For the record, I have indeed seen this

A couple of people have asked me already if I’ve seen this video of 16-year-old David Thibault in Quebec, covering Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”. So before anybody else does, yep, seen it!
To my ear, the kid sounds like he’s trying just a little too hard to mimic Elvis’ accent and vocal mannerisms, which isn’t exactly his fault–I make that objection about most Elvis impersonators I hear. In his particular case, he’s crossing a language barrier here too. So I cut a lot of slack for that.
And he does have great resonance to his voice, and the overall quality of it is definitely Elvis-like. I’d love to hear him try something backing off just a tad on the accent, then he’d be spot on. Alternately, I’d love to hear him sing something in his natural accent, just to spook me right out and make me wonder when the hell Elvis got resurrected in Quebec. ;)
And if he REALLY wants to combine more of my musical interests, he should play the bouzouki!
+10 as well for the reaction of the lady at the mike. I’m pretty sure I actually understood her crying “t’es incroyable!”–i.e., “you’re incredible”. \0/

A little STOMPY for your Friday!

When I commit acts of musical fandom, I learn tunes (and have a tendency to pester fiddle and flute players).
When Dara commits acts of musical fandom, major cities are leveled and the Cascadia Mecha Militia is deployed! Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, I give you my belovedest supervillain’s latest composition: Kaiju Meat, her ode to all things Pacific Rim, written for this weekend’s Jaegercon on Tumblr!
Go! Clickie! It’s a free download! THE CASCADIA MECHA MILITIA NEEDS YOU!

Musical adventures at Folklife!

Those of you local to the Seattle area know that Memorial Day weekend is Folklife, and and I being well, us, of course we’re hitting the festival as much as possible this weekend!
Yesterday’s adventures started off with an Irish session, apparently the first one at Folklife in four years, and which turned out to be hosted by a flute player named Ming Chen. (He was an excellent flute player, it must be noted.) I saw oodles of flute players besides him as well, and each and every one of them had more Serious Business flutes than my Norouet–which only strengthens my resolve to save up for a Serious Business flute from Casey Burns.
Ming described the session as being intended to welcome newbies who aren’t necessarily brave enough to lead a tune in session, and/or who know only a few tunes, in which category I definitely qualify. So I said HI I’M ANNA and told everybody I knew “Blarney Pilgrim” and “Morrison’s” and “Swallowtail”, and got encouraged to try to play something. So I started playing, which was all very well and good except for the part where I was aiming for “Blarney Pilgrim” and what popped out of my fingers instead was “6/8 d’André Alain”! Because um hi yeah, guess what tune’s stuck at the top of my queue of Jigs I Know In D. *^_^*;;
I went “oh shit sorry” and everybody was understanding (Ming found me later on Facebook and said ‘yeah this happens to all of us’, hee, which is reassuring), and I asked for somebody else to start “Blarney” since I was sure I’d remember it once I heard it. Which I did. “Morrison’s” was also played, which I kept up with more or less. And “Swallowtail Jig”, which I also knew. We did NOT do a couple of the other tunes I know–“Road to Lisdoonvarna” or “Banish Misfortune”. But I did more or less recognize “Butterfly Jig” from it having been played in the now-defunct Renton session. And I tried to actively listen to unfamiliar tunes as well to see if I could at least TRY to piece together any of them by ear. It was hard since everybody blazed through about eighty million tunes.
Several familiar faces were in attendance as well, Jason and Miki and Marilyn from the Renton session as well as Valerie and her husband from the current Quebec session I was going to. Saying hi to all of them was definitely satisfying!
And speaking of my Quebec session crowd, there was later on the great satisfaction of seeing La Famille Leger perform, immediately followed by a group called Podorythmie–which contains no fewer than four of the session crowd. Between both performances there were four, count ’em, four different stepdancers (Dejah with her family, and the three others with the Podorythmie group), and Podorythmie brought along a crankie as well since Sue Truman and Dejah both are really big into those. (If you don’t know what a crankie is, click over to The Crankie Factory, where Sue Truman will tell you all about this old art form!)
Today, Dara and I actually opted to go down for the evening on the grounds that our aforementioned session pal Miki has joined Piper Stock Hill (Facebook link–they don’t have an off-Facebook or off-Myspace website), Seattle’s only band dedicated to the music of Newfoundland. It pleases me DEEPLY that we have such a band, and so Dara and I kinda had to make a point to stop and see them.
Plus, we’d never been down to Folklife during the evening and we wanted to see what it was like. Survey says: a bit more relaxed and groovy, with a thinner crowd. Dara and I scoped out the various craft tents to kill time, at which point we came across a booth FULL OF FLUTES AND WHISTLES. I immediately had to stop, because I’d been highly curious about whether I could play a better whistle, well, better, than the cheap toy one I have now. This particular flute maker had flutes and whistles made out of carbon fiber, in fact, and ZOMG they were pretty.
I was quite impressed by the D whistle they had, and did in fact note that I was able to play it significantly more cleanly than the toy one I’ve got. And I might well have walked off with that whistle as a purchase if I hadn’t then picked up their A flute. Which immediately informed me HI I WANT TO BE YOUR NEW SECONDARY SESSION INSTRUMENT SO YOU CAN PLAY THINGS IN A.
So I went “OKAY!” and promptly bought it. Internets, meet my new flute, shown next to my piccolo for scale!

I Do Not In Fact Have Enough Flutes Yet
I Do Not In Fact Have Enough Flutes Yet

After that, Dara and I wandered around some more and wound up finding another bouzouki player–which necessitated stopping to say hi, because HOLY CRAP SOMEBODY ELSE IN SEATTLE WHO KNOWS WHAT A BOUZOUKI IS. And, like we do because we’re US, we wound up improv-busking a bit of Great Big Sea. I destroyed not one but TWO different thin picks banging on Ti-Jéan, reminding myself to my chagrin that when playing ANYTHING by Great Big Sea, um, yeah, I need the medium picks. I think we can declare this guitar well and throughly broken in now, anyway. And that set us up with the perfect frame of mind to go see Piper Stock Hill have their act!
Last but not least, there was Piper Stock Hill! We’d seen them perform at Folklife before, but this time they had Miki! And this time we stopped to say hi to their leader singer after, so that a) I could buy their CD, and b) I could identify myself and Dara as raving Great Big Sea fangirls. We had a lovely conversation with said lead singer and his wife, and his wife particularly charmed me when she was trying to remember Alan Doyle’s name and couldn’t, so she did a hair flip instead. Because OH MY YES, that’s a gesture universally understood by ALL raving Great Big Sea fans. ;D
So all in all, a great time at Folklife so far! We’re going back down tomorrow for the French-Canadian jam/session that the Legers will be hosting. Maybe we’ll see some of you there!

New music picoreview roundup #1

This being the first of a flurry of mini-reviews of all the various albums I’ve picked up lately!
“Come What May”, by Ad Vielle Que Pourra: Mostly instrumental, but with a lot of hurdy-gurdy goodness. The hurdy-gurdy here isn’t nearly at the powerhouse level that Le Vent du Nord delivers, but that’s not a bad thing, given that I happen to like how the voice of the instrument lends itself to more delicate tunes. What vocals are here are almost choral in their quality, which fits in nicely overall with the understated instrumental performances.
“Eaux-de-vies”, by Les Batinses: I already had this group’s other album, so I fully expected to like this one too. I was not mistaken. More jazzy/bluesy in style than how I usually listen to my trad, but again, not a bad thing. Especially in the extended solos in track 2, “Vin Et Amour” (and how’s that title for a summary of two of the major topics of Quebec trad music, hmm?). Also: appears to be a live album! This was obvious at first only with the audience noise at the end of the tracks, but the last couple of tracks really get bouncy. So that makes it extra fun to listen to.
“Koru”, by Mauvais Sort: Another group I’d already sampled with an initial album, so yeah, I thought I’d pick up a couple more of theirs. Mauvais Sort are similar to Les Batinses in overall vocal style and instrumentation, with a few hints of Mes Aieux as well. General thumbs up for rocking up the trad, though it’s odd to hear a drum kit in the background. I wanted this album in particular though for their take of “Ziguezon”, which is imprinted on my brain with the La Bottine Souriante take sung by Andre Marchand. Fun to hear alternate versions of such things!
“Gront”, by Väsen: This being the group from Sweden I became aware of via their touring with Le Vent du Nord! I’d been meaning to find one of their albums, and when this one shot across my radar, I was happy to pick it up. Partway in on the first track of this album, which is from 1999, I’m thinkin’ yeah, these guys are totally compatible with my musical interests. The nyckelharpa sounds very cool, and they’ve got some viola goodness going on as well. Rhythm-wise, their percussion is very familiar-sounding to anybody familiar with Celtic music. Or Quebecois, for that matter, even though I’m hearing drums here and not feet. The album’s entirely instrumental, so I suspect this’ll mostly serve me as background music for writing code. Or writing prose, for that matter. Of particular amusement to my fellow Browncoats, though: the last track in particular struck me as something that would not be out of place AT ALL in the soundtrack of a Firefly episode.
More to come!

A bit of musical squee!

And now, several moments of musical squee from last night!
In a move that should surprise absolutely NOBODY who pays attention to what I post for more than five minutes running, a little part of my brain demanded last night, “YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT THE CHORDS TO VIVE L’AMOUR NOW.”
Because y’all knew this was coming, right? I mean, what with all the delighted slurping up I’ve done of chords for Great Big Sea songs, working on Le Vent songs was pretty much inevitable. I’d already futzed around a bit with “Lanlaire”, but “Vive l’amour” is pretty much the other major song of theirs that’s prone to grabbing my guitar-based attention. So it’s the easy and obvious candidate for me to play with.
So I did! And there I am last night with Ti-Jéan in my lap, and I’ve got my piccolo too to try to twiddle out the melody line and make sure the key is actually what I think it is–which, for general reference, is G. And the first moment of squee is when I’m hitting note on the piccolo and the guitar strings start echoing them back at me, in this strange, lovely resonance that sounds a lot like a wet fingertip running around a wineglass. Very, very cool.
Second moment of musical squee: realizing that the chords to the song are in fact dead simple. Dara and I like to make cracks about GBS’ “Goin’ Up” being subtitled “Four Chords No Brain”, and really, “Vive l’amour” is pretty much the exact same chords in a different order (G, C, Em, and D) with occasional bonus A minor thrown in in places. What I haven’t quite gotten down yet is the strum pattern, since I keep wanting to play GBS-style and that doesn’t work with the flow of the song. But I broke out the original studio recording, the one Bernard Simard sings lead on, and it’s easier to follow that one on guitar than it is the Symphonique version. I foresee several more spins through this as I get it down. And possibly transposing into D, or maybe capoing up a fret or two, so I can get it into a better range for me to sing. :D
Third moment of musical squee: realizing that in the huge pile of sheet music transcriptions of various Quebec tunes I’ve slurped down from a couple of places, I do in fact have the reel that serves as the outro for this song! “Reel à Ti-Zoune”! WOO! Much fun to be had there as well!
And the final moment of musical squee for the evening was in fact unrelated to any of the above, but it’s also goddamned awesome so I’ve gotta squeal about it here too. Dara came downstairs with the mandolin last night and plucked out for me, I kid you not, a swing arrangement of “Road to Lisdoonvarna”. Y’know, the most basic of basic jigs in the Irish tune repertoire. She’s got a PROJECT in mind for this. And she’s jazzing this tune the hell up. She played it for me and I instantly had the swing band sound she’s envisioning pop into my head, complete with a full rocking horn section. I wanted to be able to play trumpet JUST so I could actually play that lovely thing myself. I cannot WAIT to see how her project progresses. Because this, ladies and gentlemen, is how Dara rolls.

Wow! New Julia Ecklar album!

Just to demonstrate to you all that every so often I do in fact listen to other forms of music besides “Great Big Sea” and “everybody in Quebecois trad”, I share with you the news that Julia Ecklar is finally releasing a new album! And it’s available for pre-order now!
For those of you unfamiliar with her, Julia’s the lead voice on a lot of the songs on A Wolfrider’s Reflections, the album of Elfquest music that came out in fandom in the late 80’s with the blessing of Wendy and Richard Pini. She was a seriously big name filker back in the day, and I adored her not only for the EQ tape, but also for her affection for Star Trek. She actually played Kirk in a couple of fannish productions of parodies of the second and third Trek flicks–preserved for posterity now by my own belovedest of Daras! Wrath Side Story and Spock Pacific, hee. Oh, Julia was an excellent Kirk.
Her song “Horsetamer’s Daughter” was a classic. And she was frequently beautifully parodied by –Tom’s “Temperature of Revenge” to this day remains one of my very favorite filk songs. And later on, she became the first filker to ever have orchestral accompaniment on an album when she released Divine Intervention, which features a heartbreaking song about Kirk reacting to the destruction of the Enterprise, yet another of her beautiful Trek songs.
Now, the new album has more orchestral work on it and I’m really looking forward to it. I heartily endorse y’all going to pick it up, since it’s gone over budget and Prometheus Music can use all the support it can get! Go support them and an awesome indie musician and filker as well!

One week and counting down to the Great Canadian Adventure!

PEOPLE OF ATLANTIC CANADA AND QUEBEC! There are but seven scant days until userinfosolarbird and I will be among you for two weeks of hanging out, meeting up with people, and general musical awesomeness!

We are looking very, very forward to meeting up with userinfocow, with fellow Le Vent du Nord fan Susan, with userinfoframlingem hopefully (HEY EM ANSWER YOUR MAIL mmkay?), with userinfolyonesse if she’s still in Montreal by the time we get there, with userinfoscrunchions, with Krista in St. John’s, with userinfolethendy, and with anybody else we get a chance to talk to at Memoire et Racines, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, or the Great Big Sea show in Torbay!

Internets, I AM EXCITE! Almost as much for the chance to see Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer as I am Great Big Sea, really–because this’ll very likely be my only shot to see the Charbonniers, and did I mention the part where HOLY CRAP THOSE MEN CAN SING? And did I also mention the buying of French Canadian SF/F, and of tasty maple sugar products (I am informed that maple sugar ice cream is a thing that exists and THIS MUST BE SAMPLED IT IS REQUIRED), and of taking the Haunted Hike tour through downtown St. John’s (research opportunity WOO!), and of going to the Duke of Duckworth pub, renowned to me in song and story and Twitter updates?

Save us some bagels and Growers cider! We’ll be there next week!

Let me sing for you the songs of my people

I’ve mentioned before that something I ardently respond to in both Quebecois and Newfoundland trad music is how many of the bands and singers I’m following have learned their music from their parents, who learned it from their parents, etc. I.e., they grew up with this music, and it was woven into their lives so deeply that it made them who they are. Their love for it shines through brilliantly in their performances.
Devon Léger quite correctly pointed out to me that Americans are not without such traditions–you just need to know where to look for them. Certainly many American Celtic or folk or country performers are fortunate enough to have that same sort of background, too, and classical performers as well. Those of us in the science fiction folk music community, filk, have some small rumblings of this too. Filk hasn’t really quite been around long enough to have songs handed down from one generation to the next, but I have met people who are doing it, and it’s really cool of them. (I am thinking specifically of you, !)
In the bigger picture of American society, though, people getting together and making music just for the joy of making music is not so much of a thing. This is why I’m so very delighted to have discovered both Irish and Quebecois sessions, and it’s why I linger on the edges of filk circles as well; it’s all part of the same idea.
I had a delightful little epiphany last night, too: all that Elvis Presley music my dad played for me on the stereo when I was a kid is absolutely generational handing down of music. And I’ve actually done it too–playing Great Big Sea songs for and ‘s kid Lillian!
So the next time you hear me say “Let me sing for you the song of my people”, I’ll be about to belt out “Hound Dog”. Or “Ordinary Day”. Or maybe now also “Dans le ville de Paris”, or “Re: Your Brains”.
Because no matter where you’re from, Quebec or Newfoundland or Kentucky or any filk circle in any science fiction convention in the world, if you love music, and you get up and you share it with those around you, you are my people. And I will sing your songs.

The naming of instruments is a Serious Matter

My new applewood fife and mopane flute have now been officially broken in at session, to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Those who attended session along with and me last night (which would be , Matt, and Marilyn) expressed their approval in particular over the voice on the flute, which was very nice indeed in the pub. :D
I learned pretty quickly though that I’m not quite up to speed with my known tunes on these instruments yet. This is in no small part due to the fingerings on keyless flutes. The fife and flute both are in D, which means that the good part is, the fingerings are therefore very close to my piccolo. All fingers down means D on these instruments and on Shine alike, for example.
The bad part is, however, that the fingerings are not exactly like the fingerings on the piccolo! Shine being a concert C instrument (kicked up an octave) of course means that it’s oriented around the C scale, NOT around the D scale. So one finger down on Shine means C, not C#. I therefore will have to get the cross-fingerings for accidentals into my muscle memory on the fife and the flute in order to make these tunes work properly. Relatedly, I’ve also discovered that “Da Slockit Light” requires a G# and THAT in particular is going to be amusing to finger on these instruments.
Likewise I have learned that while the new instruments are going to be in regular session rotation, this does NOT mean Shine gets to stay home. I discovered VERY fast that if I’m trying to follow the others by finding sheet music for tunes in TunePal, I will be much, much more able to play on Shine than on either of the new guys. This is very clearly because when I see sheet music, my visual association with those notes is still solidly attached to the fingerings on keyed flutes. So next time, Shine comes to session along with the new ones.
On a much easier note though I have also discovered that the “Road to Lisdoonvarna / Swallow Tail Jig / Morrison’s” set we’ve been doing is surprisingly easier to play on the fife than it is on the piccolo. No half-holing is required for any of these tunes, and I seem to actually have an easier time playing Chirp, the fife, than I do Shine! The required embouchure is not as intense.
Which of course leads me to report that the fife is well and officially Chirp, now. The jury is still out on what to call the mopane flute, though. Ellen has opined (and I am inclined to agree) that this instrument should be named something Irish, since I am after all intending to use it primarily for Irish music, even if it’s made out of African mopane! She has proposed ‘Selkie’, which I must consider with due consideration–since this flute’s got a deep, rich voice and a deep golden brown color, both of which I could see being evocative of a selkie. I need to commune with the flute some more though and see if it agrees with me on this important matter.
Dara and I were discussing instrument names last night, too, and I shot down naming the flute either Herp OR Derp, pointing out that if any instruments in the world would be named those, they would clearly be kazoos. Dara now wants kazoos for the express purpose of naming them Herp and Derp.
And for that matter, I further opined that an accordion is too complex an instrument to be named Herp or Derp. To which Dara immediately replied that an accordion is NOT too complex to be named PAMCAKES!
I think her squeezebox has a name now.

Meet my new flutes!

Dara and I went out on a quest today: to see about getting me my first proper Irish flute!

This was actually a two-stop operation, as it turned out. Our first stop was to visit a guy named Tom in Greenlake who had some flutes for sale, to check them out and see whether they would be appropriate for me. The flutes he’s selling are Skip Healy flutes, and while they sounded lovely, it turned out that the hole placement on them was difficult for my fingers. Dara and I did have a lovely conversation about flutes and about music in general with Tom, though, and he was approving of me wanting to try different flutes before I committed to one.

Also, he had a lovely friendly black cat named Midnight, who after giving me the obligatory kitty inspection, parked right in my lap right before I was trying to take my leave. Apparently my lap? CAT MAGNET. And if anybody in the Seattle environs is in the market for a Skip Healy flute, I’ll be happy to point you in Tom’s direction.

After that, though, we went to plan B, which of course meant going to Dusty Strings. My original intent was to simply walk in and try a few flutes, just to see if any of them liked me; I wasn’t really actively expecting to find one I really liked. But then we got there and I announced what I was looking for to the nice older gentleman at the counter, and he showed me a few of the Casey Burns Folk Flutes. These were all well within my budget, and it turned out that the one made out of Mopane had a really strong voice on him. I also tried one in Boxwood, but wasn’t nearly as impressed with the sound quality of that one. Neither was Dara–and since I had her along for a second opinion, the choice was clear!

Since Dara and I can’t get out of Dusty Strings without the obligatory WOO KIDS IN CANDY MUSIC STORE run through everything, Dara played with the bouzoukis while I went and got a copy of the Mel Bay Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, which I’ve been hearing is awesome from multiple directions. I also grabbed a CD by Capercaillie that was on my To Get list, as well as an assortment of various interesting picks (you can never have too many interesting picks), and last but not least, a cute little Renaissance Fife made by Ralph Sweet. The fife’s in applewood, which won out over a couple others for best clarity of tone. And even though this little guy’s really more of a toy, he’s a lot closer in size to my piccolo and therefore quite comfortable to my hands.

The big flute came with a nifty padded cloth case, but the fife didn’t come with anything, and so Dara very kindly agreed to whip together a small padded sleeve for me! She’s got a sewing machine and plenty of material, so it turned out to be very easy.

And now I give you PICS. The fife is shown next to the sleeve Dara made, as well as next to the big flute for scale. Both of these instruments are in D, and I’ve already started trying to work through the various tunes I’ve already practiced, just to figure out where all the fingerings are and to get familiar with their individual voices. Sooner or later, too, these guys will have NAMES.