Monday, October 24, 2016

I Manage Music for Weddings

Since 1986, I have been working with a variety of musicians including solo/strolling violinists, harpists and singers; trios and quartets; chamber ensembles; rock and blues bands; and DJs.

I'm happy to answer any question you might have about planning music for your special day including ceremony music, cocktail hour, dinner music, reception/dance, soiree music as well as music for the various transitions in an event.

FWIW, I am located in Western Massachusetts, near Amherst College. Most of the weddings I work with are in New England, specifically Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut, although I have managed music for weddings in Maine and New York state.

To learn about the musicians and ensembles I can provide, as well as ask me any questions, feel free to call 413-224-8600 any time or use the contact box on the sidebar!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I buy mandolins! Any condition.

I buy mandolins, mandolas and mandocellos.

If you or someone you know has an old (or new) mandolin kicking around the place that nobody wants, send me some pictures of the front, sides and back, details of the scroll, endpin and any damage.  If you know the provenance of the instrument (where it was made, the brand, serial number), include that information.  If you don't know anything about it, that's fine also.

Why do I buy mandolins?

I am the founder and director of the Springfield Mandolin Orchestra, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit dedicated to providing educational performances and events throughout the Metro Springfield area.  I offer a program for beginners called "Play to Own", where people that would like to join the orchestra may borrow a mandolin, mandola or mandocello, and come to rehearsals and mandolin lessons.  At the end of the year if they are still playing, they may purchase it at my cost!  Learn about the orchestra here: http://mandolinorchestra.org 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Learning to play the mandolin is fun and profitable!

The mandolin is one of the most accessible instruments to learn.  Because of the frets, all of the notes are laid out for the player visually, making it super easy to know where to put your fingers.  The instrument is very light, so it is suitable for even the smallest of adults or teenagers.  Because it's tuned in fifths, it is easy to learn scales, arpeggios, and chords - the building blocks of all music!

You should learn to play the mandolin today!  To find out how visit my website:


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Folk Song and Music in Québec: A Brief Introduction

by Stephen D. Winick, Ph.D.

On his first trip to the New World, in 1534, explorer Jacques Cartier found a rich land inhabited by Huron and Iroquois Indians. He promptly claimed it for France. Cartier gave the name “Canada” (from an Iroquois word for “town”) to the area around the Iroquois village of Stadacona, on the banks of the St. Lawrence river. In 1608, the first permanent French colonists established Québec city in the same location, bringing their songs and music with them.

Early immigrants to Québec came from all over France, but especially from several provinces in the north and west: Normandy, Picardy, Anjou, Poitou, and Brittany. Not surprisingly, many of the traditional French songs we now find in Québec are common in those provinces as well. “Dans les prisons de Nantes,” for example, is set in Nantes, an important city that was historically the capital of Brittany. Located at the confluence of the Loire, the Sevre, and the Erdre, Nantes might be remembered fondly by French-Canadians as a model for their own important town of Trois-Rivières. The song is a fine example of an old French ballad, and was probably among the earliest French songs brought to the New World. 

During the later seventeenth century, a few hardy Frenchmen in Québec established themselves ascoureurs de bois, or “wood-runners.”  These unlicensed fur-traders traveled west of the Ottawa River into the country around Lake Superior, in search of beaver pelts.  The pelts were used to make felt for fashionable hats in Europe, especially England, and they were the hottest commodity in North America.  Within twenty years, the French authorities, seeking both to limit the trade and to get a piece of the action, introduced a system of licenses, or congés, that resulted in licensed traders, known as voyageurs

Voyageurs were crucial to the survival and development of folk song in Québec, for several reasons. First, they spent months in small groups traveling over rough country; in such a community, a good repertoire of songs could be the difference between a valued companion and a tedious bore. Thus, the voyageur life encouraged men to learn and sing songs. Second, voyageurs spent the greatest part of their time paddling great canoes along rivers, or carrying cargo on their backs during portages. Singing became their method of keeping their paddling coordinated and their marching steady, and they adapted all manner of traditional songs into work songs. We owe much of our knowledge of this early Québécois music to a number of collectors, none more important than the pioneering folklorist Marius Barbeau, who collected over 13,000 songs from oral tradition.

Many Québécois folk songs are done in call-and-response style, mirroring the tradition of western France. This tendency was reinforced by the voyageurs. Call-and-response allows a group to sing a song as long as one member knows it, which greatly increases the number of songs that can be sung en masse. Call-and-response also allows each singer time to rest and breathe while the others are singing, which is important when you are paddling a canoe at 40 to 60 strokes a minute! On this recording, “Le moulignier amoureux,” “Canot d’écorce,” “Auprès de ma blonde,” “C’est la belle Françoise” and some of the songs in the “Chasse-Galerie” medley all follow this call-and-response pattern.

In nineteenth-century Québec, Christmas Day was primarily a religious holiday.  Raucous parties were reserved for New Year’s, as revealed in our songs “Oublions l’an passé” and “Le réveillon du jour de l’an.”  One of the favorite styles of party songs among both French and Québécois singers is the cumulative counting song; as in the English-language song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” these ditties are primarily concerned with counting gifts or blessings. “Les Parties de Gregoire,” which comes from the repertoire of Jean-Paul Guimond, counts the dishes at a sumptuous New Year’s feast. 

Traditionally, Québécois folk songs were sung unaccompanied, either solo or in unison. We have added vocal harmonies and instrumental accompaniment, borrowing elements from later Québécois performance style.
The instruments most appropriate to our period are the fiddle, bones, and…feet! Bones—known as os in French—are usually the rib-bones of an animal, held two (or more) in each hand, and shaken or rolled so that they click together rhythmically. Violins, along with bagpipes and hurdy-gurdies, were among the most popular instruments for dance music in France during the period of Québécois settlement. Bagpipes and hurdy-gurdies did not travel to the New World, so the fiddle predominated. In the absence of instruments, people sometimes made music by singing nonsense syllables, a vocal technique known as turlutter.
A well-known, indeed, defining feature of Québécois folk music is a persistent galloping rhythm tapped out with the feet. In the past, a fiddler or singer would simply tap his feet to provide percussion. Nowadays, many bands equip a musician with a special board to amplify the sound of what has come to be called podorythmie.

The button accordion, invented in 1829, became popular in Québec only at the end of the 19th century. In the same period, harmonicas, pump-organs, and eventually pianos came to be used in Québec. Guitars—especially four-course and five-course baroque guitars—have been known in Québec since the 17th century. However, the six-string guitar did not emerge until at least the 18th century, and its use in traditional Québécois folk music is a 20th-century development.

Unlike Québec’s song tradition, Québec instrumental tunes have as much in common with Irish, Scottish and English dance tunes as with French ones.  Jigs and reels abound in Québec, owing to the influence of British and Irish neighbors.  Meanwhile, one only occasionally hears tunes of French origin.

What you’ll hear on Le temps des Fêtes, then, is a selection of ancienne musique and nouvelle musique Québécoise, blending old French traditions, British and Irish influences, and New World ingenuity with modern flair.

November 24, 2010

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mandolin Group Concerts & Class Information

There are several mandolin group concerts coming up.  These concerts are free to all!  Donations are gladly accepted.

The concert dates are as follows:


  1. October 1, 2016 - Soldier's Home in Holyoke, MA.  2pm-3pm
  2. October 8, 2016 - Porter Phelps-Huntington Museum, Hadley, MA. 2-3pm
  3. November 12, 2016 - The Arbors - Amherst, MA 2-3pm
  4. February 12, 2016 - The Loomis Community - South Hadley, MA 2-3pm
If you would like to participate in the Mandolin Group, classes meet currently Monday nights from 7-9pm in South Hadley, MA.  PM Adam Sweet for an address if you would like to attend.

Each class meets for two hours.  Sheet music, books and other study materials are provided by the instructor. The class is open to any and all levels of mandolin, mandola, mandocello and mandobass, regardless of experience.  

The cost of the class is only $125 a month!  If you buy 12 classes in advance, you may take 10% off the total cost, a $150 value.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Musical Legacy of the Acadian People

Music and song have always been an important part of Acadian culture. The Acadians brought hundreds of old French songs, many of which were originally accompanied by dances, to each region of the Maritime provinces in which they settled from 1538 - 1758.

Acadia (French: Acadie) was a colony of New France in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day Maine to the Kennebec River. During much of the 17th and early 18th centuries, Norridgewock on the Kennebec River and Castine at the end of the Penobscot River were the southern-most settlements of Acadia. The actual specification by the French government for the territory refers to lands bordering the Atlantic coast, roughly between the 40th and 46th parallels. Later, the territory was divided into the British colonies which became Canadian provinces and American states. The population of Acadia included members of the Wabanaki Confederacy and descendants of emigrants from France (i.e., Acadians). The two communities inter-married, which resulted in a significant portion of the population of Acadia being Métis.

The first capital of Acadia, established in 1605, was Port-Royal. A British force from Virginia attacked and burned down the town in 1613 but it was later rebuilt nearby, where it remained the longest serving capital of French Acadia until the British Siege of Port Royal in 1710. Over seventy-four years there were six colonial wars, in which English and later British interests tried to capture Acadia starting with King William's War in 1689. During these wars, along with some French troops from Quebec, some Acadians, the Wabanaki Confederacy, and French priests continuously raided New England settlements along the border in Maine. While Acadia was officially conquered in 1710 during Queen Anne's War, present-day New Brunswick and much of Maine remained contested territory. Present-day Prince Edward Island (Île Saint-Jean) and Cape Breton (Île Royale) as agreed under Article XIII of the Treaty of Utrecht remained under French control. By militarily defeating the Wabanaki Confederacy and the French priests, present-day Maine fell during Father Rale's War. During King George's War, France and New France made significant attempts to regain mainland Nova Scotia. After Father Le Loutre's War, present-day New Brunswick fell to the British. Finally, during the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War), both Île Royale and Île Saint-Jean fell to the British in 1758.

Thanks to data gathered by the French linguist Geneviève Massignon and later by Canadian researchers at Université Laval, Université de Moncton and the National Museums of Canada we know that traditional Acadian music includes over 1,000 different songs (see Acadian Folklore Studies). This musical heritage has provided and continues to provide endless material for musicians and composers.

Until the end of the 19th century, the Acadians lived in isolated groups and had little contact with the outside world. This isolation helped to preserve the traditions of their ancestors: their way of speaking (which is a variant from the Poitou region in France), their cuisine, their celebrations and their oral traditions. Since the Acadians’ arrival on the North American continent in the 17th century, they have passed down songs, stories and legends from generation to generation.

Traditional French (folk) Music

I'm going to present a little background into the traditional music of the French from the period that settled Acadia (1538-1758).  It's not clear from what I've read whether the settlers of Acadia during that time were sophisticated enough to bring with them the High Baroque music of the courts, however we do know enough about the traditional or folk musical instruments of the time to make an educated guess about what that music might have sounded like, and how it influenced the music of that part of Canada today.

High Baroque / Court Music

The Air de cour was a popular type of secular vocal music in France in the late Renaissance and early Baroque period, from about 1570 until around 1650. From approximately 1610 to 1635, during the reign of Louis XIII, this was the predominant form of secular vocal composition in France, especially in the royal court.


Béarn

Traditional instruments from Béarn include the tambour de Béarn, a six-string drum used as a rhythm drone instrument to accompany the three-holed recorder.


Gascony

Gascon small pipes, called boha (bouhe), are a well-known part of the local scene. They have a rectangular chanter and drone combination, which is unique to Gascony, and are made out of sheepskin with the fleece showing.


Languedoc 

Languedoc is home to several unusual instruments, including the bodega, a kind of bagpipe, and the aboès and graille, both kinds of oboes. The bodega is made out of goatskin, using an unusual process in which the innards of the animal are removed through the neck so that the entire, unbroken skin can be used for the instrument. It has only one large shoulder drone. The bodega is known from at least the 14th century. 


Limousin

Limousin is known for its violin music, as well as the chabrette bagpipe.

Provence & Alps

The most iconic form of Provençal folk music is a duo of fife and drum, or ensembles of galoubets-tambourins; the most prominent characteristic of the region's folk music, however, is the Italian musical influence.Provence & Alps


Roussillon

The southwestern region of Roussillon's music is shaped by its unique ethnicities, and includes forms of Catalan and Gypsy music. The former includes the sardana and is based around the city of Perpignan. The sardana is played by a band (coble) consisting of three kinds of oboes, flutes and other instrument, including shawms and bagpipes among some recent revivalists.


Brittany

Brittany retains its own unbroken piping traditions as well as mainstay instruments such as the bombard.  There are two types of bagpipes indigenous to Brittany. The veuze is very similar to other western European bagpipes such as the Gaita from Galicia and Asturies, while the biniou kozh (old biniou in Breton) is much smaller and is used to accompany the bombarde. The biniou, which plays exactly one octave above the bombarde, and bombarde duo (soner ar couple) are an integral and common part of Breton folk music, and was used historically for dance music. The two performers play alternate lines that intersect at the end, in a similar manner to the Kan ha Diskan style of singing; the bombarde does not usually play every line of the tune, however, usually instead playing every other line, or three out of four lines in a dance tune.


Corsica

Outside France the island of Corsica is perhaps best known musically for its polyphonic choral tradition.  There are two dances of ancient origin found in Corsica: the caracolu, a women's funeral dance, and the moresca, illustrating the struggle between Moors and Christians.  The cetera, a cittern of 4 to 8 double strings that is of Tuscan origin and dates back to the Renaissance, is the most iconic Corsican traditional instrument.  Other Corsican instruments include:

  • Caramusa - a bagpipe made of wood, leather and reed
  • Cialamedda (also cialamella/cialambella) - formerly a reed instrument, more recently with a wooden box body
  • Mandulina - a mandolin
  • Pirula - a reed recorder
  • Pifana (also pivana) - a type of gemshorn generally made from a goat horn
  • Riberbula - related to the jaw harp
  • Sunaglieri - mule bells
  • Timpanu - a triangle
  • Urganettu - a diatonic accordion






Monday, July 11, 2016

Buy a 12 pack of Fiddle Lessons, and take 10% off!

If you sign up for 12 fiddle lessons, you can take 10% off the total!  That's $78!!

Fiddle lessons are available Fridays and Sundays at Downtown Sounds in Northampton, online using Skype or Hangouts, and may be available at your location.

Use the contact form on the side bar to connect, or call 413-224-8600 any time