Summer Tunes and Songs

Just back from Alex Caton’s Fiddle Camp, my last stop on a summer tour filled with lots of new musical inspiration, new friends, and, of course, new tunes! So much to catch up on before Fall’s courses start up in… oh my, just over a week. I still haven’t had the time to download all the music from Swannanoa off my iPhone and organize that yet as I’m just back from basically 3 straight weeks away from home (sadly, only 2 days of music).

Going back to June, I had the opportunity to back Sara Read (fiddle) and Monika Fallon (singing/flute) on the forthcoming BRIMS CD. That was the highlight of a lovely week of music. Great to see Sara with a fiddle in her hands again these days. Backing her reminded me what a joy it is to play with melody players who have a really solid internal rhythm. Something I need to remember to talk about in session class. So often it is perceived that accompaniment players set the rhythm, but really, our job is to enhance/support the rhythm that is already created by the melody player. It was also a delight to recreate a bit of our last BRIMS trip to Ireland with Monika as we recorded “The Orchard”, a song we learned from Mairead Curran around the piano at the Ballyroe Hotel. Thanks to Dave C., finally got to hear some of the cuts off the CD over the weekend, including hearing Marina’s dance steps on Sara’s track. I think folks will be pleased with the results on the CD! Bobby Read has a fantastic new recording studio set-up in Charlottesville, so if you’re looking for studio time / engineering, check out Bobby. Really enjoyed working with him.

Next up was Swannanoa in mid-July. It is honestly THE week I look forward to most all year and this year was the best yet, perhaps because Katherine was able to come, or perhaps just because each year I return I meet new friends and get to know returning friends better. Plus, the music rocked! I took three classes this year – Mandolin I with Marla Fibish, who was new to me. Really enjoyed her class and have also been enjoying her CD. Hoping that she’ll make her way to Charlottesville on an upcoming East Coast tour. Her “potluck” with Martin Hayes was certainly one of the highlights of my week. 2nd class of the day was Bouzouki with Robbin Bullock. I’ve been looking forward to taking a class with him since the first SwannyG concert I saw. What he does with O’Carolan pieces is mesmerizing and his Rosewood Castle CD remains one of my favorites. My last class was banjo with Eamon O’Leary. I’ve taken 3 classes with Eamon over the years, and I’ve always appreciated his approach to teaching. He always meets you where you are, encourages you to reach a little farther, and is very thorough. While I don’t play banjo much (why? b/c it is heavier than my octave mandolin? questions to ponder early in the morning), this was a terrific class for me.

Late night sessions / slow jams / breakfast chats about picks were all wonderful as always. Great to catch up with some of the folks from Asheville I’ve met in years past who come by for an evening or two of tunes. I did miss being in a singing class, however. I think this was the first year I didn’t sign up for one. They always kind of center me, so I’ll get back to that next year for sure. Some of the tunes I heard and want to learn include: Brenda Stubbert’s, Pipe on the Hob (the 2 pt in D), Julia Delaney’s, Geese in the Bog, Faraway Waltz, Miss McLeod’s, Islay Rantor Reel, Christy Barry’s #1, Boy in the Bush, Donnybrook Fair, Rose in the Heather, Humours of Glendart, Hunter’s House, Monaghan Jig, and one of the Paddy Fahey’s (cripe… who knows now which one). Many standards that I just haven’t learned yet, but some lesser known ones too. Along with the tunes I learned in class, that should keep me busy for awhile. Are any of these on your list as well? Let’s learn them together!

And finally, last weekend, I wrapped up my summer at Alex’s Fiddle Camp. Along with getting to hang out and play tunes with good friends from C’ville, I also took a couple of classes with Patrick Ourceau who came with his family and is such a great guy (and musician). Really enjoyed getting to know him a bit and their twins are a total hoot. My fiddle playing, however, left much to be desired. Not sure what to do about that! Though he does give Skype lessons now apparently 🙂 Also took one singing class with Pat Egan who long ago taught me a few key DADGAD runs when I was first getting started on guitar. And yes, he teaches guitar in standard tuning. Someone to check out if you’d prefer to build on playing in that tuning rather than trying to figure out drop D or DADGAD. So great to catch up with folks who are in Alex’s circle… many years, her camp is the one place I get to play tunes with them. It was fun to see the crew from NOVA who were there last year. Hope we’re able to get together one Sunday evening in Warrenton (or Culpeper… I forget now the session locale). Even try to dust off a few old-time tunes with somewhat limited success – many cobwebs there. Also a quick plug for Sara(h), a young fiddler who’s been a student of Alex’s for years. She made a huge jump in playing this past year. Just so cool to see these young players hit their stride!

What I have missed with all the travel is playing with my bandmates in KGB. Fortunately, we’re playing tonight – Sunday (Aug 25th) at 6pm at Fellini’s. So, with that and BRIMS classes starting on Sept 3rd, sounds like we’ll be back on track. Look forward to see you all soon!

Classes for this Fall

Hey folks – here’s what I’ll be teaching at BRIMS this Fall. First half of semester will be Session I, 2nd half will be DADGAD Guitar. Not finalized yet is the timing, but probably in the 6pm time slot. I expect all the classes and times to be published on the BRIMS homepage soon. Hope you’ll be able to join us for one more classes!

If you are considering taking either of these classes and have any specific requests or questions, please let me know through a comment to this post – thanks!

Session Workshop Class I (8 Week Class)

This 8 week class will focus on playing well-known session tunes as a group. We will learn tunes from three sources – most popular tunes from, tunes that are played locally, and tunes that people in the class want to learn. To take this class you should have some experience with a melody instrument (e.g. can play at least a few Irish tunes), be eager to work on playing better, and be able to learn a tune on your own from a recording with perhaps a little help from music notation if you’re new to learning by ear. We will also have room for 1 or 2 guitars / bouzoukis / bodhráns for accompaniment. Ages 12 and up are welcome. We will cover a new tune each week so that by the end of class, we’ll have 3 sets of tunes that you can play. Our goal will be to play those tunes well and in a consistent rhythm.

Introduction to Irish Accompaniment on Guitar (DADGAD tuning)

In this five week class, students will learn the fundamentals of accompanying Irish traditional tunes on guitar. We’ll cover two of the basic rhythms (reels and jigs), chord shapes, and some common major and minor progressions. We’ll also be using DADGAD tuning; an open style guitar tuning that is very popular for backing Irish musicians. Ages 12 and up are welcome. Some experience on guitar is helpful (simple chords and strumming in standard tuning). You will need a guitar, capo, and pick.