test page for reviews Accordion Articles - My Wonderful Trip


Written by: Bernadette Conlon
Publication: New Zealand Accordion Association Newsletter
Date written : July 1996
Editors Note : Bernadette Conlon is 17 years of age, and lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been virtually blind since birth, having has less than 1% sight. Not only is she an incredibly talented accordionist, she also studies saxophone and flute. Bernadette has gained her Associate of Music Diploma and is the first ever Australian to receive the Licenciate of Music Diploma using the accordion. She is the current Australian Champion, and won the South Pacific Championship in 1995. She could not defend her title in 1996 due to this trip:

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Germany to attend the Remscheid Masterclasses.

I was met at the Frankfurt airport by my host family, the Wronski's. From there, after the 25 hour flight, I was taken two hours drive, to Essen. After catching up on sleep and food, I played duets with Carina the 14 year old daughter, proving that music, or at least accordion, is a universal language.

The next morning, Mrs Wronski and I drove to Remscheid for a week of intensive accordion playing. After a "molto prestissimo" speech by our organiser (in which I was mentioned as an overseas guest and knew not how to or whether to acknowledge), we had individual solo lessons with Professor Reidys. Afterwards I was taken to hear two of the four orchestras, in which I was to play later. After dinner, there was a wonderful concert with two East German button accordionists who played both solos and duets of original accordion music and some transcriptions, including Piazzola (a favourite with the Germans).

The next day, after my solo lesson, I was taken to hear another smaller ensemble which played contemporary (but not too bad) accordion music. The organiser thought it would be good if I played with that group, but I thought the music would be too difficult for me to pick up. I had to go later and found it not as difficult as I had expected. I was also given a chaperone for the day. He was introduced, in English, by the organiser as follows: "He is a very nice young man who is very good with young ladies!" ….. Well, I didn't find out if that was true, but he proved a good chaperone.

I also had a woman come up to me and tell me she had seen me busking in Melbourne!!! Isn't it a small world??

Had a very interesting lecture from an over-eighty year old music teacher who placed much emphasis on rhythm. The concert that night consisted of a youth and adult orchestra. The standard of these groups was very high.

Thursday, I actually joined in with the orchestra conducted by the perfectionist, Professor Dobler. As you could imagine, I had to pick up the music and work out how the Professor wanted it played - in German!! Thursday's concert featured a Swiss folk group. The players could play piano accordion, button accordion and countless diatonic folk instruments. I was quite amazed.

Every night we had been going down to the cellar after the concert to talk and listen to the Swiss accordionist. He was amazing. I observed that, the more he drank the faster he played - and by a few hours, he was playing very quickly indeed!! Thursday night was the night before I was to play in the concert. I had, for the first time, been able to conduct a proper conversation in German. I was thrilled and kept on talking to the two sisters when along comes the organiser (who I later referred to as my "Remscheid Granny") and said (in German), "You know that you have to play tomorrow …. yes … you must play well! You want to play well don't you? You must go to bed!" And I had thought I'd got rid of my parents?

The concert consisted of an orchestra from Vienna and myself. I was honoured to be one of only two soloists to play in the concerts and the only one who had done the Remscheid course.

The next week was spent in Essen. I went to school with the 14 year old for two days (very interesting - especially in English). I had a lesson with Professor Jurgen Lochter, a distinguished German accordionist, composer and tutor, and heard the two Essen accordion orchestras rehearse. All very interesting. It is an experience I found very worthwhile.

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