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Bob Michel

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  1. Here's a song I've only recently learned, though it's been on my to-do list for years, ever since I came across the original sheet music in an antique shop. http://youtu.be/eUPp-s_z92s The concertina (40-button Wheatstone Anglo) is back in the mix on this one, but obviously the song wouldn't be the same without it. In fact this is pretty essential repertoire. Bob Michel Near Philly
  2. When we get to that point, I expect I'll be the stair-lift. Exercising that function for a large, wobbly greyhound is what convinced me to downsize to whippets in the first place. Bob Michel Near Philly
  3. Here are my latest dance tunes: http://youtu.be/tmYtuFVt8jc Last week a friend with whom I share a love of Northumbrian music very generously sent me a packet of recordings and transcriptions. (Thanks again, John!) I was already familiar with "Dog Leap Stairs" from Alistair Anderson's orchestrated version on the album "Steel Skies" (which I don't attempt to reproduce here), but I'd never played the tune myself. I like the way it contrasts with another 3/2 hornpipe, the odd and haunting "If You Will Not Have Me You May Let Me Go," so I decided to learn that one too and record them together. My friend's gift was waiting for me when I returned from a brief trip to Barcelona, so I included one of the Muses from the Palau de la Musica Catalana in the accompanying montage of images. As for the dog who appears at the end, aside from its Newcastle context the title "Dog Leap Stairs" inevitably evokes for me memories of my whippet in his youth, when he could vault up the fourteen steps in my house in two effortless bounds. He's fourteen himself now, and has slowed down a bit. Me, too. Bob Michel Near Philly
  4. Here's an attempt. http://youtu.be/i78pX3y7yE4 I had some multitracking fun with it (as I often do). This time I also replaced my usual sober selfie with some more interesting visuals. Bob Michel Near Philly
  5. Having had some fun with an overdubbed vocal version, I thought I'd try a solo instrumental rendition as well. http://youtu.be/tGVyLW1lmJM Bob Michel Near Philly
  6. By way of giving the old Lachenal Anglo an outing, here are a couple of favorite slip jigs, "A Fig for a Kiss" and "The Rakes of Westmeath." http://youtu.be/G-RG2uarsBQ Bob Michel Near Philly
  7. Thanks to Jim B. and blue eyed sailor for the kind words. I really enjoyed playing around with this one. Time for a very quick rant? The question of whether or not "Jamaica Farewell" has any actual West Indian roots (opinions apparently vary) is the sort of consideration I'd probably have fretted over forty years ago, but any squeamishness I might once have felt about a good song's origins has long since departed. I'm younger than that now, as the fellow sang. There's value, of course, in distinguishing native products from imports and originals from copies. But genre boundaries in music are nothing if not porous, and the action always seems to go both ways. An awful lot of songs I grew up thinking of as firmly rooted in this or that Tradition turn out to have wandered in from Tin Pan Alley or somewhere equally louche. If that observation ever troubled me, it delights me now. Anyway, it's the interpretation that counts. These days I care roughly as much about Authenticity as I do about whether some dress I see online is blue-and-black or white-and-gold. Bob Michel Near Philly
  8. What fun, to record "Jamaica Farewell" on concertina! Pseudo- or not, it's a beautiful song, and I've known it very nearly my entire life. Some of my earliest musical memories are of a box of brand-new 45 rpm recordings by Harry Belafonte, comprised (as far as I can remember) of tracks from his albums "Calypso" and "An Evening with Belafonte" (1956 and '57 respectively). In fact it was Millard Thomas's wonderful, understated accompaniment on those recordings that first made me want to take up the guitar. So as a tribute to Mr. Thomas I cribbed one of his turnarounds for this little arrangement, which I recorded this morning by way of avoiding the chore of chiseling ice off the sidewalk after yesterday's storm. By the time I finished, the sun had taken care of the job. There's a moral here. http://youtu.be/1nZ27dqdUC4 Bob Michel Near Philly
  9. Here are a couple of nice three-parters to kick things off. http://youtu.be/72AQ-qX7_zE I can't remember where I learned "Snug in the Blanket," but it may have been from the CD of the same name by Paddy O'Brien of Co. Offaly. Just to confuse matters, I pair it here with "The Coming of Spring," which is a composition of the late Paddy O'Brien of Co. Tipperary, and which I learned from his book of tunes. So you get two Paddys for the price of one. I hadn't meant to pounce so quickly on the Theme of the Month, but I've been meaning, for the sake of simplicity, to wean myself off the PC and move all the steps of video production to the iPad. This afternoon I was pondering what to record for a trial run when the ice storm raging outside brought to mind these two titles, which just happen to be jigs. So here they are, and here's to The Coming of Spring. Bob Michel Near Philly
  10. I didn't want to let February slide by without posting some kind of tribute to Ed Reavy (1897-1988). The great composer of Irish dance music, who spent most of his life a few miles from where I'm sitting, is both Local and a great Favorite of mine. Hornpipes were arguably Ed Reavy's forte; here are a couple that I particularly like. http://youtu.be/BeBFDXLe58Q Bob Michel Near Philly
  11. Required reeding. Bob Michel Near Philly
  12. Thanks, Rod. Good point about the bellows, though in my (limited) experience Anglo bellows usually have six folds regardless of the style of music they're used for, which suggests that the air capacity has generally been thought adequate. The notable exception are the postwar Wheatstones made for the South African market, along with the instruments of local manufacture they inspired: these very often have mammoth eight-fold bellows, which suit the heavily chorded style of playing in Boeremuziek. My other concertina is one of these Wheatstones (retrofitted with a better action by the Button Box), and while I enjoy the luxury of its deeper bellows I sometimes wonder whether playing it hasn't been bad for my technique. When I switch to the Lachenal after playing the Wheatstone for a while I'm often struck by the lift the music gets from the necessity of changing direction more often. And for better or worse I do tend to play fewer and quicker chords on the Lachenal. On the other hand, I'm also perversely attached to the original hook-and-lever action on the latter concertina, and have so far resisted the idea of changing it to a riveted one. They say style comes from limitations. Bob Michel Near Philly
  13. Here's something local. This pair of reels used to be one of the most commonly played sets at sessions I attended around Philly. It still gets aired from time to time, though much less than formerly. "The Bird in the Bush" is of course heard everywhere, but "The Maid I Ne'er Forgot," for whatever reason, is a tune I don't often run into when traveling. I associate this set with two local players: Roy Rogers [sic], a very fine piper who sadly quit the music scene some years ago (I believe he chiefly messes about in boats now), and Kevin McGillian, a superb B/C accordion player originally from County Tyrone, now in his late eighties and still playing rings around the rest of us. I threw in a few other instruments to approximate the way the tunes might sound at one of these local sessions, with only the pipes (which are completely beyond me) missing. And the fiddle, of course. You don't want to hear me fiddle. http://youtu.be/SEL164HrapU Bob Michel Near Philly
  14. This is beautifully done: lovely song, fine delivery, powerful video. And the concertina accompaniment would be hard to improve on. Thanks for sharing it. Bob Michel Near Philly
  15. For contrast, and for fun, here's a simpler, solo version of the tune. It's played here, with many a clack and wheeze, on my old (c. 1890) Lachenal Anglo. The timing's a bit better than on the previous upload, which was pretty dodgy in places. http://youtu.be/8BvfxSeMZz4 Bob Michel Near Philly
  16. Hear, hear. It makes a lovely solo piece as well. I didn't add the accompaniment because I thought the tune needed it; I mainly just wanted to play with my new uke. Bob Michel Near Philly
  17. Here's an attempt. http://youtu.be/9RSOv6L4bQ4 Bob Michel Near Philly
  18. My first thought was to dip into the rich repertoire of local dance music (Ed Reavy lived most of his long life a few miles from here, and it doesn't get any better than that), and I may do that later on. But I have to share this story first. Several years ago I was invited, as part of a state-funded humanities program, to perform original material at something called the Pennsylvania Canal Festival. The organizer who contacted me, a young businessman, was very enthusiastic. "We're hoping you'll perform songs that evoke the history of our community!" "Well, I'd love to," I replied. "But you do realize that my program consists of songs I've written?" "Oh, yes! I read all about you in the catalogue." "So you're all right with that? The program as described, I mean?" "Of course! We'd just like you to keep it local." "OK, but the sad fact is...I've never been within fifty miles of your town, and I know virtually nothing about it." "That's only natural." "Then I'm not sure how..." "Oh, it's no problem; no problem at all! Just, you know, concentrate on local themes..." After twenty minutes of this Monty Python routine I gave up and told him I'd see what I could do. And in the end (aided by the relevant passages in Dickens's "American Notes" and a lot of online research), I did manage to write them two Local Songs. Truth is, there are few things I enjoy more than taking up that kind of gonzo commission; I was once asked to write an upbeat song about cholera, but that's a story for another time. So I can't hear the phrase "local music" without conjuring that festival (which was lovely, by the way). Here's one of the songs, which happens to sit pretty well on concertina. It's as local as they come, and authenticity be damned. http://youtu.be/DYvmVIZPsK0 Bob Michel Near Philly
  19. Terrific tunes and lovely playing. I'm a rabid James Hill fan; is there any music that sits better on an Anglo? Bob Michel Near Philly
  20. In my experience, both listening and playing, hornpipe performances can vary widely in both pace and swing. Dancers' preferences vary too, for that matter. What hornpipes can't dispense with is *pulse*, and your version has plenty of that. I can hear Noel Hill's setting in there, but you've put your own spin on it. Great stuff. Bob Michel Near Philly
  21. Welcome to the world of Irish-style concertina playing! If you aim to play Irish dance tunes with other musicians, you'll want to achieve some fluency in the keys of D and A, which are decidedly not "home keys" for a C/G Anglo. So playing "across the rows" in one way or another is pretty much a given. And in fact Noel Hill, probably the most influential living teacher of the Irish style, is the quintessential across-the-rows player. That said, some older players (and some younger players who emulate them) preserve an approach influenced by the old German two-row instruments, and incorporate much more straightforward up-and-down-the-C-and-G-rows playing into their styles. This often involves transposing D tunes (say) a whole step down (listen, for example, to many of Mary MacNamara's settings). It's also possible, however, to play in D (and even in A) this way: if I see and hear what he's doing correctly, Chris Droney's wonderful bouncy rhythm seems to derive in part from playing as much of a given tune as possible up and down the G row, visiting the other rows only when necessary. Still, playing across the rows is indeed the preferred approach for most Irish musicians nowadays, and I encourage my students to learn the necessary scales, weird, wandering and counterintuitive as they are, almost from day one. Mick Bramich's "The Irish Concertina" is a good starting point: his diagrams and explanations are quite lucid, and I like his selection of tunes for practicing them. There's no single Right Way to go about this; I'm constantly working out new fingering alternatives for old chestnuts that I've known for years. But playing across the rows, whether you use Noel Hill's carefully developed patterns or some other variation, will most likely be a big part of the personal style you eventually develop. In any case, good luck with it: you've embarked on a long, strange trip! Bob Michel Near Philly
  22. Here are some more swingy things. I recorded and uploaded them a couple weeks back, but neglected to post a link here and subsequently forgot about them. "The Dapper's Delight" and "The Maid of the Mist" are hornpipes composed by the late Paddy O'Brien of Co. Tipperary (as opposed to Paddy O'Brien of Co. Offaly, also a fantastic tunesmith, and happily still with us). There's a brief introduction to his life and work at http://irishtunecomposers.weebly.com/paddy-obrien.html. I hadn't been aware of his close connection with Seamus Connolly, who ran the epic Monday night sessions at the Village Coach House in Brookline, Mass. where I first immersed myself in Irish tunes in the late '70s and early '80s. I've never heard a Paddy O'Brien tune I didn't like. And one can never have too many hornpipes. Bob Michel Near Philly
  23. Wonderful. As an Anglo player I love hearing the different spin an English concertina can put on these tunes, especially when they're so well arranged and played. It makes them new again. Bob Michel Near Philly
  24. Thanks, Daria. It's hard to go wrong with such lovely tunes. I'm enough of a hornpipe enthusiast that my session mates ration me pretty strictly. Bob Michel Near Philly
  25. Thanks to all for the kind words. This rendition actually came out a bit sluggish compared to the sprightly tune playing in my head (it's been very cold here). But it'll do as a first pass until something internationally ultimater comes along. Bob Michel Near Philly
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