Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two Red Hawks - Bates no. 7 - Deer Track, Feb. 20, 2017

Two Red Hawks (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 7 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score)
Deer Track, February 20, 2017 (mp3) (pdf)

The picture is from a month or so ago but this is near where I saw two red hawks soaring above the Upper Iowa River a couple of days ago. Thanks to the hawks for this week's tune title.

I thought I was done with using "Deer Tracks" as a titling convention but this tune insisted on developing itself in the familiar deer tracks fashion, so I decided to give in and call it what it is. I think now it should go a little faster but, for today, it is fine at this speed.

Here also is no. 7 of William Bates' duettinos, adapted for the mandolin. Only 11 left.

The musical highlight of this week was hearing Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge in Cedar Rapids on Thursday. They worked their magic in a small venue provided by some of the folks who operate Premier Guitar magazine. The show was outstanding in every way. What Julian and Chris do together is unique in its balance of composition, improvisation and virtuosity. I can't recommend them highly enough. Their new CD is Mount Royal. Check out some of the videos.

Today's post marks 8 weeks in a row, which I believe is unprecedented in the 10 year history of this blog. We'll see what next week brings.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Cairo Sessions - Bates no. 6

The Cairo Sessions (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 6 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score)

Norman Blake recently released a new album of music (Brushwood Songs & Stories) and, as usual, he and Nancy sound great. The Bluegrass Situation published a lengthy and informative interview on Feb. 10, titled End of the Road.

I commented on the Mandolin Cafe that I loved the interview but I wished that Joseph Terrell had asked Norman a question or two about his priceless mandolin music. I suggested that even though Mr. Blake is retiring from public performance he might still consider writing some more of his great mandolin tunes. I further suggested that he and Nancy Blake might meet up once again with Peter Ostroushko and record a few of these tunes, perhaps in Cairo ("K-row"), Illinois. I said they could call the record "The Cairo Sessions."

This prompted me to write another in a series of tunes that I think of as being a little in the style of those great Norman, Nancy and Peter O. tunes of the past. And, for once, I already had a title. I had a great time working on this during the week and lots of fun trying to actually play the harmony part that I wrote. I hope it's enjoyable.

I'm also continuing my series of William Bates recordings with number 6 of his Duettinos.

In a different part of the vast musical universe I had the great pleasure on Wednesday of rehearsing two sections of Anton Webern's 5 Pieces, op. 10 with members of the Luther College Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Daniel Baldwin. The plan is for the group to perform this piece during the spring concert in April. I am really excited about this chance to play a handful of notes with these fine young musicians and to get to hear this piece from the inside.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

From the Balcony - Bates no. 5

From the Balcony (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 5 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)

This week's new tune is a nice quiet number for solo mandolin. It may be developed more in the future.

Here also is no. 5 from the book of William Bates duettinos.

On Wednesday, the 8th, I had another great time playing solo mandolin at Java John's. Here is the setlist from that event:

Java John’s solo mandolin, January 17, 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 Phillyrea

3. The Hogwart’s Express / Steady On

4. Postcards From the Crater: Pines West

5. Bach: Allemande from Partita no. 2 for solo violin (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)

6. Deer Track, February 2009

7. Telemann: 12 Fantasies for solo flute, Allegro from no. 2 / Allegro from no. 11 (G.P. Telemann, 1681-1767)

8. Henrietta Hornpipe / News Boys’ Hornpipe / The New Henrietta (Goodin)

9. O’Carolan: Hewlett / Planxty Irwin (Turlough O’Carolan, 1670-1738)

10. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Holly

11. January Tunes: Waltz for the New Year, 2017 / March in January / Sometimes (the bear eats you) / Big Tree Down

                                                           Set 2

1. Sauli: Partita I for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)

2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Hawthorn

3. Bighorn River Sunset / Goslings Afloat / Halfway Home

4. Bach: Bouree in Am

5. Postcards From the Crater: Ice Cave Road

6. Ellington: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington, 1899-1974)

7. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Snow-Drop

8. Telemann: Gayment from the 36 Fantaisies

9. Sonata in L(ou)

10. Majo: Mandolin Sonata (Gian Francesco di Majo, 1732-1770)

11. Trad: Reel St. Joseph / The Star of Munster / Lady Anne Montgomery

Even though the list indicates a plan to play two sets, as I usually do, in this case I played straight through because a group of listeners arrived right before my intended break. I could see that they had come to hear some mandolin music so I decided to just keep playing.

Finally, last night Contratopia played to an unusually large crowd at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. The band, our caller Beau Farmer, and the many dancers all seemed to have a great time.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Grey Sunny Sunday - Bates no. 4 - Gathering Echoes

Grey Sunny Sunday (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 4 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)
Gathering Echoes (mp3) (pdf)

Last Sunday was one of those grey winter days that are so common here in northeast Iowa. In mid-afternoon, however, the skies cleared and we had two or three hours of abundant sunshine. This week's new tune was mostly written in the morning and then fiddled with for the next few days. The photo above was taken during my afternoon walk, going up the back road entrance to Palisades Park.

I'm also continuing my William Bates project with duettino no. 4. These are always fun to play and I hope that a few readers are giving these a try.

In addition I'm presenting here a piece I've had for many years that I finally am calling "Gathering Echoes." I don't think I've recorded it before but it's been around for so many years that it might have turned up somewhere in that time. In addition to being a pretty tune (at least to my ears) it's also a nice little exercise. I usually play it in D but you can transpose it to other keys for fun.

This coming Wednesday, Feb. 8, I will be playing another solo mandolin gig at Java John's Coffee House in Decorah. This will be my twelfth consecutive month doing this and I will, as always, be playing some new music. I'll be performing solo versions of three or four more of James Oswald's 96 Airs for the Seasons along with various other pieces from the baroque era. I will also play all four of my new tunes from January 2017, some of my Postcards From the Crater pieces, some fiddle tunes and maybe a couple of jazz standards. It's only Sunday so I'm not close to finalizing the setlist yet.

I'm looking forward to joining my Contratopia band mates on Saturday (Feb. 11) at Tapestry in Minneapolis for our first contra dance of 2017. Come by if you are in the big cities next weekend.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sometimes (the bear eats you) - Bates no. 3 - Bighorn River Sunset (duo)

Sometimes (the bear eats you) (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 3 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)
Bighorn River Sunset (duo version) (mp3) (pdf)

This week's new tune is a hornpipe in C, though it could be thought of as a schottische too I suppose. Another Norman and Nancy Blake inspired piece. A friendly melody with a simple harmony part.

I also recorded the third of William Bates' duettinos, another fun piece to play.

Finally, I recorded the duo mandolin version of my "Bighorn River Sunset" waltz as it appears in my Midwestern Mandolin Duos book. This tune already appeared in this blog back in October 2012 as recorded by my Contratopia friends. It is also featured in Don Julin's excellent Mandolin For Dummies book as an example of basic chord melody arranging.

Back in October 2016 I presented recordings of 10 new divertimentos for solo mandolin that I was compiling into a book titled Postcards from the Crater. I had print copies of this book for sale at the Classical Mandolin Society of America convention last fall. Now I have finally prepared the PDF edition for sale online. You can read more about the book and purchase either the ebook or the print version at this link:

Today's entry marks four weeks in a row, with a new tune each week. We'll see how long this pace continues. I hope you enjoy the music.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

March in January - Bates no. 2 - Goslings

March in January (mp3) (pdf) (pdf harmony)
Bates no. 2 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)
Goslings Afloat (duo version) (mp3) (pdf)

This week's new tune, mostly written on Jan. 18, is only slightly "original." Still it kept coming at me until I wrote it down so here it is. I recorded it at what I thought was a nice march tempo as a mandolin trio with a fun harmony part and the 3rd mando playing chords.

While there were certainly plenty of marches around the world this week my title is really a nod to Roger Tallroth's great tune for Vasen, "Marsch i April." The photo above was taken during a march with Suzie a couple of years ago. The stretch of road pictured is mostly a sheet of slowly melting ice right now.

Even though it's meant to be a march we played it at a much faster tempo for a circle dance last night here in Decorah and it worked fine.

I'm also including a recording from this morning of the 2nd of William Bates' duettinos. I have no. 3 in the digital can now. We'll see if I go further. Number 2 is certainly a fun piece to play.

"Goslings" is another piece from my Midwestern Mandolin Duos book. I have already presented this tune as a melody with chords back in May 2008 but this duo version has its own charm.

This was a busier than usual week for me. Last night I played at our local contra dance with our Western Home String Band. On Thursday I was honored to be invited to play the second set with my friends in the Tom Bourcier Band at Java John's. This was a "reunion/farewell" show for Tom and although it was a bittersweet occasion, musically it was a ball. On Tuesday I played my January solo mandolin show at JJ's and had a really nice audience, including artists, authors and at least one famous recording artist.

Here's the setlist from Tuesday:

Java John’s solo mandolin, January 17, 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 Arbutus

3. Mouret: Bourees I & II (Jean Joseph Mouret, 1682-1738)

4. The Hogwart’s Express / Steady On

5. Bach: Minuet from French Suite no. 6 / March in G from the Anna Magdalena notebook  (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)

6. Phelps Park Bandshell

7. Telemann: 1728 Minuets nos. 4 & 14 (G.P. Telemann, 1681-1767)

8. Lecce: Partita in C (Francesco Lecce, 1715-1775)

9. Waltz for the New Year, 2017

10. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Cyclamen

11. Henrietta Hornpipe / The New Henrietta (Goodin) / News Boys’ Hornpipe

                                                           Set 2

1. Sauli: Partita IV for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)

2. Deer Tracks: January 29, 2009 / January 22, 2011

3. Menuets in Dm / Purcell, Clarke, Handel, Bach

4. Bach: Bourees I & II, 3rd Cello Suite (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)

5. Twin Bridges

6. Bach: Bouree in Am

7. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Heart’s-Ease

8. Telemann: 1730 Minuets nos. 47 & 43

9. The Wedding Broom

10. Butterfly Prairie

11. Big Tree Down / Over the Waterfall (thanks to Alan Jabbour)


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Big Tree Down - Casselman by Rail - Bates no. 1

Big Tree Down (mp3) (pdf) (pdf harmony)
Casselman by Rail (mp3) (pdf)
William Bates Duettino no. 1 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)

Today's tune, Big Tree Down, began its life as "January 9, 2017." The Big Tree in question, pictured above, began its life many years before that but it was felled this past week. It provided shade, shelter for squirrels (a mixed blessing) and many leaves in the autumn. A large, dangerous, split developed recently and its time ran out. This photo was taken shortly before the crew arrived.

Casselman by Rail appears in my Midwestern Mandolin Duos book, one of many tunes inspired by my trips on Amtrak's Capitol Limited route.

The Bates Duettino is the first in his set of 18, published in London around 1770. I would like to eventually record them all but you are welcome to do it first, if you like. They are pleasant pieces from the heyday of the popularity of the "guittar" in England, a wire-strung, cittern-like instrument not to be confused with today's guitar. You can read a little more about this music here.

I'll be playing another of my monthly solo mandolin gigs at Java John's Coffee House in Decorah this Tuesday (Jan. 17) from 7 to 9. I'm still building the set list but it will contain at least 3 of James Oswald's (another composer who wrote for the "guittar") Airs for the Seasons. I plan to choose 3 of the Winter sonatas. I will also be premiering my version of Filippo Sauli's fourth Partita for Mandolin and I will play a few pieces by J.S. Bach. I'll also probably play Big Tree Down and last week's Waltz for the New Year as well. Stop by if you are in town, no cover.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.