Jan. 12th, 2010

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This evening Catherine Miller and I played downstairs for Basic, which went decently, although in hindsight the name tune for "Birks of Invermay", while pretty, is not a good one for beginners to dance to. John Chambers led the band upstairs for the social hour, for which Catherine and I also played. I was pretty happy with how that went, for the most part. Our second strathspey set had Alasdair Fraser's lovely "Pamela Rose Grant," as well as one of my favorite strathspeys, Nathaniel Gow's "Sir George Clerk of Pennycuik," which I fell in love with from one of Muriel Johnstone's recordings. We followed that with De'il Amang the Tailors, which is fun to play as well as dance, and closed with Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell." The Ungar by itself would have made my evening, but because of the rest of it I'm still on a musical high...

I recently made a few purchases of a musical nature. [livejournal.com profile] qianian kindly gave me his copy of the Portland Collection, Vol. 1 a few months ago; I just bought the second volume. Now I've got the standard tunebooks (or at least what is standard up here in Boston) for contra as well as Scottish and English. I also got the first 2 volumes of "The Waltz Book," which I've also been asked to play from before. A personal pet peeve: Volume 1 of that work contains "Neil Gow's Lament on the Death of His Second Wife." While it may indeed be in waltz time, playing it at the tempo and with the lilt necessary for waltzing would utterly destroy the feeling of arguably the most pathetic Scottish slow air ever written.

I also bought an inexpensive Hohner melodica. No one around here plays Scottish melodica, but I have heard it used in English dance music. I figured it'd be a cheap, extremely portable instrument, capable of playing chords as well as melody, that wouldn't be too hard to pick up as a pianist. Hopefully by the time NEFFA or Pinewoods rolls around I'll be sufficiently proficient to be able to play it in jam sessions.

Catherine and I are going to apply to play a 20 minute recital slot at the Harvard Arts First festival on May 1st. We've started to toss around some ideas for sets. Assuming it works out it'll be the first time I'll have performed in a formal recital as a pianist in years. But it'll be a good incentive to get some more solo tunes under my belt in the next few months. Moreover, as an RSCDS musician you so often have to abuse the music to suit the dancing -- pipe marches get sped up to jig tempo, and slow airs played as strathspeys usually have to go considerably quicker than one would want to. Nor does one generally get the opportunity to play strathspey/reel medleys. So it'll be nice to not have to stay within the constraints of RSCDS style.

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August 2013

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