Sunday, February 24, 2008

A.A. Kirtan, Nick Strange, Hebrew Kirtan, GLTW Winter Rock

Hello again,

  The past two weeks have been such a unique blend of musical experiences.  First, on Friday Feb. 15th, there was the monthly Ann Arbor Kirtan where we do call and response chanting of Sanskrit mantras set to the backdrop of cello, tabla, harmonium, guitar, and of coarse, vocals.  The group was missing two of it's regular members, including one of the lead chanters, so we didn't go on as long as we usually do.  It was still a workout on the tabla though.  I feel lucky to be the only one in the room who gets to do my chanting with tabla syllables....all night I am saying things like "Dha Ge Na Tu Na Ga Dhi Na", and "Dha Ge - Ka Na Ka Dhin - ".  It is a lot of fun.
  I had to switch gears the next night.  I put away the tabla and packed the drum set into the car. I was, once again, sitting in with the Nick Strange Group again at Good Nite Gracie in Ann Arbor.  It sort of felt like a homecoming after playing a few gigs at other places.  It is a great place to play, (aside from all the cigar smoke).  The music was really comfortable and sounded good to me, so that trumps the smoke any day.  I was happy to have my sister-in-law and brother-in-law come to check out the first set.  They came down from Grand Blanc for dinner and then stayed for the show.  It is always nice to play for family.  Another bonus of the evening was when we played "Tell Me Something Good" by Rufus and Chaka Khan.  They just added it to their song list and it is one of my favorites.
  The next night  it was time to switch gears once again....back to tabla, back to chanting, but this time it was in Hebrew.  One of my tabla students hooked me up with this group that was coming through town for a night of chanting in Hebrew.  Actually it was a husband and wife duo based in Boulder Colorado who make their living doing chanting all over the country.  The event was held at the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.  I had performed there last year with Judy Piazza.  They called the event Hebrew Kirtan, but it was very different than the kirtan I was used to.  They stood up, and I was on the floor, he music was much more western influenced....I believe he called it 'Jewgrass', and there were a lot more words to each chant than in the Sanskrit stuff.  I still played close to the same stuff though, so there was a definite link.  I think there were about 40 people present, mostly Hebrew-speaking people.  There was a lot of laughter, dancing, and good singing.  All and all it was a fun evening.   You can check out their website here:  http://hebrewchanting.com/
  The following Friday was not just about switching gears, it was like getting into a whole new vehicle.  It was the premier of the "Winter Rock", featuring the Go Like The Wind instrumental music students.  It was the first concert of it's kind at the school....middle of winter, not tied into any other event, (like Christmas or graduation), and it was all student produced.   I, of coarse, am the director of the music program at the school, so I was in charge of making it all happen successfully.  It actually ended up being a lot of fun, and the students did a great job.  We had middle school students doing the sound and recording. One student, who, per doctors orders, could not perform, read snippets and quotes about the benefits of studying music in between each performance.  The students even picked names for their groups, (band1, band 2 and string orchestra were just not cutting it any more).  So band 1 was now called the 'Warthogs', band 2 was now the 'Icicles', and the string orchestra was now the 'Melodies'.  We also had duets and quartets from each group do an additional piece.  The show went off without a hitch, aside from a slight problem with the stage lights, which kept tripping the circuit breaker.  That was easily solved by turning on the gym's fluorescent lights.  We were also missing about 11 members of our advanced band, the Icicles, mainly due to a scheduling conflict.  I had not realized that I scheduled the concert on the first day of Ann Arbor public school's spring break.  Neither did a lot of families.  It was a learning experience for all of us, so next year will be much better in that regard.  The students who were there for the concert really pulled together and made the music sound great.  I look forward now to the spring concert!

That is all for now.  Thanks for reading, and I hope to write again soon.

John

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nick Strange in St. Clair Shores, Indian Culture at A.A. Library, Saraswati Puja

Hello again,
  The winter is rolling right along, and the gigs seem to be coming as fast and furious as the bitter cold and blowing snow.  This is the time of year when musicians must be extra studious about keeping their instruments in a controlled climate.  Even just an hour out in the cold can cause all kinds of problems.  On top of the difficulty with playing a cold instrument, there is always the fear of tuning, cracking, tearing, snapping, and.....well....let's just keep them warm shall we!
  So the first show was on Saturday Feb. 2nd with the Nick Strange group.  We were at a place called Fishbones in St. Clair Shores.  It was a big resteraunt/bar that has a built in crowd that seemed used to having live music, but not too attached to the idea of it. The weird vibe I got was probably due in part to the fact that it was the day before the super bowl.  I did have a good time and it was fun to play in a new place.  There were a few people who really liked the music, which made it worth the drive out.
  The next day I had a fun little daytime event at the Ann Arbor Public Library put on by my friend Rohit Setty and his family.  It was an Indian cultural celebration for young families.  We had Meeta Banerjee on the sitar, Dan Piccolo and myself on tabla, with Rohit, his wife Amanda, and their young daughter Shalani telling stories and doing dances, and making crafts.  It was a nice event.  The Ann Arbor News sent out a photographer, and we got a great spread in the Saturday paper.

The following Saturday Meeta and I drove to a middle school in Saline, MI. to play at a Saraswati Puja put on by the Bengali group Mitali.  A Puja is a type of religious ceremony that, as far as I can tell, is meant to honor a god and share music, dance, and fellowship with your community.  It is the second year we have done it, and it is always a fun show to play.  We did just a 15 minute show and within the first minute, Meeta broke a string.....Ouch!  Luckily, it was not her main string, but it did throw our balance off a bit.  Like a true pro, Meeta played on as if nothing was wrong, and the crowd was very appreciative. I felt lucky to be a part of it.
  
Thanks for reading, and I will write again soon!

John

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