Friday, February 08, 2019

Clark's Delight / The Blue Basket

Clark's Delight (mp3) (pdf) (pdf w/tab)
The Blue Basket (mp3) (pdf) (pdf w/tab)

We've had some pretty challenging winter weather for the last couple of weeks and I finally got around to recording a couple of recent tunes. These were both done in bare bones fashion, no harmony parts, no extra instruments. Just guitar chords and mandolin melody, three times through each tune.

I've also added mandolin tab versions of these tunes because a couple of folks have expressed some interest in that.

The photo is from just outside our back door this morning. Here at 9:30 it's -6 degrees. They say it will be -13 tonight. With luck this will be the last of the serious cold for this winter but we have a good deal of snow forecast over the next few days.

Clark's Delight was written on or around January 11 and, I believe, came after a pleasant hour playing tunes from the great John of the Green book compiled by John Offord in England. I think of it as a potential English Country Dance tune. The Clark in question here is George Rogers, founder of my hometown, Clarksville, Indiana.

The Blue Basket was made after returning from Contratopia's recent visit to the Wintergreen dance weekend in Bozeman. (Read a little about that here.) I was partly trying to capture a little of the feeling that Adam and Johanna from Sassafras Stomp brought to their playing at the weekend.

Both of these tunes are pretty straightforward and I hope that you enjoy listening to and playing them.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ten Easy Duos no. 6 - Deer Track, April 21, 2018

Ten Easy Duos, no. 6 (mp3) (pdf)
Deer Track, April 21, 2018 (mp3) (pdf)

This post begins the 13th year of this blog. Overall it has been a very satisfying and useful project that has motivated me and made it possible for me to create and share a great deal of music.

I just did a quick (and sloppy) count of the entries in my alphabetical list of titles from this blog. There are several titles not yet listed but I am confident that there are nearly 300 entries, if not more.
Not every tune is a gem but I'm pleased on the whole with the quality of these tunes and I intend to add quite a few more this year.

I foolishly titled a piece "Ten Easy Duos, no. 1" back in 2017 thinking that I would quickly write 9 more. Number 6 was written not long after attending the CMSA convention in Santa Rosa back in November of 2018. Maybe I'll get the others written this year.

In April of 2018 I wandered onto another Deer Track and I have played this one numerous times at my semi-regular solo mandolin gigs in Decorah since then. I really enjoy the feel of it and people often make positive comments about it after I play it. See what you think.

Happy New Year to all visitors, thanks for listening.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Boatload of Knowledge

The Boatload of Knowledge (mp3) (pdf)

It's been nearly two months since I posted anything here so I thought I should at least get one more tune in before the New Year. This will only be the 14th post of 2018, compared to 52 postings in 2017. It's been a busy couple of months.

Today's tune was mostly written on September 20 but I've tinkered with it quite a bit since then. It acquired its current title shortly before the annual Burning Bright holiday concert here in Decorah where Erik Sessions and I performed the tune as part of a medley. At the afternoon performance we followed this tune with a faster version of "Red Haired Boy" and during the evening show we followed it with a peppy version of "Mason's Apron."

"The Boatload of Knowledge" might not seem like an obvious choice for a winter holiday concert but, in fact, the title refers to a famous trip down the Ohio River that began in at Pittsburgh in December 1825 and ended in New Harmony, Indiana in January 1826. The boat and its distinguished group of passengers spent Christmas itself trapped in the ice near Safe Harbor Station, PA and so I imagine that this is the kind of tune that might have been played to pass the time on the journey.

An excellent article on the expedition and the extraordinary group of people who chose to travel to the new utopia in the Indiana wilderness can be found at this link:

An excellent article about the Burning Bright concerts over the years (which even includes a quote from me) can be found at this link:

Happy New Year to all visitors to the blog. We'll see what 2019 brings.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Mandolin Tunes 2

The Cairo Sessions (mp3) (pdf)

My last post was dedicated to the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra's upcoming CD release concert. The show was held this past Monday (Oct. 29) and was a great success. I was so honored to be a part of the event and so thankful for all of the family, friends, musicians and lovers of the mandolin who packed the modest recital hall on the IU Southeast campus.

I promised to provide information on how to find the It's All Goodin CD and now I can tell you that the CD is available for purchase, digital download and streaming from Bandcamp. The LMO has a page which includes links to all 8 of their recording projects (many of which include other pieces of mine) and you can discover the new CD from that page. Here is the direct link to the It's All Goodin recording:

This week I am shining a light on my new solo CD, Mandolin Tunes 2, which is now available at my Bandcamp site. You can also listen to track previews at CD Baby (physical CDs will be available there very soon) and, thanks to their distribution service, you can find the CD at places like Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, etc. I encourage you to check it out and see what you think.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog then none of these tunes will be new to you. In 2017 I wrote and recorded a new tune every week. I then posted the result here. The Mandolin Tunes 2 CD is simply my selection of 21 of my favorite tunes from 2017. The main value added is that you can now purchase the recordings in their full, lossless, original condition.

I'm not a big mp3 guy, I believe that sound quality counts, but I'll be honest and say that I don't hear a huge difference in these tracks between the compressed mp3s here on the blog and the full spectrum sound on the CD. Of course I would love for you to purchase the CD, either physically or digitally, and make your own comparison.

The track listed above, "The Cairo Sessions", was featured here back in February of 2017. This was before I knew that I would write and record a tune every week for the entire year. You can read more about it at the original post but it remains one of my favorite tunes of the whole year and seemed like an excellent choice to start things off.

So, overall, October 2018 was pretty good to me. Thanks for all of the support and encouragement and I hope you enjoy listening to and, hopefully, even playing some of these tunes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"It's All Goodin"

As you can see from the poster above, next Monday my friends in the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra are celebrating the release of their new recording, titled "It's All Goodin", with a concert at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana. I am honored beyond words by the hard work that has gone into learning, performing and recording these pieces I have written over the years. I intend to be at the concert and, hopefully, I will play with the second mandolin section during the final number.

I know that the LMO intends to have the new CD available for purchase at the concert and I will try and let readers know how to buy the CD in a future blog post.

How did all of this start?

In May of 1988 I read an article in the Louisville Courier Journal with the headline "Mike Schroeder is dreaming of a classical mandolin orchestra." I was living in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the time but I knew Mike from his fine mandolin playing around the Louisville area.

I didn't know that Mike had been attending classical mandolin workshops around the country. I don't think that I knew these workshops even existed. I did know, however, that "classical" mandolin and mandolin orchestras had been common in the United States from around 1890-1920 and still flourished in parts of Europe and Japan. I was very interested in the possibility of a mandolin group being formed in Louisville.

I don't remember if I contacted Mike right away but I know that by the end of summer I was attending the early rehearsals of the LMO. Those first months were incredibly fun. I was playing my Flatiron octave mandolin in the mandola section of the group. I was able to read music fairly well but this was my first time playing in a group that big enough to need a conductor. The LMO was very fortunate to have Jim Bates take on the conductor's role and he worked wonders at bringing the group together.

I began writing songs in high school and by the 1980s I was writing a fair amount of instrumental music. After months of playing mandolin orchestra music I had the idea to arrange one of my tunes for mandolin orchestra. I showed this to Jim Bates and he was very encouraging and helpful. This piece was originally titled "Just a Minute" but, after development, I called it "Up River Road." It later became the first movement of "The Louisville Suite."

In March of 1989 the international mandolin virtuoso and teacher Keith Harris came to Louisville for a workshop and concert. Keith was wonderful to work with and, after hearing the LMO perform "Up River Road" at our concert, he also encouraged me to continue writing for mandolin orchestra. He went so far as to recommend my piece to the his friends at Trekel Musikverlag in Germany and it was eventually published by them. He also championed this piece and others of mine to orchestras in several countries.

The support and enthusiasm that the members of the LMO showed for my first efforts and the advice, counsel and encouragement that I received from Jim Bates and Keith Harris set me on the path of continuing to compose pieces for mandolin orchestra.

Now, almost 30 years later, I have continued to receive encouragement from members of the worldwide classical mandolin community, directors of mandolin orchestras and publishers of mandolin music. I have also been privileged to be a member of the Classical Mandolin Society of America for decades, attending many conventions and even serving on the Board of Directors.

When we moved to Iowa in 1994 I continued to write music for mandolins and, to date, I have composed nearly 25 pieces for plucked string ensembles. Several of these have been published by Trekel Musikverlag in Hamburg and a number of recordings have been made over the years by groups around the world. I am amazed at this attention and I am honored every time I am commissioned to compose a piece for a group or learn that one of my pieces is performed. To think that so many fine musicians will make the effort to learn music that I have written is humbling and gratifying.

The LMO has continued to flourish and has played my music regularly throughout its history. This new recording is in some ways a culmination of our relationship but I hope not a conclusion. There will be more music to come. So, many heartfelt thanks to the members of the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra, all of the other mandolin orchestra musicians and directors who have played my music and to every other musician who has taken the time to play one of my tunes! The Mandolin World is a special place and I am so fortunate to be a part of it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Waitin' On the Julia Belle

Waitin' On the Julia Belle (mandolin orchestra score and parts)
                 (mp3 recording of the basic tune on mandolin and guitar)

Attention mandolin orchestra directors and members:

This summer I decided to finally create a mandolin orchestra version of a tune I had written a few years earlier, "Waitin' On the Julia Belle" (that is, the Julia Belle Swain riverboat). This arrangement is the result.

Being from the Indiana side of the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky, I first encountered the Julia Belle Swain in the mid-1970s as a participant in the annual Great Steamboat Race that was held as part of the Kentucky Derby festivities. I remember standing on the riverbank and being amazed at how the smaller boat was holding her own against the larger Belle of Louisville and Delta Queen as they came down the home stretch. The Julia Belle only ran in 1975 and 1976, but she won that second year.

Later, when we moved to Northeast Iowa in the mid-1990s I was delighted to discover that the Julia Belle was now operating out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, only 65 miles away. It was always good to see her docked downtown and to know that she was available for a short cruise on the Mississippi. The Julia Belle Swain was retired in 2009, a casulty of the Great Recession of 2008. Serious attempts have been made to refurbish the boat and she may still have another life on the river.

Musically, the Julia Belle Swain had a long association with the late, great John Hartford. He would sometimes pilot the boat and he mentioned her in some of his songs, especially "The Julia Belle Swain" ("with a bunch of old hippies for a crew"). My simple tune is, hopefully, a reflection of both the pleasure of riding on the Julia Belle Swain and the many hours I have spent being inspired by the music and life of John Hartford.

I have decided to make PDF copies of the score and parts for Waitin' On the Julia Belle freely available for download here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic License found on the site linked above. Feel free to make as many copies of the score and parts as are necessary for your orchestra.

If you find Waitin' On the Julia Belle to be a good addition to your repertoire and you feel inclined to make a donation in support of my work you can use the PayPal Donation button on my site. Again, this is not required, I just hope that you enjoy the music. I would, however, love to hear about any performances of the piece. PDF copies of concert programs are especially appreciated.

I decided not to include a computerized "recording" of this piece. If you want to hear how it can sound convince your local mandolin orchestra to give it a shot. You could also gather a smaller group of musicians who play mandolin family instruments, plus a guitar and a bass, and read through the music for fun. If someone does give it a play I would love to hear a recording of a rehearsal or performance.

(Update: thanks to a comment on FB from Ben Hippen I realized that I did have a simple recording of the basic tune from back in 2008. I have added that link above. You can see that I've added a bit to the original tune but that I haven't changed its fundamental character.)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Deer Track, February 27, 2014

Deer Track, February 27, 2014 (mp3) (pdf)

Going through an old music notebook from early 2014 this week I came across a couple of not-quite-finished deer tracks pieces. Looking back I remember that this was around the time that Contratopia was busy trying to record what became our Riff City CD and I imagine that I was more focused on that project.

So today I've finished up the piece that was started on February 27, 2014. It's mostly as I scribbled it down but I changed a note here and there. I know these pieces sound pretty random but I actually spend some time making choices about pitches and durations. That's a lot of the fun for me.

If you prefer something a little more conventional you can always drop back to last week's tune, Blevins March, and enjoy some good old D major.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.