In category Simultaneously Exciting and Terrifying

So y’all know how I’ve been talking about going to things like Fiddle Tunes, and the Andre Brunet workshop in Qualicum, and how I’m desperately wanting to go to Camp Violon Trad? And in general kind of being sheepish about it because hi, not a fiddle player?
Well, um, yeah. I might be about to change that.
Because here’s the thing: those wonderful instruction experiences I’ve been having, in which I’ve been able to crash the party and slurp up tunes on my flutes while all the fiddle players are getting tips on technique and such, have been percolating around in my brain. My brain which, I might add, has always been partial to the fiddle. There are reasons Kendis is a fiddle player, after all.
Reasons like how several of my favorite musicians at this point are fiddlers (Bob Hallett of Great Big Sea, Alexander James Adams, the aforementioned Andre, Olivier Demers of Le Vent du Nord, the amazing Lisa Ornstein, Jocelyn Pettit, and of COURSE all the excellent fiddlers in our session group).
Like how some of my very favorite recorded songs in the history of ever are ones where the fiddle just takes me right out at the knees (AJA’s “Faerie Queen” and “Tomorrow We Leave for Battle”, Le Vent du Nord’s “Manteau d’hiver”, De Temps Antan’s “La fee des dents”, and that one sweet piercing moment in the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme over the credits where one long lingering violin chord just shoots right down to my bones).
Like how some of my favorite fictional characters have been violin players. Especially this guy!

Captain Aubrey
Captain Aubrey

And Kili and Fili from The Hobbit, at least the book! (I am sad, SAD I SAY, that that detail was left out of the movies, but what music we did get in the movies was awesome enough that I forgive them that problem.)
And really, fiddle players are all over the goddamn place in fantasy novels. Any fantasy series that involves bards, you’re going to find fiddle players. Urban fantasy, too. Huff and Lackey and de Lint all come immediately to mind as having books that feature bards in prominent roles–and if the protagonists of certain stories are not themselves fiddlers, then somebody they know WILL be.
But also Sherlock Holmes. And Data is worth an honorable mention even though he was never one of my major favorite Star Trek characters–I AM a Trekkie, so he gets to count!
And all of this has finally exploded in my brain with a huge urge to see if I can actually learn how to make noises on a fiddle myself. I have in fact been moved to rent an instrument, and I have now engaged the aforementioned Lisa Ornstein for at least a couple of initial beginner-level lessons. The plan here is going to be, see if I can get used to the physical mechanics of playing the instrument, with the help of an experienced teacher. And, depending on how that goes, then decide if I want to seriously pursue taking it up as a second melody instrument.
Because yeah, I really need the help of an experienced teacher here. Flutes and whistles, no problem, I can play those! Self-taught on the guitar? ON THAT. Sprinkling of mandolin and bouzouki, sure why not!
But the fiddle is its very own strange and wonderful beast, one that fills me with simultaneous awe and dread. Dara found me the perfect GIF to express what goes through my brain when I think of trying to play one without help.
This is About Right, Yep
This is About Right, Yep

Now, though? Now I’ve actually gone to Kenmore Violins (which, as it happened, is run by a gentleman who even lives in our neighborhood), and I’ve rented me a student-grade fiddle.
And I’ve arranged to go see Lisa Ornstein this weekend!
You guys. This is going to be FUN.
All hands: BRACE FOR FIDDLE.

This past Wednesday's session

Writing this now since I haven’t had a chance or the brain to blog about it until this afternoon, but here we go!
There were a couple of extra fiddlers at this past Wednesday’s session at A Terrible Beauty–people who turned out to be stunningly awesome, a couple of professional performers, Andrea Beaton and Glenn Graham. What really sold me on Andrea and Glenn’s playing was its liveliness and the excellent foot-stomping rhythm they had going at the same time–very, very familiar to me from all the listening I’ve been doing to La Volee d’Castors and La Bottine Souriante and Le Vent du Nord. It turned out that the reason their music resonated so strongly with me was because they are in fact Canadian, Cape Breton specifically, so no wonder. :D
I’d already been pleasantly challenged trying to keep up with Matt and Annie, as I’ve written before–but trying to keep up with Andrea and Glenn? WHOA. WHOA AND DAMN, people. I’m just this fortysomething chick who likes to noodle around on her guitar in her living room, y’know? And there I am in the session trying to provide a decent rhythm line underneath two hardcore fiddle players, who, I might add, proceeded just last night to go perform with Matt at Benaroya Hall for the Mastery of Scottish Arts concert.
I have been in sessions now with people who have performed in Benaroya Hall, people!
Only by focusing with laser-guided intensity on every motion of Glenn and Andrea’s bows was I able to keep up, and more than once, I lost track of their key changes. But I was at least able to come back around when they jumped back to a key I could recognize. A lot of what I’ve been doing at the sessions so far has just been playing the same six or seven chords in different keys and strum patterns, just trying to be decent rhythm backup for all the people who actually know the tunes. But these two took it up a whole extra order of magnitude for me, and I haven’t had so much fun on a guitar in ages.
Afterwards a couple of older gentlemen came over to say hi to Dara and me, and to admire the General! I got asked what kind of Taylor it was, and I was happy to say it was a 210, and I thanked the gents nicely for the kind things they said about my playing. I also went over to Andrea to make a point of telling her how awesome their playing was, and she was very gracious too.
I am so, SO outclassed at these sessions, it’s kind of scary! But in a good and exciting way, one which is making me go OH SHIT I’d better practice. So this afternoon I whipped out the piccolo, worked my way through an octave of scales, and then tried to stumble my way through “Road to Lisdoonvarna”, “Morrison’s Jig”, and “Drowsy Maggie”. I made it through the first two, more or less, before my embouchure fell over and started sending me “you haven’t played piccolo in a long goddamned time, have you?” signals.
I’ve also gone through my songbook and yoinked out the little sheet music bits of the various tunes GBS have used as bridges on their songs, in the hopes that I can then track down fuller versions, and use those for practice fodder. I have “Si Bheag Si Mhor” too, along with “Fisherman’s Frolic”, which those of you who read the TGM Jam Reports may remember as our outro to “Acres of Clams”. I have a LOT of source material to learn from. And it’s awesome to be able to have a reason to use it.
ETA: OO OO OO and I forgot to mention that when called upon to do a song by Matt, I stood up and did GBS’ arrangement of “The Night Pat Murphy Died”. *^_^*;; I cannot roar it like Séan McCann does and I really need to learn to project, but at least I managed to go through the whole thing without falling over. And when I went DARA, Dara whipped into the bridge on cue; she’s been practicing the Bitchin’ Bouzouki Solo.
Another practice assignment I want to do is to see if I can whip up a proper version of “As I Roved Out”; the arrangement I’m most familiar with is the one by the Fables, but I can’t sing it in their key so I’ll need to finagle it some.

Chibi session tonight

It’s kind of lulzy that userinfotechnoshaman, userinfosolarbird, and I made a point of doing a bit of session practice this weekend–because it turned out that the session tonight was just us and Annie! Our usual session leader was off busy playing with these guys at the Tractor Tavern tonight, so we had to make do with just us four!

But it was all good. Annie was technically our session leader but we took it really casually and just took turns picking things to play. This wound up meaning that Annie, being the one who knew various actual tunes, focused on those while Dara, Glenn, and I mostly chose the GBS ditties we knew and a couple of the other non-GBS things from Jam as well: “Elf Glade” and “Pirate Bill and Squidly”. The biggest reaction we got from the crowd in the bar though was the last thing we did: “Last Saskatchewan Pirate”. That got a big ol’ roar of approval, and that was very cool. :D

Y’all remember though how I said that at last week’s session, the guys at the bar let me have one of my drinks for free?

This time they let Dara and me eat for free, so I only had to fork over for my two Irish creams. Dara and I have been paid for making public music with tasty foods! WOO!

Hopefully next time we’ll be back up to a more normal size of group, but in the meantime I’m clearly going to have to check out Matt’s band. See previous commentary re: that dude can PLAY.

Ladies and gentlemen, our GBS contest entry is LIVE

On behalf of my jamming group, I now present to you “Nothing But a Song”, as performed by Twelve Good Measures, featuring Crime and the Forces of Evil!

Now comes the waiting for the entry round to close–and after that, the selection of finalists! Keep your fingers crossed that our vid will make the cut, people! ‘Cause if it does, I will be shamelessly, and I DO MEAN SHAMELESSLY, campaigning for your support. I mentioned the part where the grand prize of this shindig is four spots on the band’s guest list at a show of the winner’s choice, right?

Remember, folks, a vote for Twelve Good Measures is a vote for my head exploding RIGHT OFF MY SHOULDERS with squee. Because proximity to Alan Doyle will do that. I have experienced it before and lived to tell the tale!

And oh yes, we’ve got more. Oh my yes. Here, have lulz to go with your contest video!

Continue reading “Ladies and gentlemen, our GBS contest entry is LIVE”

Great Big Sea Karaoke contest!

Check this out, you guys: my beloved B’ys have announced a video karaoke contest! They are handing out instrumental tracks for three of the songs off the new album and telling people to get creative with video responses!

Anybody local want in on this with me? :D

(I wonder if it’d still count as karaoke if you actually learned the chords to the songs… *eyes guitar meaningfully*)

H/t to who spotted this even before I did!

ETA: My favorite part of the whole contest description: Do you ever sing along with GBS when no one is looking? Yes. YES I DO. Also when random passersby are looking, when an entire crowd of my fellow GBS fans are looking, when and I are busking, when I’m boinging down the street with my iPhone’s earbuds on, when I’m going past the fruit stand at Pike Place Market with the cute market men, when I’m browsing the shelves at bookstores, when I’m noodling around on the guitar, when I’m on the treadmill, and when I’m feeding the cats!

There is not enough squee in the world for this!

Russell Crowe, joy of my movie watching and delight to my musical ears, announced on Twitter yesterday and to his fan site of choice that there are plans afoot to take the current incarnation of TOFOG (The Ordinary Fear of God) on tour next year! They’d been hoping to do August of this year as that’s ten years after TOFOG 1 (30 Odd Foot of Grunts) played in Austin–but that ain’t happening. They appear to be eying next May for a target range of dates, though–and best of all, Russell’s saying they will be bringing Alan. AND that Portland is among the cities in the US they’re eying.

My reaction to passing The Crowe on the streets of Portland in 2001 is fabled in song, story, and LJ post! (userinfoflashfire, userinfossha, userinfomamishka, and userinfokathrynt all still do give me periodic shit about it, too! ;) ) Given that, and given how I could barely manage to talk to The Doyle the couple of times I’ve encountered him, I’m figuring the chances of my brain exploding before the concert even starts are very, very high. Hell, the sheer thought of Alan and Russell on the same stage where I can actually see them perform may make my brain explode RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT.

Because if this happens, my children, I am going to this. Oh yes, I am going. And there will be massive, massive squee. Better brace yourselves now.