I was never going to forget these five musical minutes of my life anyway, but I’m super glad that Laurie McCarriar captured it all on video. Maddie MacNeil, Tom White, Ken Lovelett and myself were all on stage together for the teachers’ concert at the Northeast Dulcimer Symposium, and our setlist consisted of things that each of us had brought to the table to share and be played on by everyone. So this was my contribution, my arrangement of Amazing Grace that I’ve been living with and working on for a year now (or more, if you count back to when I first started playing around with it back in Ireland). I think we’ve reached an all-new level of perfection with it now. What could ever be more beautiful than Maddie’s voice? And the rest of the band made us sound like we were some Irish super-band, like Altan or something. Love it.
Here’s a little gospely number I wrote in the shower the other day. Seems like something that could’ve come out of the Unitarian hymn book, and no surprise there. This song has some of my favorite things in it– playing the piano, lots of fifth intervals, and invented words (“feelya”, “walkya”, “growya”, and “giveya”). I’m not that crazy about the quality of the recording… Still on a search for a good digital recorder, I suppose. This one makes the piano sound muffled, my voice sound unreasonably clear, and is overall too quiet or something. It could just be that I need a good microphone.
Anyway, all technological critiques aside, I’m pretty happy with the song… It sounds to me like a conversation between a person (ok, me) and the universe. Just some happy thoughts passed back and forth, you know, a little small talk, me and the universe.
“Working Hands” recorded at 524 East 18th St., Chattanooga, June 8, 2009:
Working Hands, by Christie Burns
The Colorado Dulcimer Fest was asking its performers to donate something to the door prize prize pool, and I didn’t want to be like everyone else and just put in a CD. So I made up a little certificate instead, which entitled the winner to an original tune, composed by me, in the winner’s honor. I’ll call this the “O’Carolan tactic”… or in other words, self-assigned homework. I was lucky that the winner of the certificate was actually a hammered dulcimer player herself, and a pretty cool gal at that. It has been an honor for me to compose in honor of her, even if it has taken me two months to write the tune. I’ll be seeing Rebecca, the winner, soon. It’ll be up to her to title the tune.
I’m my own worst videographer, so nevermind the headlessness in this clip. Just enjoy the music, and focus on the hammers, because that’s what it’s all about anyway. Oh, and by the way, those are Paul Haslem hammers I’m using, and he’s about to make a new batch of them to send to America. Contact me if you’re interested in buying a pair!
Well, I promised my friend Doursean that I’d post some “Angeline the Baker” action on my blog tonight, but when I sat down to the dulcimer, all it wanted to play was “Patty on the Turnpike,” a tune I learned this past weekend in Shepherdstown, WV. And by “learned” I also mean “taught”– I was co-teaching a class with Ken Kolodner on old time fiddle tunes, and this was one that he picked out for the class. Usually when tunes are played extra slow for teaching purposes, there’s a little voice inside my head that says, “C’mon! Hurry it up!” But with this tune, we played it all slow like this for three straight days, and that little voice in my head just said, “Ahhhh.”
I loved it most when I played it on my parents’ Yamaha piano in Cinnaminson… but didn’t have any kind of recording device with me to capture the moment. Still, it’s nice on the dulcimer, although it sounds awfully lonely without my whole big bunch of students playing along. Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful weekend at the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Fest! And especially to Ken, thanks for the tune!
Patty on the Turnpike, Sarah Armstrong’s version (from Hill Country Tunes), recorded on 18th St., March 2009:
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good old fashioned recorded-it-in-my-living-room kind of post. Partly, that’s because I haven’t been in my living room lately for long enough to record a tune. But the other evening, Matt came by for some tunes (as well as folk school plotting and scheming), and this is what we made. Exploring the quiet, the slow, the simple, the serene side of old time music… We’re inching towards the place where old time music meets African music, or at least the kind of African music I love to listen to. [I reference this mbira post.] Actually, now that I think about it, most of the traditional mbira music from Zimbabwe I’ve heard is fast and busy… And maybe I’m just really into what Forward Kwenda does when he takes those traditional melodies to a mellower place. Well certainly I appreciate knowing how to reach that mellower place in old time music. Matt Evans is the conductor on the express train to old time mellowland…the slowest, quietest, most peaceful train you could ever imagine. Here’s my first official wish to the universe in 2009: I wish for Matt and myself to someday collaborate with Forward Kwenda. 🙂 Crazier things have been wished for on blogs, haven’t they?
Walkin’ in the Parlor, recorded by Matt and Christie on 18th St., Chattanooga, Jan 11, 2009.
I stumbled across this on YouTube. I think it’s kind of fun that some tourist happened to capture a piece of this unique day when my friend Helen Gubbins was visiting.
I’m very happy with the music Lisa Ferguson and I have been making lately. We conquered a whole slew of Christmas tunes for the upcoming season, and we’ve been polishing the tunes we already have in the repetoire. This one, Steffaleken from Norway, is one of our favorites. We haven’t reached the perfect arrangement with it yet, but we always have fun when we play it. Lisa and I will be playing in St. Elmo on Saturday, November 29th at 11am, and we’re looking for some more Christmas gigs– so get in touch if you can use some beautiful dulcimer music for your event!