Look! It’s an orchestra! It’s an organ! No! It’s … accordion!

by Val Friesen

Concerts just don’t get better than this. The South Okanagan Concert Society chose a world class accordionist, Alexander Sevastian, to open their four-concert season on Friday evening, October 28th.

From the moment he began Bach’s magnificent Toccata and Fugue in D-minor, filling the Alliance Church with organ resonance, consummate musician Sevastian held the full-house audience in rapt attention. His technical mastery of the bayan, the chromatic button accordion, allowed him to produce music now of sublime subtlety or now flooding the hall in magnificent splendour. Johann Sebastian would himself have marvelled at the colours Sevastian’s fleet fingers pulled from his instrument. Astonishing!

The three Scarlatti sonatas which followed, opened a window onto a crisp Italian morning as fresh it must have been three centuries ago, then transported us out into a glorious day, our hearts filled with the simple joys of being alive. Sevastian’s radiant playing of this delicate, transcendental music was a remarkable gift to his spellbound listeners.

The beautifully balanced program then took us into the unexplored territory of music from Sevastian’s Russian homeland, music composed for the accordion. The six movements of Vladislav Zolotaryov’s Chamber Suite evoked the coming of evening, then moonlight, a snowfall at night that you could feel as well as see, mysterious visions that tingled your spine and then the dark colours of gloomy sorrow, and closing with a romping Old Fairy Tale. A gallery of emotions, musical paintings, superbly played.

The first half of the program concluded with another Zolotaryov piece, the final movement of his Sonata No. 3—seemingly a musical setting of your worst pursuit nightmare, you frantically running to escape the relentless and terrifying phantoms at your heels. Amazing music magnificently played.

The second half of the program opened with another contemporary Russian piece, Semenov’s Don Rhapsody. Here, while drifting down the Don, the Russian countryside is brought to life much as Smetana did in The Moldau using evocative folk music to paint the scene. Beautiful shifting rhythms and moods.

The evening held much more of this enrapturing music that flowed through the medium of this sensitive artist. He inhabited the very soul of Tchaikovsky, transforming the written notes of October into the nostalgia of a summer love lost, lost. Sevastian swept us into a ballroom, swaying to the rhythms of von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. He carried us to the haunting loneliness of the Russian Steppes and sent us to witness the swirling colours of Cossack dancing.

Who would have thought that accordion music could ever cast such a spell? Well, it did, and we have the Concert Society and its generous sponsors to thank for bringing such an outstanding event to our community. There are three more series concerts to come, and tickets are still available. Get one if you haven’t already. Your soul deserves it.

Tickets: $20 single ticket, $60 four-way flex pass (saves $5 per seat!), 17 yrs and under FREE. Available at Beyond Bliss (Oliver), Imperial Office Pro (Osoyoos), and at the door.

Upcoming Concert: Kallisto Trio, a cappella,  Friday November 25th