kiddies "bun fights" to afford the entrance fee. If you are a cut above the rest you may have won a small competition organised by "Gobbo Toothpaste" ("Gobbo" for a good paste in the mouth) and now you feel the urge to do greater things. So we skip the anxious weeks and come to the date on the calendar which you have marked with red pencil.

The great day dawns - cold, clammy and drizzling with rain. You find that you have a touch of the ‘flu’ which makes your hands shake so much at breakfast that the family think you are practicing the bellows-shake. You try to hide your trembling paws in your pocket - only to find that you have no trousers on!!

Okay! So what? Maybe you ARE a little nervous, but as every NON-Contestant will tell you, you’ll be all right when your time comes! WHEN YOUR TIME COMES! It sounds like a death sentence at that time in the morning, doesn’t it? Well, you finish your custard and kipper, or whatever you manage to force down your constricted throat, and set out for the contest hall.

If you have a train journey to make, leave your Accordion in the corridor where everyone can fall over it. As your victims pick themselves up hand them your visiting card. This makes a good publicity stunt and helps to while away the time. A word of warning here - don’t carry cream cakes or jam tarts (unwrapped) in your Accoridon case. I did this once and played some very sticky passages afterwards. Besides it messes up the cakes! And the Jam Tarts get fluffy!!


On your way to the contest hall you may pass an old busker in the street. Have pity on him. Very likely, he was a child prodigy once. They all go the same way - first their names are in the headlines- a few years later they make a comeback and get a column on the inside page - still more years go by and you see a very small paragraph on the back page which reads, "Ex-child prodigy pushes ex-child prodigy under train". So if you see one, take pity on him - it might be me!

You arrive at the hall. Thousands of people are there and the accordions at the Trade displays make yours look like an old bully-beef can. The contestants’ room is a cacophony of noise. You try to find a nice corner to yourself but succeed only in being collared by a representative from the lower Balkans who grins broadly and says some very rude things that he obviously learned from a soldier with a misplaced sense of humour.

Already you are chewing your finger-nails. STOP THIS AT ONCE!!! I remember a chap who did that and by the time he was due to play he was gazing despondently into space and nibbling at the frayed stump of his right wrist. The hands of the clock creep remorselessly round and suddenly a haggard-looking young man, with a French-English : English-French dictionary and straggling moustache comes to tell you that you are "on" in two minutes.

Get your Accordion strapped on and STOP BITING YOUR NAILS!!!! You’re on! You’re ACTUALLY on!! The stage stretches away into the far distance and that sea of faces looks remarkably like a row of cods’ heads on a fishmonger’s slab. IT IS A ROW OF COD’S HEADS! No, it isn’t - it’s the audience! Somebody is waving to you and saying to her neigbout, "Look Flo, it’s our Harry. Good old Harry boy!" Don’t wave back, it’s bad form and besides the organisers might think you want to leave. You DO want to leave? But you CAN’T! You’re on - alone. You see a shape in front of you. It looks like - no, it can’t be - but it - no, it isn’t - yes it is! Its a microphone leering at you.


Naturally, the preceding player was a giant of some seven feet high and so the mike head is way above you. You begin laboriously climbing up the swaying structure, vaguely wondering whether you can hold on with your feet while you play. Then the haggard young man runs across the stage and explains that the little screw on the side of the stand is to lower it. You fumble with this screw and wish that you had a pair of pliers on you. OOOPS! The mike crashes down on your fingers and everybody giggles. Everybody, that is, except you. YOU want a drink, YOU want your mum. You want, passionately, to be sick.

You have the mike there, your Accordion at the ready and the Test Piece is hovering around in the back of your mind. Now, how does it go? Oh yes - you pull eastwards like blazes, determined to startle the audience out of their somnulence. You spin round and fall flat on your bellows. You pick yourself up and undo your bellows-straps. The crowd out front is getting restless. Somebody crackles a bag of potato crisps and you can faintly hear another competitor in the back room playing the test piece faultlessly.

THE TEST PIECE! You come back to earth with a start - go on, PLAY! You stumble blindly from the platform after giving a terrible rendering - wrong coupler-changes at the second time bar on page two - you fluffed that simple bass run - your right hand seemed to turn into a claw on the chromatic run. Everyone on the side of that stage is giving you sickly grins. The’re glaoting over you!


You realise it’s all over and go back to the Competitors’ Room. People nudge each other, look at you as if you either have the plague or are the world champion (this latter applies, of course, to the "Under-Four contestants).

Every contestant who plays after you is SUPERB- perfect in phrasing - clear staccato bass runs- Chromatic treble runs that flow smoothly from under controlled fingers. Then it’s the end of the contest and they are waiting for the winners to be anounced. You spot the nearest Exit and begin making your plan of escape, when, faintly, as if from a long way off, you hear your name being spoken.

You whirl round ready to defend your honor and quickly think up all the excuses you can. But everyone is clapping and pointing at you!! No, not that! Derision! You cannot bear it! And then, it dawns on you. "Go on Harry, get yer pot!!!" you’ve WON!! Excuse me while I faint.
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