Polkas, Broadway show tunes, and movie themes made up the early curriculum. Within a few years, Mr. Irene began studying the challenging music of accordion virtuoso performer and educator, Charles Magnante.
In 1939 Magnante and his trio played in Carnegie Hall. With a single event, Magnante changed the image of the piano accordion from a folk instrument to a versatile and expressive voice for jazz and classical music. The Magnante Trio soon found new audiences and venues for their work. Magnante dominated the accordion music world with his engaging live performances, musical arrangements, recordings, and original compositions from the 1940s through the early 1960s.
Mr. Irene played the Magnante composition, Accordion Boogie, for a Chicago-area competition in the summer of 1969. The following spring, Mr. Irene represented his sixth-grade class at a school talent show by reprising this tune. Listen to this thirteen-year-old accordionist play Accordion Boogie much like the young Mr. Irene did—it’s a precise reading, but a little rushed. This version comes from a more seasoned accordionist. The slightly slower rhythm and accented bass make the piece swing.
By the end of his music lessons, Mr. Irene had taken up Lithuanian folk melodies using a guide book he discovered in a Lithuanian gift shop in Marquette Park.
Suburban Chicago, 1965. Sheet music cover for the accordion solo arrangement of Hello Dolly.
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Suburban Chicago, 1969. Sheet music cover for the Magnante composition, Accordion Boogie.
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Suburban Chicago, 1971. Inside cover page of a Lithuanian-language, accordion method book, The Youngest Accordionist, written by the musician and arranger Povilas Četkauskas. The Chicago-based, Lithuanian-American, Karvelis Press published it. The book featured Lithuanian folk songs and dances as well as solo transcriptions of well known classical piano and opera melodies.