Accordion to some fun facts on the internet, singer/comedian Weird Al Yankovic got his first accordion at the age of seven. This seems to be the hallmark age for beginning a career as a squeezebox player. On Saturday, February 2, the accordion virtuoso Alexander Sevastian will be gracing the stage at Showplace Theatre with the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra’s debut of RUSSIAN FIRE. Sevastian also started his accordion career at the age of seven, when he was finally strong enough to hold the heavy instrument for an extended period of time.
Sevastian grew up in Belarus, an Eastern European country that borders Russia. His father was an amateur accordion player and Sevastian grew up loving the trademark sounds of this instrument. While he began his accordion career in Russia, Sevastian’s career as a virtuoso started after he immigrated to Canada. He is the award-winner of several international accordion competitions, including the prestigious Coupe Mondiale World Accordion Championship.
Sevastian has played in every province in Canada, as well as the Yukon. The only places he has yet to play are the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. When asked if he likes Canada, he says, “You know, when I play good concerts, I like it a lot.”
The accordion was a popular instrument during Sevastian’s childhood. He explains, “Accordion music was everywhere. It was very common.” While currently less popular in Canada, the accordion still holds a place of prominence in other parts of the world. For example, Sevastian estimates that there are thirty universities in Russia that offer a degree in accordion. This makes the competition in those countries fierce, whereas the competition in Canada is scarce.
Sevastian is helping to increase the popularity of accordion music with his group Quartetto Gelato, which is also known as the “ice-cream quartet.” Known for their neo-classical sound, the quartet adds a playful twist to instruments that typically have more of a traditional sound. The group certainly caught the attention of Peterborough Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director, Michael Newnham, and Sevastian was invited to perform as a featured part of the February concert.
Much like the versatility of the accordion, RUSSIAN FIRE will incorporate a wide-range of instruments and themes. Sevastian explains, “We will be exploring a different side of the instruments. Most of the pieces I will be playing were written by Victor Gridin, who was like a hero of the accordion in Russia. It may be the first time in the world that these pieces will be played with an orchestral symphony and not the traditional folk ensemble. It’ll be a totally new experience for me.”
If you want to witness this virtuoso perform his craft, check out RUSSIAN FIRE at the Showplace Performance Centre on February 2, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.