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A Century of Passion

Among professionals and amateurs alike, the Quebec town of Montmagny is considered a hotbed of diatonic accordion playing. The instrument, recognized by the Quebec government for its contribution to national intangible heritage, has maintained a strong presence for more than a century.

How did the accordion become the instrument of choice in the region? No one knows the full answer. But one important factor has been its role in providing the soundtrack for traditional dance. The accordion is a durable and affordable instrument capable of providing the full sound required by dancers.

Even today, accordions remain plentiful in Montmagny! In fact, they can be found lying around in many a local home. You may even hear a few notes in the distance…

Black and white map showing part of Quebec and indicating the locations of major cities. A colour inset map shows Montmagny.

The icons on this map show where accordionists lived in Montmagny. Can you believe there are so many?

So, how has the accordion been faring so far in the 21st century? Quite well! Over the decades, the region’s leading accordionists have made a point of passing on their passion and dedication to the younger generation.

In 1989, these efforts culminated in the creation of a festival and the establishment of the École internationale de musique de Montmagny. For many years, this international music school has been offering diatonic accordion classes for children. Each semester, six or seven beginner accordionist commit to carrying on the region’s musical traditions.

Young accordionists perform at an event marking maple syrup season. Watch the video with description (EN).

The instrument’s deep roots in the Montmagny area reflect the efforts of pioneers to share their passion with younger musicians, right up to the present day. The spirit of camaraderie that reigns among accordionists has helped foster the transmission of musical knowledge and local repertoires. As a result, the tradition is alive and well! But despite achieving high levels of success, most of the accordionists involved have remained extremely humble. Many of them would say:

I’m not a real musician!