Though I haven’t been a musician all my life, I’ve had the calling. It wasn’t until the ripe age of 30 that I actually picked up the violin. I remember the first day I brought it home. I gently took it out of the case, placed it on my shoulder, tightened the bow and pulled it across the strings. I waited for something magical to happen. But no sound came out. Nothing. Not even a screech. My heart sank. So I called the violin shop to tell them it was broken and they said “did you put rosin on the bow?”…
Dancing just plain feels good. Whether you are good at it or not, if you can just listen to the music and move your body to the beat, in my book, you can dance. Just ask any kid. Kids have no inhibitions when it comes to dancing.
When my sister and I were little, we not only danced in many recitals, but we often put on our own dance recitals in the living room of our home. I remember once getting fully decked out in costumes and singing “The Bitch is back” by Elton John, complete with broom guitars and microphones made out of hair brushes. We weren’t allowed to swear but for some reason it was okay if it was in a song. So we sang our asses off and danced so loudly that our next door neighbor came over to check on us and see if we were ok. We were not only ok, we were having the best performance of our life. Ah, the good old days.
Although my childhood dancing days are long gone, dancing still feels good to me. And luckily in Vermont we have lots of opportunities. Just last weekend I went to a masquerade party where we danced to everything from 70′s music to house music. Other weekends I’ve attended one of many contra-dances Vermont has to offer.
Dancing is fun and easy and there are lots of different types of music events to move your body to. This coming weekend is no different.
Recently, I was at a session and there was a woman playing Uillean pipes. While she played, she closed her eyes and let her head and upper body dance ever so slightly to the music. She let the tunes run right through her like it was something she couldn’t actually control. It was almost as if the pipes were just a tool to help her get that feeling out. The music was effortless and she was mesmerizing to watch.
This experience was a good reminder of why I play music. It’s really not about the notes or the number of tunes I know. It’s about how the music makes me feel when I play it. My fiddle is just a tool to express those feelings. Yet, I sometimes spend so much time trying to remember the notes and wondering whether or not they are going to sound good, that I forget to actually express them.
This is a picture me me playing recently at a benefit concert with my friend Harold.
I posted it to Facebook and one of my friends wrote:
“This is my favorite picture of you at play! Normally you look all serious and concentrating, this one makes you look like you are FEELING the music! Love it!“
Music is so great because it evokes emotions in both the person playing and the person listening. It’s a relationship that is hard to put into words. But the greatest people to watch and listen to are the people who clearly love what they are playing and have the courage to just play it from the heart.
This picture of me is one of very few where I am actually expressing what I’m feeling. But I am going to keep it around as a reminder to feel the music and forget about the notes. My fingers know where to go, I just got to trust them.
This past St. Patrick’s Day was yet another fun weekend filled with some amazing music. The weekend for me started off at the weekly Irish session at Bagitos, where piper Michael Cooney generously shared some tunes. The place was so packed with musicians it was hard to find a seat.
What is fun about this session is that many great musicians from near and far are always stopping by for some tunes. If you like traditional Irish music, this is the place to be every Saturday from 2-5pm.
Here are some photos from last weekend, thanks to Annabel!
As you can probably imagine, this week is like Christmas to an Irish musician. There are so many wonderful events going on to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I captured some of my favorites below.
For the full schedule check out the Burlington Irish Heritage Festivalevents page.
FRIDAY, MARCH 15
SATURDAY, MARCH 16
The Musical Instruments of Ireland: An introduction to Celtic Instruments
Place: Pickering Room, Fletcher Free Library, College Street, Burlington
Weekly Irish Session
Place: Bagitos, Montpelier, VT
Celtic Cats St. Patrick’s Da Ceili
Place: UVM Dance Studio, Inside Patrick Gym
The Seventh Annual Music Showcase
Place: The BCA Center, 135 Church Street, Burlington
With a session that begins just prior to the show hosted by yours truly and some other great musicians.
SUNDAY, MARCH 17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Place: Mater Christi School, 50 Mansfield Ave, Burlington
All Day Irish Music
Place: Tent outside Ri Ra the Irish Pub, Church Street, Burlington
Time: 11:00 am on
Place: the Flynn Center Main Street, Burlington
There is nothing more gratifying than someone who is touched by your music. I love looking out into the audience and seeing people smiling, singing along or tapping their feet.
Performing, though, takes hours and hours of practice, creating set lists, driving to gigs, and lugging equipment. It can sometimes be discouraging.
So why do we do it?
There is no better way to learn Irish music than to constantly listen to as much of it as you possibly can. We are so lucky here in Vermont to have a number of talented local Irish musicians to listen to and play with. What is even more fun is that these same musicians often invite their friends from near and far to come and play for us, share tunes, stories, talent and technique.
Date: Friday, January 11, 2013
Place: Richmond Free Library, Bridge Street, Richmond, VT
Cost: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
Reserve Tickets: email@example.com Read the rest of this entry »
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Check out my year in review. For 2013 feel free to post a comment and let me know what you’d like me to write about. Happy New Year!
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.
- Donation – Make a donation in their name to a non-profit music program like the Landfill Harmonic where people make instruments out of trash.
- Strings – It’s always smart to have an extra set of strings in your case.
- Software - Transcribe or the Amazing Slow Downer, is great software that slows down a tune but keeps it in the same key so you can easily learn fast tunes.
- Music – An iTunes gift certificate is always welcome because we can never have enough music.
- Gift Certificate – We love gift certificates to the Violin Shop so we can buy anything we want.
- Music Classes at the Local Traditional Music School - Although be careful with this one, you don’t want your musician to think they need lessons.
I hope this helps you with your Christmas shopping.
If you’ve ever snowboarded, you know the first few times out there can be downright painful not to mention frustrating. At the end of the day it usually feels kind of like someone scrunched you up into a ball and threw you against the wall a few times because that’s how much your body hurts.
It does however get better, the more you do it. Eventually you learn to get down the mountain without bruising your tailbone, spraining your ankle or catching your downhill edge and getting whiplash as your head hits the ground (thank God for helmets).
One of the things that made me a better rider, believe it or not, was when I took telemark skiing lessons. (I mean I had to find one way to get down Mad River Glen). For some reason learning a different way to slide down the mountain gave me more confidence and skill on my snowboard. I’m not sure why exactly.
I figured if it can work with snowboarding, it can work with fiddling. I am always trying to improve my fiddle chops and I think sometimes its good to pick up another instrument for a little while. If for nothing else but for realizing that yeah, you can play fiddle.
Recently, I was asked to review an Irish Whistle Tutor. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to start learning another instrument – the Irish whistle. Luckily it is one that is still in line with the genre I play in not to mention, easy to transport.
So just as I learned to get better on my snowboard through teleskiing, I am hoping to get better on my fiddle through whistling (sorry neighbors). I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes. And check back for my review of the Irish Whistle Tutor.