YouTube Picks (#20) – Another way to play Mandolin: Back to Bach

It really doesn’t matter whether you are into classic rock, jazz, blues, pop, bluegrass, whatever, eventually every serious musician or music patron has to come to terms with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is one of, if not the most significant  composer, in the history of western music. It really doesn’t matter what instrument you play because Bach didn’t really care to much about instrumental specifics. He frequently moved his music around from instrument to instrument or onto any one of the many configuration or ensembles at his disposal. Obviously, string and keyboard players have the edge with the shear volume of Bach’s music that is available for their instruments. Mandolin players are luckier than most. Although, to my knowledge Bach didn’t compose specific mandolin music, players have access to the huge quantity of Bach’s violin, cello, viola, etc music that is out there. They also have the advantage in that the tuning of the mandolin is the same as the violin (G D A E – low to high). Admittedly the Mandolin doesn’t have the ability sustain long notes like a violin but there are ways around that (the tremolo).

Over the years mandolin players have not been slow to pick up on the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas. It is not only great music but it’s a great way to build up your mandolin technique.  Even Bluegrass players have taken a turn at those compositions.  One of note is an American mandolinist,  singer, songwriter, and radio personality named  Colin Thile  (born February 20, 1981). He is best known for his work in the progressive acoustic trio  Nickel Creek and the acoustic folk and progressive bluegrass quintet  Punch Brothers. He also has a passion for Bach. Check the video below of Colin playing Bach’s Sonata No.1 in G Minor, BWV 1001. This is a Suite of  four pieces:  Adagio / Fuga / Siciliano / Presto.

Although the Bluegrass mandolin, to my ears, sounds a little thin for this style of music this is a great performance and should inspire us all.

The first time I took a look at the manuscript for the Sonata it threw me for a loop. I am more used to reading simple melody lines or chord diagrams so on first glance it was, and still is, pretty daunting. Take a look at the first page ………

Mike Marshall and Darroll Anger are two other North American performers who have dipped more than a toe in Bach’s deep musical waters.

Mandolin players can go even further afield in the huge Bach inventory. For example here  the Israeli Madolinist Avi Avital and Harpist  Bridget Kibbey playing a rearrangement of the Eb Major Sonata for Flute and Clavier, BWV 1031. This is the first movement the Allegro Moderato. Avi is a well known, award winning performer and Bridget is a much in demand solo and ensemble performer.  The physical contrast between the tiny mandolin and the giant harp is eye catching and yet the sound balance between the instruments is spot on.

There are many, many more examples on YouTube so feel free to explore and, if you are a mandolin player, maybe work on a few pieces.

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Read any Good Books Lately (#10) – Author Kristin Hannah

For those unfamiliar with this author, Kristin Hannah (born September 25, 1960) is an award-winning and bestselling American Writer, who has won numerous awards, including the Golden Heart, the Maggie, and the 1996 National Reader’s Choice award. Hannah was born in California. She graduated from law school in Washington and practiced law in Seattle before becoming a full-time writer. She lives on Bainbridge Island Washington] with her husband and their son. She is a prolific writer with over twenty novels to her credit and they include the following ….. Wikipedia

  • A Handful of Heaven (July 1991)
  • The Enchantment (June 1992)
  • Once in Every Life (December 1992)
  • If You Believe (December 1993)
  • When Lightnings Strikes (October 1994)
  • Waiting for the Moon (September 1995)
  • Home Again (October 1996)
  • On Mystic Lake (February 1999)
  • Angel Falls (April 2000)
  • Summer Island (March 2001)
  • Distant Shores (July 2002)
  • Between Sisters (April 2003)
  • The Things We Do for Love (June 2004)
  • Comfort and Joy (October 2005)
  • Magic Hour (February 2006)
  • Firefly Lane (2008)
  • True Colors (2009)
  • Winter Garden (2010)
  • Night Road (March 2011)
  • Home Front (2012)
  • Fly Away (2013)
  • The Nightingale (2015)

I read The Nightingale  about a year ago. The novel is set in France during the resistance and I found it to be a real page turner. I recommended it to number of my friends and all agreed with my opinion. So, it was only natural that I should add her other novels to my reading list. I have been a little reluctant to plunge right in as her novels tend to be emotional roller coasters that become so engaging that the normal activities of day to day living get pushed into the background. Things like sleeping just gets in the way of finding out what happens next. But I did take the plunge into her 2006 novel Magic Hour and as expected I didn’t get much sleep. From “go to woe” I finished the novel in 24 hours. This is what Amazon has to say about the novel –

“In the rugged Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest—nearly a million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. From deep within this old growth forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she offers no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past. Having retreated to her western Washington hometown after a scandal left her career in ruins, child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates is determined to free the extraordinary little girl she calls Alice from a prison of unimaginable fear and isolation. To reach her, Julia must discover the truth about Alice’s past—although doing so requires help from Julia’s estranged sister, a local police officer. The shocking facts of Alice’s life test the limits of Julia’s faith and strength, even as she struggles to make a home for Alice—and for herself. In Magic Hour, Kristin Hannah creates one of her most beloved characters, and delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the meaning of home.”

I am not a literary critic and I neither have the back ground or the inclination to critique or analyse books in depth. My criteria for literary fiction is fairly straight forward – Is the plot believable? are the characters compelling and well developed? Do I have an over riding compulsion not to put the book down? and do I lose sleep in the process of reading?  Based on these criteria Magic Hour is a 10 out of 10 winner.

Enjoy ……………………………………. I will need to get some sleep and acquire some breathing space before I take on another Kristin Hannah novel

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SWEET ALIBI – House Concert

SWEET ALIBI HOUSE CONCERT Wednesday November 15, 2017, 7:30pm at 5768 Haha Creek Road, Wardner.

With the possible exception of Classical Chamber Music, small group truly acoustic performances are pretty rare these days. Even “folk” musicians “plug in”. The expectation of audiences, regardless of the music genre  or the performance venue is for the music to be amplified. The Sweet Alibi  house concert at Van and Shelagh Redecop’s place on Wednesday night is about as close as one can get to an acoustic performance.

The opening act, Mismatched Socks,  was 100% acoustic. No one plugged in and none of the vocalists were “miked”. This local family band  of related siblings and cousins have been performing around the area for a couple of years now and features Grace Cleland on mandolin; Rachel Cleland  on upright bass; Jason Cleland  on violin;  cousins and fellow siblings Rachel and Meaghan Gaudet on percussion and guitar. All musicians double up on vocals. This was the perfect venue to hear the sweet harmonies of the vocalists against the soft musical back drop of the accompanying instruments. They did a short set that included Rip Tide, Muddy Waters, Phillip Phillips  Home,  and the Lumineers  Hey Ho.

        

On the other hand Sweet Alibi did “plug in” their guitars but the vocals were 100% acoustic and the balance between the instruments and the vocals was absolutely perfect. The vocal harmonies were to die for. Having performed in the area last April this is their second concert at Van and Shelagh’s place. The band of Amber Rose – guitar, vocals and percussion; Michelle Anderson – banjo, vocals and guitar; Jess Rae Ayre  – guitar, vocals, percussion and harmonica were joined by bass guitarist Alistair Dunlop (It is rumored that Alistair first met the ladies in a Winnipeg North prison). The band performed  selections from their numerous recordings and it included their wonderful version of Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody and their tribute to the undefeated rodeo bull  Bodacious.

Here are some more images from the evening.

            

Thanks should go to the musicians of Sweet Alibi who spend so much time on the road touring to entertain such small, but welcoming audiences. Thanks to the “Cleland Clan” for coming out on a school night to perform  and thanks also to Shelagh and Van for hosting the concert, housing the musicians and providing the wine and delicious snacks.

We should do this again some time……..

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The Pandeiro

What is a Pandeiro? The short answer is “it is a Brazilian Tambourine”. Rather than talk about it here is a video that demonstrates the instrument in action.

This is the Trio Brasileiro  a Brazilian trio dedicated to the most Brazilian of all music forms, the Choro. On the left playing the Pandeiro is  Alexandre Lora, on 7 -string guitar is his brother Douglas Lora and the musician on Bandolin (5 course mandolin) is Dudu Maia. As you can see and hear the Pandeiro drives the music and as with all Brazilian music the Pandeiro is the heart beat of the music. One could go as far as to describe it at Brazil’s national instrument.

This a relatively simple tiny instrument that looks much the same as a standard tambourine but it is a little slimmer and is held and played in a different way.

Why my Interest? A local clarinet player is considering getting into playing Choro and there is a suggestion out there that there could be a demand for a Pandeiro player. Although I have a couple of Pandeiros in the basement I have never really got to grips with acquiring the technique. Now might be a good time to remedy that deficiency. So after a quick search of YouTube, where there are literally hundreds of videos, the following 8 videos seem to be the most useful. Scott Kettners approach is logical, graduated  and relatively uncomplicated. So the process begins.

1. Holding the Pandeiro

2.  Right Hand Technique

3. Left and Right Hand Techniques with Accents

4. Bass Tones

5.  Slap Tones

6. Putting it all  together

7. Tuning the Pandeiro

8. Another Approach – Muting

So, I suppose the obvious question is why clutter up a perfectly “good” blog with all of this. Well for me it is just a way to collect all the information in one place to aid the learning process. Possibly there are some other percussionists in the area who may also be interested in expanding their repertoires. If so, here it is all in one spot.

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Stage 64 (Kimberley) Winter Jazz and Blues Concert Series – Melody Diachun

STAGE 64 WINTER JAZZ AND BLUES CONCERT SERIES  : Melody Diachun and her Quartet.  Saturday October 28, 2017, 8pm  

Black Orpheus (Portuguese: Orfeu Negro) is a 1959 film made in Brazil by French director  Marcel Camus and starring Marpessa Dawn and  Breno Mello. It is based on the play  Orfeu da Conceicao by Vinicius de Moraes, which is an adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice , set in the modern context of a  favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. The film was an international co-production among    companies in Brazil, France and Italy. The film is particularly noted for the musical soundtrack by two Brazilian composers:  Antonio Carlos Jobim , whose song “A Felicidade” opens the film; and  Luiz Bonfa, whose  Manha de Carnaval  and Samba de Orfeu  have become bossa nova classics. ….. Wikipedia.

In the early 1960’s that Brazillian film made its mark on me and the world of cinema and music. On it’s release it won an Oscar for the best foreign film of the year and the sound track introduced the world to the wonders of Brazilian music. I remember the film well. After all, I saw it on the big screen about seven times in the first year of it’s release, and over the years I wore out a VHS copy and I still have a DVD version on my shelf at home. For Jazz players the music was a revelation. Here was a form of music that used jazz harmonic language and improvisational techniques along with new sophisticated melodies and rhythms. The words may have been in Portuguese but the musical language was challenging, sensual and, in some ways, the antithesis of the Hard Bop jazz style of the day. Brazilian classical guitarist Laurindo Almeida and Californian saxophonist Bud Shank had explored and recorded Bossa Nova as early as 1953 but it was the album Jazz Samba by the jazz tenor sax player  Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd, along with the hit single  Desafinado,  that was the start of Bossa Nova as it is now generally understood. Stan Getz gained the benefit of Charlie Byrd’s 1961 serendipitous tour of Brazil. Byrd had fallen in love with the music while on tour there and when he returned to the USA he sought out Stan Getz, played him the discs he’d brought back from Brazil, and suggested they get together and record their own album in a Brazilian style. The rest is history. The  Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd collaborations were monumentally successful and Jazz musicians adopted the style with a vengeance. They were the first of many musicians to do so and to this day Bossa Nova still continues to hold a grip on the imagination of jazz musicians. It may have been a craze at the time but it is one I knew would last.

On, the other hand, around that same time “The Fab Four” (aka The Beatles) launched their own musical craziness on the pop world. At the time I didn’t think the music would survive the teeny-bopper hysteria that almost drowned it out. Another case of music so loud you can’t actually hear it.  I couldn’t see the hysteria or the music lasting. I guess I was wrong. The hysteria faded away and the music did survive the craziness and in this day and age their songs are standards that rate right up there with the tunes in the  “The American Song Book”.

That brings us to the Melody Diachun concert on Saturday night at Stage 64 in Kimberley. Her premise for the evening was to bring together the music of the Bossa Nova era (mostly the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim) and the music of the Beatles into a night of pulsing rhythms, beautiful melodies and great lyrics delivered with artful arrangements and solo improvisations by a group of stellar musicians from the Nelson area. The drummer Steven Parish and bass player Mark Spielman anchored the band for the rhythmic, melodic  and harmonic  adventures of Melody Diachun on vocals and shakers, Clinton Swanson  on tenor sax and flute  and Doug Stephenson  on nylon and steel string guitars. Most of the Bossa Nova material was from the pen of Antonio Carlos Jobim and included Quiet Nights (Corcovada), If You Never Come to Me, The Girl from Ipanema, Samba do Aviao, One Note Samba, Dindi,  and a nice mish/mash of  Insensitive with the Beatles tune Yesterdays. Most of the songs were sung in English with the occasional foray into Portuguese. Although not exactly a Bossa Nova song, but never-the-less appropriate for the evening, the group performed Horace Silver’s jazz classic  Song for my Father. Horace’s father came from the Cape Verde Islands that, coincidently, has a rich Portuguese based musical heritage similar to Brazil. Interspersed among Jobim’s songs there were the following Beatles songs Hard Days Night , Eleanor Rigby, Blackbird, Let It Be,  All you need is Love and John Lennon’s Imagine. The only song that was really outside the box was Cole Porter’s Night and Day and that was still a good fit for the evening. Melody’s vocals were in top form and the soloists were a joy to hear. Doug Stephenson’s nylon string and steel guitar work was a revelation as, in previous Kimberley concerts, he had been  masquerading as a bass player. Because he looks like he is having way too much fun to be legal I do worry about Doug. Clinton Swanson has performed in Kimberley a number of times and his full bodied tenor sax solos, as always, were spot on. Melody’s introductions to the songs were delightful and entertaining.

Here are some images from a magical evening of music.

      

   

The band and the audience would like to thank Keith, the organizing committee, the volunteers, Ray on sound and lights, the Burrito Grill, A B&B at 228 and the Stem Winder for the support that made this concert series possible. On a final note a comment from my buddy Bill St. Amand summing up the evening  …….

IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS”.

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