Tuesday, June 1, 2010

northwest folklife, 2010

Sweetie and I went to the Northwest Folklife Festival over the weekend. We go every year, and in past years one or both of us have performed. In recent years we both went as "tourists" -- it was nice to just go and partake and not have to lug around a ton of instruments or other stuff for a gig.
But this year, I was invited to sit in with a group of U-Dub (aka University of Washington) students and play some klezmer music at The Big Jewish Show, an annual showcase of Jewish music at the festival. The students formed a group called "Yeshivas Goldenshtyen" ("Disciples of Goldenshteyn") and were led by grad student Ethan Chessin, an excellent trombonist and soon-to-be high school band teacher.

About a week ago, Ethan sent out an email with links to lead sheets. Among the recipient addresses were the names of several Portland-based, professional players -- among them our friend Jack ("Yankl") Falk, who has played klezmer music for decades and is pretty well-known as a major contributor to the North American revival of the genre. (Jack and his wife co-founded the radio show, "The Yiddish Hour", still running on KBOO and now co-hosted by Sweetie and couple of our friends as a collective effort.)

When I downloaded the lead sheets, knowing there'd be no drum parts (and not really needing any), I printed out the clarinet parts. Since the clarinet is a primary melody instrument in klezmer, I'd get all the information I'd need about how the tune would go.
Unfortunately, when I opened the files, there were no metronome markings (those little things at the upper left of the chart that say "quarter note equals 90" or whatever). Without a tempo I had no idea how slow or fast these tunes would go, and would have to wait until the short rehearsal to find out more. Fortunately, the group was nicely filled out with both students and professional players (mostly from Portland), and we made a pretty big sound that was reasonably tight.

Ethan had invited me to join the group a few weeks back at a jam session at the Krakow Kafe in Portland. He'd asked if I could bring my whole kit, but I managed to convince him I could do everything he wanted with just a snare drum and hi-hat -- I did NOT want to schlep an entire drum kit around the Seattle Center! My partial kit worked just fine (though I did miss having a bass drum to help lay down a firmer beat. The only real bass instrument was a tuba and he didn't always stick to downbeats), and the ensemble sounded surprisingly good on the cavernous stage of the Bagley Wright Theater.

yeshivas goldenshteyn

Nicest of all for me was the opportunity to get to play with Jack, something I'd wanted to do for quite awhile.

beth & jack

The gig was a lot of fun, and I feel inspired to seek out other playing opportunities as they might arise.

(For all you equipment wonks: Royce snare, 6-lug, Remo amabassador coated head; cheap hi-hat combo with Zildjian bottom and Hohner top cymbals; Pro-Mark 5A "pro-round" sticks, vintage Ludwig "white plastic" model brushes.)

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