The New Manfrini Aria from Robert Rolston
by Daniel McPhee
My father introduced me to the button accordion when I was around ten years old; after showing me what he could, I progressed to further tuition from Addie Harper senior, eventually becoming part of The Wick Band and playing for dances and ceilidhs all over Scotland.
I initially began on an old Italian Zero-Sette, gradually progressing to a Hohner Gaelic IVs as my musical abilities improved, then one summer night in June 1987 I became the proud owner of a Hohner Shand Morino (40 key model).
It was to become my pride and joy and over the years I performed in many, many dance halls all over the country and was privileged to meet many grand musicians along the way.
Many years have passed since then and around 2007 I decided to take a rest from the travelling and commitments of music. I of course took the Morino out for a tune now and again, but my interest seemed to waver and try as I may I could not rekindle the fire. Then in July of 2013 I saw this magnificent black three-row button accordion being played on YouTube by well-known Perth accordionist Alex McIntyre. My mind began turning, as this beautiful instrument captivated my thoughts. I soon found out that this box was manufactured by Robert Rolston of Manfrini Accordions, a well-known figure in accordion history. I tracked Robert down, who was by the way in Italy at the time, and over the phone we talked at length about his new three-row, the “Manfrini Aria”.
The first question Robert had thrown at him was “How soon can I acquire one”. Well, he replied, it takes a while as they are made to order but we have the proto-type down here for sale, Manfrini Aria 001. A deal was struck and Robert agreed to deliver this black shiny three-row the following day.
Robert arrived mid-afternoon and after a cup of tea, I strapped on this new box. To state I was impressed would be an understatement. This machine handled superbly and the control and tone, never before had I handled a box with such ease. I had in my time owned many different types of three-row and while most were good each one seem to have their little problems custom to that model, e.g. bellows control, handling ability, button pressure, to name a few. I found the Aria to have none of these and each night found myself playing with vigour again. After a few weeks another thought lodged in my mind. I owned a very nice Shand Morino and a few other nice boxes, but preferring the Aria to all of them I called Robert to see if he would be interested in a trade in.
Another deal was struck this time for another brand new wood finish Aria. This accordion took six months to be finished by the finest craftsmen/women in the Manfrini factory in Milan, Italy. I received this model on the 25th of January 2014 and found it to be even better than the prototype Aria 001.
Norman Mackay, (The Ceilidh Master) who is one of Scotland’s finest accordionist also has a new Manfrini on order as I write this article, as does a good friend of mine, John Milne Mullen from Fife who owns Manfrini Aria 002.
I will conclude this write up by saying that although the Hohner Shand Morino is without doubt the greatest accordion of the twentieth century, Robert Rolston has given the 21st century a three-row just as good as its predecessor, the Shand Morino. The quality is all there, the hand-made reeds and the handling ability that a three-row player needs. Manfrini goes from strength to strength and the future of the accordion, piano and button, is safe in the hands of Robert Rolston of Manfrini Accordions.