Sunday, February 24, 2008

A.A. Kirtan, Nick Strange, Hebrew Kirtan, GLTW Winter Rock

Hello again,

  The past two weeks have been such a unique blend of musical experiences.  First, on Friday Feb. 15th, there was the monthly Ann Arbor Kirtan where we do call and response chanting of Sanskrit mantras set to the backdrop of cello, tabla, harmonium, guitar, and of coarse, vocals.  The group was missing two of it's regular members, including one of the lead chanters, so we didn't go on as long as we usually do.  It was still a workout on the tabla though.  I feel lucky to be the only one in the room who gets to do my chanting with tabla syllables....all night I am saying things like "Dha Ge Na Tu Na Ga Dhi Na", and "Dha Ge - Ka Na Ka Dhin - ".  It is a lot of fun.
  I had to switch gears the next night.  I put away the tabla and packed the drum set into the car. I was, once again, sitting in with the Nick Strange Group again at Good Nite Gracie in Ann Arbor.  It sort of felt like a homecoming after playing a few gigs at other places.  It is a great place to play, (aside from all the cigar smoke).  The music was really comfortable and sounded good to me, so that trumps the smoke any day.  I was happy to have my sister-in-law and brother-in-law come to check out the first set.  They came down from Grand Blanc for dinner and then stayed for the show.  It is always nice to play for family.  Another bonus of the evening was when we played "Tell Me Something Good" by Rufus and Chaka Khan.  They just added it to their song list and it is one of my favorites.
  The next night  it was time to switch gears once again....back to tabla, back to chanting, but this time it was in Hebrew.  One of my tabla students hooked me up with this group that was coming through town for a night of chanting in Hebrew.  Actually it was a husband and wife duo based in Boulder Colorado who make their living doing chanting all over the country.  The event was held at the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.  I had performed there last year with Judy Piazza.  They called the event Hebrew Kirtan, but it was very different than the kirtan I was used to.  They stood up, and I was on the floor, he music was much more western influenced....I believe he called it 'Jewgrass', and there were a lot more words to each chant than in the Sanskrit stuff.  I still played close to the same stuff though, so there was a definite link.  I think there were about 40 people present, mostly Hebrew-speaking people.  There was a lot of laughter, dancing, and good singing.  All and all it was a fun evening.   You can check out their website here:  http://hebrewchanting.com/
  The following Friday was not just about switching gears, it was like getting into a whole new vehicle.  It was the premier of the "Winter Rock", featuring the Go Like The Wind instrumental music students.  It was the first concert of it's kind at the school....middle of winter, not tied into any other event, (like Christmas or graduation), and it was all student produced.   I, of coarse, am the director of the music program at the school, so I was in charge of making it all happen successfully.  It actually ended up being a lot of fun, and the students did a great job.  We had middle school students doing the sound and recording. One student, who, per doctors orders, could not perform, read snippets and quotes about the benefits of studying music in between each performance.  The students even picked names for their groups, (band1, band 2 and string orchestra were just not cutting it any more).  So band 1 was now called the 'Warthogs', band 2 was now the 'Icicles', and the string orchestra was now the 'Melodies'.  We also had duets and quartets from each group do an additional piece.  The show went off without a hitch, aside from a slight problem with the stage lights, which kept tripping the circuit breaker.  That was easily solved by turning on the gym's fluorescent lights.  We were also missing about 11 members of our advanced band, the Icicles, mainly due to a scheduling conflict.  I had not realized that I scheduled the concert on the first day of Ann Arbor public school's spring break.  Neither did a lot of families.  It was a learning experience for all of us, so next year will be much better in that regard.  The students who were there for the concert really pulled together and made the music sound great.  I look forward now to the spring concert!

That is all for now.  Thanks for reading, and I hope to write again soon.

John

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