Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Jigs 2004

Easter Jigs 2004 (mp3) (pdf score) (pdf M1) (pdf M2)

Easter weekend often, but not always, offers me a chance to write a tune or two. According to my notebooks these two simple jigs were written on or around Easter in 2004. Checking our Contratopia History page I see that the month leading up to Easter that year (April 11) was a particularly busy period for the band. We were featured at the Spring Breakdown in Jefferson City, MO from March 19-21 and, the following weekend, we played for the Vernals Dance Weekend in Florida. I believe this is the only time that Contratopia has played back-to-back dance weekends. We were all so young back then!

I mention this history to suggest that I was probably ready for some down time when Easter rolled around in 2004. So these two jigs, still individually unnamed, popped out while my head was still full of dance weekend music. A few weeks ago I came across them and thought I would write a second part for each and then put them together. Hence today's Easter Jigs.

Find a mando or fiddle playing friend and give them a try. Guitar chords are included too.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Deer Track March 10-11, 2013

Deer Track March 10-11, 2013 (mp3) (pdf)

Another addition to my ongoing series of short Deer Tracks solo mandolin pieces, from a couple of weeks ago. This one came about because I had read a review of a recent CD by saxophonist Jeremy Udden, titled folk art, in DownBeat magazine (the online edition).

I was sitting here at this computer and looked up the Amazon page for the CD with sound clips. The reviewer had made it clear I would probably like the CD (it includes several tracks featuring Brandon Seabrook on banjo, in a non-bluegrass style). I had my mandolin in my lap as I listened to the samples and spontaneously started to play along.

If I had been in the room with the band while they were recording what I was playing would have been wholly inappropriate but it suited me at the time. Before long I played what is now the first phrase of this week's tune. I reached out and stopped the CD samples, picked up a pen and started writing. Most of the piece followed pretty quickly. I improved it some the next day and then recorded it. (I then ordered the CD and I highly recommend it.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Antonina from the Gravenstein Mandolin Ensemble

Antonina (pdf score)(parts available on request)

Here's an excellent video recording of a performance of my mandolin orchestra composition Antonina taken from a concert given by the Gravenstein Mandolin Ensemble (directed by Gus Garelick) at a church in Petaluma, CA on January 25, 2013. I'm always delighted when groups post videos of themselves playing one of my pieces and this is an especially fine performance. My thanks to Gus and the group for putting so much work into making my music sound good!

Particular thanks goes to the group's percussionist and whoever (Gus?) created the percussion part. My original score doesn't call for percussion but this is a fine addition to the piece.

I have written a number of pieces for mandolin orchestra and other types of mandolin-based ensembles over the last 25 years and they have been played and recorded by groups around the world. A few of these pieces can be found on the Compositions for mandolin orchestra or other mandolin ensembles page of my Mandotopia website. Antonina and several others haven't been posted there yet but I hope to get to that soon.

As Gus mentions in his introduction, Antonina was written for the en masse orchestra of the 2010 convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America, held in Seattle. I had the honor of being named Composer in Residence that year and I had a great time hearing the 100+ member group work on the music. The piece is dedicated to the wonderful Antonina (Toni) Nigrelli, one of the earliest members of the CMSA, a former President of the organization and all-around champion of the classical mandolin in North America.

I hope you enjoy the music.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Old White House

The Old White House (mp3) (pdf) (pdf2014revision)

Early last Saturday morning Erik, Pat, Ted, Lynn and I enjoyed a pleasant visit to the old White House. Sadly, Patrice Pakiz (who organized the tour) was left at the gate, having temporarily lost her driver's license. It was before 9:00 a.m. and we had been up pretty late the night before playing at the Glen Echo Friday Night Dance but we still enjoyed seeing a few historic rooms.

This particular tune emerged on the day that Patrice let us know we had our request for a tour approved. I started out writing a variation on the classic tune "White House Blues" but ended up closer to "Cindy". In fact at one point I thought I was finished and then realized that I had accidentally re-composed the A section of "Cindy" almost note for note.

Contratopia has played this tune a couple of times now and it works as a nice mid-tempo marching kind of dance. See what you think.

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