Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A home-made exercise

This little home-made exercise is posted here for a discussion elsewhere, unless you'd like to comment here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

105 degrees F, so I'm told

Whew, was it hot yesterday out on Paramount Ranch, site of the 48th annual Topanga Banjo-Fiddle contest. The quest for shade was, umm, indeed "paramount".

Our time to play was 11:00 AM, not the hottest part of the day but late enough.

I played ok, for me, which is to say not well enough to win, show, or place. But as we all say, it's the experience that counts. Right now, perhaps still tired and recovering, I'm wondering if that universally-treasured experience is always all it's cracked up to be.

There were some fantastic players there. People who think these players of fiddles, banjos, guitars, mandolins, and myriads of other instruments are just slouches that wouldn't be able to hack it in the classical world just haven't heard what some of these musicians can do. Sure, there are throngs of just-begunners and mobs of intermediate wanna-bes (like Yours, Truly). There's also quite a number of amazing performers, many of whom don't compete, they're just there for the fun.

At least three cellists competed in the "Other Instruments" category, in addition to finger-picked guitar (Finger-picked guitar is considered a separate instrument), harmonica, flute, dulcimer, and I forget what else. I was able to observe only one of the other two cellists and yep, he was better'n me (but even he didn't win). And, he made a smarter choice of what to play -- my choice was just too near the limits of my ability. Fool, fool, fool!

Y'know, though, what I'd really like to do for next time, whether it be next year or several years from now? Compete in the accompaniment category. I think that's where cello shines, but it's also something I like to do. Now, where am I going to find somebody crazy enough to (1) compete in the whithering heat of the day-long festival against some true virtuosos, and (2) let the likes of me provide accompaniment? Send any takers my way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Teacher's advice for Sunday's performance...

... paraphrased and set to a certain well-known melody by Charlie Chaplin:

Smile tho' your bow is shaking,
Smile tho' the notes are breaking,
When pitch goes way up too high,
You'll get by.

If you smile
Through your fear and stage fright,
Smile and arms will be less uptight,
You'll hear the phrases shin-ing through for you.

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev-'ry trace of sadness,
Al -'tho every glitch may tempt you to quit,

That's the time,
You must keep on grinning,
Smile, each note's a new beginning,
They'll find that piece is still worth-while,

If you just smile.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Contest time on Sunday

Well, the weeks have gone by and next Sunday is the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest (Yikes, expected temperatures may exceed 100 degrees F!). I will compete in the "Other Instruments" category with two accomplices. Are we prepared? Not as well as I would like, but we have worked quite a bit on it. Too many personal problems and work/home issues going on for me to have done much more. This morning's practice felt pretty good, though.

I didn't get out to Emily's, either, but I have had a number of lessons on it with my teacher, including one with the full group a few weeks ago, and another with the full group tonight.

What happens happens. My number 1 concern is keeping a steady, solid, dance-able rhythm going without speeding up. Whenever I drop concentration, the tempo creeps up and the pulse and articulation suffer. If we can just keep the tempo steady and manageable and together, I'll be happy.

Of course I'm not likely to win, that hardly matters, but the preparation work has certainly made a noticeable difference in my playing. It's given me a better appreciation of how the problem with my left hand is actually in my right arm.