WATERBURY, Conn. — As Bill Comer ran his fingers over the black and white keys of an accordion, the jazz notes to “Fly Me to the Moon” filled the room.
More than 100 people sat around white linen-covered tables in a reception hall at Vasi’s Restaurant, tapping their feet to the beat and trying to respectfully hold the applause until the Wilton High School sophomore could finish his solo. In a room filled with accordion musicians many times Comer’s age, there was joy in watching a young musician play.
“Thank God the kids are taking over,” said Linda Soley Reed, president of the American Accordion Association.
Four members of the American Accordion Association’s Junior Orchestra delighted the crowd participating in the 10th anniversary celebration of the Connecticut Accordion Association. The celebration, complete with accordion cake, brought together players from as far away as Virginia, Maryland and New York.
A band of 17 accordion players from the Connecticut group performed a diverse repertoire, including classical music and show tunes from Rogers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.”
Not a polka was heard as the versatile accordion delighted musicians of all ages and some restaurant patrons who stuck their heads in just to see.
It was an important anniversary for the Connecticut Accordion Association, and some of its founding members hadn’t seen each other for years. One of the group’s highlights was performing Tchaikovsky with the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra in 2006.
Since then, the group has been featured on local TV shows, at the Hartford Stage and numerous other places.
For accordion players Marilyn O’Neill and Mary Tokarski, co-chairs of the Connecticut Accordion Association, the love for the instrument goes back to the childhood when they first learned to play it.
O’Neill, who grew up in Waterbury, said the city was a hub for accordion music, producing important musicians including Bob Mobilio, a local musician and music teacher, who died in March.
The Junior Orchestra brought a shot of vitality to Sunday’s gathering with popular tunes from Germany, Russia, Italy and Ukraine. A medley also included the theme song from the game app Angry Birds.
Started in 2012, the Junior Orchestra includes some talented musicians. The youngest to perform on Sunday is 10-year old Cody McSherry, a member of the Delaware Accordion Club, whose chin barely cleared the top of the instrument on his lap.
Cody played and sang a tune called “In Munich There Is an Opera House.”
Liubov Pak, from Virginia, a 10th-grader who moved here from Russia last year, played Russian music and a Ukrainian song, whose name she didn’t know in English. It hardly mattered once she started playing.
As the audience gave her in a standing ovation and protracted applause, she flashed a shy smile, pleased at being perfectly understood through music.