Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Monday, June 25, 2007

CTMS Summer Solstice Festival

Last Sunday, Mrs. and I drove up to the California Traditional Music Society's Summer Solstice Folk Music, Dance and Storytelling Festival. This year it was held at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA.

In previous years it was held on the grounds of Soka University in Calabasas. Soka has moved to Orange County; those beautiful garden grounds now belong to the State of California. I don't like it in the hotel. As large as the hotel it is, it's too crowded. Too much overflow of sound from one group and workshop into another. I was playing in an outside jam session and a presenter came from around the corner and said the guitars and dulcimer and fiddle were OK, but the sound of the cello carried too much and interfered with their story telling. I moved further around the corner of the hotel building and tried to play quieter. Still a problem; I had to move inside to a different session. These darn, booming, excessively loud cellos! ;-) I was told that inside four walls the problem is reversed and it's the high fiddle notes that carry too much.

In the main lobby I participated in some of the scheduled jams. In the Blues Jam, I took an improvised solo chorus and I didn't do well. I rushed it and it came out sounding, well, dorky. A while later I tried again and the results were very different. Somehow, that one clicked. A fortuitous accident! When I finished I heard several compliments and at least one participant gave me a big thumbs up. One particpant later told my wife I done good. Move over, horns and git-tars, cello can play the blues, too!

For Maricello, who seems to be an East Coast counter-part: Absolutely, I have that book. Great stuff. I've worked on a few of the pieces. Maybe soon I'll play one in public. I also have the Ferintosh CD. Very different, in some ways more serious and artistic. The three make for some interesting chemistry. Let us know in your blog how it goes at Scottish Fiddle Camp.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Lady that Brought Cello Back

In 1973, an upstate New York band named Putnam String County Band (Note that word order) was, to my knowledge, the first American band of its kind for generations to make significant use of cello. The young cellist was Abby Newton, next door neighbor to the fiddler, the now very well-known Jay Ungar.

Ms. Newton went on to play in over 70 recordings in the folk idiom with many well-known fiddlers and singers. Her recording featuring herself on cello, Crossing to Scotland, superbly demonstrates how cello can hold its own as a solo instrument.

On YouTube, here is a recent video of Ms. Newton with David Greeenberg on fiddle and Kim Robertson on harp: Celtic Colours