Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ten Easy Duos - No. 2

Ten Easy Duos - No. 2 (mp3) (pdf)

Another busy week. This quiet, slower piece might be a reaction to that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Driftless (World Premiere) - Tolley's Jig no. 6

Driftless (World Premiere by the members of the 2017 Carlo Aonzo Mandolin Workshop)

Tolley's Jig no. 6 (mp3) (pdf)

Last Sunday I was honored by having my piece "Driftless" performed for the first time during the final concert of the 2017 Carlo Aonzo Mandolin Workshop in Milwaukee. This piece was commissioned by the Workshop last summer and the attendees all received their music well in advance of the weekend. Still they only had a few chances to rehearse the piece together. As you can see and hear they did a wonderful job of bringing the piece to life. Although I was unable to attend I am very pleased that this fine video was created and I am happy to share it with you. Many, many thanks to Carlo, Rene and all of the Workshop players!

I nearly didn't find time to come up with a new tune this week. I almost resorted to passing an older, unheard, tune off as new but I'm pleased that another jig in my Tolley the Cat series popped up on Friday. There are three tracks, first melody, then harmony, then the melody played an octave down during the third time through the tune.

Tomorrow night I'm looking forward to playing a short concert with Erik Sessions at the Dorian Middle School Summer Camp at Luther College. It should be plenty of fun.

If you are in Decorah next weekend I will be playing a dance with Foot-Notes at the Highlandville schoolhouse on Friday night, June 16, from 7:00-10:00. I will follow that with some music, probably joined by Erik Sessions for at least part of the time, at the Winneshiek Farmers Market on Saturday morning, June 17.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Pine Bluffs

Pine Bluffs (mp3) (pdf)

In the last week I've had the great pleasure of playing for two separate, multi-family, high school graduation dance parties with my friends in the Foot-Notes band. The first one, last Saturday, was at the local Pine Bluff 4H camp. Yesterday's event was in the community building at the county fairgrounds. These are the kinds of gigs that can recharge the batteries of musicians who might sometimes become a little jaded about the "music business."

I wrote most of today's new tune, meant to be a polka, last Sunday morning but I continued to change a note or two all through the week. I recorded on Friday but I had to keep making the harmony part less and less busy because I just couldn't play my original notes.

This coming week I get to play two solo mandolin gigs in Decorah (one at Java John's Coffee House and one at the Porter House Museum) and a contra dance on Friday with some of my Western Home String Band friends. The dance will be just a small part of the amazing Village Fire singing weekend held this year at, you guessed it, Pine Bluff camp.

Today is also special for me because the participants in the 2017 Carlo Aonzo Mandolin Workshop will present the world premiere of a new mandolin orchestra piece that I composed for them titled "Driftless." I had intended to be part of the workshop (I certainly could benefit from the guidance and focused practice time) but, for various reasons, I needed to change my plans. I know that my friends at the Workshop will sound great and I hope to hear a recording someday. Many thanks to Carlo and Rene!

I still intend to write another new tune for this blog before next weekend also. Check next week to see if that happens.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ten Easy Duos - No. 1

Ten Easy Duos - No. 1 (mp3) (pdf)

A busy week and a busier weekend, so far. I wrote this little piece for two this week and, when faced with the title dilemma, I thought to call it an "easy duo." Then I thought a number would sound better at the start of the title. I picked 10 fairly randomly. We'll see if I actually write nine more like this.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Old Gibson Waltz

The Old Gibson Waltz (mp3) (pdf)

This week's new tune is named for an old friend. Last Sunday night I was contemplating taking this wonderful instrument up to La Crosse, WI to visit our favorite local luthier, Carl Meine, at Dave's Guitar Shop. I thought I'd try and write an old-fashioned waltz and this is what came out.

I didn't know when I stopped at Dave's that another old Gibson would capture my attention. The guys there were very nice about letting me play the Loar F5 that they have on consignment (only $150,000 !) but while I was enjoying that process I kept coming back to another old Gibson on sale for a tiny fraction of the Loar's price.

Carl did his usual great job fixing up my A model but when I got home I was still thinking about the other Gibson. So the next day I returned with a couple of instruments to trade and now I have a second 1920s Gibson to keep my A model company.

Today's tune is recorded using the A model on the melody part and the new (to me) 1920 F4 playing the two harmony parts. I hope you enjoy the tune.

This post marks 20 weeks of 2017 with a new tune each week. I've got my fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pilsen Jig - Mother's Day - Bates no. 18

Pilsen Jig (mp3) (pdf)
Mother's Day (live version mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 18 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

The photo above was taken on Friday afternoon from a scenic pullover overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, driving south on the Wisconsin side, somewhere in the Maiden Rock-Stockholm vicinity. We were taking the leisurely route back to Decorah after enjoying an inspiring matinee concert of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Ordway in St. Paul featuring Pekka Kuusisto, Sam Amidon, and Gabriel Kahane.

Friday also saw the official release of my new Mel Bay publication Playford for Mandolin. This release was accompanied by a spot on the front page of the Mandolin Cafe (thanks Scott!). You can check out some sample pages and the lengthy table of contents at the Mel Bay site.

Of course today is Mother's Day and I am including a link to a live Contratopia recording of my Mother's Day waltz above. I used this a couple of years ago also but I still like hearing it. Here is part of what I wrote back in 2014:

"I believe this recording was made on the Sunday morning of the Spring Dance Romance weekend in April of 2003 and I believe it was the first tune we played that morning. So it's a little ragged as we settle into our seats and loosen up our hands but it's a nice example of Contratopia at play in a relaxed mode. Somewhere in the middle I play the tune in the upper octave of my mandolin and there are a few humorous moments where I am clearly trying to figure out where the next note might be in that less familiar region of the fingerboard. Still, the good notes make up for the bad."

This week's new tune was finished up on Monday, which was being celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) Day. As I searched for a title, knowing that the tune would appear in this blog on Mother's Day, I thought of my Dad. On the actual VE Day he would have been a very happy man. He was serving as an MP with the V Corps Headquarters and they had recently arrived in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia as part of the U.S. 3rd Army. Having survived a march across Western Europe I am sure that my Dad and his buddies had a fine celebration that day, they might even have danced a jig.

Today also celebrates the completion of my project to record all 18 of the duettinos published by William Bates around 1770. I have certainly enjoyed making these recordings and I hope that some readers have downloaded the score and spent a little time playing these pieces also.

I wanted to find a way to make it easier to find all of the recordings in one place and I decided that the simplest way would be to pull them together as an album and publish it on Bandcamp. So, if you would like to stream, for free, all, or any portion, of my Bates recordings you can go to this link. Of course you also have the option to purchase the album at a low, low price, which gets you access to high quality files that you can download, etc. 

This is a digital only collection and I have no intention of printing physical CDs. Much like my earlier Mandolin Tunes CD, these recordings were created primarily for this blog and collecting them this way was an afterthought.

Finishing the Bates collection also led me to update, ever so slightly, my Mandotopia page; both the home page and the Bates page.

Finally (is this the longest So Many Tunes post ever?) I realized this week that I forgot to include my Java John's setlist from 10 days ago. It's helpful for me to have these lists included here as I work on choosing pieces for each new solo mandolin gig. So below is the setlist from May 4, 2017:

Java John’s solo mandolin, May 4, 2017

Set 1
1. Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa (Goodin) / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Frier’s Cowl
3. Goodin: Deer Track, May 19, 2013 / The First of May (trad.) / May Day Green
4. Goodin: Butterfly Prairie
5. Bach: Bouree I (from French Ouverture for Keyboard) (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
6. Playford Tunes: Buskin / Blackheath
7. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Cowslip
8. Ave Regina Caelorum (plainchant)
9. Goodin: Old Annapolis / Sessions: Annapolis Friends (Erik Sessions)
10. Goodin: Deer Track, April 2017-1 / No Argument at All / Tolley’s Jig no. 5 / Conway to Lincoln
                                                           Set 2
1. Sauli: Partita VI for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)
2. Bach: Bouree (from French Suite VI)
3. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Pyracantha
4. Goodin: Deer Track, May 30, 2013 / The Orsinian Waltz
5. Alman II (Robert Johnson, c. 1583-1633) / Chestnut (Playford collection)
6. Goodin: Pines West
7. Goodin: Deer Track, May 8-9, 2012
8. Bach: Allegro (from Flute Sonata, BWV 1033)(possibly by C.P.E. Bach)
9. Goodin: Toledo Moon
10. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Crown Imperial
11. Goodin: Shelter Dogs / Motion Detector

If you have read this far I think it's about time you should get out your instrument of choice and play some music!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

May Day Green - Bates no. 17

May Day Green (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 17 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

A busy day today so I'll be brief. Here's this week's new tune, written on May 1 while I was also spending some time exploring the wonders of James Bryan's version of "The First of May" from his classic album of the same name.

Here also is the second to last entry from the William Bates collection, no. 17. With luck I'll post the final number from that collection next weekend.

If you enjoy checking this blog from time to time you will almost certainly enjoy the brilliant work that Fergal Scahill (of We Banjo 3) is sharing with his "a tune a day - 2017" project over on facebook. Every day he posts a video of himself playing a tune on the fiddle, often with a friend or two to add to the fun. The quality of the playing is extraordinarily high. Don't try to catch up all at once though because yesterday was day 126, meaning that it would take around 4 hours to hear everything so far.
Here's the link:

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