Last week’s livestream partly represented a low-level frustration at performing programmes made up of Irish folk and what bits I can access / know / appreciate of the unaccompanied art-music viola repertoire. So it was the week I apologised for performing material from folk traditions I don’t know thoroughly enough to render it authentically, and branched out.
Northwards, to Scotland. The differences between Scottish and Irish (or indeed English) folk music are sometimes underrated, and indeed have become somewhat blurred by some aspects of the folk revival from the late 60s on. However, I took the stylistically easy and technically challenging way out by picking a J Scott Skinner violin solo, ‘The President’, that is really a light classical composition in classic variation form, fully notated and indicated for performance techniques, with only its melodic influences coming from the folk fiddle aspect of Scott Skinner’s artistic life (he was also a prizewinning dancer, dancing master and calisthenics teacher).
Eastwards, to mainland Europe. To a traditional south Italian mandolin tune, ‘La Zita Passa’, in one case – though I have no idea what a traditionalist would make of my solo rendition, with foot tambourine added and some harmony notes tucked in around the melody.
With rather more misgiving and a much more substantial disclaimer, to the less defined geography of klezmer, specifically a dance tune known (it’s more of a categorisation than a title) as ‘Vrashaver Freylekhs’. Sometimes the best response to not being able to perform traditional material authentically is to not try, and I transferred this to viola, added some rather robust drone notes and a few ‘turnaround’-type figures from accompanying parts in the very scratchy archive recording I got from Anna Lowenstein and, again, involved the foot tambourine. I do ask that you watch the livestream including the spoken preamble before entirely judging me for using the culture of a generally historically oppressed minority while belonging to almost all the privileged demographics – this is about 38 minutes in. (My livestreams remain permanently archived on Facebook and YouTube, and accessible for 2 weeks from live broadcast on Twitch.)
Westwards, and aware that this had potential to be the most controversial decision of all, to the USA and the well-known spiritual ‘Wade in the Water’. Without any hint of tongue near cheek (I actually toned down some aspects of how I’ve performed this at open mikes etc in the past to try and be more sure I wasn’t thought to be taking the mick) and definitely no attempted American accent, in fact a deliberate effort to avoid sliding towards one. Again I ask for my comments to be heard before complaining; this was the last number of the stream and introduced about 59 minutes from the start.
Finally, in no particular geographical direction from home and with no justifiable fears about authenticity of approach, to the rarely-represented category in my livestreams (or my performing life in general) of ‘original material’ – my second prelude for solo viola. Unsurprisingly, when I’m writing anything during lockdown it’s what I can perform myself, as no one else in this country has been getting together to play music until very recently …
Of course as I write this it’s Tuesday lunchtime and the next livestream is a little over 2 days away. I’m not going to give much away, but suffice to say it’s less of a breaking out of routine than last time, but still contains a couple of surprises! Please tune in at 8 on Thursday to find out exactly what I do – or indeed you just about still have time to send in requests and tune in to make sure I play them … and either way please tip generously!