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WMAS NEWS UPDATE
September 25, 2008

 

Notes from the President

Our September 14 meeting – a special concert with Trio Zur from Mexico – was a real triumph. These were world-class musicians, and we were lucky to be able to hear them in such an intimate setting. In turn they loved meeting and talking with the members of our group. Luis and I got to know the trio and their music on trips to Mexico, and we were eager for the rest of you to be able to hear them, too. Luis worked with the Mexican Cultural Institute to bring them here, and while they were here they also played at the Organization of American States and at the Mexican Embassy, as well as another concert in Annapolis. In addition, they had a chance to shop and sightsee.

By the way, Trio Zur left CDs for sale, including Antonio solo on accordion, the entire trio, and the marimba solo. Also, my nephew Daniel is making a DVD that will be for sale in the near future.

Thanks to everyone who helped out the day of the concert. Lee and Ron came at 2 pm to help set up and stayed until 7:00 to help clean up. Mara and friends took money at the door, photographed the concert, and helped clean up afterwards. The executive committee helped with the planning and organizing.

Food for thought: As you know we’re an all-volunteer group, and we can always use another hand. A couple of people approached me about promoting the concert on the TV stations. At this point my hands are full but it would be great if someone would take on that responsibility (coordinating it with the executive committee, of course). Also, people asked about a program. Likewise, it would be great if someone would take this on for another time.

Our next meeting will be October 19. We are expecting Rik Kaplan to conduct a workshop on how to “cajunize” music. This still needs to be confirmed, though.

 

 

The Sheng - Father of the Accordion?

By Yimeng Huang

I had a great time at the AAA festival in August. Besides the great performances, the interesting workshops, the banquet, and other events, we had a little treat in one of the workshops: a short demonstration of the Chinese traditional music instrument, the sheng, and a short sheng/accordion duet. The accordionist was Chen Jun, vice president of the Chinese Accordionists Association, and his colleague played the sheng.

Up until that moment, I had never connected the accordion with the sheng, an instrument that I heard often in traditional Chinese folk music when I was growing up in Beijing, China.

When Chen said that the Sheng has 5,000 years of history and is the father of the accordion, it really intrigued me. The traditional sheng is a bunch of pipes -- with holes in them -- that are positioned vertically over a sort of cup. From the side of the cup comes a mouthpiece that you blow into (or suck out of -- it does work both ways like a harmonica).

The instrument sounds to me like something between a flute and a bagpipe. It can play chords, giving it a rich sound. Interestingly, it also uses reeds, and the reeds, like the accordion reeds, are waxed onto the pipes.

The reeds used to be made of bamboo and nowadays are made of steel.

As for the sheng being the father of the accordion, at first I had my doubts, but after some googling, I found many sources that said in the early 1800s the sheng was brought to Europe and inspired the invention of the harmonica, accordion, and reed organ.

As young kids, we were taught to be proud of the four big inventions by the Chinese: the compass, gunpowder, paper-making, and printing. Now we have the accordion added to the list :-) Or is that stretching it a little?

Here are some links:

Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheng_(instrument)

Here is a good picture of the Sheng:

http://www.tomleemusic.com/SpecialPage/MS/ins35/img/Shengzoom.jpg

Here is my pick of a Sheng and Accordion duo, a traditional piece done with a modern flavor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A1AmTAGSi8

 

A postscript:
Our friend Bernie Schenkler, of Buffalo, NY, was so inspired by the sheng demonstration at AAA that he bought a sheng and is learning to play it. See below.