Sunday, July 29, 2012

Performance Diary

The Kenwood Players recently performed at the annual summer family barbecue and picnic over at James Madison's Montpelier. Thanks to my cousin Ada and her husband Ed for taking these photos and passing them along, and to the Montpelier Foundation for granting permission for me to put them up on the blog.

The threat of rain moved the event from the back yard of the mansion to the Grand Salon in the Visitor's Center. While people were gathering four of us played some music from the time of James and Dolley Madison. We started out with flute, alto flute, clarinet and drum playing selections from Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. While people were getting their barbecue I switched to guitar and we played Mrs. Madison's Minuet and Mrs. Madison's Waltz, both of which were originally written for the piano. More info on the music of the Madison era is here.
I'd asked brothers Don and Bob (a docent at Montpelier) to help us out by singing some of the period songs and here's a nice shot of them doing that.
Here's a shot of the group during our second set. You can see the little monitor speakers, which were all the amplification we needed indoors. The most important thing they do is to let the players hear the guitar. I use them even in small churches, because when I'm out in front of the group the guitar is hard for them to hear.
In this photo you can see a little condenser mic which is meant to be clipped onto an instrument, but works very well clipped onto a music stand. It reinforces my voice just enough that I don't have to strain to project when in the lower register.
Here's a shot of Ed doing the sound for us. We used that larger condenser mic for the period vocals by Don and Bob, and for announcements. The Mackie mixer just has that mic, the guitar, my vocal mic and a mic for the harmonica (which one of the tuba players used on a few tunes) running into it and going out to the monitor speakers. Having Ed (who for years ran the TV studio for WETA up in Washington) adjusting those levels throughout the performance was a great help. We were loud enough people could hear us, but could chat with others without having to yell. 
Here's a shot taken between numbers that nicely captures our mood. We had a wonderful time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Current Arrangements

Last Sunday, after the Kenwood Players performed some of the 18th and early 19th century music discussed in a previous post, we moved to some more contemporary fare in a second set. After starting out with the Playford dance tune "The Richmond Ball" as a transition piece, we played the following numbers that I've arranged for us.

Hello, Dolly

Pink Panther
Deep River Blues (the Doc Watson tune)
Hey, Good Lookin'
This Land Is Your Land
Georgia On My Mind
Tuxedo Junction
Ain't She Sweet

We had prepared, but didn't get to:
Lets Twist Again
The Saints Go Marchin' In

We closed the set with four Dixieland jazz tunes using standard arrangements.

In my arrangements there's always a bass line for the Eb tubas, which are more agile than big Bb tubas, but less so than a string bass. Whenever possible there are little syncopations and walking turnarounds to catch the audience's ear.

For basic harmony I'm playing either banjo or guitar. For the instruments not playing the melody there are harmony notes on a middle staff. Those pitches are usually just pitches in the chord or in simple thirds with the melody.

A primary characteristic of these arrangements is that we don't decide who plays what line until a performance is in view. A founding principle of the Kenwood Players is the recognition that not everyone will be able to make every performance and I'd rather make adjustments among the available players than call in someone at the last minute.

That really paid off for this performance because neither of our trombone players could make it, and while I really missed hearing that tenor middle of the sound, every tune came off well and got a good response.

The key to all this working, besides my having to write up a sheet of road maps for each tune for different performances, saying who plays what when, is that the players can elaborate and improvise on the bare bones I've given them for both the melody and harmony. Over and over at our performances I get the sense audiences are picking up on and enjoying just how much fun we're having making the music and that the improvisatory spark needed to make these simple arrangements come alive has a lot to do with that. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Music, Fiction & Apprehension

A recent post of Kyle Gann's, Literature as a Mirror, along with the extensive comments, is  wonderful conceptual exploration of music and fiction and group think. I've reread it a number of times and have yet to keep all the thoughts it triggers in any kind of tidy bundle. For now just want to bookmark it and paste in my comment.

This is an amazing post and discussion, full of idea boxes to unpack. I am as in agreement with your basic argument as my general unfamiliarity with new music and fiction allow. I’ve been happy to leave *most* of it outside my sphere of interest ever since majoring in English back in ’71 and getting a whiff of what was coming down the line. What you’re calling sophistication has always come across to me more as pretentiousness, and in-crowd validation, once I left academia.

But what’s driving this comment is your phrase, “try to expand my means of apprehension to appreciate what was there”. That’s what your language on this blog, and your music, particularly The Planets, has done for me. It’s a very handy phrase for talking about a dimension of art/music/literature that’s not neccessarily present in entertainment.
It also seems a good phrase for talking about the purpose of Buddhist mind training (and a lot of other spiritual endeavors), which is not meant to be mere routine, but a catalyst.
Really glad you’ve kept on blogging for a while!

A Fine Quodlibet

From Wikipedia - 

quodlibet is a piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often a light-hearted, humorous manner. The term is Latin, meaning "whatever" or literally, "what pleases." 

I first came across the word quodlibet when reading about the Bach family entertaining themselves. In the video below, Elaine Fine's daughter and son put one together. Just watching it brings a smile to my face. Along with everything else, hearing some nice guitar (dobro?) finger-picking takes me back to the 60's when I first learned guitar from friends and things like Peter, Paul & Mary songbooks with Travis picking notated in tablature.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Montpelier Program

This past Sunday the Kenwood Players provided music for an event at James Madison's Montpelier. This is the program (slightly edited) I wrote up for the portion of the evening we played music of the Madison era.

 Music for 
James and Dolley Madison's Montpelier
Sunday July 15, 2012
Summer Family Barbecue and Picnic

The Kenwood Players
Hayley Parrish - Flute
Dick & Maggie Stageberg - Trumpet & Clarinet
Bill Burnside - Alto & Tenor Sax
Crawford Harmon - Tuba
Bill Chapman - Tuba & Mouth Harp
Judy Peterson - Percussion
Lyle Sanford - Alto Flute, French Horn, Banjo & Guitar
Bob & Don Davies - additional vocals
Ed Harvey - audio engineer

Music of the Madison Era
Mr. Madison's March & Mrs. Madison's Minuet
Mrs. Madison's Waltz
This Great World is a Trouble
Four Tunes from The Beggar's Opera
The Richmond Ball
Corelli and Handel
Chester, by William Billings

    This is a collection of tunes that were popular during the time of James and Dolley Madison, a few of which we can be fairly certain they heard performed.

    The arrangements are simply transpositions of the originals into keys friendlier to our instrumentation. Guitar chords have been added, which fills out the harmonies, and the scoring for the wind instruments fills out some harmonies as well. Otherwise the music is as originally published.

    The addition of guitar chords makes improvisation easier. Back in the early 19th century it was still expected that musicians would be improvising from time to time.

    We are not trying to replicate the music of the era in the way in which it would have then been played (Historically Informed Performance). We are, however, trying to bring it alive with our modern instruments.

    In this music's heyday it would have most often been heard when friends gathered to make it themselves, either in the tavern or at home. Perhaps in part for that reason, we've found this music a lot of fun to play.

    We're playing this music as background during the Open House and the picnic, as that's most likely the way it would have been presented in the early 1800's. The notion audiences should sit quietly in the dark had not yet taken hold. Even at operas of the day, the house was fully lit and the audiences socialized, flirted, hobnobbed and politicked throughout the performances.

    The Kenwood Players enjoy playing and performing music in a wide variety of styles, including classical chamber music, 60's rock, Dixieland jazz, big band tunes, country, folk, blues, spirituals and hymns.

Lyle Sanford, Registered Music Therapist

Mr. Madison's March & Mrs. Madison's Minuet
Two Pieces Written Expressly for the Madisons
    Alexander Reinagle (1756-1809) was an English-born musician who spent his formative years in Scotland. A teacher, composer and theater and concert entrepreneur, Reinagle's performances and compositions introduced the piano-forte to American audiences.

    He emigrated to New York but soon moved to Philadelphia where his talents were quickly recognized. He organized concert series, performed frequently on keyboard and violin and was in demand as an instructor.

    In 1792 he joined with Thomas Wignell to build a large 2,000 seat theater that opened in 1794 as the New Theatre. Wignell recruited and managed the players; Reinagle directed the orchestra from the pit and arranged or wrote most of the music for these performances. Over the next ten years the two produced nearly 500 operas, pantomimes, and plays with incidental music. . .

    These two pieces were probably written for a specific performance to which the Madisons were expected to be in attendance. The orchestra would play “Mr. Madison’s March” when Madisons entered the theater and Mrs. Green and Mr. Francis might dance the minuet as an entr’acte or integrate it into one of the two pieces on the bill of the evening.

    According to the New York Gazette (June 2, 1809), Francis’s ”Mrs. Madison’s Minuet” was the “favorite dance at Washington” in the spring of 1809.
- Music of the War of 1812 in America; Dances, Marches & a Love Song; Set II    (The Colonial Music Institute)

Mrs. Madison's Waltz
    The proprietor of the 1812 Music website tells me this is a pirated waltz by Muzio Clementi. It was published in Philapelphia with no composer attribution by "G. Willig", the publisher of "Mr. Madison's March" and "Mrs. Madison's Minuet".

    Clementi wrote music expressly for, and in later life manufactured and sold, the pianos which were replacing the harpsichord in the early 1800's. Reinagle, the composer of "Mr. Madison's March" and "Mrs. Madison's Minuet", helped popularize the piano in America.

This Great World is a Trouble.
Sung by Mr. D'Legard in Jupiter and Europa.
Music by Leveridge. London 1723
- British Union Catalogue of Early Music Printed Before 1800

    Richard Leveridge was a basso whose life (1670-1758) spanned the period from Henry Purcell to Handel: he sang for both men. The incidental music he composed for the stage was heard in the colonies in The Recruiting Officer, The Constant Couple, and Love and a Bottle. The first two are known to have been performed in Williamsburg, and Leveridge's music was also known in the colonies through the Bockham, Watts, and his own two volumes.

    William Byrd II's diary shows that he, and probably other Virginians, were patrons of a coffeehouse kept by Leveridge in London about 1718, at the same period they were attending the theater where he was a featured actor and singer. Like other tavern keepers, Leveridge probably kept instruments available for the use of his patrons. Williamsburg tavern owners maintained the tradition, as the inventories of several of them prove.
- A Williamsburg Songbook, John Edmonds, first edition 1964

Four Tunes from The Beggar's Opera
    As early as 1732, four years after the premiere, The Beggar's Opera was well known to Virginians both through performances and through printed texts of the music. In modern terminology a "musical comedy", it enjoyed unprecedented popularity.
- A Williamsburg Songbook, John Edmonds, first edition 1964

    Its nature is that of a spoken play of low life, with songs interspersed, set to popular tunes of the day - English and Scottish folk-song and folk-dance tunes, London street tunes, a few French airs, and a touch of Purcell and Handel.
- The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy A. Scholes, Tenth Edition 1970

Fill Ev'ry Glass
Air # 19, The Beggar's Opera by John Gay 1728
Fill ev'ry glass, for Wine inspires us,
And fires us With courage, love and joy.
Women and wine should life employ,
Is there ought else on earth desirous?

Packington's Pound
Air # 43, The Beggar's Opera by John Gay 1728
The Gamesters united in friendship are found
Tho they know that their industry all is a cheat;
They flock to their prey at the Dice-box's sound,
And join to promote one another's deceit.
But if by mishap, They fail of a chap,
To keep in their hands, They each other entrap.
Like Pikes, land with hunger, who miss of their ends,
They bite their companions, and prey on their friends.

    "Packington's Pound" is an example of an earlier, traditional tune that goes back at least to 1596, and is supposed to have arisen from an incident concerning Sir John Packington (1559 -1635).

     He constructed a pound (pond; "pound" is now dialect). When it encroached upon a public highway, he impetuously cut the embankment and let the water stream over the countryside; this gave rise to a satirical ditty sung to this air.
- A Williamsburg Songbook, John Edmonds, first edition 1964

Air # 44, The Beggar's Opera by John Gay 1728
Sir, modes of the Court so common are grown,
That a true friend can hardly be met;
Friendship for interest is but a loan,
Which they let out for what they can get.
'Tis true you find Some friends so kind,
Who'll give you good counsel themselves to defend.
In sorrowful ditty, They Promise, they pity,
But shift you for money, from friend to friend.

    It is thought that Purcell may be the author (of the tune) as, in 1689, in John Playford's Music's Handmaid, it appears, with Purcell's name attached, under the title "A New Irish Tune", as a tiny piece for the harpsichord: Purcell also used it as a ground bass in music for a play, The Gordian Knot unty'd, in 1691. The probability seems to be that Purcell was simply using a popular air of the day.
- The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy A. Scholes, Tenth Edition 1970

Lumps of Pudding
Air # 69, The Beggar's Opera by John Gay 1728
A Dance - the finale of The Beggar's Opera

The Richmond Ball
Henry Playford, The Dancing Master, 10th ed.(London, 1698)
    The Dancing Master was issued in 18 editions, beginning in 1650 and ending in 1728. Ultimately the collection was issued in three volumes. The inventory of Robert Beverly, Newland, Spotsylvania County, listed the second volume in 1733.
- A Williamsburg Songbook, John Edmonds, first edition 1964

Arcangelo Corelli
    In his day the violin was superceding the viol and he became one of the first great violinists, violin teachers, and violin composers, enjoying in all these capacities universal fame. Monarchs sought him out, pupils came from all countries, and his music was everywhere played. . . . When he died he was found to have amassed a large fortune, in addition to a valuable collection of pictures. . . . Corelli's name ranks very high in the roll of those who laid the foundations of the present art of instrumental composition and performance, yet his works never range beyond his instrument's third position.
- The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy A. Scholes, Tenth Edition 1970

George Frideric Handel
    Handel's art has not the concentration of Bach's; he is not so thorough. He has been called a 'magnificent opportunist'. Yet there is a nobility in his music, as there was in his presence, and though facile, never trivial. Beethoven has said of Handel, 'Go and learn of him how to achieve great effects with simple means', and Haydn, hearing the 'Hallelujah Chorus' in Westminster Abbey, rose to his feet with the crowd, wept, and exclaimed, 'He is the master of us all'.
- The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy A. Scholes, Tenth Edition 1970

   Thomas Jefferson's inventory of his music library contains many works by Corelli, as well as a few by Handel.

    William Billings was a New Englander who wrote a number of songs that were extremely popular in the Revolutionary era. This tune is said to have been more popular than even "Yankee Doodle" during that time.
When God inspir'd us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forced.
Their ships were Shater'd in our sight.
Or driven from our coast.

Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton too,
With Prescot and, Cornwallis join'd
Together plot our Overthrow
In one infernal league combin'd.

The foe comes on with haughty stride;
Our troops advance with martial noise,
Their veterans flee before our Youth,
And generals yield to beardless Boys.

What grateful Off'ring shall we bring?
What shall we render to the Lord?
Loud Halleluias let us sing.
And praise His name on ev'ry chord.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Performance Diary

Last Saturday the Kenwood Players had a little Dixieland performance on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Va and this snapshot was taken right before we started, with the trombone player just out of the shot to the left. Our regular trombone players were both unable to join us, so Dick, the trumpeter in the white cap, asked a friend in a big band he plays in to fill in. 

This was all part of a big band festival put on by the Orange and Charlottesville bands, with a dozen community bands from around the state scheduled to play from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Unfortunately that weather system, el derecho, came through the night before and Virginia got whacked, some people still without power even today. One group's bus was damaged by a tree overnight and the army band was dispatched to clean-up duties.

We had a nice little crowd for the Dixieland, with nearly a dozen pre-school age children sitting on the bricks in front of us fascinated by it all. 

That was at 10:30 a.m. and it was only in the low 90's. When the Orange Community Band played at 5:30 in the pavilion at the end of the mall it was close to 100, so that audience was sparse. (Also, half the traffic lights weren't working and over half the city was without power.) We played well, but I kept noticing I'd never felt my horn so warm to the touch, and the heat and humidity did something to the sound - it seemed more tactile and vaguely felt and sounded like we were under water.