Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the Icelandic pop singer known by her first name, and her infamous swan dress. Her haunting songs, such as Bachelorette (with its fiddle and cello string section and lyric “I’m a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl”) and Joga, are just as memorable.
My fiddle teacher James Anderson’s tango/jazz band on tour in Boulder, Colorado. Complete with dancers. This is new, original music from their latest self-titled album, APQ—which stands for Austin Piazzolla Quintet. Which you can buy here. And keep up with them here and here.
Another arduous hour-long rehearsal last night of the four American pieces the new orchestra workshop I joined will perform Aug. 1 at a South Austin nursing home. The young teacher/conductor is diplomatic. “If you’re not sure you’re in the right place,” she said to everyone, “play softer.” She wasn’t looking at me, but I knew who she meant.
Looking forward to LOCO’s two hours tonight which is tiring in its own way but easier all around because after two and a half years of jigs, reels and Old Time, I’m comfortable with it and am always in the right place. Even if I wasn’t, since fiddlers all play loud there’s no need to “play softer.”
My teacher encouraged me to try the orchestra stuff and we go over the pieces in advance, but he warned me what to expect, too. Faking is common in symphonies worldwide, he told me, and it’s always advisable to underplay even when you’re sure your intonation is good and you’re in the groove. And play things shorter than written so you’re not still playing when everyone else has stopped… Oops.
As for the nursing home, yeah, good works and all that. The venue is free to the teacher/conductor and comes with a built-in audience. All but one of the other players are young and will just come and go feeling they’ve done their civic duty. Me and that other older one will look around and feel a bit threatened, more determined than ever not to wind up in such a place.
UPDATE: The concert went well. No major goofs. And the nursing home was the nicest one I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t mind being “incarcerated” there, if it came to that.
My violin teacher’s latest project, performing the other day at Central Market South in Austin. Their style has been described as “swing jazz,” though they mostly play straight eights. They play a few standard covers such as Black Orpheus but mostly James’ original compositions: Altitude, Nocturne, Waffle, etc.
He’s on the violin. The others, L to R, are guitarist/composer Alan Retamozo, drummer Brennan Howell and bassist/composer Phil Spencer. Elevation refers to James, Brennan and Phil being from Colorado. Here’s an audio sampler of their work on four of James’ compositions: Waffle, Soho, Mountain Time & Tag Team.
A great beauty as well as a virtuoso violinist.
It was fun, indeed, but I haven’t worked that hard since I retired. Rehearsing a lengthy piece is work. The end-of-the-week concert was a breeze comparatively. And the workshop’s classes were a bit long, though the subjects were useful:
Intonation, expressive performance and bow variations, the bow being 90 percent of the fiddle as my teacher likes to say. The old joke goes: it’s not true the devil invented the fiddle but it is true that he invented the bow. And how.
Nevertheless I am going to try and get in the UTexas adult orchestra to continue this classical adventure a little longer. Only snag would be if I had to audition. I doubt I could get through that. Stay tuned, as the fiddlers say. Ha, ha.
UPDATE: The UTexas Strings Project “parent” orchestra runs an hour a week from September to May and doesn’t require an audition (or a child in the Strings Project), so I’m going to plan on it.
MORE: Meanwhile I signed up for a summer version of the above—five rehearsals and a performance—paid my $100 fee, got my 3 charts via PDF and am practicing them for the start on July 14.
Less than a week still to practice for my five-day Chamber Orchestra Workshop at Blackerby Violin on Anderson Lane not far from the rancho.
Twenty of us adult beginners, including violins, cellos and violas, will be rehearsing Telemann’s Concerto In D Major, Elgar’s Chanson de Matin, and Mozart’s Serenade in Four Movements for a recital on the last day. “The real classical repertoire,” as my teacher put it. But also a couple of light things such as Scarborough Fair.
After several years of playing Old Time and contra dance music, and lately practicing jazz ballads and klezmer, this will be my first venture into classical music. I think it’s going to be fun.
UPDATE: Fun, yes, but also work. Not only am I one of the few 70-or-older participants, I’m the only one without much classical in my musical background.