Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Odd Meter to Meet Boom and Chuck

Rehearsed with my posse last night. It sounds better every time we get together. We have too much material to feature everyone, so the biggest challenge is in the weaning; getting the balance right. I am terrible on the violin, but everyone encourages me, so I shall be brave; oh, yeah, and practice.
Music is a time machine. When you perform or listen to music from another time and place, it can take you there. It's a funny thing...
I am working on a Caribbean folksong in 5 meter, yes, five-meter. It is called "Turn the World Around". I am distilling it from a written arrangement that was my first introduction to this song. Today I copied down lyrics which I must go learn.
I worked with my percussion students today to get the tempo from the count-off, and introduced them to my friends Boom and Chuck. The 5th-6th gr band sounds great.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Strawberry '09

Just got back from Strawberry Music Festival. Joe and I stayed at fabulous Camp Decadence, whose orange cargo parachute landmark helped us locate it when we were wearily trekking home from a late night show. We managed to obtain backstage passes again this year, as the Red Stick Ramblers' bassist and fine harmony vocalist Eric needed to borrow a bass and liked mine. Thanks to Don Burnham, who introduced me to the Ramblers through his favorite fiddler in the world, Kevin Wimmer. I had a most wonderful jam with Kevin and Don, and then the rest of the band showed up (sans drummer) and we all played. Eric and I traded off and had a marvelous time. I like the Red Stick Ramblers because they are a great dance band, Cajun style, and have two fiddlers, wonderful guitar, bass and drums. One of the highlights of their set was an odd little number called Main Street Blues, with pizzicato fiddles and bowed bass. Eric made my bass sound so good! Thanks, fellas!
I heard Natalie MacMaster on Saturday night; I couldn't believe one human being could dance and play like that at the same time. It made me cry, and I don't know why, but I sure enjoyed the show.
One last note about the weekend: Marty Stuart was the headliner on Sunday night. We first saw Marty on a documentary tribute to Bill Monroe, and here he was, live! What a great mando player! He and his band (the Fabulous Superlatives) lived up to their name.
Wwow, and thanks, Marty.
Another comment must be made about Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue: just great playing all around. I had never heard a trombone player like that, and then he played the heck out of the trumpet. They basically knocked everyone's socks off.
And the weather was perfect!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Apology to Felix and Learning as I Go

Well, it turns out that the bass part to Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah was playable. It was a nice performance, very passionate, and we all got a standing ovation. Nice.
My practice session tonight will include some solo pieces: very fun to play as I become accustomed to the new instrument and bow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sibling Rivalry in the Mendelssohn Home

Tonight I am playing the bass part for Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah" in rehearsal with Cantare con Vivo, conducted by the capable and artistic David Morales. My part is a Kalmus edition. Now, over the years, I have seen many errors in Kalmus editions. The rumor is that around the time of WWII, Kalmus went around Europe rescuing printing plates for old music. This piece was written during Felix' lifetime, 1809-1847. (Sorry, I can't look it up right now...back to our story.) It was common in the 18th and 19th centuries to publish the violincello and contrabass parts together, I guess to save paper, and the bass part is invariably simpler. It is a huge instrument, six feet tall. No, I am not making excuses, here, I have wrangled this behemoth successfully for over forty years.I was thinking about the perception of the listener. Did Felix intend for the low bass frequencies of each pitch be heard? My strategy here is to simplify, and if it causes me to get fired from the gig, it was worth it. Even in the time of the greatest bass virtuosi, no bass part has looked like this, and I really believe it won't sound like anything but rumbling at the tempos suggested. Maestro Morales is following the example of Norrington and others in the tempi department, and setting faster metronome markings than written in our parts.
So, here we are, with a trillion notes to play, quality iffy. Did you know that Felix's sister, Fanny was also a composer? Here is a quote from her: " I no longer know how one feels when one wants to compose a song." Wow. I have played Fanny's music, and I have played Felix' music. I like Fanny's Oratorio better.
See you on the flipside.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Current Listening

We're having a good time here at the studio listening to music of the 15th and 16th centuries. Good stuff. Practicing piano, violin. Haven't played drums for awhile. I am practicing the new bass a lot and have pretty much decided the Pfretschner bow is a go. It seems like just the right weight for the bass, and it is firm, yet flexible, somewhat springy. Less springy than the other bow I tried. I would like to go to Europe to try other bows.
Have been playing old hohe schul for bass by Simandl, via Richard Davis through his teacher. My German friend located some copies of that old series in a shop in Germany when she went there.
I have also come across the Russian Bass Concerto that the late Alex Glikman gave me. I couldn't find it in the US, and even called Moscow to try to find it. I played it at my 40th BD Recital, and I would like to play it again. I wonder what my piano-playing neighbor is up to tonight?