April's Irish music session

I'm preparing for the concertina event, and last night we also had our monthly Irish music session at a restaurant in town. Last month I was really tired and not at all in the mood, but this time went much better and it seemed I could play along with more tunes than I could a month ago. Definitely not because I've practiced, because I haven't, but maybe because I was more alert and hmm, functional?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my music and how to focus. I always bring the mandolin to the Irish sessions because that's the instrument I'm most familiar with. But really, mandolin is not the instrument I want to use for playing Irish music. My great love is the concertina, but since I'm only in some kind of early intermediate level, and unable to play most tunes up to speed on the concertina, I do need another instrument too. But the thing is that I'm not particularly good at playing Irish tunes on the mandolin either. I can play those tunes we used to play in Clonakilty, and a couple more, but it's not that I can join in on whatever Irish tune. And I don't plan to learn more Irish tunes on the mandolin, since the instrument I really want to use for Irish music is the concertina.

I want to start focusing on what I really want, with all music genres. I want to learn to play Irish tunes on the concertina. Ok, so focus on that. I also want to take up the bouzouki/octave mandolin again, to use at the sessions when I can't play the concertina. So I'm going to practice those chords, and try to get that instrument back to its former shape (need to give it some moist and play it more often). And for the guitar... I want to play bluegrass/oldtime stuff with a Carter family style. I want to use the mandolin for bluegrass, old-time and country stuff.

Well, you get the point. I'm going to stop playing certain things on certain instruments just because it's convenient, and start focusing on what I actually WANT to learn to play on those instruments. Now I'm looking forward to the concertina event, but since Daniel isn't coming, I need to prepare something for the Sunday concert that I can do on my own, and I'm definitely going to practice some Irish and English tunes.

New fresh diddley-diddley site

So I'm rebuilding this site, this time with the Ghost platform, a new fresh blogging platform on the market. It works fine for this kind of site if you plan to have a blog as the base. I do, if I don't have to use something large and chubby such as Wordpress. Ghost works fine for this smallish site. The only problem is commenting, I'm now using Disqus, which I don't like, but which is the only functional commenting platform so far. I'm sure someone will develop a better comment system for Ghost eventually, and then I'll switch to that.

Spring is here, and with that comes the sun, warmer weather, and more energy to do fun stuff. It's less than two weeks until the concertina event, people! I couldn't be more excited!

Concertina prep

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It’s less than two weeks until the concertina weekend, people! On the 24th of April I, or hopefully we, head down south to Skåne and the Scandinavian Squeeze-In (SSI). It’s a weekend for concertina enthusiasts, and everyone interested in concertinas. There usually are quite a few melodeon players there too, and often the melodeon players and the concertina players are the same people.

I haven’t played the concertina for a long long time, so I’d better start working. I haven’t forgotten the tunes I used to play, but I had planned to learn some new stuff until this years SSI, which definitely hasn’t happened. I’ve worked on a reel, Sligo maid, and have played through some tunes but haven’t really learned anything.

So this week I’ve started looking at tunes and what tunes are realistic to get the hang of in a short time. Most of them aren’t if you want to play them in normal playing speed, but at least I want to practice some, and learn to get more familiar with the key of D, so that I can at least join in on tunes. I must say I’ve had a lot of fun, and have found that the Merry Blacksmith is a good tune for the concertina, and that I buried my wife and danced on top of her (well, Irish tunes do have some weird names at times..) isn’t as bad as I thought last year to learn on the concertina.

Last year I photographed the dots of some English tunes in order to remember them, but then changed to a new iPhone, and didn’t use the backup, so waved bye-bye to those photos.

Yesterday I downloaded and installed a new OS X update, which included the new photos app, that works just like the photos app in iOS, very nice. And you know what? When I tried to organise all the photos in there, I found those photos. I can’t say that all of those tunes make sense when I try to play through them, but I can always look them up on You Tube or something like that. I’d like to learn some more English tunes, because they play a lot of English tunes down there. I’ll see if I manage to learn any of those. I’ve saved some links to recordings of other tunes too.

I’m so looking forward to the weekend! I often feel awkward at music events, if I don’t know people, or if there aren’t many players around to jam with who are at the same or close to my level of playing, or who at least enjoy playing with less skilled players. But this event is one where I always feel really, really “at home” and that I fit in. It’s usually a small group of people, and although I’m not great at playing, I can join in on a lot of tunes, and people are nice and encouraging. It’s always very inspiring to be there.

Last year, the really warm weather arrived to the SSI, or even on the way down, I remember we stopped south of Göteborg, and it was 20 degrees C out. Down south it was truly lovely, and I remember having too warm clothes with me. This year I’ll bring some summerish clothes just in case.

Grandma and fiddling

Yesterday on the train back home from work, I didn’t feel right. I felt uneasy, low, not in the mood. Maybe because work was tough this weekend, or that I didn’t sleep well during the night. But in the evening my aunt rang to let me know that my grandma passed away during the afternoon. Did my body know that already?

My family situation is rather complicated. I’ve had two grandmas on my father’s side. Grandma E, who was my biological grandma, and grandma V. They were sisters. I learned in my later teens that my dad had been in foster care, from age 2, with his aunt (grandma V), and at grandma E’s funeral in 2007 I finally got to know grandma V and her daughter, my aunt G, who grew up as a sister to my dad. I learned that aunt G plays the fiddle and that there’s a fiddler group up in the village where my dad’s family is from, and that they play for the Midsummer celebrations every year.

My father died too early, in 1993, very suddenly because of myocarditis, and about a year after, my grandpa died from lung cancer. Sometimes I think of it that he died from grief.

Grandpa was a fiddler, and he also made some own tunes. I heard of this after grandma E died, and it was then I also was given two of grandpa’s fiddles. One was a Chinese not-so-good fiddle, the other one was very nice to play, had a lovely mellow tone, but was super ugly. My grandpa, just as my dad, was a DIY person, but he obviously wasn’t the right person to revarnish this fiddle. Later I started removing the varnish (because no professional wanted to do it, they said it would take too long time and be too expensive for me) to have it fixed up later, but I still haven’t come very far. The fiddle is lovely to play though, and, well, it does have personality.

I’m the only one of the grandchildren who has an interest in music, and especially after I learned about grandpa’s own tunes, I feel as if it’s my duty to play the fiddle and to keep grandpa’s tunes alive. That’s nothing bad though, since I love fiddle music. When i got to know grandma V and aunt G, I was invited to play with the fiddlers at the Midsummer celebrations. Several members of this group, including aunt G, are people that grandpa used to play music with.

Grandma V loved fiddle music. She lived in this village where the traditional music is very strong and very alive. For all special events, there is fiddle music. There are particular tunes that are always played at Midsummer, and for her those tunes ARE midsummer. They mean and breathe midsummer. (FYI, Midsummer is a big holiday event in Sweden)

I remember when we talked about myself playing the fiddle, one of the first years I was up there for the Midsummer celebrations. I said that I think grandpa would have been happy if he knew I play the fiddle. And grandma V said that “yes, he would be so incredibly proud”.

And now both grandpa and grandma V are gone. I’m more inspired than ever to take up fiddling again, really learn to play that thing, play grandpa’s tunes, whatever other tunes, just simply play the fiddle, to celebrate their lives and what they were. When grandma V celebrated her 95th birthday in 2012, my husband and myself made her a tune, a schottische that is HERS. My aunt wants it to be played at grandma’s funeral. I recently took it down from Vimeo, because I wanted to make a better recording. Now my playing is really bad, but my fiddle class is supposed to start on Wednesday, so that’s a good thing. Still, I need to make a recording as soon as possible.

This week is a tough one. I’m filled with mixed emotions and I suddenly cry (work will be interesting) and then laugh when I think of grandma and how cool and energetic she was before she had her stroke. At age 92 she was up with us until 2 am for a Midsummer party with music sessions. I hope I will be like that when I’m 92.