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Record number of accordion players gather on Saaremaa

A Lõõtspill accordion.
A Lõõtspill accordion. Source: ERR

Close to 70 Lõõtspill (diatonic button accordion) players congregated on Saaremaa on Saturday, the largest to have done so, according to participants.

Musicians traveled to Estonia's largest island in honor of Sulev Mägi, a famed veteran performer on the island, who was also celebrating his 75th birthday.

The event was also the sixth Saaremaa Lõõtspill day.

Tõnu Eermann, event organizer, said: "Sulev's phenomenon is that it is he who has been the flag-bearer of Saaremaa wind instruments, for decades. Thanks to him, the instruments remain alive and well here."

Suleve himself said: "I really liked it. I want to continue developing the wind instrument, even as I can't straighten the fingers on my left hand anymore; but anyway, this is my Lõõtspill-playing hand, it has to be crooked."

Sulev said he had lost count of the number of times he had had to perform at his own birthday party, while Eermann put the number of attendees at well over 60.

While Sulev is used to being Saaremaa's sole diatonic button accordion practitioner, with musicians often having to be brought over from the mainland to perform, the situation on the island is getting better, he said.

He started playing at around the age of 10, learning first on a Russian-style Garmon accordion which his mother bought for him from the proceeds of selling a sow at Kingisepp (present-day Kuressaare) market.

Of hopeful signs, lõõtspill instrument master and teacher Heino Tartes out the figure of players at 400-500 nationwide at present.

"It has grown incredibly well, and there have been a lot more young people taking part," he said.

Kendra, from Märjamaa, aged nine, who says she has mastered around 20 tunes in her repertoire so far, is one good example of this.

Kendra said at the age of four, she announced to her grandmother that she wanted to play the accordion. "It's more hard learn, but it's easy to play once you know how," she said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming.

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Margus Muld.

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