I Truly Understand…

new banjo

Wood is an incredible substance. And I’ve seen some truly incredible wood in the past weeks: thirty kilometres of charred aspen and black spruce up along the Yukon River, a seven hundred year old cedar just down the road from my house in British Columbia, and a hunk of walnut shaped into a banjo that arrived in my mailbox.

This fretless banjo was hand crafted in Watauga County, North Carolina by John Peterson, and it feels like a great privilege to make it sound. When I initially picked it up and tuned the strings, the very first tune that I plucked out was “I Truly Understand.” Now, I haven’t heard that song in years, let alone played it, so the magic of the moment seemed to be predicting a pretty good future for me and this banjo. My practice regimen is just beginning, so don’t expect to see this beauty out on the stage until next year, at best. 

You will, however, see me out on the stage this fall over on Vancouver Island and in the lower Mainland – check out the Events page for all the details.

And I’ve been working on a new album this summer, so expect to hear some new tunes out there and prepare yourself to put those new tunes into your hi-fi system in the near future. Until then, I’ll be shedding my banjo licks… 

These are the days, my friends, and these are the days, my friends…

The full stride days of summer upon us. Tomatoes fruiting, raspberries ripened. The festivals of the past couple months have filled me up with music and friends and dance-flattened grass under my blanket. And I’ve been working on a new album, too – a whole new set of songs, and a whole new new set of songs on top of that. It’s been a pretty awesome summer, so far.

For the next few weeks, though, I’m headed up north to visit some folks and find a quiet place or two. But in the meantime I’d like to share with you a piece I wrote earlier this year that was performed by the Erato Ensemble this summer. The way the piece addresses my fear that we won’t know what we’re doing to this world until it’s too late seemed to strike a chord with at least a few people (you can check out a review of the piece here). And the Erato Ensemble gave it a really fabulous performance. Check it out for yourself:

Life and Folks and Folklife

It’s officially summertime now that the first music festival of the season has come and gone. Memorial Day weekend in Seattle is always a good time, and this year was an extra good time because I spent it at Northwest Folklife. There was a light drizzle in the air, but that didn’t stop anyone from dancing to great tunes, running through giant fountains, or eating elephant ears. And I was lucky enough to play a set for a real lovely audience – quiet and captivated and fantastic to chat with both during and after the set. I think it’s going to be a great summer. Here’s a little taste of what Northwest Folklife was all about:

This Is What Happened

Spring might just be my favourite season because it seems like so much is happening. Cherry blossoms erupting out my window, seeds sprouting on the sill, and hummingbirds whipping around the yard. There’s not a dull moment around here.

It’s been awful busy musically as well. I had a great trip out to the Rockies and was so pleased to perform for the very first time in several fine Albertan cities. Liked it so much, I’m already fixing to go back. Vancouver also saw the premiere of a brand new piece that’s part of a larger project of songs using Depression-era oral history as lyrics. The Erato Ensemble gave a great performance, and I’m pleased to share video evidence with you all.

I’m super excited to be working with the Erato Ensemble again this spring on a project of remixes of early music. I’ve taken an aria from an old Handel opera, asked Vancouver poet Kevin Spenst to rewrite the words, and rewritten the piece for two singers, two strings players, four woodwinds, electric guitar, and grand piano with a cast iron skillet placed inside. Should be awesome. Check out the Events page to find out how you can be there.

 

Chevrolet Setting

airport
“There’s no Riviera in Festus, Missouri; and you won’t find Onassis in Mullinville, Kansas.”

Nor are you likely to find the Great Wall of China in Tacoma, Washington, but you will find me there this month. Same goes for Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer. It’ll be a combination of jet setting and Chevrolet setting over the next couple weeks, and I’m awful excited to see folks all over the western half of the continent.

All the miles (or kilometers) are for good reasons, of course. First, I’ll be heading south to attend the US premiere of my piece “Stars: Childhood” sung by the Dorian Singers. Then, I’ll be heading east to get lost in the Folkways archives and serenade Albertans of various sorts. And finally, I’ll head home to hear the Erato Ensemble give the world premiere of my new piece “This is What Happened.” There’s a heckuva lot of noise to be made; be sure to check out the Events page to find out just exactly where I’ll be scratchin’ gravel next…

I’m also pretty excited to share a recording from the world premiere performance of “Beautiful Dreamers” that occurred earlier this year. Take a listen to Marina Hasselberg on the cello and myself on the laptop:

Lucky ’14

I got a feeling about this new year.  I won’t break out all the complicated numerology — sevens and fives and fours, oh my — but I think it just might be a good one.  There’s a lot to look forward to already…

In January, Marina Hasselberg will give the world premiere performance of a brand new piece for solo cello and live electronics at the Western Front in Vancouver.  It’ll be part of the Further Electroacoustic Festival put on by Vancouver Pro Musica, and you can find out the details on the Events page.

Later this spring I’ll be heading out to Alberta.  I feel awful lucky to have received a grant to go explore the Folkways archive housed at the University of Alberta, and I can’t wait to spend some time listening to some old folk records.  I’ll be performing a few shows while I’m in the province, and you can get all the latest tour info on the Events page.

And on the 14th day of this fine year of 14, Rod Matheson posted this video, part of his Everyday Music Project, that he captured from last month’s performance at the Prophouse in Vancouver.  Check out all the great lamps…

Merry and bright…

Prophouse
Wow, playing at the Prophouse is like taking a step into a different era.  But it has been an immense honour to take part in the Takin’ Turns songwriter circle a couple times this season, helping to raise more than a thousand dollars for the Crisis Centre for Suicide Prevention.  Give Chris Ronald and Glenn Chatten a big pat on the back next time you see ’em; they worked awful hard putting this thing together.

It is getting to be that darkest time of year.  But I’ve chopped down a gangly Sitka spruce which is sitting in my living room, and that’s adding a few more colored lights to the mix.  And there are lots of exciting musical happenings in the new year to look forward to, too.

I’ll be hitting up a few folk clubs throughout British Columbia in 2014, so dust off your autoharp.  Stay tuned to the EVENTS page for the latest tour updates.

I’m also thrilled that Marina Hasselberg will be premiering my new piece entitled “Beautilful Dreamers” at the Western Front in Vancouver this January.  She’ll be sawing the cello; I’ll be holding down the laptop.  And, a little further down the road, the Dorian Singers will be giving the US premiere of my piece “Stars: Childhood,” featuring the poetry of Maleea Acker, this March in Tacoma.   Just head to the EVENTS page for all the details.

Wintering…

Well, this fall had no shortage of great music being made.  A lovely trip over to Vancouver Island, a short jaunt down to the States, and jams galore.  But, the hills are getting covered with more and more fresh snow by the day.  I’ve put in my time stacking firewood, and it’s time to hunker down for a while.

I’ve got lots of plans for the new year including performances at home and on the road (and a couple world premiere performances of music I’ve written for other folks), so be sure to stay tuned.  But in the meantime, I’d like to share an old-time/new-time project I’ve been working on with the great Buffalonian banjo player Chris Gainey; our take on a real old classic:

When autumn leaves start to fall…

Golden trees and cold, crisp air; doesn’t get much better than that.  A recent move out of the city to a smallish town just north of Vancouver has added fresh bear scat in the yard, snow covered peaks, and the smell of spawned salmon to this fall’s checklist.

There’s lots of music to make, too.  I’ll be revisiting my old haunts in Bellingham and making an inaugural run of shows over on Vancouver Island; you can check out the details on the Events page.

Of course, this is also the season to winterize the old horseless carriage and trim back the garden for frosts.  And, I’ve found a little something to help remember the heat of summer.  It was a great time up on Haida Gwaii for the Edge of the World Festival, and even if you weren’t there you can (re)live it through this video.

Nine to Five

Seattle Concert Hall

Among this past summer’s highlights was a great premiere performance of a chamber piece of mine called “Five to Nine to Five.”  The beautiful hall at Seattle’s Good Shepherd Center saw four premieres that night under the baton of Brad Sherman, and the musicians did a fantastic job with all the music.  A big thanks to Brad and Chris Gainey for all their help in organizing the concert.  Take a listen below…