Beloved or Overplayed?

St. Anne’s Reel, Big John McNeil, Orange Blossom Special… These are all fiddle tunes that have been played a million times, and because of that, fiddlers have a mixed relationship with them. As a matter of fact, in all styles of music, there are pieces or songs like this, such as Pachelbel’s Canon in classical music.

So, what is wrong with this music? Nothing! All of these pieces are great in their own rights. It is simply that they have been played so much that often musicians dread having to play them. Ask a Celtic band about playing the “Unicorn Song” or “Barrett’s Privateer’s” when talking to them in private, and you will likely get a groan!

The thing is that for the people in the audience, these are pieces that they love and know, and want to hear again. There is something about the familiar that we all enjoy. For the musician on stage, this is yet another time to be playing these tunes. I have gone through the dread of having to play St. Anne’s Reel one more time. Having said that, I always played it when requested.

Several years ago I put together a medley of tunes including the Orange Blossom Speical, Big John McNeil, St. Anne’s Reel and Devil’s Dream. It was kind of a joke in a way so that I could play all of them at once and get it out the way. However, since then I have had a change of heart. Now I play the music for the audience, and I enjoy their love of these pieces. This set of tunes has since become one of my favourites. Why? The audience always responds so well, and I started taking joy in their delight. Also, these are actually great tunes! It has been nice to start enjoying them again!

Often I hear other musicians complain about certain songs or tunes, and some even refuse to learn or perform some of these common tunes. I think that it is too bad. In the end, we musicians are nothing without an audience. We could sit at home and play music for ourselves, but that is not where the joy in music is… The joy is in sharing it with other people. I believe that musicians should try to make their audiences happy. For me it is always a balance of playing music that my audience has heard and will enjoy as well as introducing them to new pieces that I have discovered. I think that is the role of a musician!

So, should you come to one of my shows, please feel free to request any fiddle tune you like. I will no doubt do my best to play it if possible!


The Mystery of Social Media

Tweet, update, blog, pin… As with many people now, these are all activities that occupy a part of my time, generally every day. I am involved in social media, and have been for several years now, but still find it to be a bit of a mystery!

For me, all of this activity is part pleasure, and part business. I love being a voyeur and seeing what some of my high school friends are up to now on Facebook. These are people that I never would have kept in touch with had we needed to write letters, e-mail, or make phone calls. But, still, even though I love it, I don’t totally understand. I also find it interesting connect with new people that I have never met!

I am currently taking a course with Cari Cole on how to fast forward my career, and one of the many things we have talked about is social media, being active on it, and reaching lots of people. I just never know what posts/pins/blogs are going to generate interest. I try to put up things about music, about life, about people who inspire me, things that I think are funny, and I can never tell what will hit a nerve. Many of the posts that I think are really interesting seem to be completely ignored, although the fact that nobody has retweeted, liked, commented or repined does not mean that it has not been read…

Yesterday is a perfect example. I had baked cookies for my string students at LHHS, but school was cancelled, so I did not see them. I posted on Facebook that I was going to get to stay home and eat all of my cookies. For a lark, I took a picture with my iPhone and posted it to Facebook… Well, that post got a lot of interest! Part of the reason is that they were ginger molasses cookies made with Quinoa flour, and also, I guess just the fact that we all like cookies…

So, I guess, for me, I will just keep putting things out there into the world and watch with interest what garners attention.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and you have already visited my blog!

Ginger-Molasses Cookies
[adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood]

Ginger Molassas Cookies1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tlb ground flax meal blended with 3 Tlb water
1/4 cup molasses

Cream applesauce and brown sugar in a large bowl. Beat in blended flax meal and molasses, set aside.

2 cups quinoa flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 white sugar

Mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Add butter mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms.

Roll the dough into small balls. Place white sugar in a shallow dish and coat the balls of dough with sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes at 350F. The bottoms of the cookies should be lightly browned.

Love the one you’re with…

“Which style of music do you like playing the most?” This is a very common question, and one that I dread! I am never able to answer the question the way that people would like… with a simple answer. Nothing in life is ever simple!

Kissing FrogsI was thinking about this the other day and remembered the song lyrics “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you are with…” Well, it is a little like that with music, except that I love them all, I just love the one I am with at that time the most… at least for the moment…

My various styles of music include classical, baroque and Celtic… All three have their own appeal to me! Celtic music, or fiddle music in general, has a lot of freedom to it. I learn a lot of music from sheet music (due to my classical training), but that sheet music is only a guideline. It is the skeleton of the music, but it is up to you to flesh it out with your own arrangement and your own ornaments. I love playing in a Celtic band where I get to make up all of my back-up fiddle parts. All improve, all the time. It was terrifying at first, but I enjoy the freedom and creativity of it now.

The main thing I love about classical music is playing with other people, either in a small ensemble like a string quartet, or in a larger ensemble like a symphony orchestra. I remember the first day that I played in an orchestra… Well, I think the word play is not really appropriate as I just sat that and took it all in for most of the rehearsal. It is truly amazing to sit in the middle of that much sound and to know that you are adding to it! It is amazing the way that all of the pieces fit together to make one glorious sound! I especially love playing harmony parts in both chamber groups and orchestras. I love being a part of what makes it more that a simple (or sometimes not so simple) melody.

Baroque music is an interesting mix of the two. Last summer I was talking to a friend who told me that he had studied classical guitar at Peabody and found the music too regimented so he decided that he was either going to go into jazz or Baroque music. On the surface, this sounds crazy, but theses two styles are related in that (like fiddle music) the sheet music is a guideline and you can really make it your own with your own ornaments and improvisations. I love the chamber music aspect to Baroque music as well.

So, I know that it is a cop-out, but I really don’t prefer one style. Every now and then I think that I do, until the next time that I play a different style, at which point I think “Oh yeah, that is why I love this style of music!” It is all fun for a different reason, so I will continue to “Love the one I am with…”

[Kissing Frogs image usage graciously provided by]