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Accordionists from Around the World Gather at Bryant Park to Celebrate Their Unique Sounds

August 30, 2019

Officially, this day of the Accordion Festival at Bryant Park was rained out last week. Still, they came and played and played.


"We love the accordion and we will do anything to play the accordion. We're crazy, we love it," accordionist Jeanne Eriksson said. "It's portable, it's been around forever. I grew up with it. I just love it."


"We're like a cult," accordionist Julie Winterbottom said. "I love the sound it makes, it's almost like a person breathing."


Arts advocate Ariana Hellerman attended an accordion festival in Colombia in 2012 and was inspired to bring the idea to New York. So now, every summer, Bryant Park hosts an accordion festival of its own.


"The series is representative of cultures and we have so many cultures in New York City, so it's providing a platform for communities to have their voices heard and their accordion music heard," said Hellerman, the founder of Accordions Around the World.


"We're always trying to do new things and bring exciting music in unusual ways to the public," said Daniel Fishman, the public events director of Bryant Park. "They're always excited to see the instrument, which is never really celebrated in the United States in the way it should be."


The Accordion Festival has been a big hit. So many styles of music are celebrated: zydeco, klezmer, tango, the blues, and more, all on the "squeeze box" named for the motion between the two boxes that produces that unique sound.


Many of players at the festival say they grew up around accordion music, and it was a natural for them to begin playing on their own.


"It's so beautiful," accordionist Ed Goldberg said while playing. "It's got a left hand and it has a right hand. The left hand accompanies the right hand."


The actual concert got rained out, but when I got there everyone was still playing.


"That's accordionists for you; they just want to bring joy," Hellerman said.


"It's mobile. You know, you can start a party anywhere," accordionist Harold Rodriguez said."It's mobile. You know, you can start a party anywhere," accordionist Harold Rodriguez said. "Comes from Colombia, the music that I play, so it feels great to be able to preserve those roots and also play in my own city."


The accordionists are due back in the park Wednesday, followed by a five-hour finale concert Friday evening — weather permitting. So plan accordion-ly!