This Monday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jenny Inzerillo at High Plains Public Radio for an interview and in-studio performance during her show, High Plains Morning. We talked a little about the lute and its history, and I played a few pieces on the air.
It was my first radio interview so I was a little nervous, but I had a great time and I'm looking forward to stopping by HPPR again sometime in the future!
If you couldn't tune in on Monday, make sure to check out the interview here. When you get done, check out some of the other great musicians she's had on her show!
As you may have read in my last post, I left in late July for Colorado-- the first stop on my summer concert tour. From 23rd through 29th of July, I was in Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado for the inaugural residency of the Collegiate Peaks Guitar Retreat. I stayed in a mountain cabin at an elevation of approximately 9,500 feet, and I had lessons or audited with the "Guitar Guides": Will Douglas, Emma Rush, and Kevin Manderville. It was an honor and a privilege to spend a week with such great musicians!
Buena Vista, CO
In Buena Vista, the focus was not always on the guitar: we visited the Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy farm and I got to milk my first goat. We also climbed a mountain trail up to the "Lost Lake" at 11,800 feet. I've never considered myself much of an artist, but between the beauty of the place itself and mild oxygen deprivation, I decided to do a very quick sketch of the lake. I had only brought a blue and a black ink with me, so I set to work with my fingers and wasted a few ounces from my water bottle.
'Lost Lake' in Buena Vista, CO (above) and my sketch (below)
Over the week the Collegiate Peaks crew performed several times around Buena Vista, including shows at local restaurants, Deerhammer Distillery, and The People's Stage. As the only lutenist, I got to provide audiences with an introduction to renaissance music (and early music in general).
My week in Buena Vista passed all too quickly, and I soon found myself bidding our mountain cabin ,,auf wiedersehen" as I headed north and east to Denver.
Colorado Sunrise (above) and I don't recall what reservoir this is (below).
You might remember Russ from my review of the CD "Eyes to the Future" by his duo, Derelict Hands. It was good to see him, and we got to play a concert together for the first time in many years. A thousand thanks would still be insufficient to Russ and Taylor-- the trip would not have gone nearly as smoothly without their efforts. Special thanks are due Duain Wolfe for opening his beautiful home to us for the concert.
While I was in Denver, I had the opportunity to visit a gamelan orchestra's rehearsal... and to play the bell-tree for them! It was my first time to ever see and hear a gamelan in person, and it was amazing!
Gamelan Rehearsal (above), Bell Tree (below)
After spending a few days in Denver, the time came to drive out to Salt Lake City, Utah. I stopped in Estes Park on my way out, and obviously, I had to see The Stanley Hotel!
All work and no play at The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
the aptly named "U.S. State Not-Appearing-In-This-Blog-Post"
I was to perform a concert for the Utah Classical Guitar Society in Murray, UT with my SLC-local friend Sterling Price. The drive took a bit longer than I expected, and I arrived in SLC with just enough time to drop off my things at the hotel and get a quick shower before the concert.
The next morning, I got up early and drove to Sacramento, California. Along the way, I stopped to stretch at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Bonneville Salt Flats (above), Emigrant Gap (below)
When I got to Sacramento, I had the better part of 2 days to relax and enjoy seeing my family before my next performance, for the Sacramento Guitar Society in El Dorado Hills. I got to meet my nephew Max for the very first time, and spent time with my neice Sammy, my brother Mark and my sister-in-law Michelle. I don't often get to play the doting uncle that spoils the kiddos, so I really enjoyed doing my best to make up for lost time.
Sammy and Max
Special thanks go out to the Sacramento Guitar Society, Daniel Roest, and Lili Williams for their help facilitating the concert, and to Don and Mehri for hosting my concert in their beautiful home.
Due to a scheduling issue, I had to cancel my concert in Eugene, Oregon, and was unable to meet up with my friend there. Instead, I drove directly from Sacramento to Port Angeles, Washington, where I arrived just in time to catch the day's last ferry to Victoria, B.C.
California Sunrise, Sweet Calcutta Rain, Honolulu Star-rise--- The Song Remains the Same
As tight as the scheduling was, I did take a few minutes to stop to play a few notes and take a selfie at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's theatre, which is based on Shakespeare's Globe.
Above: Rascal fiddler, twangling Jack
The week in Victoria for the LSA's WestFest was amazing: I had lessons with Robert Barto and Sylvain Bergeron, and I got to meet some incredible people!
With Robert Barto (above), Sylvain Bergeron and Elizabeth Kenny perform an encore (below)
I did take a little time to explore Victoria and Vancouver Island, though I look forward to seeing even more of B.C. in 2019! One morning I got up very early and hiked out to the "other" Niagara Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park. Sure, they're narrower than their namesake, but at 47.5m/156ft they are almost as tall!
Niagara Falls, Goldstream Provincial Park, British Columbia
At the end of the week, I bid farewell to my new lute friends and boarded the ferry back to the U.S.
See you later, Canada!
I spent a few more days with my family in Sacramento, and spent a day in San Francisco where I finally got to meet the luthier who built my lute, Mel Wong. Mel gave us a tour of his workshop and taught us how to bend lute ribs. After playing on his instrument for the last year and a half, it was nice to finally shake Mel's hand.
My Sister-In-Law, Michelle, learning to bend lute ribs under the tutelage of luthier Mel Wong
Of course, I also had to get pictures of Alcatraz, sea lions, the Palace of Fine Arts, and Golden Gate Park.
My brother and I, and Alcatraz.
The Pier 39 Sea Lions!
The Palace of Fine Arts (above and below)
chillin' with Lemmy on the beach at Golden Gate Park
Unfortunately, I couldn't stay forever-- I had to get home to resume my teaching and gigging duties in the Dallas area, and my Texas family wanted to make a trip to view the solar eclipse, so I left Sacramento and headed south toward Los Angeles. I stopped at Sequoia National Park and hiked out to see the General Sherman tree to stretch my legs.
Sequoia National Park (above), Gen. Sherman Tree (below)
From there I continued to L.A., but I arrived too late in the day to do much other than get a cool picture of L.A. at night.
Los Angeles at Night
Still, I hiked up to Griffith Observatory hoping to get the ultimate tourist photo: the Hollywood sign.
The Hollywood Sign
No one told me that they don't illuminate it at night, though. Oh well, maybe next time!
I then turned east and drove through Arizona and New Mexico. My last stop before arriving at home was at the Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ.
Have Gut, Will Travel
I got home and had a night to relax before we all piled into the car to drive the 12 hours to Illinois to watch the solar eclipse. We visited my Great Aunt at her farm, which fell right on the path of totality. It was amazing! I tried to get a few pictures, but a cell phone camera just doesn't cut it.
As totality approached, the sky became as dark as it is at twilight, the rooster got confused and crowed for a half-hour, and the birds went to sleep.
The Solar Eclipse at Totality
The Twilight of Totality
It feels good to at last be settled in at home after a solid month on the road, but I definitely miss all of the breathtaking views, all of the giggling silliness of my niece and nephew, and all of the music making and learning. I'd like to thank the Lute Society of America and Collegiate Peaks Guitar Retreat for helping me out with scholarships, everyone who donated to the trip, everyone who hosted me and my concerts in their homes, and my family for being so supportive along the way. I can't wait to do this again!
As you probably know, I was awarded a scholarship to attend the Lute Society of America's Summer Seminar in Victoria, British Columbia in early August. I have been fundraising for several weeks now to raise the funds necessary for the trip, and I have raised nearly half of the goal amount. I was also recently offered a scholarship to attend the Collegiate Peaks Guitar Retreat in Buena Vista, Colorado from 24-28th July. Denver was the first stop on my trip anyway, so it works out really well-- but it does mean I have to leave a week earlier, and increases costs overall.
All along I was intending to give concerts at each city I stopped in for the night-- Denver, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and Eugene-- but I didn't have a contact in Salt Lake City to help me out. So, I reached out to Utah Classical Guitar to see about setting up a concert while I'm in town. I'm pleased to announce that I will be playing a solo recital at 8pm on Wednesday, August 2nd, at Cottonwood Coves Clubhouse in Murray, Utah. If you know anyone in the Salt Lake City area that might be interested, please pass this information along! Guests are asked to RSVP through the event page on UCG's facebook.
I hope to see you there!
In this second installment of the New Release Spotlight, I am pleased to recommend the new disc from Canadian classical guitarist Emma Rush, Canadiana. From Emma's website, "Canadiana features the music of iconic Canadian songwriters Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Stan Rogers arranged for solo guitar by Floyd Turner, and Appalachian Colours, dedicated to Emma Rush, by Toronto-based composer William Beauvais."
I met Emma at the 2015 Lone Star Guitar Festival and Competition in Weatherford, Texas. I really enjoyed her program, which featured quite a bit of music inspired by folk stories from around the world. I remember being really taken away with Garuda and the Suite del Recuerdo during her performance. I picked up a copy of her album Folklorica, and it's been on heavy rotation in my daily listening ever since. We've kept in touch, and I'm honored to call her one of my friends. She is not only a refined and expressive player, but she's also a great teacher and an inspiration to my own teaching and playing.
I was talking with Emma a few months ago about our mutual love of the work of the Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, and she mentioned that her next project would include a few Lightfoot tunes arranged for solo guitar by Floyd Turner. I was so excited to find a copy in my mailbox yesterday, I rushed into the house and immediately put it on the stereo. I'll admit I broke my own listening rule (first listenings are SUPPOSED to be 'cover to cover'), but in my defense "Pussywillows, Cat-tails" and "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" are two of my favorite songs by Gord. The arrangements are nothing short of wonderful. In fact, I enjoy Emma's playing of Canadian Railroad Trilogy more than the original-- I wish that that quality of rubato and sensitivity to the text was present in Gord's version.
There is a big difference between a straight transcription and an arrangement-- an arrangement implies a level of invention that approaches the song as a composer might. While a strict transcription might be more faithful to the source material harmonically speaking, a great arrangement utilizes the strengths of the instrument to create a new experience, and we see the piece from a new perspective. Mr. Turner's arrangements on the disc do this very well. I'm not as familiar with Joni Mitchell as I am with Gordon Lightfoot, but I really enjoyed "Blue" and "Marcie". Stan Rogers is a brand new name for me, so I had never heard "Northwest Passage" before this disc.
Another new name for me was William Beauvais, whose "Appalachian Colours" suite is dedicated to Emma. The piece is cinematic, and its titles alternately evoke for me the changing leaves of autumn, an early summer drive I once took through Acadia National Park in Maine, and my first sight of Lake Michigan after climbing the dunes at Saugatuck. Green is probably my favorite movement from the suite, though it's a tough call. **Edit: Wait, no, it's Red.
The whole album has a great feel for those long, introspective summer night drives, and I'm really looking forward to taking it on the road with me to Victoria next month!
I'd also like to take a moment to comment on the artwork-- if you've been following this blog, you'll know that one of my biggest pet peeves in the classical music world is the ubiquity of lazy artwork and boring album titles like "Guitar Recital" (not to worry, Naxos; we still love you). In the last "New Release Spotlight" I said I hoped to see more classical artists bringing the same mindfulness and attention to detail to their album art that they bring to the music, and I listed off a bunch of non-classical albums that have what I would consider to be great cover artwork. Had I not been limiting myself to non-classical musicians, I would have cited Emma's Folklorica as the exception to prove the rule and a great example of how artwork can elevate the listener's experience of an album. I don't have my copy of Folklorica within reaching distance to double check, but I believe Richard Talbot is responsible for the artwork on both albums. I really enjoy the unity of his design-- on the inside of the sleeve we are given some liner notes over a background composed of an almost abstract closeup of the bark of a Paper Birch (the same species of tree featured on the front cover), and the disc itself bears a cross section of a log showing the growth rings.
You can get your copy at Emma's website for $20. Stop by, snap up a copy for yourself, and listen to the pictures flow-- across the room, into your mind they go.
I'm excited to have been selected for a scholarship to attend the LSA Workshop West this year at the University of Victoria, on Vancouver Island from August 6-12, 2017! This year's lute faculty consists of Robert Barto, Elizabeth Kenny, Sylvain Bergeron, Ray Nurse, Travis Carey (who will be teaching a class on lute building!), and Phillip Rukavina.
This will be my second time participating in the LSA's summer festivals, and I can't wait to be there! There will be lecture classes, masterclasses, private lessons, and daily concerts, and I will have the opportunity to perform in a recital with the other scholarship recipients, too. AND I'll get to help build a lute!
After doing a lot of research, I've determined that it will be cheapest for me to drive from Dallas to Vancouver; thence, by ferry, to Vancouver Island. I am no stranger to long solo road trips. Although I have driven some pretty incredible distances unaccompanied in the past (Dallas to Chicago in 18ish hours. Never again.), this will be the single longest trip I have ever undertaken, without question. Well travel'd in these Contiguous United States as I may be, this trip will cross off 3 of the remaining 5 states of this Union which I have yet to visit: California, Oregon, and Washington.
My pilgrimage will take me around 47 driving hours (for contrast, the furthest I have driven in a single go was Dallas>Chicago, and it took me a little over 18 hours in one sitting*). For this trip, I am hoping to split up the drive into 4 days of driving, and I hope to be able to visit with some friends and family along the way. I hope to see my close friend Russ in Denver (you bought Derelict Hands' "Eyes to the Future," right? Yeah, that one) I will also get to meet my nephew Max for the first time in Sacramento!. I hope to also make a detour to San Francisco to meet Mel Wong, the luthier who built my instrument for me. From Sacramento, I will take I-5 north through Portland and finally arrive at the University of Victoria.
There are still a few things that need to be done in order to be ready for the festival; the scholarship covers my festival tuition completely, but I still have to pay the room and board ($730), and I'll be renting a car to make the trip ($250). If you would like to help me get to the festival, I will be accepting donations of any denomination through my YouCaring fundraiser here.
I am hoping to schedule some fundraising recitals around DFW in the lead up to the festival, and I'd like to try and do a few house concerts along the road to Vancouver. Keep an eye out for updates on the YouCaring page, on this blog, and at my facebook page!
I am pleased to announce that I will be performing two MORE concerts of lute music for the Dallas Museum of Art "Late Night" program on March 17th. The concerts will take place at 9:30 and 11:00pm on Friday the 17th in the European Galleries on Level 2. The 11pm performance may be moved into the Medieval exhibit. The performances are planned in conjunction with the DMA’s “Art and Nature in the Middle Ages” exhibit which closes this month. Admission is free for DMA Members and children 11 and under. Tickets are $15 for general admission, or $10 for students with ID and can be purchased online here.
I am pleased to announce that I will be performing two concerts of lute music for the Dallas Museum of Art "Late Night" program on January 20th. The concerts will take place at 9:30 and 11:00pm on Friday the 20th in the European Galleries on Level 2. The performances are planned in conjunction with the DMA’s “Art and Nature in the Middle Ages” exhibit which will run through March. Admission is free for DMA Members and children 11 and under. Tickets are $15 for general admission, or $10 for students with ID. Tickets can be purchased online here. There will be other musical performances featured throughout the evening in other parts of the Museum, and there will be a screening of the 1985 movie "Ladyhawke" with Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer. It's an old favorite of mine but it starts at 10, so be sure to come see me at 9:30 if you're going to the movie! I was a little disappointed that I won't be able to see it, so I watched it the other night :D
When I stopped by the museum to do a walk-through, I was given the opportunity to choose between two spaces in which to perform. Unfortunately, in order to have a space large enough for seating I was unable to perform in the Medieval exhibit, but the acoustics of the Museum's galleries are wonderful so I anticipated a difficult decision. So we looked at the European Galleries on the second level. I chose the space I did because there already existed an invocation of Music on the wall.
The painting stuck with me when I got home, so I looked it up in the Museum's digital collection. If you click the image, you can listen to a 30ish minute talk by SMU's Endowed Chair of Art History, Dr. Amy Freund, about the painting. It's really interesting, and she mentions something I have always firmly believed: "The arts, music as well, are radical implements for change and civic involvement." She goes on to say "at this very crazy time period in French history," but I think that part is useless information. The first part of her statement is true at all times, and in all places.
You'll be able to find me in front of "The Harp Lesson" by Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust at 9:30pm and 11pm on January 20th, 2017. Come on out, and have a great time!
The playing is incredibly polished throughout, and the production by William Johnston (as well as his video of the duo's performance of the Schoenberg) is some of the best I have ever heard in a classical guitar recording. The album opens with three duets by Philip Houghton, which are followed by the "earliest" pieces on the record, the "Sechs kleine Klavierstücke" by Arnold Schoenberg, which have been masterfully arranged for two guitars by Calum. The duo worked with Frank Wallace on his Duo Sonata, and their performance of that work is wonderful. The Protase de Loin a Rein by Akira Miyoshi is probably my favorite piece on the album at the moment. The Bogdanovic Sonata Fantasia makes a great closing work, keeping the intensity up all the way to the very last note.
Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges performers face is the program: it is not simply a matter of playing one piece after the other. It is not enough to order a program, as so many do, with the earliest music at the front and the latest at the back. It is a matter of knowing which piece needs to be heard at what time in the context of the overall listening experience in order to create something greater than the sum of its pieces. It's about meeting the listener where they are and taking them down a very specific path. Crafting a program really is an art in itself, and Eyes to the Future's program hits that admittedly high mark.
The album artwork was created by Elizabeth Hilliard, and it makes the usual classical album cover art look just as lazy as it is. Ms. Hilliard's artwork augments and elevates the album experience. I really hope to see more classical musicians take their cover art seriously and commission artists like Ms. Hilliard to create something new and beautiful rather than sticking with the sterile formula of a public domain painting + "museum card" artwork. Like the guys of Derelict Hands, I'm a guy that's been spoiled by the undeniably great artwork of the non-classical albums I know and love, like King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King", Protest the Hero's "Fortress", Storm Corrosion's self-titled, etc., etc., etc. The artwork is always an integral part of the experience, so there is absolutely no excuse for the ugly, boring album covers we have seen out of the vast majority of classical musicians. This music is really exciting stuff; the artwork ought to be as well.
You can get your copy of "Eyes to the Future" at Derelict Hands' webstore in digital ($10) or physical formats ($15). I already got up on this soapbox a little bit, but you should definitely get the physical copy so you can enjoy the artwork along with the performance. So stop by Derelict Hands' site, get yourself a copy, and keep an eye on these guys!
I am excited to announce that I will be in attendance for the Lute Society of America's biennial Lute Festival! I have already purchased my airfare, I've made arrangements to stay with one of my cousins that lives in the area, and I will officially register for the festival in just a few weeks. This year's lute faculty consist of Robert Barto, Xavier Díaz-Latorre, Jakob Lindberg, Ronn McFarlane, Christopher Morrongiello, Nigel North, Paul O'Dette, and Charlie Weaver. There will also be two voice teachers, Ellen Hargis and Dame Emma Kirkby.
This will be my first time participating in an early music festival, and I can't wait to be there! Since I began studying the lute, I have only had access to a lute teacher on a handful of occasions. My first lute lesson ever was in November of 2014 with Hopkinson Smith (nothing like starting at the top, amirite?). Since then, I have studied with Michael Craddock when he is in town. But that works out to just one or two lute lessons a year. At this year's edition of the LSA Lute Fest, I will be immersed in the lute and early music culture. I will have opportunities to study with some of the finest early music specialists in the world, as well as the chance to meet other lutenists and early music enthusiasts from all over the US (and maybe even a few from outside the US!). I believe there will be daily concerts as well. Since I have been very active with the lute since my first instrument arrived, it seems crazy to note that there have been only two lute concerts in the DFW area since 2004 of which I am aware. Both of those concerts were given by Hopkinson Smith, and I was in the audience both times.
Aside from all of the festival activities, I will also get to meet my cousin's husband and son! I haven't seen her since before she got married, so it will be nice to have some time to catch up.
In order to ensure the safety of my instrument on the trip, I had to buy two seats. This way, the lute has its own seat. Otherwise, it would have been traveling in an overhead compartment (assuming there was enough room at boarding time) or stuck underneath the plane (i.e. the pit of despair). Having seen far too many instruments broken by airlines over the past several years, I decided that it was worth doubling my travel costs in order to know that the lute would be in safe (read: my) hands for the entire journey.
There are still a few things that need to be done in order to be ready for the festival. I still have to pay the festival tuition ($550) and I'll need to get a better case for my lute (~$500). If you would like to help me get to the festival, I will be accepting donations of any denomination through PayPal. I am hoping to schedule some lute and guitar recitals at several DFW venues in the lead up to the festival. Keep an eye out for updates on this blog and at my facebook page!
I was able to participate in three masterclasses over the course of the festival, and luckily my friend Eddie Healy was able to catch some pictures. So, here they are!
Thursday afternoon was the semifinal round. I played around 1:15p, and while it was certainly not a 'peak' performance, I was mostly happy with how I played. Later that evening, Jérémy Jouve (above) gave a masterclass in the Jonsson Performance Hall. I played the first movement of the Musikones suite by John W. Duarte, and Jérémy had some great suggestions for me. Unfortunately I had to miss his concert later on in the festival, but it was a pleasure to meet him and pick his brain a bit.
On Friday morning I had the opportunity to play in masterclass for Michael Craddock on my new Mel Wong 8-course. He is an early music specialist, and an accomplished player of lute, theorbo, vihuela, and renaissance guitar as well as the modern classical guitar. He's also a really fun guy with a good sense of humor. We worked on the Frogg Galliard as it is found in the Folger Manuscript. We got quite a bit of work done in the class, but the next day we had a private lute lesson together and spent the whole hour on the more nitty gritty stuff. Every time he comes into town, I try to schedule a lesson. Otherwise, I'm kinda on my own with the lute!
Later that afternoon I had a masterclass with Celino and Lito Romero. I played a guitar transcription of the Prelude from a lute sonata originally in D minor by S. L. Weiss. They were also a lot of fun to work with, and their advice helped to inspire a new 'vision' for the piece.
On Saturday there was a "Luthier Showcase" in which instruments by a variety of luthiers were played on the stage at the Clark Center. I was asked to play a brand new cedar/cedar doubletop built by good friend of mine, Aaron Ringo of Wood Ring Guitars. It was a pleasure to play on it. Like all of the other Wood Ring Guitars that I've played, the tone was beautiful and it felt very natural and comfortable in the hands. Its timbral palette was already quite wide, and it was nearly effortless to get the kind of nuance and variety of tone colors that I wanted. Needless to say, I was reluctant to put it down. It's a very fine instrument, and I believe it is currently up for sale on his website. If you're in the market for a concert guitar, you absolutely can't go wrong with this one.