Monday, December 10, 2018

Contra dance & St. Lucia Celebration

Follow-up on my last post.  Here it is Monday, and still at it.  We had a good contra dance Saturday night, even if it was a little unusual. 

I should add that all these photos were taken by Monica, and since we were both involved in both events, most are either before things got really rolling, or after things started to taper off.
   This photo above was during the new-dancer orientation, teaching folks who showed up early to get a little extra instruction.  An unusual dance because Pat, our usual caller, was off to a work event.  So, we took turns.  Monica called several, leaving us without a piano. Christian taught several, which worked quite well.  I taught one.  That was the most unusual.  The first time I have not been playing lead fiddle at this dance in over 10 years.  Jan did great.  I taught an English Country Dance, Key to the Cellar, which confused even some of the experienced dancers, being proper, 6-hands-from-the-top, reels (heys) of three -- all sorts of weirdness.  We all got through it without injury.  And they'll be happy to have Pat back next month!

Then Sunday was the St Lucia Celebration and Christmas Dinner.  Here's the Scandi Band playing as folks were starting to come in.

And some of the folks coming in, choosing a spot, looking over the silent auction items, scoping-out the potluck dishes.

I played the Hardanger while Alan read his poem on St. Lucia --

And then we had the St. Lucia parade of children.

And later, a special guest.
Monica caught a few shots of the sunset from the west windows on the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, where the St. Lucia event was held.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Performances, that busy time of year

We played for folks at the New Vintage wine shop in Meridian, Idaho, last night.  Photo above shows Jan on the left, myself center, and Tim on guitar.  No piano, so Monica was off-duty.  She took this photo, actually.  Tim also played a few tunes on the Highland Pipes.  You can see them atop the yellow chest behind Tim.  Highland pipes inside always catch attention.  Our first time playing there, it was a fun time and we hope to go back again.

Tonight is the usual 2nd Saturday contra dance in Boise, which will have all 4 of us playing, as well as calling a few of the dances.  Pat, our regular caller, is off to a holiday dinner with her fellow school teachers, so we're scrambling.  Added to that, we through in a few Christmas tunes with the contra sets.  Some of the tunes, we'll get the dancers singing as they reel.  And we'll have one dance with Tim on Highland Pipes here as well.

This morning, I had a touch-up rehearsal with the Scandi Band.  We're playing the Santa Lucia dinner tomorrow, Sunday, at the Catherdral of the Rockies in Boise.

Tuesday is the second and last rehearsal for the Sing-along Play-along Messia, coming up next Saturday, the 15th, in Boise.  This is with the Serenata orchestra, and I sit safely on the back row of the second violins.  I can read music, but not very well.  My wife, Monica, sings with the audience and it's a good time for every one.

December 20th is the Sons of Norway Christmas dinner, again with the Scandi Band.

A busy time of year.  If you're in the area, hope to see you at one of these events.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Mary Rose 3 and 2 new fiddles in the starting blocks.

I had sketched out a flower for the end of the pegbox, but changed my mind.  Thinking of a ship's carpenter making the box fiddle, I thought a friendly cat, simply done, might be more fun. 

With most of the pegbox work done, including fluting out the reverse side, one single fluting channel, I cut away the remaining stock from the lower end of the neck piece.

This small stick will run the length of the box, to supply the strength to oppose the string tension.  I did the same for a cigar box fiddle at the end of last year, and it seemed to work.

 Planed off some of the saw marks, also to make the stick extension a little cleaner looking, even though it won't really show.

On another front, I have started two regular fiddles. Blocks squared and glued in place.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Viola strung up

With newly arrived pegs and strings, I was able to set-up my 15-1/2" viola today.  I am usually not so happy with the sound of my instrument on the first day, but this one works.  

I don't normally weigh a finished instrument, but my on-line friend and a good viola-maker, Luis Manfio in Brazil, weighs his.  So I did the same.  Set-up, without the chinrest, as in the photos, comes in at 529 grams.  For those of you who don't understand metric measurements, that's a little over half a kilogram.

And if it helps, the body length can also be expressed as 39.5 cm.

Anyway, the thing will stretch some places, contract others.  I'll be playing it in the meantime, then adjust it as time passes.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hardanger at the Boise Contra Dance

As usual, we played the 2nd Saturday Contra Dance in Boise, and had a fairly decent turn-out.  Always fun to play for dancers. 

I took along the new Hardanger fiddle for its public debut.  Although it sounds tremendously different than my normal fiddle under my ear, I don't think many dancers noticed the difference.  When one is dancing, one is more concerned with where one is going than on most other things in the Universe at that time.  The fact that folks didn't pause and say, "What the heck is that?", is probably a good sign, I suppose.

Didn't get any photos myself.  My wife, our piano player, grabbed a snapshot as we were setting up the sound system prior to the dance.

The Hardanger is in the fiddle stand, pegs showing, and my arm indicates I must have been sawing away on the regular fiddle at the time.  I didn't know photography was happening at the time.

Played most of the dance on the regular fiddle, but used the Hardanger for both waltz sets and a couple others. 

The first waltz, midway through the dance, we played Ashgrove in G in medley with Hökpers vals in Dm.  For the final waltz, we played Josefins Dopvals in F.

We also did an introductory session on Schottische, with Chris and Jody leading the dancers.  We played Sjutti Johan Schottische in D, with myself on Hardanger.

And we played one contra set with the Hardanger, a medley of Byrkveen Reinlender in Am, followed by a tune we got from David Kaynor called simply Dm Schottische.

No injuries resulted!

Off to rehearse with the Scandiband this afternoon, and then on to our Scottish Country Dance club's St. Andrews Ball & Dinner.  Busy weekend.

Friday, November 2, 2018

First Hardanger strung up

I strung up the Hardanger two days ago.  A very preliminary set-up, my first goal was to answer: will it play?  I'm happy to say that it does.  All the strings ring.  I can play tunes on it.

I was not exceptionally happy with the tone, but that's not unusual on the first day, in my experience.  Takes a while for things to stretch and compress under the string tension.  And some of these strings are nylon (or some artificial material), so will stretch for a few days before settling in. 

I recorded a few bits on the first day.  My impression was, weirdly, that it sounded somewhat better on the recording than it did in 'real life'. 

Took it to band rehearsal last night.  My bandmates were all encouraging, thought it sounded great, and I was surprised to find that it could be heard in the mix with piano, guitar, and another regular fidddle. 

When the other fiddler asked to play it, and I could hear it from a distance of a couple feet, I was surprised.  It actually sounded louder, clearer, from a short distance away rather than right under the ear.  For now, we are thinking perhaps the sound-holes, being quite different from normal violin f-holes, give the player a different experience.

I'm going to continue playing it for a few more days, then maybe take it down.  I want to thin the bridge a bit -- left it at the blank thickness -- and I'd like to lower the sympathetic-string hooks on the tailpiece to give a bit more break angle across the bridge.  I may want to cut another soundpost as well.  This one is right on the edge of the bridge foot (east-to-west).  With the very high arching on the back, the bevel is nearly 45-degrees, and I can't slide it very far in or out.  So, a slightly longer one.  But later.

For now, I'm going to let it, and myself, break in.  I'm finding it does not like much bow pressure at all, coming much more alive with a lighter touch.  A bit Baroque, perhaps?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Midnight in Moscow

We've played the Halloween dance in Moscow (Idaho) a couple years now.  Always a fun event.

 Dance!  Now!

We load up the cars Saturday morning, drive the 6-7 hours from the Boise area to Moscow.  Stop for lunch in Riggins at Kate's Cattlemen's for lunch.  Good spot.  Arrive in Moscow in time for a quick beer or two at Rants and Raves --

 -- then a nice home-cooked dinner with our hosts, Roberta, Tim, and David.  We gain an hour on the clock going north.  Moscow is in the Pacific Time Zone, Nampa in the Mountain.

Then off to the dance.  A fun crowd, and we try to sprinkle in plenty of minor-keyed Scandinavian and Klezmer tunes to set a Halloween tone.

 Warming up with a soundcheck.
Tim on guitar, Jan, myself, Monica on piano

A walk-through with Pat teaching.

Some happy little tune

After the dance, back to Roberta & Tim's place (Tim of Moscow, not Middleton.  An abundance of Tims), where we unwind and get to bed too late.  Up in the morning for a fine home-cooked breakfast, this time of French toast, fruit, yogurt, and several cups of coffee.  The trip back home, where we lose the clock-time hour we gained yesterday, and off to bed so we can try to get some work done Monday morning.

It's fun and we plan to do it again.