Past

Giving

kbcdflowerAnd finally I think it might be nice to hear this today.  I always counted myself lucky to be working around wonderful musicians.  I think some of what we did best is here.  A good day and a good way to be reminded of the gifts we’ve been given, you and I.  And how some of them just keep on giving.  Like friendship.  Thanks for that.

the piece –>What Child Is This from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

Silent Night

kbcdflowerI knew that we had to include this song on the recording, but I had a notion it was so well known that maybe we could sketch out the melody and see if the listener’s imagination filled in the rest.  Apparently it worked for some people.  Of course that’s Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer, and me doing the flute and guitar and so on.  The carol was popular for many years, but its origin was unknown.  Turns out the words were written Pastor Josef Mohr, and the music came from organist Franz Gruber.  I’ve always thought that the tune’s delicate nature came from it being composed on a guitar.  For whatever reason this carol on a guitar on Christmas Eve is pretty much guaranteed to put me in a space where I am truly thankful for the gifts I’ve received over the year.  And so, in that spirit of thanks…

the piece –>Silent Night from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

In the Moon of Wintertime

kbcdflowerI’ve noticed that this carol is far less known outside of Canada.  Apparently the words were first written in the Huron language a little over three hundred years ago, while the melody is an old French folk tune.  I suppose this arrangement turns into a bit of a fantasia at some point, but the melody is so beautiful it stands on its own.  While it’s easy to forget that it’s not the same all over the world, this song captures the combination of Christmas and wintertime that is so much a part of our northern experience.  As before, Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer.

the piece –>Huron Carol from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

Flambeau

kbcdflowerSuch a beautiful melody that I’m always surprised it isn’t more well known in english Canada.  The tune was either collected or composed by a fellow name of Saboly in 17th century Provence, and pulls together the French traditions of the crèche and the Christmas Eve torchlight procession.  If it sounds familiar you might know it by its english title, ‘Bring a Torch Jeannette Isabelle’.  Once again Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer.

the piece –>Un Flambeau Jeannette Isabella from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

Coventry

kbcdflowerEvery year a few people go out of their way to tell me how much this disc means to them.  You never know what’s going to touch people or why.  One of the things that makes this album special for me is it’s the only time I’ve recorded my flute in a way that really captures what I play, how I think on the instrument, and what sounds are rolling around in my head while I’m playing.  My job was to do the arrangements, and to help my primarily non-improvising musical partners to get into that mode.  Apparently it worked.  Anderson on the harp, Paul Haslem on the hammered dulcimer.  A little less commonly heard around here than some seasonal tunes, the melody goes back to Britain in the 15th century, apparently part of the Shearmen and Tailors’ Guild’s mystery play.

the piece –>Coventry Carol from the Anderson & Brown with Paul Haslem CD ‘In the Moon of Wintertime’, 1995 (A&B104CD)

First Carol

websitemusicfermataI’ve had some good fortune working out arrangements for some of my favourite melodies over the years, and there’s not much I enjoy more than playing some of the seasonal pieces I’ve known for so long.  I hadn’t expected to do a whole recording’s worth, but this is where that thought came from.  The tune is often in my head, and I’d had this oddly spaced version on me for a while.  This track was based on that arrangement and made it onto what turned out to be the band’s last concert album.  It went well enough, and the response was so strong that we finally decided to sit down and do a full Christmas recording, which ended up being the most popular cd we ever made.  So here is where that all started.

the piece –>Virgin Carol from the Anderson & Brown CD ‘Alone with a Dream’, 1994 (A&B103CD)

Late

websitemusicfermataWhile some of the things I hear in my head are unusual in some people’s minds, some of it is just kind of pretty.  This was one of those.  Only a waltz, one with a lazy feel.  It seemed that there was something else needed to round out the collection on the disc, and this is what came out.  Composed mostly on the flute, I was happy with the way the part turned out, somehow pretty and lazy, and yet unsettled.  Of course that’s Anderson on the harp, and Anne Ledermann on the 5-string violin.  A waltz was often the last tune of the night.  Plenty of room on the dance floor.

the piece –>Waltz–late afternoon late from the Anderson & Brown CD ‘Alone with a Dream’, 1994 (A&B103CD)

Dream

websitemusicfermataI’d like to play a couple of things for you, and I think maybe I’d like to start here.  As I think I’ve told you, I’ve been hearing music in my head since I was a kid.  Being able to give those sounds a life in the world outside my head has been a great pleasure in my life.  And it was one of the wonderful things about my years in Anderson & Brown, that the pieces we each composed found a comfortable and welcome place in those concerts and recordings.  Of course I was often whacked with the ‘that’s not folk’ hammer for exactly this sort of transgression.  But this was what I heard in my head, pretty much always have.  I hope you enjoy it.

the piece –>Alone with a Dream from the Anderson & Brown CD ‘Alone with a Dream’, 1994 (A&B103CD)

Of Bicycles and Happy Endings

Working on a recording the other day I was reminded that not everyone around here can play a rhythm part for a slip jig.  It is in my nature to assume that if I can do something anyone can.  It is apparently in the nature of the universe to remind me that it’s not necessarily true.

(If you’re asking yourself ‘What’s a slip jig?’, it’s like this–if you think of a normal, garden-variety jig as having two main beats, then a slip jig has three of those main beats.  No big deal.  So a single bar of a standard jig rhythm goes ‘bicycle, bicycle’, but a single bar of a slip jig goes ‘bicycle, bicycle, bicycle’.  Easy enough.)

Never really thought of it before, but I guess I’ve been playing slip jigs for years.  There’s something about having three strong beats in a phrase that I find really compelling.  So I love playing it.  I actually recorded one a while back.

kbcdlettersthe song –>Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie–from the CD ‘letters from home’, 1997 (NHC 401)

The tune is one of my favourite slip jigs.  Not because I wrote it, I just really enjoy playing it, both the melody and the rhythm.  And it’s nice how well the tune fit with the song by Robbie Burns.  It’s probably worth me pointing out that both the tune and the verses of the song are in a slip jig rhythm (call it 9/8 time if you count things that way), but the other sections of the piece are in normal jig rhythm (that’d be 6/8 in that same counting method).  As a matter of fact in places the arrangement flows pretty freely back and forth between the two.  I don’t know why I did that, really.  I think I enjoy the way the slip jig moves things along with that rolling, pushing ahead feeling.  While the normal jig feels a little more like marking time, waiting for the next flight (which is useful in its own way).

I think I like the song, too, because the guy gets to keep his fiddle and enjoys the company of some good people.  I’m a sucker for a happy ending.  And like all the best songs, it’s apparently a true story.  Go figure.

The Sound of the Harp

Recording the harp is an interesting process, it’s such a great sound it’s easy to get lost in it.  I feel like there’s a huge amount of space between the notes somehow, and all that space is full of rich, ringing tones as the strings resonate with one another.  You don’t notice it as much when you add other instruments, it’s an easy thing to obscure.  A badly recorded harp can sound pretty much like a cheap electric piano, at which point one has to wonder why not just go with the piano.  But on a good recording you’ll hear all of those harmonics rolling around.  Particularly when it’s a solo thing.

Working with the harp for so many years was great ear training for me.  Certainly was necessary to learn how to tell when the string was at the right pitch, with or without an electronic tuner.  I’m reminded of the saying common among players–that the harper spends half of their life tuning the instrument, and the other half playing the instrument out of tune.  Sad but true.  So you can imagine that tuning the average guitar is no longer a scary prospect.  I’ve had worse.  Way worse.

Of course once it’s tuned you have to do something with it.  The other day I said I’d let you hear some of the sound.  Here’s something.

The tune –> In the Bleak Midwinter

A seasonal thing I suppose, although that’s not why I play it.  It’s a melody I love, and was one of my father’s favourites as well.  Hard not to think of him while I’m playing it.  I think maybe that’s one of the things music is for.  I hope you enjoy it.