News your connection to The Boston Globe

Anthony Galla-Rini, renowned accordion player

LOS ANGELES -- From performing on a vaudeville stage at 7 through conducting summer-camp ensembles in his 90s, Anthony Galla-Rini lived by the motto ``Have trunk, will travel." He needed the trunk for one simple reason: to carry his accordion.

The internationally known accordion player, composer, and arranger died July 30 at Corona Regional Medical Center in Corona, Calif., after suffering a heart seizure, said his son, Ron. He was 102.

Mr. Galla-Rini played a variety of woodwind and brass instruments, starting with the cornet, but the accordion was his passion.

``It was his entire life's work, to elevate the accordion to a concert instrument," Ron Galla-Rini said last week.

A self-taught musician with virtually no formal education, Anthony Galla-Rini was born Jan. 18, 1904, in Manchester, Conn., into a musical family from Verona, Italy. His mother, Angela, was pregnant with him on the ship crossing the Atlantic. Once in America, his father, John, organized a touring vaudeville act featuring Mr. Galla-Rini's three sisters.

The rest of the family settled in San Francisco, and Mr. Galla-Rini began first grade. After six months of schooling, his father summoned him in 1911 to join his sisters on the vaudeville circuit in Cheyenne, Wyo.

The Galla-Rinis crisscrossed the country, playing with many vaudeville headliners, including Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and the Marx Brothers. Talking movies in the late 1920s effectively ended vaudeville's run, and the Galla-Rini act disbanded in 1932.

Mr. Galla-Rini's career was far from over. He had taught himself to read music and had begun composing and arranging classical and popular pieces for the accordion.

He returned to San Francisco, where he taught accordion and met Dina Petromilli, whose family ran the Guerrini accordion factory. They married in 1933 and had their only child, Ron, in 1936.

Mr. Galla-Rini broke into the movie business and played the accordion on many film scores, most memorably in ``Laura" (1944) and ``High Noon" (1952).

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives