Italian handcrafts: Vercelli Accordions
- WTI Magazine #124 Feb 16, 2020
The city of Vercelli has over 2500 years of history and was probably founded about a century after the city of Rome. Numerous accounts have survived from the past, one by Pliny the Elder, who said of it: “Vercellae Libicorum ex Salyis ortae”. The accordion, however, only entered Vercelli’s history at the beginning of the twentieth century, with Simone Merlo, an accordion maker who opened the first workshop after completing his apprenticeship in Stradella.
There were already several more after the First World War, when many veterans of the conflict redeemed their war service coupons in the Bank of Novara and decided to invest in accordion workshops.
“Coopé Harmonics” was established in Vercelli in 1921 as a cooperative formed by skilled workers from other accordions workshops, who pooled their efforts and creativity as working partners. Coopé Armoniche, combining all the experience of its workers, specialised in the manufacture of accordions, especially in the creation of a unique and particular “Musette” tone.
The production, from as many as 24 workshops established since the early 1900s, began to be affected by the war and by changes, as it was mainly aimed at the export market.
By the 1960s accordions were less in demand and many workshops closed. The only one to survive was Coopé Armoniche, which continued to operate with three working partners.
In 1981, Pancrazio Aichino and Emiliana Roviaro decided to extend this work and brought in some young people from vocational schools to work alongside the elderly artisans.
It was not a simple task, but the young people learned the trade, former markets that had been somewhat neglected were recovered, a new enthusiasm began to spread and old and new customers endorsed and appreciated the product. The company, in the meantime, unable to continue as a cooperative, was reborn as Cooperfisa, a company in the joint name of Aichino and Roviaro and successor to “Cooperativa Armoniche”.
Unfortunately, one of the partners, Pancrazio Aichino, passed away in 1990, but not without passing on his passion and enthusiasm for the accordion to his son Romeo, who still continues his father’s work.Today, despite various challenges, Coopé Armoniche S.n.c. is recognised and appreciated throughout the musical world, and is proud of the fact that, through its efforts, it has managed to re-establish the training ground for young workers and pass on the craft of accordion making, which otherwise would have been lost.
The workers, with their determination and passion, have regained foreign markets, such as Germany, France, Portugal and Brazil.
The words: “Vercelli - Italy” are still engraved by hand on every instrument that is made. The accordions made in Vercelli are known today for their sound and quality and are appreciated by the best musicians.
The construction is done by skilled artisans: the reeds are handmade and nailed onto leather or waxed onto the wind chest; tuning is done manually by experts using electronic frequency meters. Traditional experience has acquired a modern approach to offer unique tones in all models.
By Camera di Commercio di Vercelli with Unioncamere