Accordionist Runs Away, Joins Circus. But She'll Be Back.

Lidia Kaminska's accordion brought her from her native Poland to Kansas, where she earned a rare, if not unique, doctorate in accordion, and then to Philadelphia, where was been picked up by Astral Artists. She brings serious artistry to an instrument more often discounted as kitsch (at least in this country), and performs for the pretigious Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in January at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

But in the meantime, Kaminska has landed a great gig - traveling with Cirque du Soleil's Alegría. The show is currently on tour in Canada, and we caught up with her via email.


How did the job with Cirque come to be, and have you ever done this kind of work before?
This is definitely my first job for the Cirque. I have been working for Cirque du Soleil since September 2009. I got a call from them when I was visiting my parents in Poland. I had to decide in a few days if I wanted to do it. They needed an accordionist, a temporary position for 10 weeks. The accordionist who has the permanent contract has a medical problem, so she has been on and off the tour. I sent a application to the Cirque almost five years ago when I moved to Philadelphia from Kansas City, it was just after school. My husband heard about the Cirque du Soleil and he recommend that I apply for it. That was a quite surprise to hear from them after 5 years. I rebooked my ticket from Poland and went to Montreal for training, which included learning my make-up using about ten brushes. BTW, it takes me about an hour to put on my make-up before the show.

Why did you decide to do this?
I heard about Cirque du Soleil and I attended one show in Philadelphia, the Quidam. I was so impressed with the level of artistry among the gymnasts and musicians. The show was amazing, it was so different from the "typical" circus. I checked some youtube excerpts of Alegría and loved the music. Alegría is about 16 years old but I think still has some of the most beautiful music of all the shows of Cirque du Soleil. It also features the accordion. I play in almost every act. The major factors also in the decision were the salary and health benefits.

What music do you play in the show? Is it solo, or with an ensemble?
I play in the ensemble: accordion, keyboards, saxophone, bass, drums and percussion. The music is quite easy technically but beautiful and exciting.

What's it like traveling with a circus?
It is very impressing to travel with the Cirque du Soleil. They take care of our suitcases which are picked up from our rooms and dropped off in the next hotel, usually four stars. We fly to the next city, Cirque rents a big plane for us, for about 50 artists and 50 crew members. Sometimes we travel by bus, if it's less than 6 hours to the next destination. We change destination every week. Very often we go to beautiful places in the U.S. and Canada - British Columbia, and for the next leg we go to Hawaii for three weeks.

What's on your Philadelphia Chamber Music Society program?
I will play works by Bach, Scarlatti, Paganini/ Liszt, Mendelssohn, as well as music by Michael Portal, Jacob de Bandolim and Astor Piazzolla. I am so excited - I included compositions I have always wanted to perform. I will be joined by a few outstanding musicians, an Astral artist Benito Meza, violinist Leonardo Suarez-Paz (the son of Fernando Suarez-Paz, Piazzolla's own violinist), guitarist Adam Tully, pianist Octavio Brunetti and bassist Jose Roeder.

How much longer does the Cirque job last?
I have a contract until the beginning of December. And later, let's see.

Hear a bit of the Cirque music here.