Trying to avoid having the neck of the instrument resting in the crotch of my hand, and instead supporting it about halfway along my thumb, to improve the reach of my fingers
Double stops, all open string pairs, in the lower-upper-both pattern
Double stops, all open string pairs, in the upper-lower-both pattern
Whistling a tune phrase to get into my head where I want the slurs to fall, so that I can then specifically tell myself where to put the slurs when I’m actually playing the instrument
Tunes practiced: Feller from Fortune
Main interesting discovery for me in this practice ties back to a thing I discussed with Lisa on my last official lesson, when we played around with La fée des dents and discussed what it does to the tune stylistically, if you start on a down bow vs. an up bow.
I tried the same thing in this practice with the tune Feller from Fortune, focusing on the A part and seeing what it felt like to start on a down bow vs. an up bow. Here, as with La fée des dents, I was intrigued to find that starting on an up bow “felt” easier. More natural. I’m still working on trying to articulate why I get that feeling.
There are several interesting questions to consider here:
If there are certain note patterns that are just objectively easier to play more smoothly if you bow them in a certain direction.
What tune you’re playing, and what other ornamentations you want to do on it, I guess? Because if you’re doing slurs in certain places, how does that play into your bow direction choices?
Is it a purely subjective thing where musician A might find a certain way of playing easier than musician B?
What actually sounds better for the tune? How does it sound if you play it one way vs. another way?
Mindfulness of elbow position when doing string crossings
Mindfulness of finger positions, trying to keep a relaxed finger curve and not straightening up my fingers every time I change notes
Keeping my fingers in that relaxed curved position when changing strings
A little bit of left hand rehearsal when working with the B part of Feller from Fortune
More strategic placement of slurs to improve tune flow and ease the changing of bow directions
Feller from Fortune
Bit of a shaky practice, but I’m coming out of last week being stupid work-wise, and a weekend where I had to do additional day job work as well. So I wasn’t as on top of things in this practice as I’d like.
But this is a situation where it’s just helpful to take a step back and remind myself that it’s okay if I play something incorrectly, I just need to be a little more patient if I’m tired and/or stressed, and think my way carefully through what might have caused me to make a mistake. And at the same time, to not work the problem too hard. On the grounds that if I keep trying the same thing while I’m tired, if I keep playing it wrong that’d make me learn how to do it wrong rather than how to do it right.
In other words, don’t be too hard on myself if a practice goes badly. Don’t push it, me!
So even though my practice today was a bit of a mess, I got in my ten minutes. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Scales practiced: One-octave G, D, A; two-octave G
Techniques practiced: Being mindful of the position of my elbow while doing string crossings
Tune practiced: Feller from Fortune
This practice was pretty much all about me trying to remind myself that hey, playing tunes is fun!
And even more fun when I’m playing with a tune recorded by a band I love, like Great Big Sea.
So, this was more about the Feller from Fortune tune, which is the first of the three tunes in GBS’ Fortune Set. I do all have dots written up ages ago by fans of all three of the tunes, and I had to refer to the dots for the B part of this tune. I could kind of reproduce it in my head, but I was having issues actually bridging the gap between that and what my fingers needed to be doing.
Once I consulted the dots, I was better able to then try to reproduce on my instrument what I hear Bob Hallett playing in the GBS studio recording (as well as multiple concert recordings of the same set).
Mostly, I focused on the B part of the tune since I have a pretty good idea of how to do the A part now, including where I need to put slurs in it. With the B part, I mostly wanted to think about “okay, what’s the basic fingering pattern for this thing?” Once I have that down, I will be able to then refine it with questions like, where do the slurs go, and what my thoughts are on bowing directions.
I DID note that the opening few notes of the B part seem to actually work better if I start on a down bow on the pickup note on B, and then do an up bow for the E that comes next. But this was also playing the B part by itself, as opposed to starting it when coming out of the A part.
This article that showed up on the OKP Facebook group this morning has a quote from Alan Doyle in it that makes it pretty much official now: Great Big Sea is done.
I’m not surprised by this. I’ve seen this coming since Séan McCann stood down from the band, and really, I had suspicions of it being on the way even before the 2013 XX tour. But part of me wishes it would have come a bit sooner, and I note we still haven’t had any sort of official announcement via the band newsletter, the band website, or anything of that nature. So people coming to the greatbigsea.com website still won’t have any actual idea that the band’s pretty much done.
But it is what it is, and I feel it’s important now to take a few moments to celebrate what this band has meant to me in the last fourteen years. They’ve brought me huge amounts of joy. They’ve led me to making lifelong friends, to learning brand new instruments, to discovering the dynamic energy of Newfoundland traditional music in general, and most of all, to looking forward to the yearly outing to a concert where I could bounce and sing at the top of my lungs. And sometimes more than one concert in a year.
They led me to founding the Three Good Measures jamming group, and I’m proud to this day of all the fun we had making those MP3s.
They made a guitar player out of me! And they are, of course, responsible for why my best guitar is named General Taylor.
They led me and Dara and a bunch of our friends to have ridiculous amounts of fun participating in the fan song contest in 2010, when Safe Upon the Shore came out.
(Not to mention that we also had a bunch of fun making the blooper reel for these shenanigans, too!)
And of course, Alan Doyle does still hold the record for killing me MOST DED WITH SWOON in any given concert, thanks to our getting him to sing “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Okay yeah sure, this was an Alan Solo show, but I include this because it’s all part and parcel of the joy these guys have brought to my life!
Which of course also leads me to add that I was also very, very grateful to finally get pics of myself with Alan AND with Séan.
And last but most DEFINITELY not least, these boys are very specifically responsible for why Christopher in Faerie Blood and Bone Walker is a Newfoundlander and a bouzouki player. They are why the very first scene of Bone Walker is, in fact, at a Great Big Sea show, even though I don’t call them out by name. And they are why the third book of the Free Court of Seattle will be set partially in St. John’s, and why Dara and I had such an awesome time in 2012 going there for the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. Where, I might add, we saw them sing on their home soil, with the added special bonus of Darrell Power showing up to help them sing “Excursion Around the Bay”.
(And man, it was satisfying to see Alan’s doubletake on the stage when he came out and saw Dara and me there, faces he usually saw on the other side of the continent. ;D Particularly since this was only a few months after the Elvis incident!)
It is part and parcel of life that all good things must eventually come to an end. But the music still lives on in my collection, and in my fingers. I will still come to both Alan’s and Séan’s shows when I can. And I know that whenever I pick up one of my guitars or flutes or whistles, when I start singing “Ordinary Day” on a walk to or from work just because I can, it’ll be because these guys kindled that within me.
This is a somewhat belated concert report since I’ve been busy dealing with Victory of the Hawk, but I didn’t want to go too long without writing this up–because although I am possessed of a mighty sadface that we have no Great Big Sea to look forward to for the foreseeable future, it was nonetheless extremely satisfying to see Sean McCann do his solo show at the Railway in Vancouver on my last trip up to BC.
As this was my first visit to the Railway I didn’t really know what to expect, but I did like the venue. And other GBS fangirls, my usual Vancouver crowd, had snagged a table towards the front, which turned out to be a good thing. Because the place was packed, standing room only in a way I hadn’t really experienced since before GBS started playing the Moore in Seattle. It was a relief to be able to retreat to a place to sit down, just because so many bodies in so small a space ramped up the temperature considerably. The size of the crowd even startled Sean, who remarked that it was something on the order of seven times the size of the crowd from his first Railway show.
This was, hands down, the perkiest I’d seen Sean at a show in years. The show was just him and his guitar and his bodhran, and he was lively, engaging, and in excellent voice. He was in delightful humor, making jokes about starting the show late, and he’s apparently now comfortable enough with himself that he was able to make self-deprecating jokes as well about his battles with alcohol–and in particular, how his wife had sternly vetoed the idea of his putting a glass of scotch on stage with him to build tension as to whether he would snap.
He did a mix of songs off his current record and Great Big Sea material. In the latter case, it was unsurprisingly stuff on which he’d sung lead (and I’m pretty sure it was stuff he’d written as well, though I’d have to look up the credits on various songs). He did several things I hadn’t heard at a GBS show in ages, which was a pleasure to hear. Notable GBS ditties he did were “Good People” and “Safe Upon the Shore” (from Safe Upon the Shore), “Graceful and Charming” (from The Hard and the Easy), “Love” (from Something Beautiful), “Feel It Turn” (from Turn), “The Night Pat Murphy Died”, and “Mari-Mac” (Rant and Roar if you’re me, Play and Up if you’re a GBS vet who pre-dates me in the fandom).
My favorite ditty off the solo album that he did: “Red Wine and Whiskey”, for getting the crowd to sing along with him.
Favorite GBS ditties: VERY pleased to hear him do “Safe Upon the Shore”, though it was decidedly strange to NOT hear the harmony brick on the chorus. Those of us in the audience did our level best to make up for that, though it was less “harmony brick” and more “everybody’s singing at the top of their lungs”.
Also rather startling to hear him actually do “Paddy Murphy”, because of the heavy drinking theme of the song. But this was an example of Sean being very willing to take requests from the audience, while at the same time reserving the right to veto things he wasn’t comfortable singing. (I notice nobody tried to get him to sing “General Taylor”, for example, though SOMEBODY kept yelling for him to sing “Old Black Rum”, to wit–no. Partly because bad idea in general, but also because he didn’t write that ‘un, and it would not be appropriate for him rights-wise to do that one solo unless he’s got Bob’s buyoff on that.) He faked us out with “Paddy Murphy”, too! Sang the first line, pretended to stop, and then went ahead and did the rest anyway to the audience’s delight.
In general he was very active with engaging the audience in the show, and by engaged I mean he kept pulling people up on stage to sing with him. My fellow fangirl Vancouver!Angela, a.k.a. sticckler, got to be in the first round of this when she and a couple others came up to sing backup on the title track from Sean’s current album, “Help Your Self”.
But he didn’t stop there. He got a great big honking herd of us to swarm the stage with him to do his closer–“Mari-Mac”. I could not resist the urge to jump in on that, though it caused a moment of MASSIVE EMBARRASSMENT as I tripped over my own damned feet on the way up there. “OH NO,” Sean shouted, “piper down!” But I scrambled back to my feet and assured him as well as everybody else that I was in fact OKAY, and then we all yelled “Mari-Mac”, and it was awesome.
Afterwards I was a little chagrined on behalf of the band that had to follow Sean’s set–because the place cleared out fast after he was done. A lot of the fans lingered in line because he did in fact do a meet-and-greet after, and naturally, I had to hang around for that. Which resulted in this pic!
I was able to tell Sean to his face that I talk a good talk about falling at the feet of my favorite musicians, but don’t usually mean it literally. And I also made a point of being rather more serious and telling him that I’d also been reading what he’s been saying to the media lately, not only about his fight with alcohol, but also that he’s an abuse survivor. I know what that’s like. And I wanted to wish him love and strength and just general fan support. He thanked me very kindly for that.
So yeah. Great show all around and it does make me feel somewhat better about GBS being on extended hiatus. The question came up again on the OKP as to whether the band will ever emerge from that hiatus, and in what form. Nobody’s saying yet, but it was very noteworthy that Bob Hallett did show up on that thread and say “Never say never.”
I do find myself hoping that eventually Sean will be comfortable enough to rejoin the GBS boys. But until then, if he’s willing to keep singing to us by himself, I’ll absolutely show up for his shows.
Thanks for a wonderful performance, Shantyman. We still love you. <3
As I have previously squeed about, O Internets, I just had a delightful time scampering up to BC again to see De Temps Antan! This time though there were specific opportunities to make musical noises myself in a house that happened to contain three of my favorite musicians–even aside from André’s workshop, there was also the after-concert session, and I did in fact wind up making noises on both my flutes and my guitar.
Trust me when I tell you that the prospect of making musical noises of my own in any room that contains these boys is simultaneously deeply exciting and nerve-wracking! I’m comfier on my flutes since those are my native instrument–so that did help. And so did the knowledge that I had the General with me. Because you better believe that if I was going to show up in Éric Beaudry’s proximity with a guitar, I was going to bring the good guitar.
Not that I actually played in the same room as Éric, and I don’t really have enough play-by-ear fu yet to be the backup guitar for a full roaring session. But I did wind up hanging out in one of the other rooms while I was chatting with Aussie Ian, and noodled around a lot on various songs I know. Because as will surprise none of you, I get the General in my hands, I start playing Great Big Sea.
And if you want to have an idea of what else I’m likely to do with a guitar in my hands, here now though is a roundup of Stuff I Can Do With the Guitar. Continue reading “What I can do with a guitar”
Those of you who’re in Great Big Sea fandom undoubtedly know this already, but just in case you don’t, Alan Doyle is releasing a memoir in October! It’s to be called Where I Belong. Alert fans will note that this is the same title used by one of Alan’s songs on his solo album Boy on Bridge, and it’s about the importance of family collections even when a Newfoundlander wanders far from home. A fitting title indeed for a personal memoir.
GreatBigSea.com announced today over their newsletter that the book’s now available for preorder directly on their site, in hardcover form. So just for giggles, I went and poked around my various favorite ebook sites, and I’m seeing available on a lot of the major ebook sites as well. Here’s a roundup of places I’m seeing for sale!
These are all the various links I can get at, browsing on computers in the States. If anybody in Canada or elsewhere wants to add links to this list, drop ’em in the comments!
AND! For those of you who’re on Goodreads, be advised that there is a giveaway in progress for both United States and Canadian readers! So if you don’t want to commit to buying a copy yet, you might want to jump in on this.
As y’all know, I am a voracious buyer of books, not to mention a longstanding voracious buyer of anything with Alan’s name on it. It tickles me deeply that I get to throw some of my book-buying money to Alan’s first venture into writing, and I very much look forward to having a signed hardcopy and a digital version. ‘Cause I ain’t taking a signed hardback on a bus commute!
I’ve had a massive uptick lately in people hitting my three previous posts about Sean McCann leaving GBS, here and here and here. And what I’m sensing here is quite a few people who might perhaps be looking for answers as to why exactly Sean bailed on the band–and what Great Big Sea’s fate will be now that he’s out.
On the latter question, there has still been no formal announcement through official GBS channels. I’ve seen nothing posted on the site’s news page, and nothing’s come across the newsletter either. The most official thing I’ve seen on the matter is Alan Doyle’s most recent post to his personal blog, From the Road, which you can see on the Great Big Sea site here or on Alan’s site here. Alan basically says that the band is on hiatus again, and goes into some detail about what he, Bob, Murray, and Kris are up to. He does also mention Sean’s leaving, that Sean is about to release a new CD (today, in fact, as of this writing, up on his bandcamp page), and that he wishes him well.
Sean himself in the meantime has started talking to the media. So if you haven’t seen it already, an interview he did on the matter is over here. He’s saying pretty much what I expected, which is to say, creative differences. And he, like much of the fanbase, is going a bit “buh?” at the silence on greatbigsea.com about his departure.
‘Cause yeah, you’d think they’d have issued some sort of formal announcement by now. o.O
But, be that as it may, I’ll continue to relay any news I come across. If you’re on Facebook, you might consider dropping by the OKP group there since that’s become the more or less de facto replacement for the OKP forums that used to be on the Great Big Sea site. This is where I’m getting my most recent news. You can find that group here.
Overall my household found “The Time of the Doctor” to be a bit of a mess–but Dara, Paul, and I were all in agreement that Matt Smith’s regeneration speech was the shining gem of the episode.
The Doctor: It all just disappears, doesn’t it? Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any moment now… He’s a-comin’. Clara: Who’s coming? The Doctor: The Doctor. Clara: You. You are the Doctor. The Doctor: Yep, and I always will be. But times change, and so must I.
And this part:
The Doctor: We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.
All of which I mention because the recent regeneration has been on my mind, what with the ongoing emotional reactions of Great Big Sea fandom to the departure of Séan McCann from the band. Many fans have been heartbroken by this news. Some have sadly expressed how this will impact their ability to enjoy Great Big Sea concerts moving forward, and that they’re not sure they’ll want to try. A few have been actively, alarmingly resentful on the matter.
In Doctor Who fandom, many fans speak of “their” Doctor–often the actor who was playing the role when they first imprinted on the show, either as a child or as an adult, but sometimes not. For me, although Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor who made me start paying attention, David Tennant is “my” Doctor since he’s the one with whom I’ve developed the emotional connection.
Great Big Sea feels the same for me. The band’s already been through a few changes–the departure of Darrell Power back in 2003, the addition of Kris MacFarlane on the drums, the replacement of Darrell by Murray Foster. All of these have been changes that caused their share of brouhaha among the fandom, and all of them bring to mind Matt Smith’s speech up above.
Because like Time Lords, bands change. But when you’re a devotee of a band, it can be almost like being one of the Doctor’s Companions. Your Doctor is the one you travelled with in the TARDIS–even if you meet the Doctor again many years later and he’s gone through half a dozen regenerations since you saw him last, as we saw happen to Sarah Jane in “School Reunion”. Likewise, your version of a beloved band is going to be the one whose combination of vocal and performance chemistry is the one you fell in love with–the one that got you to eagerly seize every new album the day it’s released, and to snap up concert tickets the instant they go on presale.
My Great Big Sea was the original four–Alan, Séan, Bob, and Darrell. I’ve very much enjoyed the Great Big Sea made up of Alan, Séan, Bob, Kris, and Murray, mind you, much as I’ve happily enjoyed other Doctors besides David Tennant. This second version of Great Big Sea, for example, gave me The Hard and the Easy, which remains one of my all time favorite albums of the group’s.
But that said, I made the transition between these versions of the band much as I made the transition from Eccleston to Tennant. Losing Séan, though, is harder. It’s like losing Tennant as the Doctor–I’ve found things to like about Matt Smith, make no mistake, but he just never grabbed me on the same level that Tennant did for the most part.
Still, though, I haven’t stopped watching Doctor Who. Neither will I stop listening to Great Big Sea. It may be that when the group regenerates again (aheh), I’ll find new things to love about what they’ll provide to us fans. And as I periodically keep an eye on what Tennant’s doing now that he’s no longer the Doctor, I’ll be keeping an eye and an ear on what Séan does with his music.
But I’ll always remember when Great Big Sea had Séan McCann.