Month: December 2010

Old-Time for the New Year

The coming of the New Year is always a time to look back and look ahead.  I’ve done both the past couple of days as I’ve enjoyed seeing some new video of the “progressive” old-time banjo work of my buddy John Balch. John and I played together in high school and college under a couple of band names – the best one being The Fiery Gizzard String Band (which we used about 20 years before another band from the area took it up).  The name comes from a beautiful and wild area in the South Cumberland region of Tennessee that I’m pleased to say has recently been saved by my friends at the Land Trust for Tennessee (winners of a 2010 National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award). But I digress.  I’m talking about new style old-time music. John is a terrific clawhammer banjo player, with two stellar CDs out under his own name.  Clawhammer is known as an old-time style, but John’s music sounds as fresh and current as anything coming out in the …

18 Years, Yet Seems Like Only Yesterday

Today began a new era.  Today was the first day after Andrew and Claire’s 18th birthday. The twins were born mid-day on a Sunday.  At the moment of their birth I happened to be singing There Is No Rose in the church choir for the last Sunday in Advent in 1992.  Because we adopted Andrew and Claire, we didn’t know they had been born until the next day after receiving a call from the adoption agency.  Eighteen short years later, Andrew, Candice and I were spending December 20th sitting in the Strathmore Music Center listening to Claire and her high school choir join the Cathedral Choral Society in a wonderful Joy of Christmas concert (blackberry photo at the top…don’t expect to see great detail).  It seemed a fitting bookend:  they came in to song, and they entered “adulthood” singing. When friends ask how it feels to be the father of 18-year-olds, I don’t offer any profound insights.  I usually say, “It seems like only yesterday…”  or “Time flies….”  The years and the associated memories have …

Fretboard Journal: The 20th Issue

The 20th issue of The Fretboard Journal showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago.  Any time a big package shows up in the mailbox these days, the kids get excited as they wait to hear back on their applications to college.  But I’m the one who shouts for  joy when I see the package that turns out to be my favorite magazine. I’m glad to see The Fretboard Journal make it to 20 issues, as I wasn’t sure they could sustain this model.  But the editors keep putting out the best guitar porn on the planet, with stories about both players and builders. Readers who like North Carolina’s Avett Brothers will want to check out this issue.  As always, there are great introductions to builders and players I’ve never heard of (see the Joe Veillette article and his beautiful creations).   I enjoyed a Bobby Long piece about how Dylan’s Gibson J-200 on the front of Nashville Skyline (see photo at the top of the post) inspired a life-long passion.  Paul Mehling, founder …

A Celtic Yule

On a blustery, cold evening in suburban Washington, a full crowd was warmed by the 11th annual Celtic Yule concert of Robin Bullock and Amy White & Al Petteway.  Hosted by the Institute of Musical Traditions (or IMT), this annual concert is like much of the holiday musical scene – familiar yet welcome. Bullock has a wonderful tone coming out of his Taylor guitar and sounds better with age.  The second half opened with his haunting In the Bleak Midwinter/The First Noel/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear medley.   His solo mandolin pieces exploring the Bach unaccompanied violin and cello suites are a new (for me) part of his show, and they demonstrate his impressive chops.  The Cello Suite #4 is technically demanding (the E-Flat major transposes into B-Flat major on the mandolin), but Bullock made it sing on his beautiful Gibson A-style mandolin from the 1920s.  Check out the video below of Bullock playing solo guitar, and then imagine that it sounds twice as good live. Al Petteway and Amy White played holiday tunes (including …

Music of the Season

Among the treasures of Washington are the musical offerings at local churches and synagogues throughout the city and at all times of the year.  Today, the Madrigal Singers from Andrew’s high school sang a Music of the Seasons concert at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square – the “Church of the Presidents” across from the White House. It was a beautiful 30 minute concert that was captured live on the Episcopal Church website.  Click on the link and you can see the entire concert which begins with O come, O come, Emmanuel, moves through Riu, riu, chiu and includes beautiful music by Holst and Parsons.  The mood shifts with the Thomas Dorsey Precious Lord, take my hand and the moving spiritual Ride on, King Jesus.  The Christmas Song and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas round out the set. Although I didn’t know it when I arrived for today’s concert, Andrew had a few solos.  I wouldn’t be the proud father if I didn’t point out that you can hear him kick off Riu …