Flute, Guitar and Mandolin Newsletter

Welcome again to the infrequently funny, hardly humorous and rarely entertaining self serving Flute, Guitar, Mandolin and other instruments Newsletter.

This is our Fifth newsletter. We are all celebrating again here by having an extra piece of summer watermelon. It's been very hot here so far for this time of year, which I find delightful. People around here will often say "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Well, I love the humidity. Every once in a while I hear someone complaining about the heat and I have to confess I don't know what they are talking about. It has been in the nineties for weeks, anything below makes me feel a bit chilled. I rode 51 miles (82 K sounds much more impressive) yesterday. I saw a deer on the bike path. The deer was young so I really couldn't tell if it was a he or she, but it was just beautiful. What a lovely site. I love this weather. So then I was wondering if Florida might be a good place to live. Anyone out there with any comments is welcome to send them. I did visit South Carolina and it didn't do it for me. I was glad to get back to NY. Of course it's warm now.

Last winter was awful. One reason was that on October 31 I crashed on my bike, broke my collarbone which I hardly noticed and six ribs which I noticed for 6 months and beyond. The worst part of it though was the concussion I suffered. I was wearing a helmet but the crash was so bad that I was knocked out for a period of time. The bad part was something I had no idea about called "Post Concussion Syndrome." You can look it up on the web, but the overwhelming part of this for me was depression like I have never experienced. I never understood depression as I did when I had this. I just wanted to die. It took a very long time to get over this. And when I could walk, I had to think about balancing. The point of this is not to have your sympathy as it is long over and I am feeling fine and very strong on the bike. The point is to tell you that if you ever ride a bike wear your helmet. If you don't have one, buy one. It's the best advice I can give anyone that exercises. I would be dead if it weren't for the helmet. I had great support from my friends including Jessica, and Andrew Gordon of ADG productions called me often to see how I was. The good news for me is that I didn't do any damage to my hands and that I seem to be over it pretty much now. Yoga and riding have helped a lot.

Anyway, on to what is happening. We have a number of new books out, and more on the way. Here is what is new.

1. Music for Native American Flute by Jessica Walsh. As you may know the Native American flute is different than the transverse flute, but they are inexpensive and it's a great volume of music and a great way to have an introduction into the instrument. Of course like all the books it comes with a CD of the pieces, but this is a little different as it is done for solo flute. It has a haunting sound and I would recommend it to any flute player. You can get it from the publisher ADG Productions, or you can get it directly from Jessica and I'm sure she would be happy to autograph it for you if you wanted. You can reach Jessica at flutemusic@earthlink.net

2. You may be interested to know that "Celtic Music for Flute" is the most popular book ADG has published. They sell more of this book than they do of any of their editions. So it is a natural that they asked Jessica to do a second volume. It's now available, "Celtic Music for Flute Volume II." This one has something that may appeal to players and that is that on the CD the parts are separated into different channels, so you can either listen to it as a CD, or turn down the flute and just play along with me as I'm doing the guitar parts. It's a great volume of music.

3. Early Dance Music for Mandolin - The mandolin books have been wildly popular, and "Early Dance Music for Mandolin" continues the tradition of offering unique addictive pieces for mandolin that are currently not available. In this book there are many pieces from the Playford collection. The books have been a real boon to people who are involved in SCA and early music. This volume continues this tradition with much early music and fun dances. The CD is for listening and like many of the new CDs the mandolin track can be turned down so you can play along with the CD and just have the guitar accompaniment. Available the link below


4. "Christmas Music for Mandolin" available. This is a great collection of 21 Chirstmas pieces. Most pieces have introductions and variations, and from looking around, there is nothing even remotely like available. If you play the mandolin, I think this would be a must have. You can get either new book from me and I can ship two of them for the same amount as I can ship one, so that saves money. You can see all the books that are currently available at the link below.


You can see all of our books at the following link:


Soon to come out:

Music of the British Isles for Guitar - The book is done and I am just waiting for ADG to go to press with it. It's an exciting edition for me, and I will let you know when it's out.

Bike paths continue to be fascinating to me. Here they re-paved many of them last year and now they are really a pleasure to ride on. They are perfectly smooth and go on for miles and miles. I have over 40 miles of path close to me. I am so happy when I am either riding my bike or playing music.

I had the opportunity to get together with someone that plays the mandolin. This is the first time since I recorded "Celtic Music for Mandolin" with Angelina that I have played with anyone. Aleksandra has a different style but we really connected on the music. It was so much fun and I'm really looking forward to doing more of this. When I do the CDs for the mandolin books, I use technology to lay down separate tracks for both the mandolin and the guitar. Not that same as playing live.

So here is something interested that I read. I have never been much of a drinker. Beer is the only thing I drink which is alcohol. I tend to like dark imported beer. What I don't like is that sometimes if I have it I will get a buzz, that is fine but it gets in way of my playing. So I have never really had very much of it because I pick up an instrument all the time and it just is in the way. But lately I have been reading more and more about the health benefits of alcohol. That it's much better to drink a few times a week than not to drink. Not too much of course, but two or three beers a week is better than not drinking, presuming you are not an alcoholic of course. I can't even do that. But I'm sure you have read many articles about wine, but from newer studies I have seen, it's not just wine. It's alcohol dark beer in particular, but also other alcohol. I think it would be very interesting to know if this has anything to do with relaxation, or just the general ingestion of it and what it does for health. Beer certainly has a history particularly in Renaissance Europe which is always an interest to me as I play the lute. Anyway, I think it's just an interesting side note as any health news is of interest to me. Which also reminds me that if there are any of you that like me live in a climate where there is winter, check out hatha yoga. You can do it with a book, and it's a great form of exercise, and you can do it inside and I don't find it nearly as boring as riding an exercycle.

Oh, that reminds me. Here is something fantastic. If you have too much stuff, or would like to get rid of stuff and you live in the US, there is a group you can join on Yahoo which has local chapters, which is what you really join. It's a mail list and if you understand a mail list, you get all the mail from the group, and can write to the group. What people do is to list things that they want to get rid of, or they also list things that they would like to have. So the subject of an e-mail might look like this:

OFFER: Turntable and 200 classical LP albums.

The message part just tells the people where the item is. I listed my turntable and LP records as I never use them and frankly I feel as if I have way too much stuff. So I'm getting rid of things, and it's a joy because I hate throwing things away that are still perfectly good that I don't want. I'm also amazed by the things people ask for and apparently receive. I have not asked for anything yet, but I suppose it could happen. But if you have things you really can't sell that are perfectly good, put them on FREECYCLE and someone will just come and pick them up. What a great service.

OK, finally now for something entertaining. "Musings on Bach" by our correspondent in Victoria BC, Wendy.

Johann - I'll Take Out Your Garbage

Sometimes we are so set in our ways. Sometimes we get hit by lightning when we least expect it. Sometimes, you just never know.

I am an intermittent flute player. By that I mean for years I was a brass player who finally couldn't resist the call of the silver stick. I bought a flute at a pawn shop three decades ago and played it for a few years before giving up all musical instruments to work and raise a family because having a relationship with a musical instrument is just that – and it can be demanding and time- consuming and hard work. But all through the years, every time I walked past the flute on the top shelf in the back room, it would say, "I'm here. Waiting. Ready when you are."

So last summer, I got it out and got reacquainted with it. I'd forgotten how pleasant it is to make music, how rewarding it is to work through something difficult until you get it right. How great it sounds! How much fun it is to play with other musicians. I was apprehensive that now that I was older, I wouldn't be able to make the motor skills work properly. But to my surprise, I found that within a few months I had surpassed the skill level I had attained during the first few years of university, when I had cast off the poor flute like some outgrown sweater.

I didn't play flute long enough to become really well versed in the repertoire. I have listened to a lot of music though, and one thing I knew for sure. I did not like Bach. I have never heard anything by Bach that I liked.

I love Handel – wise, thinking Handel with his ability to paint moods with music. And impetuous, yet insecure Mozart, with his precocious and zestful melodies. Even moody but romantic Beethoven. I would gladly play anything by any of them, but if I came across a Bach piece, I just skipped over it to whatever came next. I listen to a lot of music, but I had never bought a Bach cd or album. Ho hum. One piece sounds pretty much like the next. Heard one, you've heard ‘em all.

What else did I not like about Bach? Bach to me, was the brussel sprout of the music repertoire - probably good for you but not very tasty. His music was like a lot of the master classes I've attended. A lot of technical proficiency, speed and acrobatics, but not much music. No emotion, no soul. Just even tempo'ed speedy phrases with almost mathematical precision. No thanks! Not my thing.

This whole bias of mine was merely underscored when the flute choir that I play with studied one of the Brandenburg concertos this past winter. Faster and faster it got as we worked it up. When you finally reached the end, you just kind of fell over, exhausted. "We made it – whew!" You never paused in the middle of it and said to youself, "Ahhh. Now that's nice – that's music." Instead, you asked yourself, "Do I have the technical prowess to get through this?" It was a bit like hurtling down a hill out of control when you are downhill skiing: you are sure moving fast, but god forbid you should hit a wrong note because if you do, you are in for a face plant.

But then, I got hit by lightning. I have a wonderful teacher and during my lesson last week, he said he had something he wanted me to hear. Something he thought I might like to work on. He had just received some old 78 records that he'd bought from somewhere in Europe. He was excited to have received these as they contained recordings by Scheck, a flautist he had never heard before. He got everything set up, dropped the needle on this scratchy old recording of the Partita in A minor for unaccompanied flute. And I will never be the same!

He went on to play another recording of the Partita for me, this one on an LP and by Rampal. It was like night to Sheck's day but by then, it was just the icing on the cake, as I'd already been dumbstruck by the first recording.

Suddenly, I could see through all those mechanical sixteenth notes. See through the math and into the music. The brilliance of the composition – the phrases, how sweet and lyrical they are. And unaccompanied – so pure and simple, yet so direct and powerful. Oh wow, I suddenly got it! Bach is so superb, how could I not have seen this? Had I had cotton in my ears all those years?

I went home and got out all the other Bach stuff I have and tried these pieces on for size. It never sounded like this before, why is that? It's all wonderful, I have so much more to work on, to learn. How could I have missed this?

Oh Johann, I am so sorry! Please, forgive me.

I did a little quick research on this man whom I had maligned for so long. Turns out he was a jovial guy, lots of fun at parties. Married his musical cousin Maria as that was an acceptable practice in those days. She died and he remarried. He had 13 children, and of those who survived childhood, many were very musical too. It must have been very rewarding to him to have a houseful of musical progeny. What a lot of fun they all must have had!

Ah, the beautiful Partita! My friend Allan often wonders what these composers felt the next morning after they had written one of these pieces; music that would be part of a global heritage for centuries to come. Did they wake up all drained and vibrating from the magnitude of their creative effort? Or did Maria just say, "J.S., dear, could you please take out the garbage?"

If he was around today, I'd swing by and volunteer to take out his garbage.

It's the least I could do.

Sometimes, you just never know.

Thank you so much Wendy for adding something readable to the newsletter.

Thus ends the infrequently funny, hardly humorous and rarely entertaining self serving Flute, Guitar, Mandolin and other instruments Newsletter.