Home ยป Accordion repair is a dying occupation. Meet an Albertan keeping it alive | CBC News

Accordion repair is a dying occupation. Meet an Albertan keeping it alive | CBC News

In Edwin Erickson’s workshop, there are approximately 100 broken accordions of different ages. They are either piled on tables, arranged on shelves, or stored in colorful cases on the floor.

Certain ones require adjustment. Others possess misaligned buttons and damaged bellows. A handful are a century old.

Erickson is constructing a new workshop adjacent to his residence to assist in tackling the accumulated workload. The construction materials comprise timber that was initially processed by his grandfather around a hundred years ago.

He is even considering installing an elevator to assist him in transporting his accordions to the second level.

For more than 50 years, Erickson, aged 73, has been repairing accordions.

In his late teens, he started learning the accordion and began performing at events. Later on, he also started teaching students. Eventually, he traveled to Italy, which is known for producing a majority of the world’s accordions. During his time there, he obtained multiple certifications in repairing accordions.

“He stated that he built a livelihood from it,” he mentioned from his residence in Buck Lake, Alberta, approximately 150 kilometers to the southwest of Edmonton by road.

Radio Active8:06Entering the realm of accordions with enthusiasm

Featured VideoWe meet Edwin Erickson, one of the last remaining accordion repair people in Alberta.

The accordion was invented in Europe during the early 1800s and became popular for folk music. The instrument uses either a piano-style keyboard or buttons for melodies. Sound is produced by compressing and expanding the bellows — the mechanism that pumps air through the reeds.

When Erickson first started repairing accordions, repair people could be found in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and other places in Alberta.

“I regret to inform you that this is no longer true,” he stated.

I believe it would not be unjust to state that the profession of accordion repair is declining, especially in North America.

He attributes the decrease in accordion music to the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll.

It brings tears to my heart.

Erickson stated that the uniqueness of the instrument lies in its ability to express emotions.

“He stated that the bellows in an accordion share a resemblance to the bow in a violin. The true essence of the music is expressed through the manipulation of the bellows.”

Although it may not be as widely known, it continues to be extensively utilized. Erickson has a surplus of tasks, ranging from fixing accordions for musicians to assisting individuals who have come across their parent’s neglected instrument in the depths of their closet and wish to have it repaired.

The intricacies of repair 

Erickson stated that assembling an accordion involves the contribution of workers from over 20 distinct professions, and it may consist of as many as 6,000 components.

“He stated that the range of skills included steelwork, leather work, bellows makers, and tuners.”

Tuning an accordion requires filing more than 400 metal reeds by hand to raise or lower the instrument’s pitch. It can take more than 10 hours.

According to Erickson, accordions typically require tuning approximately once every 10 years.

Tuning an accordion.
Edwin Erickson spends approximately 10 hours manually filing the metal reeds to tune an accordion. (Liam Harrap/CBC)

Erickson has provided training to Andrei Piatrashka and many other musicians in the field of accordion repair.

When Piatrashka moved to Canada from Belarus in 2001, he left behind his childhood passion for playing the accordion.

Four years ago, he obtained a similar instrument to the one he had during his childhood. He contacted Erickson to gain knowledge on how to properly maintain it.

Piatrashka expressed that the experience was deeply fulfilling. They not only had the opportunity to learn something they enjoyed, but also had the privilege of learning from someone who possessed immense passion.

Man with accordion.
Andrei Piatrashka is skilled in the repair of accordions, having received instruction from Edwin Erickson. (Cate’s Captured Moments)

Piatrashka refers to Erickson as the “Bob Ross of accordions.” Ross was an American artist and TV personality who became known as everybody’s favourite painting teacher.

Piatrashka now does accordion repair from his home in Sangudo, Alta., about 120 km northwest of Edmonton by car. 

He has come to the realization that this instrument is not exclusively for older individuals, as some younger people are becoming interested in it.

‘No sad polkas’

At the age of 12, Jordan Rody began his journey with the accordion. Presently at 29 years old, he proudly identifies as Alberta’s polka king.

Erickson instructed Rody on performing simple repairs on his instrument, including the proper waxing technique suitable for Alberta’s arid weather conditions.

Rody became interested in playing the accordion due to the overall joyful nature of the music.

He stated that there are no melancholic polkas.

In Edwin Erickson’s workshop, there are numerous rows of broken accordions. (Liam Harrap/CBC)

Erickson stated that his hearing has improved over the course of fifty years of tuning accordions.

However, as he gets older, one source of frustration is that he no longer performs as proficiently. He claims that his fingers are unable to match the speed of his thoughts.

You are aware of the tasks that need to be completed and the approach to reach your goal, but there is a delay in receiving the signal.

However, he has no intentions of retiring and is currently involved in the process of constructing his own accordions. He aspires to eventually sell them for commercial purposes.

Erickson’s fascination with the instrument persists, even after fifty years.

He stated that if the accordion disappears, he will also cease to exist.

Source: cbc.ca