The Haka

I have very fond memories of New Zealand. While en route to Canada in 1971 I spent over a month hitch hiking around the islands enjoying the scenery and the incredible hospitality of the people. It was my first brush with real snow capped mountains and the New Zealand version of Bush Walking known locally as tramping. I returned there several years later with my life partner and 12 month old son. This time, once again, about to head back to Canada. We really liked New Zealand and “the itch” to travel just wouldn’t go away. We ended up in Kimberley, B.C. for a few years and finally decided to take a year long sabbatical and New Zealand was the obvious destination. We both liked the place and there were opportunities for both of us to find gainful employment. It was an opportunity for my wife to get back into the work force as a Registered Nurse. We wandered around the North Island for a bit and settled in Whangerei for the best part of six to eight months. I played the house parent, read lots of books about the Islands,  while Mae (my wife) worked at the local hospital. The climate was great, the people and life style relaxing but still we had “the itch” . We decided to move around a bit while still searching for more adventure and another place to work. We headed down the North Island to finally end up is Gisborne on the East Cape. There I had a sort of revelation. Standing on the beach at Gisborne while looking east I realized that there was no significant land mass until you hit Chile in South America. Looking south there was no significant land mass until you reached the frozen landscape of Antarctica. Looking north, for all intents and purposes, there was nothing until you reached Asia. We were standing on the edge of the world. And it really felt like it. The sensation was almost over whelming. With the island at our back the great wide Pacific Ocean stretched North, South and East for thousands and thousands of  kilometers’. I found Whakatane Heads 15 3 2006.JPGthat intimidating. Somewhat humbled by the experience we head back into more populous region of the island. We decided that Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty area possibly offered the best chances for employment and, that may have been true, but the catch in the scheme was trying to find a place to live. We could not find a place to put down even temporarily while looking for employment. Staying in hotels was not an option. Despite the attractions of this heartland of Maori culture we decided that with only a few months of the sabbatical left we should head off and visit relatives in Australia. With some reluctance that is what we did.

New Zealand must be one of the few places in the new world where the indigenous people and culture have left an acknowledged  mark on the white man. Over the two centuries of contact the white inhabitants of New Zealand have been enriched with an infusion of Maori culture. So when I recently stumbled on the following YouTube videos of the Maori Haka it all came flooding back.The kids singing mass in Maori; the Polynesian rhythms that infuses jazz bands that play in the pubs; The incredible musicality of the Maori; The young Maori with tribal tattoos; It was like I was still there.  When I watch these videos and I immediately get choked up almost to point of tears.

For those that are unaware ….. “The haka is a ceremonial dance or challenge in Maori culture. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Although commonly associated with the traditional battle preparations of male warriors, the Haka have been performed by both men and women, and several varieties of the dance fulfill social functions within Māori culture. Haka are performed to welcome distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.

New Zealand sports teams’ practice of performing a haka before their international matches has made the Haka more widely known around the world. This tradition began with the 1888-89 New Zealand Native Football Team tour and has been carried on by the New Zealand Rugby Union Team (“All Blacks”) since 1905.” …. Wikipedia.

I offer them to you for your enjoyment………

The Islands of New Zealand are at the end of the earth but still well worth an extended visit. If this has whetted your appetite for New Zealand I suggest the Film Once Were Warriors. It is a wonderful movie, a  little dark perhaps, but well worth finding and watching.

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YouTube Pick (#30) – Kevin Crawford and John Doyle

What can I say? The whistle player is Kevin Crawford of LUNASA . That band performed here in Cranbrook about a year ago. The fiddle player who is doing nothing is Martin Hayes. He is  an outstanding fiddle player from Ireland. The guitar player is John Doyle.  There’s nobody quite like John Doyle, he is a beautiful driving rhythm player. He plays in Dropped D and he is all over the neck dropping in counter melodies, bass runs and syncopations like you wouldn’t believe. Listen to the switch up just beyond the 6 minute mark. Doesn’t that nearly unseat you? Maybe one day we will get to hear him here in Cranbrook. After all, over the years we have heard some of the great legends here in Cranbrook so why not?

What I like about this music is that there are no false theatrics. Just driving music that speaks for itself.

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YouTube Pick (#29) – Chloe Chua

By definition a Child Musical Prodigy is a young person capable of playing music at an advanced technical level with the interpretative and emotional maturity of an adult. The most famous Canadian prodigy in the recent past was pianist Glenn Gould. The most famous international prodigy, also in the recent past was Yehudi Menuhin. Both musicians started playing and performing at a very young age. Yehudi started violin lessons at age four. Prodigies are rare but not unheard of (pun intended). The big challenge for these gifted musicians is to be taken seriously and not be mistaken for “a monkey see monkey do” circus performer. Another challenge is to avoid “burn out “. A significant number of child prodigies fade into relative obscurity in later life. Having said that while their stardom is in assent in their early years it is startling to see and hear them perform. The question that always come to my mind how do they do it? While the rest of us mere mortals struggle to play a precise and accurate musical scale that can past critical muster there are children out there playing at a level that we can never achieve. It wouldn’t matter if we practiced twenty hours a day it would not happen. It’s just not fair!

Here is violinist Chloe Chua at the age of 11 accompanied by 20 year old Kevin Loh on classical guitar playing Astor Piazolla’s ‘Café 1930’ from his Histoire du Tango suite. Chua was the First Prize winner in the junior category of the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. Loh, now 20, studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London for seven years (partially funded at the outset by none other than the Rolling Stones!).

As I said….. It’s just not fair.

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Heritage Lounge Song Writers Circle

 

Get a bunch of musicians together in a room, on a bus, on a train or around a camp fire it is almost inevitable that at some time during the day, the evening or night a song circle will happen. It’s just a natural way to share songs, tunes, new compositions and strut one’s musical chops. It provides an intimate atmosphere for everyone to enjoy and appreciate the music. The usual song circle happening is somewhat spontaneous  and not meant to be taken as a professional performance. But, having said that, why not? Why should only musicians have all the fun? So that was the premise of the Song Writers Circle at the Heritage Inn Lounge on Friday December7, 2018. So, with that in mind a group of musicians from a variety of back grounds came together to share their latest offerings with each other before and an appreciative audience. James Neve (song writer and classic folk/rock musician) stepped away from his band The Choice to host the evening and kick off the night with a little social commentary in his song Joe Hill. If I remember correctly Joe Hill was a Swedish immigrant to the USA in the first half of the last century and was a major organizer of the Industrial Workers of the World (The IWW, other wise known as Wobbolies). Joe came to untimely end when he was executed on November 19, 1915 in Salt Lake City Utah on charges of murder. World War I was in full swing, if that’s the right word, and at the time labor unrest was sweeping the world. Capitalist societies were running scared so it is easy to believe that the authorities manufactured a trumped up charge followed by a swift execution to get the likes of Joe Hill out of sight and out of mind.  Doug Mitchell is a former educator with a tendency towards songs of social commentary. His first offering of the evening was Laughter of the Heart. Heather Gemmell is an attractive  young woman with a back ground in hard rock / blues and mellow Blue Grass pickings on guitar, banjo and dobro. As an employee of the City of Cranbrook she has some responsibility for the maintenance of the the city’s parks and cemetery and that may have been the inspiration for her songs Ghost Town and Resting Place. I haven’t heard Heather perform for a while and for me her guitar picking seems to be going from strength to strength.Tim Ross, for the want of a better description, is an old style cowboy who has been known to rock out in the band The Bison Brothers. He is a singer/songwriter/guitar slinger who hails from Wycliffe. His day job as a natural resources consultant, which translates to “cowboy with a degree”, grants him the privilege of riding the range and making a living in the saddle. He also ranches, raising grass-finished beef. His  songwriting influences range from rock n’ roll and blues to rockabilly and cowboy songs. Naturally, as a working cowboy, his song Worktime resonates with his life experiences. Darin Welch is a singer songwriter in the classic Bob Dylan / John Prine tradition and to complete the first round of the circle he offered Transition City.

   

Round and round the circle went with more songs of social commentary, humor, nostalgia and life experiences. Songs included were I Will Never Know, A Night for Holding on, Seek the Light of Day, Please Take the Wheel (James Neve); Open Happiness – Open up a Coke, Get Use To It, Prairie Oysters, Wish I was Hung Like My Brother Dale (Doug Mitchell); Mountain Home, Kill Them Twice, One Light Sound (Heather Gemmell); Time Flies – When you are Bummed Out Too, Limousine, The Light in Your Eyes, My Baby Won’t Ride in My Truck No More (Tim Ross); A Matter of Time, Wilderness, Sparrow, Pretty Water (Darin Welch). They collectively finished up the evening with group versions of Ry Cooder’s No Banker Left Behind led by Doug Mitchell; Neil Young’s, Heart of Gold, led by James Neve; Rocking in the Free World, led By Tim Ross and finally Bob Dylan’s Wagon Wheels led by Darin Welch. It was a wonderful night of music and one I hope will be repeated again in the near future. Here are more images from the evening:

                  

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Cecile Larochelle – “Fine and Mellow”

This was the third concert in the Fall Jazz and Blues Series  and it was a fine evening of mainstream jazz with vocalist Cecile Larochelle, Don Clark (Trumpet and Fluegelhorn), Paul Landsberg (Guitar), Rob Fahie
(Bass) and Graham Tracey  (Drums). The evening kicked off with a straight ahead instrumental version of Somewhere there’s Music. Cecile  sang Sunday Kind of Love and from then on out it was an evening of mostly familiar songs with solid solos from the members of the band.  Songs included Dancing Cheek to Cheek, Thought About You, Honeysuckle Rose (featuring some great brush work on the drums and Wes Montgomery riffs on guitar), Stormy Monday, Sweet Georgia Brown (great bass solo), This Masquerade (nice Fluegelhorn solo), Roberta Flack’s Will You Love me Tomorrow?, Bye Bye Blackbird, Glory of Love / Makin’ Whoopee, Quiet Nights, Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear from me, Autumn Leaves  (with some nice Bass playing), The Nearness of You and the classic Billie Holiday Blues Fine and Mellow. 

With such a fine bunch of musicians on stage it hardly seems fair to single out any particular performer for special mention but for me to hear and appreciate Graham Tracey playing brushes on his drum kit was a real treat. I believe all drummers should have their sticks broken until such times they have mastered the art of playing brushes.


This was the last concert in the season and once again thanks should go to all the volunteers and merchants who without their support the series would not be possible.

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YouTube Pick (#28) – John Dowland (again)

Some years ago I made the big mistake of declaring that Liona Boyd was a musical light weight “who played like a girl”. It was to a group of women so you can imagine how that went over. In 1970 it was another era and in a sense it was also the end of an era. It was a  time when women were beginning to step outside their subservient role and choosing to stand on their merits. At the time Classical guitar performance was a masculine domain. Andre Segovia had established the Classical Guitar as a legitimate solo instrument and by the time Liona arrived on the scene he had passed on and the genre was dominated by the likes of Julian Bream, John Williams and Alirio Diaz. It was still very much a man’s world.  There were female performers who came before Liona. Most notably there was the brilliant French guitarist Ida Presti who, with her musical companion and life partner Alexander Lagoya , has left us with a legacy of some of the best classical duo performances ever recorded. In no way did Ida “play like a girl”. For Liona it was an era in which female musicians were still expected to be overtly feminine, wear frothy dresses, high heel shoes and appear on stage with a somewhat submissive demure. Liona was a perfect fit for those expectations and although she had impressive technique her repertoire, in my opinion, was not adventurious. But, to be fair the repertoire of most classical guitarists of the day lacked a sense of adventure. New composers and compositions were just emerging and these would change the accepted notion of the standard repertoire.

That all changed when Sharon Isbin arrived on the scene. In her own way Sharon was also a stunning looking woman but she did not conform to the “frothy” role expected of a female Classical Guitarist.

She wore practical, but fashionable attire, pant suits and the like,  and she played with a drive and a passion that left most male Classical Guitarists in the dust. One of her first recorded efforts was a collection of the Bach Lute Suites that set the Classical Guitar world on its ear. The Classical Guitar world has never been the same since and the number of high caliber female performers that have followed in he footsteps is astounding. So much so that it is unfair to single out a performer for comment when there are so many young Classical Guitarists, male and female,  out there. Having said that this performance of John Dowling’s Fantasia Number 7 by the very young Australian guitarist Alberta Khoury is of note.This young lady has studied with Sharon Isbin and it may account for her aggressive technical and musical approach. She has been criticized for playing at too fast a tempo but her dynamic and tonal control is above reproach. I believe at the time of this recording she was 16 years old.

For guitarists who may be interested in such things she obviously tunes the G string down to F# and uses a capo on the third fret to emulate the register and sound of the Lute. Also note the guitar rest on the right knee. It is a device that seems to be gaining popularity with classical guitarists.

Just for comparison here is another version of the same piece by a fellow Australian guitarist Andrey Lebedev.

Just in case you may have thought that Alberta’s performance of the John Dowland Fantasia was a fluke here is her performance of the Prelude from Bach’s Lute Suite No.4.

So for all you wanna be rock and roll guitar gods out there here is a woman who doesn’t “play like a girl”.

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Guy Davis – Story Teller

Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi : “Sonny and Brownie’s Last Train”   Stage 64, Kimberley, Sunday October 14, 2018, 3 pm.

They did it again. The organizing committee has this rule not to invite repeat performers. Much to our joy, a few weeks back, they set the rule aside for Gabriel Palatchi for him to perform in this fall’s Jazz and Blues Concert Series. Now they have done the same for Guy Davis. One could make the case that Guy’s previous performance in Kimberley was a solo act and this time around it is not the same thing. He has the Italian Blues Harp player Fabrizio Poggi along for the ride (considering the concert title the pun is intended). The duo is fresh from this year’s Grammy nomination in the Traditional Blues Category for their recording Sonny and Brownie’s Last Train – A look back at Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. The project was recorded in the summer of 2016 in Milan and the album features the original, title track song written by Guy Davis, songs by both Sonny and Brownie, as well as songs known to have been recorded and performed by the famed duo but written by their contemporaries, such as Libba Cotton and Leadbelly. The famous blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee set the standard for the blues harmonica, guitar and vocal combination and were professionally very active when Guy Davis and I were very young men. Guy is an actor, writer, and all round African American renaissance blues man. He plays in a tradition that has been largely rejected by contemporary black musicians as irrelevant  and the genre has largely been appropriated by white musicians. A point to note is that at the Grammy Awards Guy’s recording was beaten out by The Rolling Stones Blue and Lonesome – a white band paying tribute to black musicians of a bye gone era. I think there is some irony in that.

Afro-Americans of Guy’s generation mostly favor the urban styles of Soul, Funk, hip-hop and rap. By rights, as a urban black man that should have been his musical route forward. Instead he chose to look back to former times and mine the rich musical mother load of a century of blues traditions. As a harmonica player, guitarist, vocalist and story teller he succeeds  at a level unmatched by his contemporaries. Apart from his technical mastery of the musical idiom I think the success of his performances lies in his story telling. All truly great songs tell a story and the blues are no exception.

His sidekick for the project is an Italian and how an Italian could submerge himself so completely in a foreign American tradition is beyond me. I am sure that in his personal blues journey there lies a tale worth hearing.

The duo kicked off the evening with two classic pre-World War II country blues – Tommy Jackson’s Maggie Campbell’s Blues and Blind Boy Fuller’s Step it Up and Go. In the 1960s every blues anthology of note included these performers. They were right up there with Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy. The rest of the concert included Brownie McGee’s Walk on,  ‘Cause I’m Evil, Sonny’s Horray, Horray These Women is Killing Me, Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues, Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train, Leadbelly’s Midnight Special, Bob Dylan’s Lay, Lady, Lay (complete with some of Bob’s vocal mannerisms), Sleepy John Estes You’ve Got to Give Account (with some really nice guitar picking) and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Please See that My Grave is Kept Clean. As well as all the traditional old time blues Guy performed some of his originals. Including Lime Town, Kokomo Kid, I’m Going to Shake it like Sonny Did, I Wish I Hadn’t Stayed Away So Long, Blackberry Kisses, Sonny and Brownie’s Last Ride  and, probably one of the best narrative songs I have heard in a long time, Sugar Belly. It was the story of mixed race girl cursed with great beauty. It was a song so powerful that one of my neighbors was reduced to tears. Here are some more images from the evening.

               This is Guy’s third trip to the area. He performed at the Studio / Stage Door in Cranbrook many years ago and more recently, April April 11, 2015 at Centre 64 as part of a concert series. Guy lives in New York so to come to Kootenays at least once is a big deal. To come three times is almost heroic. I have been to all three concerts and if he should walk though the door again over the next couple of weeks for another concert I would be beating down the door to attend.

On behalf of the organizing committee the MC Peter Kearns would like to thank fellow committee members, the many volunteers and the sponsors Burrito Grill and  A B&B at 228 for making the concert series possible. Thanks to Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi coming all this way to give us a truly wonderful evening of music and stories.

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Post Script: The Guy Davis concert ended an East Kootenay “Blue Period”. Over a two weeks there have been four concerts that thematically focused on The Blues. First out the gate was Clinton Swanson / Kelly Fawcett / Doug Stephenson Blues Trio at Stage 64 in Kimberley on September 29, 2018. This was followed by Canada’s Queen of the Blues Rita Chirelli and her band at the Key City, Cranbrook on Friday October 12, 2018 and Tracy K / Jamie Steinhoff Duo in the Saloon Lounge of the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook on Saturday October 13, 2018 and, finally, Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi at Stage 64 in Kimberley on Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2018. All told that is a pretty meaty dish of blues fare in a very short period of time.

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Tracy K & Jamie Steinhoff Blues Duo

The saloon bar in the Heritage Inn Convention isn’t a new venue. It has been around for  a while and has mostly been used as a venue for stand up comedians. The manager took note of the success of Auntie Barb’s Bakery and Bistro as a music venue and figured “well he could do that”. It was a good move. For music the room is ideal. Perhaps a slightly raised stage could improve the sight lines but apart from that the lighting is reasonable and the sound acceptable. And, more to the point, the room is quiet and the audience respectful. Louis (“Louie”) Cupello has lined up some fine acts to get the ball rolling.

Local singer/song writer Maddi Keiver was back in town following her recent trip to Dublin, Ireland. She opened the evening with some cover tunes before moving onto her original songs Three crows at the Funeral Home, Crystal Clear, Landslide and Hopeless. In between these she squeezed in a version of The House of the Rising Sun.

         Once again the Winnipeg / Thunder Bay musical axis strikes another blow. Every once in a while the musicians from that neck of the woods venture out into the wider world and refresh our memories of how central that axis is to the Canadian musical landscape. This time around it was the blues duo of Tracy K (vocals, guitar and blues harp) and her musical side kick Jamie Steinhoff (vocals, guitar and resonator slide guitar). Musically the duo has been around the block for a number of years;  traveling back and forth across Canada and down “blues highway 61” into the American south to savor the heartbeat of the blues.   Tracy was raised on sixties radio and her brother’s hippie records and began her professional career at twenty five while living in Toronto. She moved back to Beausejour in the 1990s, started a family and, eventually, began her solo career. She is inspired by local blues greats Big Dave Maclean and Brent Parkin, and contemporaries Rita Chiarelli, Sue Foley and Suzie Vinnick. She is currently Nominee for Blues Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in October 2018. On the other hand (so to speak) Jamie Steinhoff started his musical life as a Blue Grass banjo player. He still has a great love for the style but over the years he has slipped into a role as a blues performer.    As a duo Tracy and Jamie have traveled a lot in 2018 for folk festivals and a Home Routes Tour.

Perhaps Tracy is best known for her blues harmonica playing and her affinity for the old time female blues singers of by gone eras. In the first set she paid homage to Sippie Wallace with a version of Everybody Loves My Baby and Memphis Minnie’s Chauffeur Blues (originally recorded in 1941). Here and there throughout the evening Tracy  performed some of her original material, a jazz tune here and there and even Anne Murray / Gene MacLellan‘s Snowbird. Her sidekick, Jamie Steinhoff, when not traveling with Tracy, has a real job as a cook. His musical repertoire includes some Blind Blake, Dave Van Ronk and Brownie McGee tunes with great finger picking on both the resonator slide guitar (in open D or open G) and a wonderful Guild F-40 acoustic guitar (I love the shape of that instrument). He also dipped into the country bag with an original song called Too Low Down to Sing the Blues (so I have to sing a country song). His back up slide playing on Nobody Knowns Atlanta Like I Do was outstanding. Here are images from the concert ….                 

As a venue The Heritage Saloon is great addition to the local music scene and I am looking forward to hearing Ken Hamm perform here on Saturday November 3, 2018.

Tracy and Jamie would like express their thanks to the house staff and the audience for their support of live music. They would especially like to thank Tom Bungay for the sound system and John Bisset for the setting up the stage

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Clinton Swanson Blues Trio at Stage 64

The Nelson based Sax player Clinton Swanson has “brand name” recognition here in the East Kootenays. Over the years Clinton with his pork-pie hat and quiver of saxophones has been a frequent visitor to the area. Most recently he was with the Melody Diachun’s  “Back to the Groove Tour” and also with  Jon and Holly in a Cranbrook Summer Sounds Rotary Park concert. Because of  that “Brand Name ” recognition it was understandable that the group was billed as the Clinton Swanson Blues Trio. In actual fact it was more appropriately the Kelly Fawcett Blues Trio with Clinton Swanson on tenor and baritone saxes and Doug Stephenson on bass. Once the concert got going it was easy to hear why Clinton said “we are part of Kelly’s trio and we are here to support him”. Kelly is a new  face to most of us but he has been a long time friend and musical associate of Clinton and they have toured together frequently over the years. The other member of the trio, Doug Stephenson is also a well known Nelson musician who has also toured extensively in the Kootenays. He is living proof that to make a living as a professional musician these days one can’t have “too many arrows in one’s quiver”. I first encountered him playing bass guitar behind Gabriel Palatchi, then as a nylon string Bossa Nova guitarist with Melody Diachun, then as full on electric guitarist with Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour”. On this particular night with Kelly Fawcett he is a stand up bass player (no pun intended). In every performance circumstance he looks like he is having way too much fun. He excels on all his instruments and that probably explains why he is in such demand. I am not sure how he is able to keep up his superb skill levels on all instruments. He must practice constantly, all day, every day. I must ask him about that.

In this day and age we are used to Blues groups being guitar based. You know the usual configuration – drums, electric bass, rhythm guitar and a screaming lead electric guitar backing up one or more vocalists. Kelly Fawcett is the vocalist and guitarist in the group, Doug is the bass player but there is no drummer. To be honest, the absence of a drummer is a plus. Without a drummer there was lots of space in the music to hear the vocals, the finger picking guitar leads and backups, and Clinton’s and Doug’s superb solos.

The night kicked of with a couple of standard tunes. Dr John’s New Orleans inspired Such a Night from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz and Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. In the latter Kelly played some excellent open G slide guitar. From then on the night was a mixture of Country Blues, Jump Tunes (Let the Good Times Roll, Crazy About My Baby), old time tunes (Nobody knowns Atlanta Like I Do), a novelty number here and there, a Tom Waits number (Hey Little Bird Fly Away Home) and, to brighten up the sonic landscape, a few original tunes (Numbers Blues / The Gamblers Blues and Cheddar). For me there were a couple of standout tunes namely Kelly’s interpretation of Taj Mahal’s  classic Fishing Blues and Clinton Swanson’s baritone Sax exploration of Harlem Nocturne. All in all another classic concert in the Fall Jazz and Blues Series. Here are some images from the evening ……..

          

As always, thanks must go to the volunteers, the organizing committee, The Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228” for the musicians lodgings.

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YouTube Pick (#27) – John Dowland

If you looking for a YouTube performance by John Dowland (1563-1626) then you are out of luck. He died about 400 years ago. That was way back at the end of the first Elizabethan era. Despite his demise his music lives on and is a staple in the Classical Guitar, Lute and Vocal repertoires of today. He was an English Renaissance composer and lutenist and in his day was described as “the rarest musician  that his age did behold’. He was a celebrated composer and performer who traveled extensively in Europe. He constantly fell afoul of the religious turmoil of the day. He was Catholic and despite his fame was unable to obtain a court position with Protestant Elizabeth I. He finally, and belatedly, obtained a position with King James I. At that time he was recognized as the finest Lutenist in Europe. He is best known today for his melancholy songs such as Come, Heavy Sleep (the basis of Benjamin Britten’s 1963 composition for solo guitar Nocturnal after John Dowland ) Come Again, Flow my Tears,  I saw my Lady Weepe and In Darkness let me Dwell. As the titles suggest his music displays the melancholia that was so fashionable in his day. His instrumental music has undergone a revival and today any serious Guitarist or Lutenist  needs to spend serious time in exploring the music of John Dowland. The music is complex, exciting and well worth the effort.

I recently stumbled on a YouTube vocal performance of Come Again  by the Bensa-Cardinot Duo and it was one of those “ah ha” moments. Cécile Cardinot vocals had a purity that “rocked my world”. I don’t know if was her French accent or the old English language that ignited my imagination. The first video features Cecile on vocals and Olivier Bensa on Lute. In the second video Olivier switches to Classical guitar.

COME AGAIN – Lyrics (not the same as Cecile’s)
Sweet love doth now invite
Thy graces that refrain
To do me due delight
To see, to hear
To touch, to kiss
To die with thee again
In sweetest sympathy
Come again
That I may cease to mourn
Through thy unkind disdain
For now left and forlorn
I sit, I sigh
I weep, I faint
I die, in deadly pain
And endless misery
Gentle love
Draw forth thy wounding dart:
Thou canst not pierce her heart;
For I that do approve
By sighs an d tears
More hot than are
Thy shafts, did tempt while she
For scanty tryumphs laughs

Born in 1989 in France, Cécile Cardinot is a singer, a spectacular classical guitarist and choirmaster. She started her guitar career with Olivier Bensa in 2008. Along with her choirs, concerts that lead her to various countries and her profession as a guitar teacher at Cahors Conservatory, she worked on the music of John Dowland to create a show “Voice Lute Forte” dedicated to the music of this composer. She is laureate of the Claude Nougaro competition as well as “Revelation Guitarist Acoustic” 2015. (check the duo’s performance of Piazolla’s Libertango to gain an appreciation of her guitar skills  http://www.rodneywilson.ca/2018/07/10/youtube-pick-26-nuevo-tango-new-tango/ )

Her musical colleague Olivier Bensa was born in 1951, is a classical guitarist, lutenist and composer. He has recorded several discs such us “O. Bensa performs Leo Brouwer”, appointed as a reference by the composer himself. Being a concert performer, he has played in prestigious halls (Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London…). As a composer he is subject to numerous commands and his works for guitar are published at H. Lemoine Editions. In 2016 he worked with Cécile  to create Voice Lute Forte a work dedicated to English Renaissance music and more specifically to the music of John Dowland.

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Here is another version with the lyrics closer to those printed above

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The flip side of John Dowland’s Music is his instrumental music and specifically his Lute music. Here is a performance of his Fantasia No.7  by Andrey Lebedev .It starts out as a gentle, stately exploration of the melody before going into complex variations and contrapuntal explorations before reaching a climax in an eighth rhythm finale. Modern day steel string guitar players with their alternate tuning and finger picking techniques have been heading in this direction for a number of year but, take note, John Dowland was there long before us. A technical note: To emulate the  sound and range of the Lute, modern day classical guitarists will use a capo (usually at the third fret) and tune the G string down to F#.

Andrey Lebedev, born in Moscow and raised in Australia is one of many, many outstanding young players who are breathing new life into Classical Guitar performances. He is a winner of many awards and honors  and currently lives in London where he is a full scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music, supported by the ABRSM and the Julian Bream Trust. His interests in contemporary repertoire have led him to premiere new works by leading composers including Peter Sculthorpe’s Oh T.I. for Guitar and String Orchestra, Leo Brouwer’s Danzas Rituales y Festivas, Vol.2 and the aforementioned Julian Bream Trust commissions, as well as regularly performing music by late 20th century by composers such as Berio, Henze, Ginastera, Britten and Takemitsu. A lover of chamber music, Andrey Lebedev performs regularly with flautists Bronte Hudnott and Alena Lugovkina, mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean, and has worked extensively with the Llewelyn Guitar Quartet in Australia.

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Post Script: –  2018/10/29 – The music of John Dowland has even penetrated the consciousness  of the rock world.  I came across these two videos of Sting with Lutenist Edin Karamazov performing a number of John Dowland songs. I have always enjoyed Stings musical exploration in rock, world music, jazz and solo performances but even I was surprised by these forays into the songs of John Dowland.

The instrument Sting is playing is called a Theorbo. It is a plucked string instrument  of the lute family family with an extended neck and a second pegbox.

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