After a long absence of any posts from me, I am about to start the restoration of a very battered Scandalli Polyphonic accordion and I hope to report here as I proceed through the restoration work.
Some years ago, I was fortunate to meet the acquaintance of a great accordionist Dr Denis Smith. Denis was the musician for the Westminster Morris Men and played in various ensembles such as The Country Players along side the late Pat Shaw and Nan Fleming-Williams, The Smith Square with his son Matthew and daughter Jenny, he also had a long standing partnership with fiddle player Jim Coleman, which is to name but a few of his musical guises.
Denis has a very distinctive style of playing using block chords on his left hand, and he played a Scandalli Polyphonic accordion which, with it’s grill mutes and hand-made reeds also gave a very mellow sound, which meant whether you heard his music on a recording or while he was playing live for a concert or dancing display, what you heard would be unmistakably pure Denis Smith.
From around 1960, Denis played a Scandalli accordion and the original instrument (seen in the above photo), was replaced by an identical instrument after the wear and tear of playing for many weekends of Morris took it’s toll. It was quite common to see running repairs being carried out in-between performances, and on one occasion the poor thing suffered from a literal melt down, when some unthinking person stood it in front of an open fire and some of the piano keys and couplers were damaged but Denis continued to play it complete with curly keys!
After many years of playing for Westminster, Denis retired from the team (Circa 2005) and the old ‘Morris box’ was put to rest in his garage in a very poorly condition. However, one evening while my wife and I was having dinner with Denis and his wife, knowing that I was delving into accordion repair and tuning, he decided to hand over what was left of the original Scandalli to me for ‘Learning purposes’. I stripped the box down but sadly the casing and keyboards were so damaged the whole thing was abandoned as way beyond economical repair, even if in the unlikely event that I could actually lay my hands on any of the parts that were needed for this long since out of production instrument, so it has lived under a bench in my workshop ever since.
Well I must be a glutton for punishment or something, as after much searching my friend Emilio from Allodi Accordions, has made available a suitable donor instrument and I am going to start the long process of restoring this poor old box to hopefully somewhere near it’s former glory – So watch this space and wish me luck!!