From top to bottom this past weekend was one of the best Westbrook Musters I can recall. The weather was beautiful, the music was a blast and the company was great. Here are just a few highlights for me. Feel free to reply with your own.
Deb, it’s so nice to see April again.
John E. Boy, thanks for the interpretive Irish step dancing.
Alan, that spider nearly killed you, glad I could save your life
Dan, if ever you need any attire correction in the future, you can count on me. Besides I don’t want you to embarrass the rest of us
Beave, good man on ye ol’ goat skins. I guess we’ll have to continue carrying the Gary & Ralph torch since there are no others.
Richard Benoit, nice chatting and playing tunes with you. I’ll be sending some music your way.
Katie, you are sooo grass roots. Thanks for advertising our session before I knew we were having one. Also, thanks for making me feel good about B minor.
To those two girls from Delmar who said they were going to go find Wi-Fi so they could check out my web site … you girls rock!
Tim, impressive flute playing. Glad I could convince you to play one more tune.
Bosse, I can’t believe you played Shenandoah in F! Cool. You’ve come a long way in a short time.
Deirdra, mighty whistle playing. With a little more practice, you should be able to get those tunes up to speed ; )
Mountain, you should play that Em tune like nine times through. Good shtuff.
Kate, bring your pipes to Sudbury, we’re putting you on tape.
Tish, your fifing rules.
Biscuits, you would have been proud.
McGraw, you know how to make ’em. Thanks for bringing them down. I’m so happy you all came. It was the best part of my day.
Max, I know you can’t read, but Happy Birthday my little punky pirate.
Sudbury and the Troopers, Great performances. Thanks so much for playing my tunes.
Rachael, thanks for starting Blackwater Tide in the jam. I guess I should re-learn it now.
The only downer of the weekend was that Mr. Dukes and The Salad Queen did not make an appearance. I hope you guys show up at Sudbury because my fans hate it when you’re not there.
finally I’ll leave you with Eighteen fifes, Six snare, Six bass, Eight flags, Three gunners, Two prisoner handlers, One prisoner, One musketeer, One Jeff, One Commode and, apparently, a fair young maiden. Boom.
Hello everyone…or as they like to say in Basel, ‘Sali zaemme’. As the Mariners first entered the amphitheater in Augst, playing a marathon of a medley called Union Jack, we took the opportunity to greet the audience. Just in the middle of the medley, you see, there is a four beat rest where we usually yell ‘one, two, three, four’ in German. On this occasion we were, instead, asked to yell ‘sa-li zae-mee’. It was a nice way to start the show.
The video below starts with the greeting and chaotically progresses until the end of the medley. It is one of the few bits of video I have of both the Americans and the Swiss playing together. Also, I love the bit at the end of the video where all the drummers are tightening their drums. Did they forget to do that before the show started? I don’t know.
To break up the monotony of fife and drum during our Swiss concert we mixed in some Celtic music. We performed three sets of tunes. Here is the middle and slowest set that we played, which is a well known hornpipe called The Rights of Man. Evidently this was a real treat for the Swiss audience since this is not a style of music they typically hear. At one point, although not in this set, we had the entire audience clapping along with us. It was great fun. The other interesting point is that half the guys playing this set were Swiss including Sam the bouzouki player. The first time we ever played this tune with them was two days before the show. That being said, I think it went quite nicely.
Above is a nice picture of the Roman amphitheater in Augst, beautifully lit, while we were playing. The picture was taken from behind the stage at the top of a large set of stone steps. This amphitheater was the stage for a new fife solo that my buddy Joe and I had been working on. Below is the video of our performance in Augst.
We were slightly out of sync for the first couple of notes but other than that we were very happy with this performance. It was our very first time in front of a real audience with this piece. The day before we played it at our dress rehearsal in front of the Swiss Mariners for the first time. It was a complete disaster. We did not even finish the piece during the rehearsal. So, I guess it is fair to say that we went into this performance with a bit of apprehension. Just before playing for the crowd of twentyfivehundred people we looked at each other and said, “Ok, were back in Natick”.
Just found this clip of The Mariners on YouTube. The footage came from the parade at the Deep River Ancient Muster in Connecticut a couple of weekends ago. The guy laying on the ground in the opening seconds of the clip is the mutinous shackled prisoner that gets dragged around, beat up and shot. It is a crazy bit of street theatrics that always wakes the audience up, especially when he makes his way into the crowd. Incidentally, I’m the short fifer on the leftish side of the line.
I’m hoping to have some YouTube footage from our upcoming Swiss show. I just need to figure out how to operate the video camera and play fife at the same time.
I just came across this nice set of tunes on YouTube. As a fretted instrument musician I have always struggled with removing the capo in the middle of a set of tunes as a result of an unexpected key change. This kid has a novel technique for dealing with the problem. Watch what he does with the capo about halfway through the video.
I would love to know what kind of capo he was using.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the struggles we all go through when learning and mastering a craft. In this case the craft I speak of is music. But, really, it could be any craft. As a beginner you tell yourself, “If I could just play a tune or two, that would make me really happy”. Then, that is not enough. You need to learn twenty, fifty and then a hundred tunes to be happy. After a hundred you realize that the first twenty that you though you learned need to be re-learned because the way you’re playing them really sucks. Eventually your repertoire grows, your technique gets better, your tool set more rich, and you set new goals for yourself. Here is the point. Beginners have one very key thing in common with experienced craftsman. They are both striving to get better.
Along the journey of musical development it is important to have mentors and role models. And it is important for the mentors to remind those following behind that everyone starts at the beginning, and that the most important key to getting better is to follow the path of your interests. Practice all you want, if you are not doing what you want, you ain’t gettin’ better. And if you’re not getting better, it is likely you are getting worse.
One of the things I like most about mentors or roll models is their war stories. What was the path they followed? What inspired them to work so hard and get so good? What hurdles did they have and how did they get out of their ruts? I also love seeing evidence of their own humble beginnings. It reminds me that they are just people and that they really did have to make their way around similar obstacles.
One of my role models is Paul Brady. The man is simply a brilliant guitar player and I am stuck in a rut behind him. One of my hurdles is to find my way out of that rut and cut my own path. For those that don’t know, Paul Brady took a traditional song called Arthur McBride in the mid seventies and made it famous.
Recently I was poking around YouTube and found this live version of the song from 1977 which, aside from a few amusing mistakes, is identical to the recorded version that drew so much acclaim. Check out the gorgeous base line that serves as its own melody. Listen to the finger picking…especially in the solo. Whewww! Classic stuff.
Now, you want to see something really cool? Check out Paul singing the same song in seventyfour. It sounds hokey by comparison. No beautiful base line. Very little finger picking. Mostly strumming. The singing has no character. Man he sucks! O.k., not really, but you get the point. To get from ’74 to ’77 he had some real work to do. If he had stopped in ’74 I don’t think we would be talking about this song.
So, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to get back to practice. I’ve got ruts to get out of.