The Ghost in the Keys
BY SEAN T.C. O'MALLEY, Music Director and Musician for INDECENT.
The accordion I play in our production of INDECENT is something of a magical being. Ken Lykes rescued it from being trashed at the Blaisdell Hotel downtown—and despite its exterior clearly showing its age (at least 50 yrs) it is in tune and fully functional! Ken was gracious enough to loan it to me for the show. I replaced the aged leather shoulder straps, which showed a lot of wear and would have been a disaster if they failed—but the left hand (bass) strap looked intact.
Well, old leather is old leather, and on a dramatic bellows pull during Wednesday’s rehearsal the strap split in two, with a suddenness that nearly knocked me down.
And . . . I initially thought, “No problem, even though there are no accordion repair technicians on island, that’s what amazon prime is for! I can have a replacement strap here in no time, all I have to do is figure out how to open up the accordion.”
Have I mentioned this is an antique? A “Davinci” accordion, most likely made in Italy in the 1950s. And when I got it open, I found out that the hardware attaching the strap was 1) not the same as the modern commercially available kind; 2) a precision length; and 3) attached with rivets.
But this show—this show is about artists, theatre performers, musicians, people who persevere in their need to create art in the face of obscene hardship. And I thought, what would the man I am playing, Moriz Godowsky, have done in the ghetto in 1944 if his accordion strap broke?
So I took my problem to a shoe repairman. Who, for $30, retrieved the antique hardware, cut a new strap from available cowhide he had on hand (with the hair still on it), and riveted the pieces together.
And the accordion lives and breathes again, lending an even more distinctive voice to our production.
And sometimes, the ghost in the keys even contributes its own note to my playing . . .