Wednesday, March 07, 2007


The Big Break?

After finishing studying harmony and backing with Elke, I've been sent to the woodshed to practice the techniques for a while. Elke and I have moved on to the Grand Northeast style, using the Hunter Collection. It's an interesting and very counter-intuitive style of playing.

On pipes, it's been mainly a struggle to just keep up with all the band and solo competition stuff coming down the pipeline. I think I may have finally memorized the piobaireachd I want to compete with: "The Lament for Mary MacLeod".

My guitarra portuguesa finally arrived. I immediately retuned it as an English Guitar: A,C#EAc#e. Amazingly, if I confine myself to three-string chords, I immediately took to it. I've been noodling with the I-IV-V and Im-VII chord progressions and it's coming quickly. Elke's work with me, and my noodling on the DADGAD paid off. And as I went through the key of G, I found I was playing The Moody Blues' "In Your Wildest Dreams". Fun stuff.

Converting it to a period instrument will be a bit of work, but I think it's doable. Getting strings of the appropriate weight is easy. The biggest tasks will be to cut down the fingerboard to just past the 12th fret without damaging the top. Then, stripping off the polyurethane finish and replacing it with a spirit varnish. After that, I'd need to have a ivory saddle added, and then end plate replaced with ivory pins. And a nice little rosette to top it off.

I've begun booking gigs for this year - mainly weddings and memorial services. But I've just taken an one-time gig with Collier Hyams' 50 Man Machine, to fill in for Neil Anderson on pipes and whistle/uilleanns (I'd do fiddle on these). He wants me to do six pipe and/or fiddle instrumental sets and to play on five songs. I've got my sets together and am cramming to get those up and reliable at a good tempo. It's taking everything I've learned about ear-learning and improvisation with Elke for the others. I've got a basic part for one, the easiest and most lyrical of the songs. Several of the songs can work without my parts, but I desperately want to give it my all for this gig.

Collier's got a smaller outfit, Manannan, with which EJ Jones and Rosie Shipley used to play, and now for which Andy Dodds fiddles. If this gig goes well, Collier hinted there might be future festival gigs in the works. So this could be a great break for me.

UPDATE: The 50 Man Machine gig was awesome! I wasn't as good as I wanted to be, but I was good enough. A great experience all around.

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