Peter Piccini passed away
Published: 2011-10-12 12:11:39
By: Dr John Whiteoak
Peter resided in Perth with his charming wife of fifty years Fina (Serafina). Right to the very end, he played brilliantly, composed and mentored gifted students, despite a health setback that few would have had the faith to overcome. While representing a living link with the commencement of the piano accordion tradition in Australia ninety years ago through his father, he was also a good example of the often encountered Italian family convention where accordion knowledge and love of the accordion is transferred from father to child. In Peter´s case the gift of knowledge he received was immense, and taken with deep and lasting gratitude.
He says of his influences that ´My Dad was the number one- as an accordionist, composer arranger and teacher.´
Peter was born in Sydney in 1936. His mother, Veronica was Irish-Australian, therefore it might be expected that Peter´s engagement with Italian ethnicity would turn out to be the most assimilated of all those discussed so far. Yet he was destined to make same strong and lasting connections with Italy early in his career. Like the Toppanos, he inherited very good looks and a talent that was apparent by age seven when he gave his first performance on accordion in a church hall at Greenwich, New South Wales. Soon thereafter he also studied piano, but his general education suffered severely because of chronic asthma and other illnesses. His father remarried and relocated to Perth just after the War, and when Peter joined him there in 1949, Peter Snr compensated for his absence and his son´s loss of general education by intensely fostering and promoting his musical talent and passing on everything he knew about the piano accordion.
By 1951 at age fifteen Peter had begun broadcasting with the ABC, commercial stations, Perth community radio and also on a weekly radio program that publicized his father´s thriving Musette Music Shoppe and school in Forrest Place, Perth. Broadcasting, club work and teaching for Musette kept him fully occupied until 1954 when he too sought his own fame in Britain and the Continent. His many successes included nineteen broadcasts for BBC and commercial television and a televised appearance at the iconic Pigalle Restaurant in Piccadilly with the world renowned French vocalist, Line Renaud. He appeared on programs with two of England´s leading accordion virtuosi, Ivor Beynon and Jack Emblow (leading his Art Van Damme-style quintet) and was a featured Guest Artist at the 1955 Inter national Accordion Festival of Great Britain. In Germany he broadcast over a continent-wide network. Record Mirror published a glowing article about his
´magic´ musicianship entitled ´Ace Accordionist from Down Under´ which was reprinted in The Australian Accordionist.
Back in Australia the following year, he threw himself into management of the school and ils 150 students a week, broadcasting, and leading a trio at a popular Perth night club, Corzino´s. Then he received probably the greatest honour ever offered to an Italian Australian accordionist: a tour of Italy with the world famous star of the San Remo Song Festivals, Claudio Villa. On hearing Peter play, Villa is reported to have become very enthused and to have declared: ´I´ll take you with me to Italy. We are going to find an accordion worthy of your passion.´ He joined Villa in Rome in August 1958 where he was given two new accordions by Galanti, and the first month of his engagement diary, alone, suggests the incredible pace and excitement of this adventure: Pescia, Rimini, Parma (with 32,000 audience), Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Lucca. He also did radio and television shows and recorded film sound tracks and many singles for the Italian recording company Cetra in Turin, including several of his own compositions.
Soon after returning to Australia in 1959 and re-en gaging with the local scene he met Fina. They were married in 1961 by which time the Piccini music school had taken on three teachers. Peter performed at his father´s restaurant, La Fontana, in Como between television and other engagements and he continued with teaching and managing business and producing more sides for Cetra, including his own Serafina Tarantella. In April 1963 he wound up his Musette af fairs when, David Kruygger, a gifted former student of his father´s, agreed to take over his students. Accompanied by Fina, Peter embarked on another Italian musical adventure that continued until July 1965 and provided a further wealth of professional experience, Importantly, for his career to come, it required him to rapidly become a first class pianist as well as an accordion virtuoso.
The Golden Age of the accordion was over in main stream entertainment but Peter still had a brilliant musical career ahead of him, especially in television as musical director, soloist and accompanist, leading bands in the top night venues, and further overseas tours, including a wartime tour of Vietnam, and tours to Europe and the USA. Despite his additional repute as
a piano and organist he never ceased to identify with the accordion as his instrument and to acknowledge his legendary ability as a gift from Australia´s ´Daddy of the Accordion´.