CD: Til the tide comes in

I have just finished the new CD “Til the tide comes in“.
It is very different to my other solo CDs as it grew in size and texture. In fact the name of the CD, at first was going to be called “Textures”. I wanted to record traditional melodies, with each track being different; different in style and feel…texture.

I tried to create this texture by using different instruments: Spanish Gaita, Northumbrian Small Pipes, English Concertina, Mandolin, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electro-acoustic guitar, guitars with different tuning’s, open tuning’s, whistles, drums, shakers, etc.

The recordings were done in Madrid (Casa Asturias), Carlisle and Glasgow. The project kept on growing and I finally decided to release it. I am happy with the result, and I will be doing more of this style in the future.

I also decided to sell my digital CD on Bandcamp, but this time do it more seriously. Since I have stopped busking (due to the lock-down and other reasons), I need to get making music for a living once again.

The melodies were taken from the music books that are associated with the Scottish and English Borders, they are not necessarily Border tunes. But it follows my wish to only play and record the “old melodies”.

Have a listen via the link above, see if you like it?cd cover

Drumpellier Country Park / Music / Video

With lock-down being the party-pooper for any 50th birthday celebration (not mine), we decided to keep our social distancing, and head for the nature…

Glasgow´s Drumpellier Country Park is just about walking distance for us, 1 hour of crossing motorways and following main roads, until you get to the small path that leads into the woods and small pathways that snake around lakes and natural forested areas.

I am not sure if it was because I had not been out of the house in ages, or because the damp weather highlighted the forest colours, but I was fascinated with the richness of the flora, with the colour of green. So many different shades of green…

I was expecting wild flowers and carpets of different coloured mosses, but I must have just missed them or they will be coming out later on? But I was not disappointed with the depth of colour and the freshness of the woods, to take videos of our walk.

I removed the background sounds from the video, as although there was a lot of bird song, there was a loud backdrop of motorway sounds… I replaced it with some recordings I did a few years ago, mandolin and English concertina, traditional melodies from Spain and the Scottish Borders.

 

 

 

Spring, Flowers, Music and Nature…

I have been taking photos of the surrounding area during lock-down! Not many people around so I could go out and photograph areas that are coming to life with the onset of Spring.
Sometimes I think that the old way of taking photos, with film, has something to recommend it. Then you had to develop with film and you had to be careful what you took, as it cost you money to get the film developed. Now it is click, click, click with our digital cameras, and we do not “see” what we are taking in the lens…most of the time (do we ever look at them afterwards?).
I also had these old recordings that was going to be for a CD, they have been sitting around for months now so I included in the video.
The melodies are of Scottish and English folk tunes. I wanted it to be only with mandolin and concertina. So I did the recording and I was not really happy with the mixing of it, so I let it collect dust… so I thought to combine the 2 together to see how they come out.
The first video is of Port Carlisle, and the harbour there. I often go there and I enjoy the peace of the area, the coastline and bird life. I was there recently and I was astounded by the beauty of the place in bright sun light, the air was so clear and there was a slight breeze cooling everything off. I took a video of the surroundings and then the yellow on the “broom” the yellow flowers, it was beautiful and it reminded me of the song “when yellow is on the broom” a Scottish song.
I decided to remove the wind and other audio sounds and add just the demo track of mandolin and concertina. Although it would of been nice to mix the wind and bird song with the melodies, in practice it never came out well.

The 2nd video shows an wooded area close to Port Carlisle. There is a walk adjacent to the sea, which is part of the Hadrian´s Wall Footpath, which in Spring is beautiful to do. It is a wooded area and with the sun and shadow it is a delightful stroll.

These photos are of bluebells, that come out in a wood at Crofton, every year in April. It is a small wooded area and every year it becomes are carpeted area of bluebells. I find it amazing something so close to where I live is not appreciated more. It is over looked, as far as I can tell, people do not linger or stop and admire. They are not appreciated, so much so that a local farmer wanted to plough it up to make a car park…he was looking for sponsors to do it, luckily he has not found any yet.
I thought just to take these photos of a memory, a record that they existed. I did not mean to make a video of them afterwards, but later I thought, why not?
Using Camtasia Software for the first time, to edit the video, was easy enough, I have used a few programmes to edit video and it sees to be getting easier as the years go on. I also like Camtasia for doing tutorials and screen savers, something i have recently started to do.

 

Annual Invitational Piping Competition 2020, (Glasgow Uist & Barra Association)

The day did not start too well. I went to the wrong venue! It was not at The Piping Centre, but it was at the College of Piping, Otago Street, Glasgow. I got there a bit wet and annoyed as I had asked directions from someone “where is Glasgow University” and he sent me in the opposite direction.

I mention all this as I got there late, so I missed the first 2 pipers of the day. My apologies to them.

In the morning from 9am to 1pm it was Pibroch. I find listening to Pibroch very meditative, and I often doze off during it, luckily I had my recorder to capture the players.
Piobaireachd/Pibroch.

(1. Sarah Muir – not recorded
2. Gordon McCready) – not recorded
3. Finlay Johnston
4. Glenn Brown
5. Alasdair Henderson
6. Roderick J. MacLeod
7. Angus D. MacColl
8. Sandy Cameron
9. Connor Sinclair
10. Iain Speirs
11. Niall Stewart

Names of Melodies:

pibroch

Pibroch Recordings:

 

The March, Strathspey and Reel, and Hornpipe and Jig competitions followed after lunch:

1. Pipe Major Ben Duncan
2. Alasdair Henderson
3. Niall Stewart
4. Angus D. MacColl
5. Iain Speirs
6. Glenn Brown
7. Sarah Muir
8. Gordon McCready
9. Finlay Johnston
10. Roderick J. MacLeod
11. Connor Sinclair

Names of Melodies:

MSR

Recordings of MSR, Hornpipes and Jigs:

 

The day ended with a pipe recital from Chloe Steele, who flew in from Uist for the performance.

During the tuning up for the MSR event, the piper played a song melody, on the back row there came a impromptu chorus of male voices, singing along.

 

The Facebook poster of the event.

Barra and Uist

World Championship Solo Drumming Competitions, Glasgow 2019.

These recordings are from the World Solo Drumming Competitions, which were held on Saturday 19th October 2019, at the Caledonian Univiersity, Glasgow, Scotland. It was an all day event, free of charge except for a small charge for the Finals in the late afternoon.

I was a bit hesitant at first as I am normally listening to the melody instrument, and I thought the drumming would be over powering, but not at all. The mix was just right and I came away with an appreciation of Highland drumming styles.

I include the recordings in reverse order, starting with the Finals, the ones that made it through the Heats. I do not know the names of the drummers, or the pipers, nor the tunes. My intention was to record the event, and for people to listen to it. I am sure those who were there can detect themselves (?) but I only wanted this to be a resource for drummers/players who were not able to attend, and for them to hear the technique and styles.

Finals

Semi Finals

The Heats took place all over the University, in many rooms, with many players of all ages. I mainly sat and recorded the participants in the Carnegie Suite in room M137.Heats, but also there were other events and some were young drummers.

Xmas Carols in Azuqueca de Henares

I went to listen to a selection of groups perform Christmas carols in a church in Azuqueca de Henares, Guadalajara. I knew Casa Asturias´s choir was singing there, but I was also surprised to see and hear ensembles representing the local Christmas carols in various regions of Spain: Extremadura and Andalusia, as well as Guadalajara. New and old songs, all different all incorporating elements of tradition and modernity.

I do not know the name of the bands, or where they came from exactly, so I have just titled them “band 1, Group 2” etc. Casa Asturias I know only.

I made note of some of the instruments used by each band:

Band 1
Bottles for scrapping, Cajon, accordion guitar, drum, (friction drum) zambomba, triangles, shakers, castanets.
Band 1

Band 2
Guitar, bandurria , drum, (friction drum) zambomba, bandurria rondalla, tambourine, Mortar and Pestle, various percussion instruments, castanets, a split bamboo percussive instrument used in Extremadura.Band 2

Casa Asturias (Alcala de Henares)
Guitar and Accordion.
Casa Asturias

Band 4
2 guitars and Ukuleles.
Group 4

Band 5
Guitars, violin, percussive instruments, bandurria rondalla. Group 5

Each Group played an average of 3 carols, and all the groups came together at the end to perform “Silent Night” in the Final piece.

The recordings

Concert: Newcastleton Folk Festival

I decided to have a theme for this year’s concert at Newcastle Folk Festival. Last year at the Friday night concert, I played a random set of tunes from the Peacock Manuscript. But this year I wanted to select different “variation” pieces of Northumbrian music played on the Northumbrian Small pipes.

These variation sets, are long pieces of music; similar to having 5 or 6 melodies added after each other. They are very characteristic of old Border Northumbrian melodies. There are suggestions why these variations came to be added after the main piece of music (the A and B sections of a melody). Some say they are for dancing, for the musician not to be bored; some say they are for listening, as in a concert environment and the player can express their virtuosity and skill.

Whatever the reason these variations can be simple or complex, often long in length sometimes having 25 sections; or as little as 2.

The old manuscripts have variation pieces in them: Dixon, Peacock, and Bewick are the manuscripts I chose to play from.

I started the concert with a reason why I chose to do the variation pieces. This was because 2 years ago I was sitting in a session listening to a friend of mine playing a variation piece on the Scottish Small pipes. As I was listening a man learned across to me and whispered in my ear “it goes on a bit”. He clearly did not like these long pieces of music. It is an expression I have heard before, especially from non-musicians. They do not understand why it is so long, or what the tune is trying to convey to the listener.

People have a short concentration span, 3 minutes on average, as long as a pop song; after that their mind goes onto other things. The variation piece needs concentration to listen and understand it properly; or the audience needs activity as in dancing. These melodies more makes sense when one is playing for a dance; it can get very boring to play the same melody over again, often 15 times while the dance is going on. It makes more sense to keep adding parts so the musician can keep an interest and therefore put some life into the playing.

The comment, made by the man in the session, kept in my mind for a while and I mused upon its reason and solution. “How could I make these traditional pieces of music more understandable and digestible for the listener?”.

In the concert at Newcastleton, I began with a very simple variation piece, Peacock’s “Highland Laddie”; mentioning that the 2nd part of the tune, is another melody called “Butter’d Peas” also from Peacock with the parts changed around. Instead of parts C and D, as in the Highland Laddie, they become parts A and B in Butter’d Peas.

With this example I began to mention my method for other variation pieces. I said “I began to chop up the variations into A and B parts, to make them more easily remembered, as well as giving them a life of their own, then when I had mastered the 2 parts, I joined them onto the variation piece once more”.

To demonstrate this I played Dixon’s “Highland Laddie” mentioning that I missed out the last 2 parts as I found it was “enough for me to play”. I wanted to say that musicians should play what feels comfortable to them, what they like and what they consider appropriate. There is no law that you must play all of the variations. Pick out the best parts and play those.

My next example was Bewick’s “Blackett O’Wylam” where I played all of the parts; followed by Peacock’s “Newmarket Races” where I only played the first 4 parts.
The next melody was Bewick’s “Sir John Fenwick’s” where I played all of the parts, and lastly I played Dixon’s “New Way to Bowden” where I played all the parts.

The concert was recorded and I will upload the recording at a later date.

The Millers (Galician) Daughter!

Here is a recording of a Northumbrian Small Pipe melody called “The Millers Daughter” from the Peacock manuscript from 1800. It is a melody I have played a lot on Small Pipes and Border Pipes over the years.

I am experimenting a lot these days, by playing various Small Pipe melodies on the Galician chanter. The reason why I am playing these tunes on a Spanish bagpipe is not for this blog right now, but there are certain Northumbrian tunes that go well with the Gaita (bagpipe) and certain tunes that do not feel ‘right’.

I bought this chanter, which is in the key of D. A high pitch sounding instrument, that is not that common in Spanish music. Normally you would hear a chanter in C or Bb. I chose D as I wanted it compatible with a lot of Northumbrian/Irish session instruments.

The pitch is a little high, so I made a bass drone in D and a tenor drone in A, but this did not sound right either, it did not suit the melodies too well, so I made another bass drone in D. 2 bass drones in D, give a deeper harmonic in relationship to the high-pitched D chanter (although this recording does not show it too well, this was only a demo).

 

Bandcamp: CDs

I have been re-looking at my Bandcamp site. It takes a lot of time to edit it.

I have re-mastered (as they say) the Border pipes CD “O’er the Dyke” and in doing so, it was like finding a lost manuscript, hidden in my archives. I had to re-understand what I was doing all those years ago while recording that CD, using the equipment I had back then. No such thing as DAWs as today, I used to record using a normal computer and its own sound programme. 2 computers to create 1 CD.

Technology moves so fast and now it is easier to record, edit and publish a CD using 1 computer and 1 programme. It takes a lot of time of course, days, weeks and months… but the actual recording can be done a lot quicker.

I have been working on 2 new CDs.

The 1st CD is of the Northumbrian Smallpipes: looking more closely at the Dixon manuscript, with their complex variations. And also I have been looking at various non-British melodies from Sweden, Spain, Belgium and France.

The reason for the mix of styles is a reflection of the countries that have influenced my music of the past 20 years. A CD has to be representative of what I am playing now, and what I am playing are melodies that are directly part of my life. Since I spend a lot of my time in Spain researching the bagpipe, I play a lot of Spanish bagpipe melodies, and since I visit Sweden I have collected 1 or 2 tunes from there… and so it goes on.

The 2nd CD is a concertina CD, with a doubling up of a mandolin on various tracks. The mandolin I started to play again after 30 years break. These tracks are a reflection of my busking activities in the UK and various duets I have been involved with in Spain. The style also covers a range of UK and Spanish melodies that work on the concertina (not all of them do work!). I had to learn a new repertoire on the concertina recently as one of the notes stopped working, so instead of transferring the existing melodies onto a new pitch, I learned a new repertoire in a different key.

These CDs I hope to have finished in December and January.

Melody: Si Vas A La Romeria

This is a recording of a melody I did in 2015, in the UK. I was practicing an Asturian melody on the Galician chanter. The melody is called “Si Vas A La Romeria”; I learned it at Casa de Asturias, in Alcala de Henares, Spain. It is my own interpretation of the tune, and I guess I am putting a British “accent” on it… but I hope it is recognizable to the original!

Jinn & Tonik / The Flying Cats

I have been playing with Alba, a fiddle player from Madrid over the past few years. I put to gether a few mp3s connected with our rehearsals. We are called “Jinn & Tonik” and we are trying to mix Spanish and UK music with musical “accents”, how each of us look at each other’s music.
Jinn & Tonik

Another musical project was with a Alba and a singer called Isabel, we concentrated mainly on Scottish Songs, but with the phrasing and “accents” of Spain. We called ourselves “The Flying Cats” (the name was taken from Isabel’s cats who decided to jump from one side of the room to the other and land on our heads while we were reheasing).

The Flying Cats