Every time Jelena Milojevic plays the accordion, it’s like she’s performing as a small orchestra.
Unlike some instruments, accordions are portable harmonic instruments, able to play both melodies and harmonies in one. With the bellows it can be very expressive. It can be quiet and loud and make almost any sound imaginable.
“A piano can do that (play harmonies and melodies), but it’s not portable. Guitar is the only one that can measure up to the accordion, but it can’t do the dynamics that an accordion can. It’s not nearly as expressive,” said Milojevic.
The Saanich resident is trying to break the stereotype around the instrument, as one of the featured performers at next week’s 11th annual Victoria International Accordion Festival.
Milojevic started playing more than 25 years ago in her hometown of Pulla, Croatia. While she admits the accordion was not her first choice – she wanted to play the harp or piano – she quickly fell in love with it.
Growing up, she learned from some of the best accordionists in the world and began winning prizes and playing concerts. Eventually, she studied at a university in Serbia, one of the world centres for accordion.
These days, she’s keeping her musical passion alive.
“When people hear that I’m playing accordion here, they’re kind of surprised. They think of accordions as an old-fashion instrument that plays polka,” Milojevic said. “I explain that accordions are so much more than just playing polkas. It’s such a versatile instrument, it can play all different styles of music.”
The festival, running July 13 to 16, is focused on celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday and bringing together musicians, including accordionists from around the country and the world.
This year’s events includes a gala opening concert featuring performances by Canadian fiddlers Daniel Lapp and Pierre Schryer, as well as accordionist Adrian Dolan, Irish button accordionist Dermot Byrne, classical accordionist Michael Bridge and the accordion-trumpet duo of Jesse Mea and Roland Bourgeois from New Brunswick.
The gala kicks off the four-day festival on Thursday, July 13 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the First Metropolitan United Church, 932 Balmoral Rd. at Quadra Street.
Over the four days there will also be accordion lessons, workshops and an accordion competition at the University of Victoria.
For more information visit bcaccordion.ca.