We travel to Oslo, Norway. Terje’s house is not far from Karl Johansgate and the city centre. A duplex that he shares with his partner Hanne. Just up a small flight of steps from the yard. Rusten stands in the doorway. In the living room, there are four accordions on the floor. One of them is his favourite, a Zero Zette B30C from the 1990s. He has three of them, but they are different vintages. Terje picks up one of them and places his fingers in the right spots.

It’s almost as though the accordion is part of him. He’s been playing since the age of two and got his first real accordion at the age of six. He’s been sold on it ever since.

 “My Dad plays the fiddle and my Mum dances, but they never played accordion. It was my uncle who introduced me to the instrument. He was my role model when I was young,” Terje says.

CHAMPIONSHIPS AND FOLK MUSIC ENSEMBLES

Terje played the accordion regularly, almost every day, until he was 22. He took part in competitions, festivals, events and various kinds of performances. In 1996 and 2006, he went on tours to the US to perform at concerts in different states, and also competed in many different Nordic championships. He’s competed in the Norwegian championships every year since 1991, both as a soloist and in various groups. But his job gradually took over and he started playing less. However, music has remained part of his life as a hobby and a way to relax.

“The amount I play has varied over the years. Without boasting, I could probably say I’m one of the best amateur accordion players in the Nordic region, and I’ve collected a lot of medals over the years. But I’ve reviewed my priorities over the past few years and now I’m adding more music to my life again.”

Terje continues, “I’ve been quite active over the past two to three years. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and more selfish about my hobbies and leisure time. It’s important to have a life outside of work, and for me playing is relaxing. It also gives me energy and makes me feel more motivated at work.”

AN OLD INSTRUMENT

The accordion comes in several variations. Its basic principles were designed in 1822. The first accordion was patented in 1829 under the name “Akkordin,” and the first piano accordion was made in 1910.

“I think the Italians and Russians make the best accordions. The most famous Swedish accordions are the Hagströms. I play a Zero Zette accordion, which is Italian, and what I like best. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an excellent one, and I wouldn’t sell it for all the money in the world,” he says with a smile.

As a child Terje attended an after-school music programme to learn how to read music. But since sheet music was not really his liking, he soon left the programme.

“I do regret not learning to read music today. I only play by ear and it works fine, but sometimes ii would be nice to play a tune that you’ve never heard before by reading the notes. But I consider a good ear to be a wonderful gift and one of my talents, and it’s easy for me to learn new material. A good ear is essential if you want to be a good musician.”

While Terje is playing I ask him if he’s ever thought of trying to make a living from music.

“Well, when I was deciding what to study, an acquaintance who was a professor of accordion at the Norwegian Academy of Music asked me about it. He thought that with my talent I should concentrate on music, but I’m glad that I chose to keep it as a hobby. I prefer being head of sales at Södra,” he says and laughs, a bit cannily.

The music keeps filling the house. Terje is playing a lively reinlender, and I can see how happy he is. Outside the window, it’s autumn and the streets of Oslo are silent. But it’s not quiet in the house. The music continues.

About the accordion

Both large accordions and smaller melodeons are common in Swedish folk music and gammaldans music. The instrument is also used for country music and found in many dance bands. Accordions are also prominent in Slavic folk music, and in the cultures of those countries.

The most famous Swedish accordion is the Hagström.