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 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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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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YouTube Picks (#20) – Another way to play Mandolin (3): 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 to 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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YouTube Picks (#19) – Another way to play Mandolin (2) – The Mother Lode

If you have spent any time listening to Bluegrass music then you are more than familiar with the mandolin. After all, didn’t the mandolin virtuoso Bill Monroe virtually invent this traditional genre? As I pointed out in a previous blog entry, there are other ways to

YouTube picks (#16) – Another way to play Mandolin

play mandolin besides Bluegrass and a perusal of the Brazilian Choro Bandolin tradition is a profitable investment in time. Even a casual investigation of the Bluegrass and Choro  traditions will eventually lead one back to the mother lode of mandolin performances  – the European classical tradition. As I mentioned in the previous blog, in part,  the North American and Brazilian mandolins traditions  can be traced back to the mostly Neapolitan roots. In the seventeen hundreds there was nothing more Italian or Neapolitan than the city of Venice and the music of Vivaldi. Some of the most popular mandolin pieces in the classical repertoire are the Vivaldi concertos.   The attached performance is the Antonio Vivaldi – Concerto for 2 Mandolins and Orchestra (RV532) by Het CONSORT  (a well known Dutch Mandolin Chamber Orchestra).

Mandolin Picks

Reesha Oud Picks

From the north American perspective the interesting things about the mandolins in this video are that the instruments are round back and very small. The other thing of note is the style of pick used. New World (USA and Brazil) mandolin players tend to use short, thick stiff plectrums. The performers in the Vivaldi orchestra all use thin quill like plectrums almost identical to the reesha, a pick used by Middle Eastern musicians to play the Oud. I don’t know what advantages that would offer. Maybe it is just a question of quality of sound. North American mandolin players favor a very percussion string attack and that maybe generates a sound out of favor in the classical tradition.

 

 

Below is another Vivaldi performance this time by the Israeli musician Avi Avital who is the first mandolin player to receive a GRAMMY nomination in the category “Best Instrumental Soloist” (2010) for his recording of Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto (Metropolis Ensemble / Andrew Cyr). He has won numerous competitions and awards including Germany’s ECHO Prize for his 2008 recording with the David Orlowsky Trio and the AVIV Competition (2007), the preeminent national competition for Israeli soloists. He plays an unusual looking instrument built by the Israeli Luthier Avi Kerman. The instrument  has been described as a double topped instrument with a convex back. It is in essence two mandolins – one inside the other.

The compositions are so similar one wonders if the solo concerto is just a re-orchestration of the duo.

For mandolin music this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many more Mandolin videos on YouTube. There are lots of performances to explore…..  viva YouTube

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AUTUMN TONES

AUTUMN TONES is a chamber music ensemble of local musicians with Nicola Everton on clarinet, Sue Gold on piano and Martine denBok on violin and viola. All three musicians are associated with the Symphony of the Kootenays as either members of the orchestra or as visiting soloists. Nicola and Sue have performed many times in the area, along with cellist Jeff Faragher, in the classical chamber music ensemble THE SELKIRK TRIO. In both the Selkirk Trio and Autumn Tones the intent seems to be to explore the modern edge of classical music as well as excursions into the realms of the traditional classical repertoire, Jazz, Latin, Klezmer or anything else that strikes their fancy. On this beautiful fall afternoon in the lobby of the Key City Theatre that is the musical realms they set out to explore.

They kicked off the afternoon with Darius Milhaud’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano. For me it was a moment of unbelievable synchronicity. On the drive to the theater I had been listening to some Brazilian Choro on the car CD player (yes, some of us still listen to CDs). On this beautiful fall afternoon what could be more appropriate than bouncing down the highway to the warm rhythms of Brazilian Choro. From the opening bars of the Milhaud piece the choro music I had just been listening to immediately came to mind and I began mentally adding in the percussive sounds of the Brazilian Pandeiro to the trio on stage.The Pandeiro is a Brazilian tambourine that is the heart beat of  samba. That mental notion is completely understandable when you consider Darius Milhaud’s musical associations with Jazz and Brazilian music.  He was one of the most prolific modern classical composers of the last century and was influenced by the sounds of Jazz and Brazilian music. While it is not his only claim to fame he was a musical mentor to the Jazz musician Dave Brubeck. So much so that Brubeck named his son Darius after the composer. One of Milhaud’s former students was the popular songwriter  Burt Baccharach. Milhaud is reported to have told Bacharach, “Don’t be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody.”.  This Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano lived up to that standard with lots of melody, rhythm and musical interplay between the instruments.

Popularity in music usually means world tours and mega arena performances. Modern classical composers do not rate that sort of popularity or attention and yet, in the realm of classical music, Arvo Part is probably the most popular modern classical composer of the last few years. This Estonian composer of classical and religious music uses self invented compositional techniques in the minimalist style (think Phillip Glass with darker Eastern European overtones). For this afternoon’s performance the trio selected Part’s popular Spiegel im Spiegel written in 1978. “Spiegel im Spiegel” in German literally can mean both “mirror in the mirror” as well as “mirrors in the mirror”, referring to an infinity mirror which produces an infinity of images reflected by parallel plane mirrors: the tonic triads in the composition are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. The piece was originally written for a single piano and violin. Other versions exist with cello or viola, double bass, clarinet, trombone, flute etc.  This performance is for piano, clarinet and violin and is in F major in 6/4 time.

Aram Il’yich Khachaturian (1903 – 1978) was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor and is best known for his composition  the Sabre Dance. He was the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century and is considered one of Soviet Russia’s  leading composer. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly used Armenia and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern & Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples’ folk music in his works.  His style is “characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies”. The trio performed movements 1 and 3 from his Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.

In the vernacular the clarinet has been referred to as a liquorice stick. Maybe it is the colour of the instrument but I like to think it is because of the liquid smoothness of the music of Mozart when played on the clarinet. Autumn Tones pulled us away from the “edginess” of contemporary classical music into the smooth mainstream of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, K498 in E flat Major for piano, clarinet and viola. No composer before Mozart had written for this combination of instruments. The origin of the nickname Kegelstatt is interesting. The German word Kegelstatt means “a place where skittles are played,” akin to a bowling alley. Mozart is reputed to have written this while playing skittles. At the time the clarinet was a relatively new instrument and in the first performance the then vituoso Anton Stadler played clarinet, Mozart the viola, and Franziska von Jacquin the piano. This trio composition, along with his Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet concerto helped increase the instrument’s popularity. The piece is in three movements: Andante /  Menuetto /  Rondeaux: Allegretto

 

For the final piece the trio took us back to the edge for a little slice of Yiddish Klezmer in the tune Moldavanke. This style of music is mostly associated with Eastern European Jewish traditions and is performed in a lively bouncing style with overtones of Jewish humor and melancholy. Nicola has fallen in love with the style and wants to put together a Klezmer band.

  

Autumn Tones would like to thank The Kootenay Cultural Alliance and sponsors that have made this tour possible.

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A BONUS: By it’s very nature music is of the moment. As soon as the musical note leaps into the air it is in the process of dying and until the invention of sound recordings that was it. All we had left were memories.  The recording industry has changed all that and performances can become more permanent if they are recorded. Unfortunately not all performances make it “onto wax”. This concert by Autumn Tones is now but a pleasant memory. Perhaps some day Autumn Tones and The Selkirk Trio can be persuaded to record those musical gems that over recent years they have cast to the winds. To make up for that here is a bonus for you from YouTube –

Darius Milhaud: Suite op.157b for Clarinet, Violin and Piano – Cologne Chamber Soloists

ENJOY

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YouTube Pick (#12) – The Brasil Duo

Certain musicians, or groups of musicians, often have “a lock” on a genre or a particular musical approach. For instance Blue grass and old timey musicians own banjo music. After all they virtually invented the instrument and the appropriate styles so it only stands to reason that they should “own” banjo music. Similarly, for a multitude of reasons that I could bore you to death with, “Classical Guitarists” have a lock on Guitar Duets, Trio and Quartets. “The Brazilian guitar duo João Luiz and Douglas Lora are one of the most exciting and recent chamber groups to emerge on the music scene. These two talented young guitarists combine energy and technique with a dazzling musicality………. the duo shows maturity, talent and perfect technique in their interpretations and executions of intricate Brazilian rhythms……. Their sonority is exceptional, robust and varied and their whole repertoire is played with verve and enthusiasm, with stylistic balance and sensitivity …….. Excepts from Wikipedia  –  Amen to all of that.

Classical music, and classical guitar may have a reputation for being stuffy, “uncool” and uninteresting. I think this piece, Bata Coxa, by the Brazilian composer Marco Pereira (born 1950) played by this very energetic duo should dispel some of those notions. CDs by the duo are expensive and hard to come by…… thank God for YouTube for giving me a chance to experience their music.

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KIMBERLEY KALEIDOSCOPE FESTIVAL – The Selkirk Trio

Poster-AftenoonTea_fortheWeb

AFTERNOON TEA WITH THE SELKIRK TRIO, Studio 64, Kimberley BC, Sunday August 7, 2016

112. Selkirk TrioFor most people the idea of Classical Music usually means symphony orchestras, opulent concert halls, musicians in formal attire and patrons dressed to impress. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the symphony is the be all and and end all of classical music. The great virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin, no stranger to large orchestras and concert halls, is reputed to have expressed the notion “that the true essence and application of music is to be found in chamber music”. If there is any doubt to that concept one has only to spend time with The Selkirk Trio. A couple of hours with Sue Gould (piano), Nicola Everton (clarinet) and Jeff Faragher  (Cello) and you should become a true believer in chamber music. Over the years I have attended at least three concerts of the trio and each time I am impressed with their program selection, their technical virtuosity and their musicality. The strength of the trio, and chamber music in general, is the lack of filters. There is no sound re-enforcement to get in the way and distort the true sound of the instruments. The musical arena for chamber concerts tends to be human scale with the audience and the musicians all within hand reach of each other. The nuances of musical dynamics and shading are right there in and around the audience. The trio kicked off the concert with the Cuban classical composer and jazz musician  Paquito D’Rivera’s Afro. Jeff doubled on Djembe  to provide some authentic 142. Clarinetatmosphere. This was followed by Ludwig Van Beethoven’s  Trio in B Flat Major, Opus 11, the second movement. My favorite item in the trio’s program is the 7 Balkan Dances  by the Croatian composer Marko Tajčević. Nicola obviously revels in these short but intricate pieces that bounce around the essentially odd rhythmic elements of Balkan music. I have tried to find a recording of these particular pieces but so far I have not been successful. I only think it fair to suggest that the trio needs to record them at some future date.

Sue and her coat of many colours

Sue and her coat of many colours

Pavel Karmanov is a Russian rock musician with musical credentials that go way beyond the limits of that style of music. Sue Gould selected his minimalist composition Birthday Present to Myself. The Minimalist School of classical composition is a recent innovation and is best exemplified by the music of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. Minimalist  compositions usually consists of repetitive melodic motifs that need to be comprehended as part of the larger composition. A friend of mine declared that Steve Reich’s classic minimalist piece  Six Marimbas to be  some form of advanced Chinese water torture. Of course I beg to differ. It is one of my favorite pieces of music. I am looking forward to spending more time with the music of Pavel Karmanov.

Nicola kicked off the second half of the program with some Klezmer compositions by the Canadian composer Milton Barnes (1931-2001). The pieces were scored for clarinet and piano duo.

Nicola's Freilach dancing shoes

Nicola’s Freilach dancing shoes

In this day and age we all have toys. For Jeff it is the looping pedal. Jeff has just completed a solo CD recording project entitled Voices Within. One of the object of the exercise was to give Jeff the opportunity to experiment with a looping pedal. This is a device that is very common in pop music circles. It allows a performer to lay down  tracks of music in an orderly fashion to create a complete solo performance. In this case Jeff chose a number of cello pieces where he performs all the parts. To give some idea of how the process works Jeff gave a working demonstration by using the looping pedal to first lay down the melody of The Largo from Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos, BV351. He then went back and, while the melody was playing, he added the bass part. He followed this up by finally adding the harmony part thus completing the piece. “Boys and Their Toys”……… Sue was not to out done. Her toy was a relatively simple device attached to the iPad containing her musical scores. With a tap on the foot pedal she is able to turn the pages, thus overcoming a major nuisance for pianist playing off the printed page. Nicola did her “party piece” with the Klezmer tunes, Jeff did his “party piece” with Vivaldi and the foot pedals. Sue’s “party piece” was a solo performance of Bela Bartok’s Romanian Dances for Solo Piano. The trio came together to perform Nino Roto’s  (of God Father film music fame) Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. For the encore the trio  played an arrangement of The Ashokan Farewell from Ken Burn’s CBS Civil War Documentary. It was a hauntingly beautiful end to a great afternoon of music.

084a. Cello100. Jeff Faragher   126. Sue Gould

Happiness is a sun tan and a good clarinet reed

Happiness is a sun tan and a good clarinet reed

“Jeff, what are you doing down there?”

"I'm playing with my toys"

“I’m playing with my toys”

162. Jeff Faragher  164. Jeff Faragher

154. Sue Gould124. Sue and Nicola  135. Nicola Everton

The concert is over .... I can lay myself down and sleep

The concert is over …. I can now lay myself down and sleep

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A YouTube Pick (#6) – Smaro Gregoriadou

In the classical music world the ladies comprise a significant number of the professional musicians out there. Maybe not at the conductor’s level of course, but among pianists and string players their numbers are very notable and noticeable. Up until very recently that was not the case among the Classical Guitarists.  Considering that there were not to many Classical Guitarists around in the first half of the 20th century that is understandable. The first significant female guitarist I became aware of is Ida Presti (1924-1967) and her performances with Alexander LaGoya in the Duo Presti-Lagoya. As a duo they set the standard at a pretty high level. When Julian Bream and John Williams recorded their duos around in the 1970s they were following in the footsteps of Ida Presti and Alexander LaGoya. Also in the 1970’s the Canadian Liona Boyd came to prominence and, although a very competent performer I always found her to be a bit of a musical light weight  –  “she played like a girl”.  That rather derogatory phrase took on a whole new meaning when the American guitarist Sharon Isbin also launched her career in the late 1970’s. She had the looks and demeanor of a New York fashion model and a guitar technique that literally over shadowed all her male and female peers. She was no musical light weight (just check her recording of the Bach Lute Suites) and if what she was doing, “playing like a girl”,  then God bless us all with the ability and power to “play like a girl”.  In the late 1980s the Brazilian Badi Assad emerged on the scene with an  original approach to Classical Guitar. Although raised within a strong classical tradition, her two brothers are a famous Classical Guitar duo, her approach has been more folkloric and Brazilian. Badi is also blessed with extraordinary good looks and marvelous technique. It seems that stunning good looks is a prerequisite for female classical guitarists. After cruising YouTube one would think that is definitely the case (is that being sexist?). The ladies on YouTube, Leonara Spangbenger, Julia Lange, Tatyana Ryzhkoua and Ana Vidovic, just to mention a few, are all beautiful young women who do not “play like a girl”.

 The latest female guitarist to come to my attention is Smoro Gregoriadou. This Greek Smaro Gregoriadoulady is virtually re-inventing the guitar. She plays a wide range of interesting classical guitars that include, double course instruments, high strung FLAM-CLASS-FRONT DETAILinstruments, instruments with scalloped finger boards (a’ la John McLaughlin), guitars with odd shapes and styles. This lady is absolutely brilliant. I have yet to hear another classical guitarist that is more spell binding in performance. Check the YouTube selections below. I find her technique and musicality absolutely astounding

Cueva Del Gato is a composition by the famous flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia. She literally outshines the original. I believe the instrument is tuned higher to an A (equivalent to playing with a capo at the 5th fret) and also note the scalloped fingerboard).

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“Canadian Folk Sketches” – World Premier Rehearsals

SOTK Lizzy Hoyt 2016_02_13

In the past there has been a well recognized tradition where classical composers have dipped into folkloric waters to refurbish and re-invigorate their music. In fact there are  whole national music traditions that have come into being as a result of that process. Every now and then folk musicians, rock musicians and jazz musicians have turned that process on its ear by enlisting classical musicians, most notably, symphony orchestras in support of music that is outside the normal symphony repertoire. Over the years The Symphony of the Kootenays has been involved in a number of those type of projects. Lizzy Hoyt’s Canadian Folk Sketches World Premier is the latest in that ilk. Lizzy Hoyt (vocals, guitar, fiddle, and harp) and her trio, Keith Rempel (upright bass and back-up vocals) and Chis Tabbert (guitar and Russian Soviet era mandolin) joined the Symphony and shared the solo spotlights with a number of the Symphony’s outstanding musicians. The rehearsals were on Saturday afternoon, February 13, 2016 in preparation for the premier concert later that evening. Here are some images from that rehearsal.

505. Trio plus Orchestra 100. Lizzy Hoyt    200. Keith Rempell    300. Chris Tabbert  132. Lizzy Hoyt   312. Chris Tabbert    212. Keith Rempel  310. Lizzy and Chris050. Harp  320. Chris Tabbert   408. Wendy  422. Jeff Faragher 144. Lizzy Hoyt  118. Lizzy Hoyt  316. Chris Tabbert 532. Nicola   140. Lizzy Hoyt   146. Lizzy's feet

I know the instrument doesn’t make the music. It is the musician who makes the music. However, having said that, I think it is worth focusing some attention on Lizzy’s magnificent Collings small bodied guitar (probably a Collings OM1). This a truly beautiful example of modern luthiery and it further demonstrates that we are living in a golden era of hand made instruments.050a. The Collins Guitar 126a. Lizzy and the Collings guitar

As for the repertoire it always gives me great pleasure when a Canadian musician stops looking south for musical inspiration and decides to explore the rich, varied, and largely unexplored traditions of Canada.

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“I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound” – Buffalo Springfield

Saturday January 30, 2016, 7:30 pm at Centre 64 in Kimberley: Noemi Kiss and Rita Deane – Voice and Classical Guitar

We live in an era of complete sensory overload so it is nice to stop, step back and listen to sounds that are entirely human scale. There are no Marshall stack amplifiers with three guitars and a thudding back beat here. No fifty member symphony orchestra going full blast. No bar room high level back ground noise. No overhead TV sports distractions. Just a duo of voice and classical guitar performing music from across the musical spectrum. And the best thing yet….. an intimate venue where you can actually hear the music. That just about describes the concert by Rita Deane (Classical Guitar) and Noemi Kiss (Soprano) on Saturday night at Centre 64 in Kimberley.

152. Rita and Noemi

Both musicians  currently reside in the West Kootenays. Rita was raised in Rossland and has been studying guitar and piano since the age of six. She went on to study in Cordoba (Spain) and Salzburg (Austria). Noemi was born in Hungry and studied in Budapest and London. Noemi now resides in Agenta (it’s a long way from the centers of Euopean music to the jungles of British Columbia). Both musicians are fully fledged professional musicians who mostly teach and perform in the West Kootenays. The Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance  has made it possible for the duo to tour though out the East and West Kootenays and perform the following program.

Kiss and Deane program-ed_edited-1

To truly listen and appreciate this music, as in the words of the Buffalo Springfield song, one does have to stop. Then take a moment to re-calibrate  one’s senses to actually hear the sounds. Once done, a different aural universe becomes evident. The old saying “less is more” is very true in this instance. The concert space literally filled with sounds that would be completely lost if the music was amplified. As you can see from the above program of love songs the music covered in this concert is a broad spectrum of styles. From the music of the Elizabethan Lutenist John Dowland, through the Classic Era music of Mauro Giulani and Fernando Sor; the modern Classical composers, Joaquin Rodrigo, Heirto Villa-lobos and Benjamin Britten, to some traditional Irish and Hungarian folk songs and onto some arrangements of Eva Cassidy, including Sting’s Fields of Gold.
My pick of the music performed would be the Villa-Lobos piece, the John Dowland song and Sting’s Fields of Gold and that maybe because they are my favourite composers. In addition to those particular pieces the Hungarian folk song Volt Nekem szeretom   had a very special appeal to me for no other reason that it reminded me of the Agnes Baltsa 1985 album of Songs My Country Taught Me (a marvellous collection of Greek songs).

Here are some images from the Green Room (trying to keep warm)

100. Rita Deane  102. Noemi Kiss  106. Rita Deane 106. Noemi Kiss        104. Rita Deane

022. William (Grit) Laskin guitarSome images from the concert:116. Noemi Kiss  124 Rita and Noemi   130. Rita Deane   134. Noemi Kiss  136. Noemi Kiss  142. Noemi Kiss  150. Rita Deane  166. Rita Deane    168. Rita Deane  174. Rita Deane   244. Noemi Kiss  300. Rita Deane   300a. Rita Deane   302. Rita Deane 176. Rita Deane  246a. Noemi Kiss  310. Rita and Noemi

There was a third partner in the room – Rita’s magnificent William Laskin (“Grit”) Guitar with its distinctive arm rest bevel. That particular feature improves player comfort and has been adopted by a number of other luthiers. Rita has had the instrument for over 10 years and it was originally purchased at a price equivalent to that of motor vehicle. It is Rita’s baby and there is not a scratch or a bump on it. The standard features of a William Laskin classical guitar these days include Indian Rosewood back & sides, Sitka Spruce soundboard, Spanish Cedar neck (with Carbon Graphite reinforcement), Ebony fingerboard (w/ Ebony binding), Rosewood bridge w/ Ebony & Bone tie block, Ebony binding, Bone nut and saddle, Sloane tuners (bronze plate with ebony buttons). He offers enough non-standard features and custom options to please the most discerning musicians.

020. The Grit Laskin arm rest bevel   064. Rosewood Back

In a nutshell this was a “deliciously delicate” performance and I suggest that when they play again in Cranbrook next Saturday they should not be missed.

Feb6 Cranbrook

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Saturday February 6, 2016, 7:30 pm at the ROYAL ALEXANDRA HALL in Cranbrook: Noemi Kiss and Rita Deane – Voice and Classical Guitar

100. Royal Alexandra Hall402. Noemi and Rita

Synchronicity is a concept which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no casual relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related (Wikipedia). Is that what this was? If so then bring on more of the same. The meaningful coincidences could be the musical collaboration of a Classical Guitarist from Nelson, BC and a magnificent Soprano from Hungry coming together in the acoustic environment of the Royal Alexandra Hall in Cranbrook. It was evident within minutes of the musicians entering the room that they were were enthralled by the acoustics. For the audience it was a chance to hear live music without any of the sonic distortion of added amplification. It was a real treat. I have been to a number of concerts in this hall and I have found that any artificial sound re-enforcement has had a negative impact on the music. For me there was only one drawback and and that was the natural prohibition on taking photos during the performance. The click of a camera shutter would have destroyed the musical ambience of the evening. I had to settle for some pre-concert shots  during the sound check. I can live with that………………….. The program was a recap of the sold-out concert in Nelson and the follow up performances in Fernie and Kimberley with the added zest of a unique acoustic environment

334. Rita Deane   202. Noemi Kiss   418. Rita and Noemi450. Rita and Noemi422. Rita and Noemi412a. Rita and Noemi436. Noemi and Rita

Thanks must go to the Kootenay Cultural Alliance for making this very special performance possible.

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