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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Len Wallace Folk Music Hockey Game & Festival Improv (2) Folk Music Hockey Game & Festival Improv 08 Sep 03

Hello Mudcateers,

It's music. It's hockey. It's improv.

I just got back a week ago from performing at the Carrefour Mondiale de l'Accordeon (World Accordion Festival) held in Montmagny, Quebec (about an hour east of Quebec City). It's the festival's 15th year. Some 40,000 people attended.

I wanted to share with you one of the main events featured at the Festival for the first time. I think it's something musicians, folk music festivals may want to consider doing.

The event is one which has become extremely popular with musicians in Quebec in the past five years. Hundreds attend. The best way to describe it is a mixture of Improv and Hockey. It was a festival hit.


1) There are two teams (in this case three accordion players on each team);
2) The teams wear hockey jerseys (Red versus Blue);
3) Each team has a Coach;
4) There is a Referee (with striped shirt and whistle) who oversees the action, who throws down a puck (one side red, one side blue), can call penalties;
4) There is an announcer, a judge and a statistician who keeps score both on the "plays" and on each player.
5) Coaches can argue penalty rulings with the Referee;
6) There is a Three Star Selection at the end of the game;
7) There are three Periods of twenty minutes each.


1) A "theme" is thrown out to the musicians. For example, "Play Morrocan music about being lost in a dark night in a market square", or "The Olympics";
2) Each team is given 28 seconds to discuss what they are going to do, who will lead, who will follow, if one person, two or all three try to perform at once;
3) One must make up the music on the spot. No known tunes or songs can be performed. If you do then your Team is given a penalty;
4) Acting, dancing, interacting with the audience, small props are encouraged. Anything can be used to add to the Theme;
5) Penalties are given if the Referee decides you are not performing in the Theme. For example, if you perform French musette tunes when asked for something South American.
6) A team is given penalties if they interfere with the other side, talk through an ongoing performance.


Each member of the audience is given a Red card and a Blue card. After each theme is performed the audience votes by raising the coloured card of the Team they thought did a better performance.

The audience is also given knitted woolen socks that they can roll up and throw at the Referee at any time if they disagree with his rulings.


There were three players on my team (The Rouges, Red), myself on piano accordion, one from the Dominican Republic on button accordion and one from Quebec on small piano accordion. The Blue Team featured two guys from France, both played full sized five row button accordions, and one Quebecois on a double row button squeezebox.

Like the beginning of a hockey game each side, coach and player were announced as we ran on with cheers from the audience.

When I came out to join my Red Team we sang the chorus of "The Internationale" with our fists in the air and making rude gestures to the other Team. The Blues then stood up and played a chorus of "Le Marsellaise" in response.

The Referee called the beginning of the game. The puck was thrown to decide which team would go first.

Sometimes one Theme was given and both sides had to perform the same Theme, one side following the other. Sometimes one theme was given and both sides had to "mix it up" both Teams performing at once. Sometimes a Theme was given and the Teams were given a choice of styles to play the Themes in. Each time a Theme was given we were given between 2 and 4 minutes to perform it.

Here are some of the Themes thrown out at the Festival:

1) Perform music about a streetwalker at night in the French style;
2) Theme - The Pub is closed, performed either in Bavarian style or as a cha-cha;
3) Theme - A song of hectic life performed either in Balkan tradition or in a Russian tradition. If chosen in the Russian tradition then it must be performed in the style of the Red Army chorus;
4) Theme - Heaven and Hell - performed either as Country and Western or as North American folk;
5) Theme - Sonata for Accordion, to be performed in baroque style;
6) Heavy Metal music - the theme, "Accordion Death";
7) Cajun music, the theme, "I Have No Teeth";
8) Theme - a hectic out of control Zebra, done either as Rap or as Rythmn and Blues;
9) Theme - A Duck Walking in the Park, performed in the style of a children's show.


I took the lead for my Team to do the Accordion Sonata in baroque as did one of the performers from France. We met in the middle of the stage, bowed to each other, looked at the audience seriously then he commenced to play. I caught the key he was in and tried to take over with my own theme, he countering, me playing counterpoint to him. The performance was to be for four minutes. At the end of it we both stood up and took bows. We were given a standing ovation from the audience. The vote was close and I won by three votes out of an audience of about 100 people.

I also took the lead on the Theme of Heaven and Hell. The Blue Team won the toss and chose to perform it in R&B style. Our team had to perform in North American folk music style. I told my team mates that i'd be performing in they key of A. I threw on a paid of sunglasses, walked to the middle of the stage, grabbed the microphone and sat down. I sighed into the microphone and instantly egan to sing a song with an impersonation of Bob Dylan singing aout how he came to play an accordion. The words . . . "Oh, my name is Bob Dylan, i'll sit with you just a spell. Some say my music's from Heaven, I just know that I feel like Hell . . ".

On the Heavy Metal "Accordion Death" theme both sides had to be on stage and perform at the same time. The Blues began pounding out Rock chords, I ended up falling to my knees and bending over backwards as I played. My team mate then did the same and we pretended to gring our accordions against each other from the hips. It was complete mayhem.

Joaquin Diaz from my team performed a tune in "the French style" and performed something very Meringue (sp?). the Referee ruled a penalty against him. Our coach ran to the microphone and argued that since Meringue music came from a French colony the music was absorbed by the French! The audience threw socks at the Referee.


The entire production lasted about two hours (with two intermissions included).

My Team (The Rouges) won once all the points and penalties were added up.

I was chosen as Le Premier Etoile, The First Star of the game.

The audience loved it and talked about it for days. We performers were exhausted, stressed, excited, had incredible fun. The Referee was pelted with woolen socks throughout the game. They're thinking about making it a regular event at the Festival in Montmagny.

If you need more info and contact about the games, how it's run, perhaps contacting Le Carrefour Mondialede l'Accordeon is the best thing to do.

The website is:
Address: 301, boulevard Tache Est
Montmagny, Quebec G5V 1C5
Tel: 418 248 7927

For music that never dies,

Len Wallace

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