Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

If you’re in the Phoenix area on the evening of June 7th, come out to the City of Gilbert’s Riparian Institute and enjoy a nature walk through the 110-acre preserve and listen to music by several members of the Mesa Symphony and yours truly. I’ll be playing harp and classical guitar near where the walk ends, but close enough to the parking area that you can simply walk over and sit down on one of the provided seats or settle in on the grass and have a listen if you don’t feel like taking the tour.

The nature walk starts at 7:00 p.m. at the east end of the public library. Check the Riparian Institute’s website for more information. There is a suggested donation of two dollars. I will be playing from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!
Ariel Laurel Strong With Pedal Harp

Photo by David Weingarten, Goldeneye Photography.


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As I walked across the cobblestoned parking area shaded by tall sycamores, I could hear rasgueados on flamenco guitars and the punctuated taconeo of a bailora’s dance floating out of the Patio del Norte.

September 8, 2007 was the 34th annual “Fiesta del Tlaquepaque” (pronounced: “ta – lockee – pockee”) which celebrates Mexican Independence Day with art, music, dance, and food of Mexico and the Southwest. There were musicians and dancers scattered throughout the maze of fine art galleries, courtyards, and shops, that makes the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village in Sedona, Arizona such a popular destination. Less than an hour’s drive from Flagstaff down the scenic switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon to hear flamenco…hey, life is good.

Yumi La Rosa at Tlaquepaque I headed straight for where I could hear Mosaico Flamenco playing. (Full disclosure: I take guitar lessons from Gaetano and dance instruction from Yumi La Rosa, so don’t expect an impartial review here – I’m definitely a fan.) The monsoon clouds gathering along the Mogollon Rim were out of sight within the high, stuccoed walls of the rectangular courtyard.

Blazing blue above, bright white surround topped by red tile – my overall impression was of vibrant, sunlit color. Striped serapes hung from the balconies and the walls of the patio and from the poles of the canopy over the band. The dancers and musicians wore red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple…

Flamenco Music and Dance at Tlaquepaque, Sedona, Arizona

The beat and energy of the music was infectious. There’s no doubt that these guys play together often and they like what they do. They were having fun, so were the dancers, and so was the audience. There was even a little girl of about three who liked it so much she joined in right down in front of the stage.

Amusing Antics by Gaetano

The musical selections ranged from the familiar Gipsy Kings rumba “Bamboleo,” to a traditional Guajiras in which dancers Yumi La Rosa and Lolita used fans, to a Mosaico original, Gaetano’s “Ven, Ven Gitanita.” One of the real crowd pleasers was another Mosaico original, Max Perrault’s “Beautiful,” which featured Max on the flute.


Guajiras with Yumi and Lolita Guajiras with Yumi and Lolita Lolita Dances Guajiras
Lolita Dances Guajiras Lolita Dances Guajiras Lolita Dances Guajiras

But the best was yet to come…Angelina Ramirez stole the show with her energy and intensity in a Tientos por Tangos.

Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos
Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos

During the performance the clouds continued to build, and the first few drops of rain spattered the courtyard just as the show was ending.

It was fun and a great show, as always. I also had the good fortune to meet another middle-aged flamenco fan who struck up a conversation with me. Her take on it all:

“I was so totally captivated by the vitality and energy of the music and the artistry of the performers that I found myself sitting through two sets of their performance when I had no intention of spending more than a half hour walking through Tlaquepaque.” ~ A. Lee

Mosaico Flamenco plays in the lobby of the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale three times a week and features dancers Yumi la Rosa, Angelina Ramirez, and others. (related post)

Mosaico’s band members are:

Gaetano – Guitar and Vocals
Monte Perrault – Guitar
Max Perrault – Flute and Percussion
Simon Ames – Bass
Emerson Laffey – Drums and Percussion
Ioannis Goudelis – Piano

Also: Allan Ames – Violin, Mario Mendivil – Bass, Eric Zang – Percussion


Yumi La Rosa
Angelina Ramirez
And others…

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Where’s the Fire?

Don’t Dazzle Me With Brilliance…

Make me feel something. That’s what came to mind as I was listening to a classical guitar CD today.

Not to be overly hard on classical guitar – I’ve heard some truly wonderful performances in my time, most notably a concert by Angel Romero with the Flagstaff Symphony which included one of my all-time favorite compositions, the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. But, I have also heard a lot of note-perfect playing substituted for depth and soul, and by some very highly regarded players. It’s the easy way out, in a sense. I’ve done it myself and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Today, I realized that this is what I have been groping my way towards with my guitar playing deconstruction project. I want to play well enough that I don’t get in the way of the music, but not so “well” that the message gets lost in the technical flash. (Not that I have the technical flash any more, either!)

So, it’s back to the guitar corner and continuing to carve out my technical program. I’ve been doing about ten minutes a day of actual scale playing and another 20 to 30 minutes of paring down the rest of my old technique notebook to achieve my 30 minute technique goal.

What I have ended up doing with the scales is pretty representative, I think, of where the arpeggios and the slur/reach/strengthening/”gymnastic” exercises are headed – a condensed program that I will rotate through, and complete a full set of exercises in about every one to two weeks. I take one focal point for that day’s practice and work it intensely for ten minutes. Then I stop, take a break, do something else for awhile.

I’m rotating through all the major and minor scales and trying out various patterns and fingerings both across the strings and up and down the neck. Once I’ve gone through a cycle or two of that, I plan to add the whole tone, augmented, and diminished scales. When I go back to the majors and minors again, I’ll start working from the different steps of the majors to get to all the traditional modes.

I don’t seem to be suffering in the least from not running through every single scale every day. In fact, the increase in my focus and attention seems to be allowing me to get much more out of each repetition and is keeping me fresh and looking forward to the work. The movement patterns are so similar anyway, that I do believe that the way I used to practice was a form of “over-training” much like what many athletes end up doing. The result was also the same – burnout and injury.

There may be a time in someone’s development as a musician where it is beneficial to play scales the way I used to. I can see where going through each key over and over ingrains it in one’s mind and fingers, but I wonder how much is actually enough. Why keep doing it once you have the fretboard memorized and you know the theory? At that point, repetition beyond that which is needed to maintain the knowledge and technique is simply overkill and leads to a deadening of the mental faculties and the spirit.

Certainly, one can learn to play to “perfection,” but mere perfection devoid of content and feeling has little to recommend it. Computers and robots can play note-perfect, too. What I want to know is, “Where’s the soul? Where’s the fire?”

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Wednesday night’s gig at “the Bean” (Campus Coffee Bean in Flagstaff) went well. I also learned a couple of things that surprised me a bit.

After a brief bout with the sound system (troubleshooting the vocal mic which wasn’t working properly), I got everything going and had a lot of fun with the gig. Three people I knew showed up and sat right in front, forming a sort of rooting section. It was great being able to play to them, as opposed to the other eight to ten people who were scattered through the room engrossed in their computers or conversations with friends.

Though small in size, I had an enthusiastic listening audience and I played it for all it was worth. They helped me do a little fine-tuning of the mix and gave some good feedback on repertoire and presentation, too. They even helped me carry all the gear out to the PT when it was over! Having friends in the audience (or perhaps I should say, as the audience) made the difficulties of playing as a solo disappear. That was the first lesson…

The second lesson was having their feedback on repertoire. Vocals are where it’s at, as far as they were concerned, with a few flashy flamencoish instrumentals mixed in between. The demographics of the group meant the 60’s songs and my political songs went over well, plus anything that was a contemporary folk/story song. A different group would change that some, but I had enough repertoire to target my song selection to what they were responding to and what I knew they would like. And, I’d have probably sold a CD, if I’d had one with my current solo material, as opposed to the older “Romanza” CD.

The third lesson came from observing my interactions with an interested group. I can’t help slipping into music teacher mode, I’m afraid. Two of my listeners were also guitarists, which I knew from the outset. My patter shifted on three different occasions to details about the music and its technique that I normally wouldn’t have mentioned. I really like relating the little historical details and flourishes about the tunes, their origins, and, especially, anything about flamenco.

All this has got me doing some further reflection on my goals and what I do best. I do like to teach and it pops out even when I don’t intend it to…I got into relating the history of the Irish recruiting songs (“Arthur McBride,” in particular) and couldn’t resist putting in my own contemporary political commentary. “Cold Missouri Waters” went over well, and it gave me the opportunity to talk about how the song is being used in wildland firefighter training. I had to stop myself from going too far into the esoterica of flamenco technique and forms when I played flamenco pieces. That little reminder voice: “You’re here to play the music, Ariel, not teach it.”

It’s all more grist for the mill, more information to process, as I keep refining my goals and correcting my course.

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Too, too much fun! All of this focus on compás and rhythm improvement has had an unexpected payoff. I was practicing along on one of the pop tunes for my gig at the Campus Coffee Bean and a flamenco strum slipped in there. It was totally unconscious, and it worked. Cool!

A little while later, I was working some chords up the guitar neck on another tune and, just wondering what it would sound like, I substituted a discordant B chord that is common in flamenco, but rather unusual in a old folk-rock sort of piece. (Bar a B chord at the seventh fret, lift the bar, just placing the first finger on the sixth string, and leave the first two strings open.) That worked, too. Hey, this is fun.

Stuff is clicking in unexpected ways and I’m unconsciously developing a unique sound to my playing. That’s something rather new for a classical guitarist who always tried to play it the “right” way and rarely took any chances with her music.

It does make me wonder where all this is headed, though. How did that uptight, sweet, little paper-trained musician ever find the chutzpah to become a firefighter/EMT/skydiver/river rat, etc.? And now that the harum scarum risktaker has settled down (a bit), will her music get edgier? Seems to be going that direction, anyway.

Well, I’m off to finish loading up for the Campus Coffee Bean gig tonight…

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Lots of homework last night and today…and with what I learned, I’ve now uploaded new and better quality free, streaming and downloadable mp3s on MySpace.

I used Apple’s iTunes to do the file conversion and am much happier with today’s files versus yesterday’s. The audio quality is a lot better – as good as it’s going to be using standard compression on harp audio, anyway. Harps and hammered dulcimers are fiendishly difficult to record well in the first place, with all of their overring and variations over the length of the soundboard. So, I’m satisfied with the result for the file type.

Technical details for the file conversion:
Software: Apple iTunes
Stereo Bit Rate: 320 kbps
Variable Bit Recording, Highest Quality
Sample Rate: 48.000 kHz
Smart Encoding Adjustments: Yes
Filter Frequencies Below 10 Hz: Yes

Now that I’ve gotten the techie part over with, I’m going to write some song notes over on Music by Ariel, so you’ll know a little bit more about what you’re hearing. Look for those over the next few days.

One of the fun things about playing old songs is learning all the stories and history that they carry along with them – tales of Henry the Eighth, Irish uprisings, displaced people hiding their identities or emigrating to flee famine or the Inquisition. (“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”) Ah, such is the stuff that songs are made of…

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Biz Card Idea #5 Everything seems to be entering the “version 2.0” stage lately. Even though I fully intended to finish up the “Artist Bio” on the Music By Ariel blog, I spent a lot of time reworking my music business cards instead. I’m debating whether to use the dangerous angel website for music or add another domain; the DA website has more to do with my fantasy fiction writing. Decisions, decisions.
I also signed up for three more nights playing at the Campus Coffee Bean in Flagstaff, June 11, 18, and 25, from 7-9 p.m. I’ll be posting more on these on the MBA blog once I have the “Appearances” page done. Eventually, I’ll keep all of that basic music info over there, and won’t repeat information so much. But, for now, I’m still sorting it all out. Biz Card Idea #3

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