The Big Squeeze Festival is the brainchild of Noel Cleere and the Acorn Accordion Club. At the beginning of the year, Noel wrote to Gay Byrne on Lyric FM, lamenting the way the accordion never gets a mention and what a fantastic instrument it was. Before he knew it Noel was on RTE Lyric FM talking to Gay about the instrument, it’s history and how it would be fantastic to run an event that was focused completely on the instrument. Gay thought this was a fabulous idea and called out over the airwaves to see if anyone else was interested. Noel had thought no more about it until he suddenly started getting emails, texts and calls from all over the country.
Consequently Noel and his team at the Acorn Accordion Club set to work and started pulling together all the pieces to make it happen. It took months of work and players from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland to get together for the first ever inaugural event – The Big Squeeze Accordion Festival in Kilkenny Ireland on 12-14 August 2016 for a great event of camaraderie and music. The Festival was opened at St Kieran’s college by Lord Mayor of Kilkenny, Patrick O Neill. He said “It is great exposure for the accordion” and went on to say “We welcome visitors from far and wide including Scotland Accordions and the Buttons and Bows Accordion and Fiddle Club from Fife”.
Workshops throughout the weekend included subjects such as ‘The accordion in pop music’, ‘The history of the accordion’, ‘Working with Midi’ (Richard Rea) and ‘Accordion maintenance’ (John Chilton). A special mention goes to Bruce Lindsay for the excellent workshop on the History of the Scottish accordion which included a special reference to Jimmy Shand.
The Buttons and Bows Accordion and Fiddle Club, based in the village of Windygates in Fife which lies approximately 15 miles west of St. Andrews, played for many activities including the official opening and the Burns evening. They were kept busy throughout the event as their popular style of music was much in demand.
The concerts kicked off with The Stramash. For the uninitiated the word ‘Stramash’ is a Scottish word that means “Smash” and this was certainly to be a smashing night! Special guests included The Cork Accordion Club, Members of the Castletown and Royal Meath Accordion Orchestras, Bruce Lindsay and The Buttons & Bows Box & Fiddle Club from Scotland and a host of special guests. Master of Ceremonies was Donal Ring Jr from Cork accompanied by his father, the great ceilidh maestro Donal Ring. What a night was had by all, the atmosphere was electric! Even Siobhan Donohoe of Irish TV ended up playing an accordion! Everyone was welcomed to join in the fun!
ScotlandAccordions.co.uk who are based in Perth had strong interest in their products including top of the range accordions and their midi systems. They also demonstrated a number of digital accordions to enthusiastic customers. The Scandalli instruments again took pride of place along with many other makes of diatonic, 3 row, 4 row and 5 row accordions and piano accordions.
The Festival is the fulfilment of a dream long-held by technical consultant, teacher and musician, Noel Cleere of the Acorn Accordion Club. According to Noel, most people in Ireland associate the accordion only with Irish traditional music. Whilst its role in the traditional Irish music world is admirable, Noel was determined to organise an event that would educate and demonstrate the true potential and significance of his favourite instrument.
Noel is Chairperson of The Acorn Club which is a voluntary not-for profit organisation that was formed in 2011 to empower, encourage, facilitate, nurture and support artistic talent, initiatives and projects in the areas of music, drama, choral and artistic creativity.
The Acorn Club committee consists of Noel Cleere (Chairperson), Gerry O’Reilly (Secretary), Michael Butler (Dep. Chairperson) Noreen Butler (Treasurer), Julia Heffernan (Dep.Secretary), John Cleere, Deborah Delaney, Karen Delaney, Barbara Dohr, Moira Dorgan and Moira Maher .
It was a great event and all who attended are looking forward to a second event next year!
Our thanks to ScotlandAccordions for pictures and information for this report.