Monday, July 31, 2017

Carter Family 90th Anniversary

Tomorrow, Aug. 1, is the 90th anniversary of the Carter Family's first recording session, what Johnny Cash called "The Big Bang of country music". I learned to play guitar in the style that Maybelle Carter pioneered, not knowing in my youth the source of that alternating bass pattern I loved. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and was imitating his style, later learning he was Maybelle's son-in-law. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter_Family.

John B. McClintick

This is my great-grandfather John B. "Brit" McClintick, holding the guitar in the quartet and the banjo in the trio. In the quartet, the man at right is holding a mandocello, second from right is a mandolin, and at left is either a mandolin or mandola. Mandolin groups were the rage in the late 1800s and early 1900s, later supplanted by ukuleles and banjos.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bluesman John Jackson

This is a good article about the late John Jackson, an Appalachian acoustic bluesman: http://www.folkways.si.edu/magazine-summer-2010-rappahannock-blues-john-jackson/african-american-music/article/smithsonian.
I saw him perform at the 22nd Kent State Folk Festival on Feb. 24, 1990, and was moved by his music. The blues touches me in a deep soulful way, and I need it as much as I need Celtic and Appalachian music. I bought his album "Step It Up And Go" (Rounder Records 2019) on vinyl that evening, and I recently rediscovered it; he even plays banjo on "Boil 'Em Cabbage Down". I found that he has more albums on CD, which are available at Amazon and through Smithsonian Folkways.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Crash Course in Appalachian Fiddling

I am taking a self-taught, or autodidactic, course in Appalachian fiddling. I was enlisted by Great Trail Festival to play for the Cedar Valley Cloggers this year, and Celtic tunes won't necessarily work well at the tempos required by cloggers, so I'm learning Appalachian tunes, which can more readily stand up to higher speeds. I've long loved Appalachian fiddling but at best enjoyed an uneasy truce with it, to paraphrase a late friend describing my difficulties with Irish and Scottish reels. I have long played reels and Appalachian breakdowns well on mandolin but never understood the nuances of bowing that made the tunes sound like traditional tunes. In the last couple years I suddenly grasped the subtleties of these tunes, a result of years of listening and study, and when I began practicing Appalachian tunes last weekend they felt like first cousins rather than strangers from the next hollow. I have compiled a tune list, I ordered a book about fiddling and fiddlers, and I found an online file of an old book called the Hamblen Collection on the website of my friend Christian Wig, chriswig.com. I am practicing like mad and excited about playing onstage at Great Trail. The festival takes place on the weekend before and weekend of Labor Day, and the website is greattrailfestival.com. The cloggers are at http://cedarvalleycloggers.webs.com/.

Blue Ridge Music Center

The Blue Ridge Music Center, on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the border of Virginia and North Carolina, includes a museum of Appalachian museum, a performance hall, and a breezeway where we saw locals jamming when we visited in October 2012. I loved the museum's collection of instruments and recording paraphernalia. The website is blueridgemusiccenter.org. Click "read more" for more photos.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bio

John Whitacre performs traditional music of the British Isles specializing in tunes popular in colonial America on violin, mandolin family instruments, mountain dulcimer, and guitar. He started violin in fifth grade at Clearmount School in North Canton and took the usual route of school orchestra and classical lessons. He played for four years in the Canton Youth Symphony and for nine years in the Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra, but he was always drawn to traditional music. He started guitar in ninth grade, added other instruments over the years, and discovered Celtic music in 1989. He has studied music theory and also plays ukulele, Autoharp, and banjo.
John plays and teaches at folk music festivals and historical festivals, and he is focusing on solo gigs as a historical musician and on recording music of the 18th century and original music written in the style of 18th-century Scottish music. He is a historian with a B.A. from Kent State, a calligrapher, and an avid reader of many subjects, studying to be a polymath.

John Whitacre’s Music of the Colonies
I present a program of historical Celtic music from the 18th century. I play tunes that were popular in England, Scotland, Ireland, and the British colonies in the 1700s, explaining people and events associated with those tunes, the different types of tunes and their uses, and instruments played at the time. This program combines my love of early American history and music, and I draw the music from republications and reprints of books from the 18th century. I play a Baroque-Celtic style of music, using Baroque classical technique and traditional Celtic styles to recreate the Scottish Drawing Style of the middle 18th century.

Whence came the name Rampant Mandolin?
I began playing traditional Celtic music in 1989 and, within about a year, after acquiring my mandola, developed the idea of a Celtic mandolin consort consisting of mandolin, mandola, and octave mandolin, similar to the orchestral string quartet but playing Celtic music. Many modern Celtic bands use bigger mandolins, variously called cittern, bouzouki, or octave mandolin, and a few use mandolins, but rarely do those instruments stand out front as the featured instruments. Most often they are nearly lost in the mix, drowned out by fiddle, whistle, flute, and pipes, which are louder and have more sustain, or they play a supporting role, providing chordal or arpeggio accompaniment.
Wanting to bring the mandolin to the fore in Celtic music, I took my music name from the Scottish royal standard, the Rampant Lion, rampant being a heraldric term referring to an animal standing on one hind leg with one foreleg raised above the other and the head in profile. It’s an aggressive pose, and the name Rampant Mandolin implies that I mean to make the mandolin a strong voice in my music, standing out front, not supporting other instruments or lost in the mix. The word mandolin even contains the word lion — you can anagram “mandolin” to “damn lion.”


More About The Music
The music I play is a Baroque-Celtic hybrid. It’s a style played in Scotland in the mid-1700s called Scottish Drawing Room Music, a mix of traditional Celtic dance music and Baroque arrangements.
It helps to know that in the 18th century traditional and classical music were close cousins. Many musicians played both styles, and Baroque music was not far removed from its dance roots, evidenced by the wealth of suites that were collections of movements in varying dance forms. Drawing Room Music often took a Scottish dance melody and arranged it in sets of variations patterned after those Baroque suites. Variations were written as melodic and rhythmic variants of the original tune, the former introducing more complicated musical phrases, the latter similar phrases in different dance forms.
I also play fife and bagpipe marches on string instruments, and I play Scottish and Irish jigs, reels, and hornpipes. I especially love the slow, hauntingly beautiful airs that constitute a large part of the Celtic repertoire and the tunes of Turlough O’Carolan, an 18th-century Irish harper whose tunes, like Scottish Drawing Room Music, blended Baroque and traditional elements. Finally, I have written tunes in the style of 18th-century Scottish music.
This was the music popular in the British Isles and colonial America in the 1700s, and through my music I recreate a bit of the feel of an evening of music in colonial times.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

More biographical information

John Whitacre performs traditional music of the British Isles specializing in tunes popular in colonial America on violin, mandolin family instruments, mountain dulcimer, and guitar. He started violin in fifth grade in North Canton schoolw and took the usual route of school orchestra and classical lessons. He played for four years in the Canton Youth Symphony and for nine years in the Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra, but he was always drawn to traditional music. He started guitar in ninth grade, added other instruments over the years, and discovered Celtic music in 1989. He has studied music theory and also plays ukulele, Autoharp, and banjo.
John plays and teaches at folk music festivals and historical festivals, and he is focusing on solo gigs as a historical musician and on recording music of the 18th century and original music written in the style of 18th-century Scottish music. He is a historian with a B.A. from Kent State, a calligrapher, and an avid reader of many subjects, studying to be a polymath.