My grandmothers were strong.
They followed plows and bent to toil.
They moved through fields sowing seed.
They touched earth and grain grew.
They were full of sturdiness and singing.
My grandmothers were strong.
My grandmothers are full of memories.
Smelling of soap and onions and wet clay
With veins rolling roughly over quick hands
They have many clean words to say.
My grandmothers were strong.
Why am I not as they?
Written in 1942. I discovered this poem in 1992. Presented here as an homage during Women’s History Month, 2021.
outstanding:adj (1611) 1. standing out – projecting 2a. unpaid 2b. continuing; unresolved 2c. publicly issued and sold securities 3a. standing out from a group – conspicuous 3b. marked by eminence and distinction syn: noticeable
Webster’s 9th new Collegiate Dictionary, 1988
Personally, the part of that definition I can relate with is 2b. continuing; unresolved.
Which segues easily into question number one of five to be answered with regards to accepting this blogger award!
For how long have you been writing a blog? This website/blog went live on August 30, 2013 (and the journey continues…)
What made you start? from my first post:“The obvious answer to this is of course, ‘Why not?’ I, however, could think of many reasons ‘why not’ whenever it was suggested to me to begin blogging. The biggest one being: anybody and their uncle can write anything and put it up into the nether-land of cyberspace for all to see regardless of quality. And then I remembered that was one of the main reasons I’d balked at recording my first cd. As a working musician, I’d done demos and was busy with gigging, teaching and performing. After all, anybody and their uncle can record anything for all to hear regardless of quality; it is all so easy to do these days…I needed someplace to showcase my (he)art, give voice to our between-homes journey and perhaps even enlighten others of the parallel communities filled with invisible ones living among us in 21st Century America. And blogging is yet one more tool to get what needs to be said out there.“
Why do you continue to blog? Unresolved stuff mixed with Pandemic stuff. Pandemic stuff is probably understood by most. Unresolved stuff – beyond the scope of this blog post!
Have you ever met any of your fellow bloggers face to face? If so, how did it feel? Nope. Never. But plenty of Almosts. I imagine it will feel like a crazy-fun disconnect-reveal simultaneously turning into an old friend/new friend reunion type thing – Let’s do it!
Do you write regularly? If so, why? Yep. Different reasons – daily entries in my Morning Pages since 1997 help in sorting through issues/plans/ideas/clearing out/etc. Other writing is for pure pleasure of creative expression.
Now it’s my turnto nominate and ask a few questions. To those nominated, there is no obligation to take up the challenge of answering and asking the questions. If you do accept, then please answer the questions, nominate 5 other bloggers and then compile a set of 5 of your own questions.
Once upon a time, in the early 1990s, I experimented with simultaneous double sided quilting and piecing of individual blocks. It seemed a promising way to make a scrap quilt in one easy swoop. Until it wasn’t.
I quickly realized the effort far outweighed the reward and set the project aside.
Scroll forward to the early 2020s:
Whilst (I love it whenever I can use this Brit-term) rummaging through various fabric scrap & abandoned project bins, I came across those four orphan blocks.
For more than three decades, they have survived numerous stash purges with no idea of what to do with them after each re-evaluation of their worth to keep!
Then, a few weeks ago, it came to me. The solution glaringly obvious. Finish them off as…
In terms of my creative development and output, these past few months have been strangely empowering. It’s as if the scales have dropped from my eyes as I re-examine projects that stalled out for whatever reason.
Seeing the now ‘obvious’ next steps which lead to ‘finishes’ is supremely delightful – from poetry writing to quilting UFOs to all things musical; from 3 measure fixes to going with the flow of an intuitive tempo to mug rug creations.
Most Celtic music enthusiasts and instrumentalists are familiar with this man’s body of work and prominence of place within the Irish folk tradition.
Long credited as being Ireland’s national composer, Turlough was born in 1670 and lived during the Baroque Era* of Western musical history. That Baroque reference is important to note. While traveling the lands of the Emerald Isle as an itinerant harper, he was in fact a contemporary of Scarlatti, Geminiani and Corelli – all composers of varying prominence of the day.
My off-the-cuff quip notwithstanding, a rich mingling of musical traditions is indeed the basis of Carolan’s Concerto.
“In Carolan’s time, there were three musical traditions in Ireland – art music, folk music, and the harper tradition. The harper tradition served as a link between art and folk music and was the main conduit for the oral tradition. Carolan created a unique style by combining these art forms, and then adding elements inspired by Italian music which was then fashionable in Ireland. He was a great admirer of Vivaldi and Corelli, whose modern music he would have heard in the homes of his noble Irish patrons, and this admiration is reflected in the melodic construction and forms of many of his pieces. In fact, it’s said that his Carolan’s Concerto was a winning response to a compositional challenge from Geminiani, an acquaintance, colleague, and contemporary.”
Shortly before the beginning of the infamous New Year of 2020, I earnestly tackled composing an arrangement of this piece.
I wanted to adapt it for solo classical guitar in like forever and was pleasantly amazed at how it came together so quickly. I even produced two possible endings and put them up for a vote with my son and son-in-law – both musicians.
Consensus: First ending.
My take on Carolan’s Concerto was proving to be a breath of fresh air and loads of fun.
Within weeks of that previously mentioned infamous New Year of 2020, I started serious practice of my new arrangement.
General impression: It is good. It is a completed piece.
A computer generated playback of my arrangement of the Celtic tune Carolan’s Concerto, written by the blind Irish Bard – harpist, troubadour and composer – Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738).
It was also too fast for me to play a tempo.
Discouraged, I set it aside.
Until a few weeks ago. That’s when I pulled it out for a re-look and when the ‘obvious’ hit me.
Why not play it anyway? Who says it has to be performed at such a scathing tempo?
Besides, the traditional tempo set for that piece is also traditionally variable.
Here’s the thing:
Not every guitarist is a shredder, lightening fast player. Plus, my arrangement is not a single line ‘solo’ that can be easily ‘shredded’!
Even after properly practicing certain passages of the piece at slower tempos and then speeding them up incrementally I may never get it up to the tempo as played in the above video.
Play it. Just. Play it.
“Some players are simply faster than others, the way some athletes are faster, bigger, stronger, etc. Still, none of that means ‘better.’ So, find your own performance tempo, and then bring more of yourself to the piece. Remember, you possess your own sound, tone, phrasing, attack, texture, etc. If you highlight those qualities, I promise you, no one will ever complain about the tempo.”
This vaguely simplistic concept was brought to light a few days ago while staring down an old (as in a piece I put aside years ago to work on ‘later’) arrangement I began, but never finished, for solo classical guitar. Something about it wasn’t quite right back then and something about it still wasn’t quite right, right now.
There were these 3 measures that, well, just didn’t measure up.
In seeing what I’d done previously with fresh eyes, I couldn’t dismiss it as a throw-away. I’d already invested much time and effort into crafting an original arrangement of a traditional Tarantella. It was, in truth, almost finished.
Stylistically, there are many songs in Italy that qualify as a Tarantella – basically a rowdy, raucous dance tune with moves inspired by – you guessed it – the Tarantula. More specifically, ridding one’s self of one and/or what happens after one gets bitten by one (frenzied madness)!
As is typical in folk music, each town, province, heck – family – has their own version of this. I mention family because coming from a musical family, these things get passed down along with the traditional family recipes. But not necessarily in tangible, written down form.
I knew how to play it in ensemble. That’s just a fancy way of saying I could rock out those rhythmic chords on my 12-string acoustic and/or classical guitar to my Dad’s clarinet/saxophone or my former duo partner’s violin/mandolin melody instruments.
But I really wanted it in my personal arsenal of songs to play for fun in a solo classical guitar context.
That said, I knew how my arrangement needed to sound.
I sight-read the unfinished score on my music stand with its errant 3 measures standing out as ugly as ever. Searching for a solution, I reviewed the source materials referenced in the initial creation of the arrangement and noticed something tucked in between the pages of my notes. All those years ago, I had hand-written a 3 measure idea to insert as a possible replacement for the trouble spot.
Hmm, why hadn’t I just gone with that in the first place?
I don’t want to gaze upon its sparkly freshness.
I don’t want to observe.
I don’t want to talk about it or take pictures of its transformative effect upon the common everyday landscape.
I don’t want to sit in warmth and take in the frosty view through my studio picture window.
I want to leap and dive and splash about.
I want to be in it.
I’ll bet you thought this was gonna be about a mega-marathon. Better yet, about me training and then actually running one of those events. HA!
Or maybe just an announcement of a 10 day-in-a-row blogging challenge that never happened.
None of the above.
It has been a fun run of Palindromic Dates, however!
Littering the calendar landscape from January 20th through January 29th, these dates read the same forward and backward. That is to say iff (since we’re in a sort of Math Realm, I thought the abbreviation for the Math term of ‘if and only if’ to be appropriate herein) one writes dates in the month/day/year format.
1/20/21 = 12021 both ways through to today’s 1/29/21 = 12921 both ways.
I love this sort of stuff, sorry to see it go for now.
To borrow the March proverb and apply it to our domestic and worldwide on-going state of affairs, I like to think that as 2021 ‘comes in like a lion’ it will ‘go out like a lamb.’
In the meantime –
I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.
This 2020 virtual choir video edition of How Can I Keep from Singing makes me feel less alone – its message, its virtual human presence. It seems just what the doctor ordered to usher in a dose of courage, strength and continued commitment to stay the course during these unrelenting times.
Being raised Catholic, and then doing the Jesus People street theatre scene in the 70s, my knowledge of purely Protestant Hymns is limited. Yet, here in the midst of a 21st century Pandemic, it took a Unitarian quilter blogger buddy to introduce me to this encouraging and joyful Hymn (thank-you, Zippy).
My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation. I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock, I’m clinging. Since love prevails in heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing?