barnabas_truman: (Default)
"If you're already good at piano, how difficult is it to transition to piano accordion?"

"I'd say it'd be a bit of a stretch."
barnabas_truman: (Default)
Me: [plays slow mournful waltz]

Her: "I think I finally figured out why it sounds mournful when you play waltzes!"

Me: "Oh?"

Her: "You play them straight; you don't throw in all the ornamentations."

Me: "Reeeeeally." [plays classic waltz "Shebeg & Shemore" with ALL THE ORNAMENTS]

Her: "That had more ornaments than notes!"

Me: "That's how you WIN at pennywhistle!"
barnabas_truman: (army)
Have you ever wondered why songs and jokes and stories have always been the tools of the resistance?

Flyers can be torn down.
Graffiti can be painted over.
Picket signs can be confiscated.
Books and pamphlets can be burned.
Printing presses can be smashed.
Web servers can be turned off.
Guns can be out-gunned.

But if you compose a catchy song, a funny joke, an inspiring story, and you tell it to enough people, and they tell it to enough people, then you create a message that cannot be shut down.

Why does the resistance use songs and jokes and stories?
Because they are unstoppable.
barnabas_truman: (army)
"Are there any puns about Arthurian legend?"

"Hm... Oh! I've got one: who made all the musical instruments for King Arthur's minstrels?"


"Luthier Pendragon!"

[awkward pause]

"I don't get it.

"Arthur's father was Uther Pendragon. I thought that was common knowledge?"


"Aw, do I have a twisted idea of what 'common knowledge' is because I grew up with Arthurian legends?"

barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
"Do a search for Bach chorales."

*click click click*
"Hm. Looks like there's quite a lot of them."


"No, Bach."
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
Today at lunch I spent a couple of hours playing music out on the quad. By and by around a dozen students sat down to listen. Several later came up to thank me for bringing such a joyful atmosphere to the area, and one older man listened for half an hour and then walked up to me, said with a smile "Your music sounds like the entrance to a better place," handed me a $5, and walked away.

Later a traveling young man who is in town for a few days brought a guitar and we jammed for a while and talked about music. Good times.
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
I played Wayfarer's Jig, Calliope House, and Lisnagun... then went back up for Cluck Old Hen, Kitchen Girl, and June Apple when there was extra time at the end. Very well received. Hazel's community choir group sang as the featured performers.
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
Today the weather was finally cool enough to wear a cape again, which invigorated me so much that during my lunch break I sat down on the quad and started playing Irish ceili tunes on pennywhistle. I called it quits nearly TWO HOURS later when my fingers started getting tired, but during that time I didn't re-use a single tune (and didn't even get into English country dance tunes and Brunos tunes). My repertoire appears to be larger than I had realized.
barnabas_truman: (dwarf)
G just played "Scotland the Brave" on pennywhistle using the roar of my spaceship's engines* as the drone note. Truman Household awesomeness has just gone up a level.

* in Kerbal Space Program, a spaceship simulator computer game
barnabas_truman: (army)
"It's time to put on funny clothes and play music, and I'm all out of funny clothes!"
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
Sometime around 25 years ago, my parents took me to the Southern California Renaissance Faire for the first time. I watched plays and dancing and juggling, I listened to music, I bought a little pewter dragon, and I was hooked. I continued going once a year throughout elementary school and high school, dressing up as a young wizard and spending perhaps a little too much money on little pewter heroes and monsters.

About 15 years ago, I moved away for college, joined an English country dance group called the Merrie Pryanksters, and realized that instead of just *going* to the Faire once in a while, I could be *part* of it. At some point I discovered the Dickens Christmas Fair as well, and for the past five years I've been playing music there as well.

Two or three years ago, I was dressed up as a 19th century surveyor and playing Gold Rush music in Old Town Sacramento, and some friends invited me to play a Spanish conquistador in a light-hearted California history pageant. My role consisted of striding boldly onto the stage, wearing a sash and a helmet, pointing in various directions with a wooden sword, and saying in an outrageous accent "I am here from Spain, and *that* place is San Francisco, and it belongs to my king, and *that* over there is Monterey, and it belongs to my king also, and *this* here is Sacramento, and it's his too." I like to think I delivered my lines with precisely as much seriousness and respect as the scriptwriter had intended.

After I walked off stage, Kathleen Twombly took my props and said "Were ya nervous, performing in front of Phyllis Patterson herself?"
"Wait, Phyllis Patterson?" I spluttered; "The one who started all this historical reenactment festival stuff in the first place, way back when?? She's still alive??"
"Yeah, that was her in the wheelchair in the front row!"
That was the extent of my interaction with Phyllis Patterson, but I can at least say I performed for her once.

I'm told that Phyllis Patterson passed away this morning. I never really knew her, but I understand that she gave the spark that began the construction of this marvelous scattered playground where I have spent so many happy weekends of my life. So thank you, Phyllis; thank you for the plays, the parades, the pewter figures, the puppets, the jugglers, the tavernside chess matches, the late-night jam sessions at the Three Cripples Pub, and most of all for the community. We'll do our best to keep it going while you're away.
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
"Here, play 'Elizabeth MacDermott Roe' on the pennywhistle. It's supposed to be 'folk style.'"

"Okay." *tweedle tweedle tweedle*

"You kept speeding up!"

"I was having trouble with the timing. The syncopation is weird."

"No it isn't; it's perfectly normal. What instrument was O'Carolan writing tunes for?"

"The pennywhistle!"

"No he wasn't!"

"The uillean pipes!"


"The stringed uillean pipes?"

"WHAT. No, here, let me show you." *plinkety plunkety plink* "See? It's just fine! The syncopations are exactly the time you need for shifting fingers around on the strings!"
barnabas_truman: (army)
First weekend: "By the power of the Crown and Anchor, I call upon the magics of the Golden Square!"

Closing weekend: "The Golden Square is just an ordinary portable dance floor; the real magic was in us all along!"

Every weekend: "It's a Christmas miracle!"
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
A few weeks ago I bought a microphone--something I should have done years ago--and worked out how to record and mix tracks on my computer so I could accompany myself. Here are the recordings I've made so far:

Banish Misfortune, an Irish tune

Chestnut, an English country dance

Fain, another English country dance (under construction)

How Can I Keep From Singing, one of my favorite hymns

Babylon Is Fallen, from Sacred Harp
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
That'll be $9.99 at the next window.

"That's a pretty good deal--two burgers for a baritone."

"Wait, what? What baritone?"

"$9.99 is a little below a tenner. That's a baritone."
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
I finally got around to buying a microphone, hooking it up, and figuring out how to use GarageBand. Here's my first attempt, featuring Barnabas and Barnabas on whistles and Barnabas on bodhran.

Banish Misfortune
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
There's a new bar in Ashland called Oberon's Three-Penny Tavern. It's themed around Shakespeare's faeries, of course, with a very Gaiman flavor. It has carved wood decor and bartenders that could have just stepped out of a Fantasy Faire (and probably did). The whole effect is very much like the "inn between the worlds" that shows up from time to time in modern fantasy (see Sandman vol. VIII) and perhaps a bit like Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. It apparently began as a Kickstarter project, it's been open a few weeks now, and it is probably the best bar on this planet at the moment. Yes, even better than the Three Cripples Pub (but only just). You simply must visit next time you're anywhere near Oregon.

Anyway, I got to play music there last Sunday. The Newcastle English Country Dancers were the Green Show that day; I said hi to the musicians after the show (I know them from Dickens), and they invited me to join them in a tune session at this cool new bar. We ended up playing there for two and a half hours, though at the time it felt no longer than a standard half-hour Brunos show at Dickens. Fantastic music with great people in a wonderful venue.

While I was playing and watching the drinkers and the dancers, I started thinking about the "inn between the worlds" idea again, and imagining roles and origins onto the people I saw: this bartender is an elf paying her way through Faerie University, that muscular fellow in the tank top works in a steel mill in the 1890s and comes here at the end of his shift, those folks in Hawaiian shirts are lost tourists who stumbled in from the 1950s, and so on.

Then I started wondering: what sort of a fantastic visitor am I? and immediately I knew: I'm a math/physics teacher who steps in to play music and have a great time. What could be more fantastic than that?

It's nice to realize that I'm finally at a point in my life when I don't need to pretend I'm something better.
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
I played The Scholar, Rakish Paddy, and Cooley's Reel. A singer wondered if I'd be interested in playing Peruvian folk music and gave me her phone number. Could be fun to try out. The featured performance was a pretty awesome bluegrass trio.
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
I'm on AggieTV!

Also, you should come to the folk music jam session! Every other Friday in the Arboretum, noon to one.
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
Saturday we headed over to campus in garb to perform for Picnic Day, which went remarkably well. Eight dancers, me on pennywhistle, six dances, then home again. Later in the evening we got together with a couple of friends for dinner, sewing, and board games (Volcano and Homeworlds). Sunday we invited two other friends over for more board games (Chrononauts, Race for the Galaxy, and Dungeon Lords). Good times.


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