Musical Meanderings

This is a blog centered around some of the musical encounters and experiences that I come upon in my daily life as a musician.

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Location: Alameda, California

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Agave's first Concert is today!

Well, it certainly has been a long haul in putting this concert together. It started off as just a concept with a few arrangements that our guitarist had written for us some years ago, for a live radio show at KPFA.

Agave is a quintet---a string quartet plus seven string guitarist/arranger Robin Lewis. And so now---I somehow got him to make eight arrangements for the group. We were trying to rehearse them as he wrote them---he would bring in scraps of paper and parts of the score to see what they sounded like. The music was and is definitely hot off the press.

It's interesting, the different personnel within the group and their contrasting personalities. Our second violinist has a doctorate from Eastman---he is very organized and loves to account for each rehearsal minute. He wants things done efficiently, and he wants to know exactly what is going to happen and how it is going to happen far in advance. Where as Robin comes from a jazz background and he enjoys the element of exploration and possibility within a concert. I am somewhere in the middle on that topic. I like things to be well rehearsed and I like to be able to improvise and try for new things at a concert. Our violist wants always to play the perfect solo, and she tries to achieve this and is almost always disappointed, because there is no perfect solo. Our first violinist will try anything in a solo---so he comes up with some amazing things, and also he goes way out sometimes so that you wonder what in the world he is doing.

Yup, that's the group! I am anxious about our first concert. We had a dress rehearsal in Il Pirata yesterday, a dive bar in San Francisco, and it was really loud in there. Everyone was drinking and talking through most of the runthrough and we could not hear each other. I think that the quintet members got kind of discouraged from that runthrough. There were alot of mistakes and it just didn't go too well. But with my experience, a bad dress rehearsal can be a really good thing. It keeps people on their toes and makes them practice...

Doug Edwards of KPFA will be our MC today for the concert. I love Doug! I have been on KPFA several times in the last few weeks to advertise. It was fun.

Oh----I wanted to mention something that happened a few days ago. My six year old daughter, Isabelle, who plays the cello quite well, and I, were out on a walk with our yellow lab Jeb. We walk out here on the Alameda Point Navy Base---surrounded by water and planes and boats. It's right across from the port of Oakland where the big freighter boats load and unload cargo.

So anyway, we stopped at a treeswing and I was pushing her, higher and higher, and she was giggling. And then something really interesting happened. A big boat blew his horn---real loud and long. Isabelle listened, and then she sang the note.

"Mama, that's a g," she said.
"It is?" I asked. "How do you know?"
She shrugged, and said, "Mama, it just is."

So, when we got home, we went to the piano, and sure enough, it was a g. Several times then throughout the day I tested her on pitches, and, much to my amazement, that girl has perfect pitch. I am still in shock about it, because it's a pretty rare thing. It's like a seventh sense or something. But when I ask her to sing an open string note of the cello, she gets it dead on, every time. She can get the cello strings because she is familiar with them, I think, but the other notes, she usually just knows by finger number, so I don't think she can identify them by note name. I will work on this and see how it develops. But, I think what is surprising to me is that I didn't pick up on this before. She has been playing for two years now, and is almost through Suzuki Book 2. Next week, we go to the Colorado Suzuki Institute for music camp in Beaver Creek. She will take student classes and I will do teacher training, Book 4. It will be a fun thing to tell her teacher there, about the perfect pitch discovery.

There has been alot of rehearsal and recording and performing in these past few months, and it is still going on. I am almost done recording my new CD, but we can't mix it until mid-July, so that project is basically on hold. There is this show today, which will soon be over. And I have been playing with the Ramana Vieira Ensemble quite a bit. I have to record on her CD next week. There's alot, and I love it!