Tuesday, May 13, 2008

miscellanées and catchupiness

Well, I'm back in Hobart until mid-July. Then, it will be time to stop my radical sabbatical and get back to real life. Most likely, I'll have to arrange my fiddling around a work schedule. Oh my!

Well, time for a little flash back on to my recent month in the states. Interesting to me is this having a foot in each hemisphere. There are tunes that I'm used to playing in both places, with some overlap, but it wears on me a little to feel a little behind the curve in both places. Doubly behind the curve, as it were. I'll stop short of saying that I'm overwhelmed by a double repertoire, because I truly do love learning simultaneous tons of tunes. But, that old perfectionism rears it's head and I have to screw up my courage and just play the tunes as best I can.

NEFFA was a great time. It's a very long standing festival that has seen many homes. The link in the post below will get you more info, including the history of venues since the late 1940's. Along with some fun, fun, fun jamming with some Dixie Butterhounds and good festival buddies, I was able to go to 4 workshops.

Effort-Less Fiddling by Toby Weinburg was very interesting... how to 'hold' the fiddle by a mix of opposing forces. I'm not going to try to expound on this much more than that skimpy description. Go hear Toby sometime. His workshop was done very well. He had us stand up and do some exercises and experiments to understand opposing forces and the weight of our neighbors' arms.

A good time to mention another workshop that I got to, 'Planning a Workshop' by Lisa Seiverts. She offered a smorgasborg of strategies for making workshops more accessible and experiential.

It was great fun to see how fiddles are built at Dave Golber's 'What's a fiddle' workshop. I learned a few more definitions to help me talk about the parts of a fiddle, styles, types of wood, shapes, and the like. Very instructive. Didn't you always wonder how fiddles are constructed?

And, last but not least, I stopped in on Jane Rothfield's Fiddle and Banjo Duets' workshop, with a banjo player that I'm going to be ashamed to forget his name. (Someone set me straight, and I'll be glad to edit this post.) It was nicely interactive between the audience and artists. Folks got a chance to watch typical jamming and ask questions, some very basic and some upper level. I love to watch the look on people's faces when they understand that OT musicians are playing a tune together for the first time, without practicing but sounding like they'd played it 100 times before. I'd seen Jane in concert in the Albany area, and been to a few workshops. (Jane's who taught me to think of the bow making a tone that was shaped like a bell curve. Thanks, Jane!) It was nice to have the chance to watch her more closely and hear them talk about what tunes to pick and why, the fiddle and the banjo being an iconic foundation for old time music.

My partner found heaps of singing workshops and concerts. The food at the middle school was better than average festival food, I though. Plenty of vegetarian and healthy, yummy, choices. And, the crafts were fun, as always. There was a bones booth and I have to have a moment of applause here for the guy running the booth. He was endlessly patient as he helped potential customers to begin to learn how to play the bones. As I've said, I was traveling uber light, so I had to pass on getting my first pair. Somewhere down the road perhaps.

Appropo of nothing, I've recently printed out a tune list based on the Portland Collections, with tunes from the old time repertoire bolded. It's like my OT tune list, in tiny fonts and 5 columns. Yes indeedy, they're transcribed for the contradance band, not Ramblers or Rounders or Stringbands, but I think it's helpful to be able to see some skeletons and a reminder about tunes that are 'out there' waiting for me to catch up with them.

Otherwise, I've occupied my easier weeks with playing with old friends in the Albany area... Fiddlers' Tour, the Pine Hills Stringband, the Empire State Plaza lunchtime jam at the NYS Museum, and a sweet Unger / Mason jam near Woodstock, NY. The PHSB folks played out at the Shaker Barn at the Pottery Guild show under the Old Songs Festival banner. What a nice old wooden venue with incredible acoustics. A guy came by to tell Ernie that his guitar could be heard across the room at the entrance, separate from 2 fiddles and 2 banjos. Well, Ernie does play some good bass runs and chucks, but even so, that's good sound conduction without any amplification.

And, hat tip to the Charlton Sound folks who video'd the Fiddlers' Tour learning the Aussie 'Old Schoolmaster' by ear and playing their old favorite, The Tassie 'Black Cat. Google Charlton Sound, and you can have a look and listen.

Once again, I'm impressed at how it's really about the people. Although, I'm tempted to say that we do this music thing because we love to find venues in places where we've never been before. We kid ourselves into believing that we do it for the music, but I do so get a kick out of following a map and finding someplace that I've never been before. Mansfield, Massachusetts; The Muddy Cup in Schenectady; the Shaker barn near the Albany Airport; Hobart Town, Tasmania.

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