Sunday, June 25, 2017

Midsummer Walk


Midsummer Walk (mp3) (pdf)

I wrote almost all of this tune before the summer solstice but it took a while to transcribe it, write the simple harmony and record it. There are three parts to the tune but I repeated the A part the first time through and not the other two times.

It's a slow, leisurely walk. Hope you enjoy it.

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: https://www.facebook.com/FergalScahillMusic/


Sunday, April 30, 2017

No Argument at All - Bates no. 16


No Argument at All (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 16 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

I wrote today's tune early in the week and enjoyed playing it at different tempos throughout the week. I finally settled on a slower, walking feel, perhaps influenced by watching the house pictured above move through our neighborhood at its measured pace on Wednesday morning. I'm standing at the intersection of Winneshiek Ave., 5th street and the Trout Run bicycle trail crossing as the house begins moving over the Upper Iowa prior to climbing the curvy Quarry Hill Road.

The tune itself feels good to play. It takes its title from Van Morrison's classic tune "Domino":

"There's no need for argument, there's no argument at all"

It was a good week for music, starting last Saturday night playing a dance at Tapestry with Pat's Propellers, including a very special guest who joined us on fiddle for most of the evening. Thursday night Erik Sessions and I played three short sets to three separate audiences in a lovely Decorah home as part of the Water Street Music Series' fund-raising event. We were able to play without mics and speakers and really enjoyed ourselves, largely thanks to the careful attention we received from each group of listeners.

Today, in a couple of hours, I have the honor of performing with the Luther College Chamber Orchestra during their spring concert. Only a few notes but each one is a special challenge for me and I am really looking forward to being a small part of the performance of Anton Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 10.

The coming week promises to be much fun as well. On Thursday I will play a bunch of new music (to me) at my monthly Java John's gig. I have four James Oswald Airs for the Seasons ready to play along with some new pieces from J.S. Bach (including one that might have been written by C.P.E. Bach) and a number of my own recent tunes from this blog and elsewhere. I'm hoping to add a set or two of Renaissance and/or Playford tunes as well. Stop by if you are in town Thursday night.

On Saturday night May 6 (Derby Day) we will play for a Decorah contra dance at a new downtown location, the Lingonberry. Erik and I will play along with our Western Home String Band friends and Bill Deutsch will call the dances.

On Sunday evening, May 7, I will play with Foot-Notes at our first Highlandville dance in the newly refurbished schoolhouse. Check out the Foot-Notes fans FB page for some photos. Dance is from 7-10.

You can see I've got some practicing ahead of me this week.

Finally, here is Bates' duettino no. 16. Only two left after today.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Conway to Lincoln - Bates no. 15


Conway to Lincoln (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 15 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

This week's tune is titled in memory of drive we took one morning a couple of years ago on rt. 112, the Kancamagus highway, from Conway to Lincoln, New Hampshire. I'd love to do that again sometime. We were on our way to catch a flight out of Manchester we couldn't dawdle much but I hope next time we can.

Also, I'm adding no. 15 from Mr. Bates. Three to go.

This week on Thursday Erik Sessions and I will play some tunes as part of a fund raiser for the local Water Street Music Series. It's a progressive evening of food, drink and music held in three lovely local homes. And it's for a good cause. I think there are still a few tickets left.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tolley's Jig no. 5 - Bates no. 14


Tolley's Jig no. 5 (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 14 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

This week's tune is another jig named after Tolley the cat. The recording is a little wobbly but still fits within my flexible demo quality standard.

A careful listen will reveal that the tune is played 3 times. The first time a short guitar intro is followed by the melody on mandolin. The second time through a harmony mandolin part is added, more or less as written in the pdf above. The third time through I doubled the melody an octave down (with a couple of changes) during the A sections but I added a third harmony part in the B section. This extra harmony is not written but shouldn't be too hard to transcribe if you want to take the time.

Here also is Bates' duettino no. 14. That leaves four to go.

I hope you are enjoying this holiday weekend and that you have at least some spring weather this week.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Deer Track, April 2017 no. 1 - Bates no. 13


Deer Track, April 2017 no. 1 (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 13 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

This week's new tune turned out to be another Deer Track piece. I had a lot of fun working with these notes. We've seen a little bit of spring-like weather this week which has made for some enjoyable walks around the city park system. (The picture above is not recent but is a good example of the kinds of deer paths that I often see on my walks.)

Musically this was an eventful week. Erik Sessions and I worked up a couple of new tunes, including last week's "Old Annapolis", to perform at an open mic event at Java John's on Wednesday. Then on Thursday night I played my monthly solo mandolin gig at JJ's. Here's the setlist:

Java John’s solo mandolin, April 6, 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 Auricula
3. Goodin: Bear on the Beach / Sherwood & Brookes / Tolley’s Jig no. 4
4. Bach: Minuets 1 & 2 (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
5: Goodin: Old Annapolis / Sessions: Annapolis Friends (Erik Sessions)
5. Sauli: Partita VI for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)
6. Goodin: Red Hawk Schottische / Marin: Hundlaten (Mikael Marin, 1965- )
7. O’Carolan: Lady Gethin / Carolan’s Draught (Turlough O’Carolan, 1670-1738)
8. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Junquill
9. Goodin: Toledo Moon
10. Telemann: 1730 Menuets nos. 47 & 43 (G.P. Telemann, 1681-1767)
11. Bach: Partita no. 2 for solo violin: Allemanda (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)

                                                           Set 2
1. Trad.: Old French / Morpeth Rant / The Rights of Man
2. Barbella: Sonata – GIMO 18 (Emmanuele Barbella, 1718-1777)
3. Goodin: From the Balcony / If Only Now /Paws Down
4. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Crocus
5. Tallroth: Marsch i April (Roger Tallroth, 1958 - )/ Jarvela: Maknads Marsch (Arto Jarvela, 1964-) / Bach: March in G
6. Goodin: Deer Track, April 8, 2004 / Dunn Meadow / Canny Crow
7. Valentine: Allegro from Sonata no. 3 for Mandolin (Robert Valentine, 1671-1747)
8. Goodin: September Last
9. Bach: Bouree in Am
10. Goodin: Elkhart Freight / Motion Detector

I managed to play everything on the list with about 5 minutes to spare. I also had a great group of listeners, many who stayed for the whole two hours. I'm looking forward to next month already.


Many thanks to Mike Blevins for taking the candid photo above. It's a good shot of my recently acquired Weber Custom Vintage A oval hole mandolin. I used this mando for this week's recordings as well, along with a new set of Thomastik strings.

I was also able to play a few notes of Webern's op. 10 along with members of the Luther College Chamber Orchestra during two rehearsals this week. It is such a pleasure to sit in with these talented young musicians and to be conducted by Maestro Dan Baldwin. Our performance occurs on April 30 so I am trying to be prepared.

Finally, I sat down yesterday and recorded Bates no. 13, another fun tidbit from the 18th century.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Old Annapolis - Bates no. 12


Old Annapolis (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 12 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

When Contratopia was out in the D.C. area a couple of weekends ago we had the opportunity to play a dance on the Saturday night in Annapolis, MD. We were able to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon playing tourist and we really enjoyed our visit. Today's new tune emerged last week and it seemed appropriate to give it this title.

Bates' divertimento no. 12 appears here also. Another charming example from his collection.

Last night in Minneapolis Contratopia would up its Fall 2016-Spring 2017 season, playing to an enthusiastic group of dancers. Even though it was a few gigs shorter than most years we had a really good season. We are planning ahead to next year and we haven't run out of ideas yet.

This week, on Thursday, I will be playing solo mandolin at Java John's in Decorah from 7:00-9:00. On Wednesday Java John's is hosting an Open Mic night and I will probably be playing a couple of tunes with Erik Sessions sometime during that event. Drop by either night if you are in town.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tolley's Jig no. 4 - Bates no. 11


Tolley's Jig no. 4 (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 11 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

Today's new tune was written on Thursday, after I returned from a short trip out to the Washington D.C. area with Contratopia. The photo above was taken from my sleeper compartment window on the Capitol Limited on the morning of Friday March 17, on my ride into Union Station, somewhere south of Pittsburgh.

I wrote, as I usually do, a few new tunes during the train rides that book-ended this tour and I thought I would present one of them this week. I'll try to get some of those posted here in the coming weeks.

The tour itself was great fun, four dances in three days, friends old and new. You can read a little more about it in the Contratopia 2.0 blog here.

I'm posting my recording of Bates' duettino no. 11 here also. I have recorded no. 12 to be ready for next week. After that there are only six to go.

I was very pleased during the tour to encounter a few people who actually read and listen to this blog. I also made a couple of new friends on the train ride who may take a look here also. I even managed to post last week's entry, albeit on Monday instead of Sunday, from Takoma Park, MD. I was especially pleased to hear from a friend in Norway who had been playing along on guitar with last week's tune, "Paws Down."

I encourage you to break out your mandolin or fiddle, or flute, or guitar and play along with these recordings.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Paws Down - Bates no. 10


Paws Down (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 10 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

Today's post (if all goes according to plan) will be published while on a short tour with Contratopia. Last weekend, while playing a dance with Pat's Propellers, Linda Breitag shared the best cat-related tune title ever. I won't steal her thunder by revealing it before it's time but I think "Paws Down" is not that bad.

Bates no. 10 was more challenging than most of its relatives and so this recording is more demo-quality than most. I think it would be more fun, and easier, to play it with an actual partner rather than just a recording of myself.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sherwood & Brooks - Bates no. 9


Sherwood & Brooks (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 9 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

Sherwood & Brooks (an obscure reference to grade school) arrived unbidden on Friday morning. I already had a tune ready for this week but I'll save it for next week. This little jig wrote itself and was entered into Sibelius and then recorded before lunch. Jigs two weeks in a row, not intentional.

The photo is recent also and, while unrelated to the title of the tune, is certainly a good image for this music.

Bates no. 9 is a typically cheerful example of the music in his collection.

I was honored to play a contra dance last night in Minneapolis with Pat's Propellers. We had our usual good time but, because of the onset of Daylight Savings Time, the drive home took an hour longer than usual.

Next weekend I'm looking forward to four dances with Contratopia, all in Maryland. Check out our schedule and stop and say hello if you are in the neighborhood.

I'll be trying to post next week's entry from Takoma Park, we'll see if I succeed.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Bear on the Beach - Bates no. 8


Bear on the Beach (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 8 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

The photo above was taken at Meyers Beach, part of the Apostle Islands National Seashore, during a visit to Bayfield, WI last year. The bear in question is not in the photo. Unlike some of my friends I have no interest in ever encountering a bear while hiking. The mere possibility, however remote, can have a chilling effect on my ability to enjoy the natural beauty around me.

In any event I think the tune here is a fun jig to play. The recording has some rhythmic quirks, partly because (I'm not sure why) I recorded the guitar last. Also I hadn't actually decided on an ending until I was at the end of recording the first track. This meant I had to struggle a little more than usual to get the succeeding tracks to end in the same neighborhood.

Here also is no. 8 of William Bates' duettinos for your enjoyment.

If you are in the Decorah area I will be playing solo mandolin once again at Java John's on Wednesday night, March 8, from 7:00-9:00. I'll be playing some recent tunes from this blog along with a couple of Norman and Nancy Blake tunes, Partita V for mandolin by F. Sauli, and three new arrangements of James Oswald Airs for the Seasons: The Geranium, The Box and The Golden Rod.

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: http://www.mandotopia.com/Postcards.html

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.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Waltz for the New Year, 2017


Waltz for the New Year, 2017 (mp3) (pdf)

Today's post marks the beginning of the second decade of this blog. Begun as an experiment in January 2007 I never for a moment imagined that I would still be using this platform in 2017. Of course for long stretches of time, most recently November and December 2016, I haven't added any content but with a new year comes new resolve.

On New Year's Day I wrote most of today's tune. I tinkered with it some on Monday and Tuesday and did some recording on Friday.

 I also had some fun this week working with a trio sonata composed by my old friend G.P. Telemann for transverse flute, violin and continuo. My Barenreiter edition tells me this was the "third of a collection of six trio sonatas with different instrumentation which Telemann had engraved in copper by Benjamin Kenckel", all six featuring the violin as one of the instruments.

In this post I am presenting an arrangement of part IV of the sonata, the concluding Vivace, for two mandolins (or mandolin and violin, etc.). In arranging this music for two mandolins I have pulled notes and phrases from the bass line to provide material for each player during what were measures of rest in the original. I will include recordings and the sheet music below.

Telemann: Trio Sonate in G, IV. Vivace (mp3) (pdf)

Finally, the photo above was taken moments ago (around 9:30 a.m.) looking out of my studio window. You will note that it is still rather cold here this morning, -4 or so last night, but it promises to warm up to around 17 degrees Fahrenheit this afternoon.

I hope you enjoy the music.
 
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