Friday, December 18, 2015

My Mandolin Christmas Wish

One thing on my Christmas list is to see colleges initiate a mandolin performance major. As far as I know such a major is nonexistent in the United States. The mandolin is too little known and played in classical music, and in other forms of music, and it deserves a greater audience.
People mainly hear mandolin in the 21st century mainly in bluegrass music, but it played a strong role in music of the Baroque period, many composers having written for it, as shown in the book "The Early Mandolin" by James Tyler and Paul Sparks. The mandolin family -- mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass -- thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when nearly every city in this country had a mandolin orchestra, playing light classical and popular music of the time. The mandolin family can serve a strong role in classical music, theater music, and other forms of music where it is little appreciated, and besides the mandolin family, this major could include the four-string banjo, whose tuning resembles that of the mandolin.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Workshops and Teaching

I give lessons and workshops on traditional Celtic music on string instruments. Following are the instruments and styles I teach:
1. Celtic fiddle -- Scottish, Irish, and English traditional styles, teaching students methods of playing, such as drones, bowing, and ornaments, used to transform the violin and printed music to traditional fiddling. This can include features of 18th-century Scottish and English music.
2. Celtic music on mandolin family instruments -- mandolin, mandola, and octave mandolin. Students learn how to use techniques such as drones, picking, and ornaments to create a Celtic sound. This can include an emphasis on the music of Turlough O'Carolan and the 18th century.
3. Mountain dulcimer -- Flatpicking in DAD and DGD tuning using capos to play in nearly all Celtic keys. Includes use of drones, picking and ornaments to create a Celtic sound.
4. Celtic guitar accompaniment. Using strumming patterns, selective string playing, bass lines, partial chords, varying chord voicings, and chord substitution to create a Celtic sound and to add variety.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tommy and the Tannies

It was a miserable drive to the concert on Tuesday but well worth the trip. It was the Tannahill Weavers after all.
I don’t do well driving on dark, rainy nights. I never have thanks to astigmatism — even in my 20s driving home from orchestra rehearsal in Dover I had trouble seeing the white lines on rainy nights — and now I have the additional problem of newly developing cataracts causing fuzzy vision. The rain fell steadily but not necessarily heavily on Tuesday, making amends for the summer drought, but traffic, especially big trucks, threw up spray and obscured the stripes, magnifying the visibility problems. But the concert venue, Happy Days Lodge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, was dry, warm and bright.
The Tannies may be unknown to the average person, but they are one of Scotland’s finest traditional groups, blending fiddle, flute, whistles, bodhran (a traditional Irish drum), guitar and bagpipes on scorching instrumentals, spirited songs about Scottish historical figures, and lovely ballads, accompanied by leader Roy Gullane’s often outrageous tongue-in-cheek stories.