Peterborough Jam 8-6-16

2016-08-06_pboro_jam_EDITFabulous time at the pre-dance jam in Peterborough this past Saturday. Some familiar faces, some new jammers. By the end we had three fiddles, two accordions, flute and whistle, guitar and harmonica. Some of the tunes came from our three books (NEFR, Portland, Waltz Book) and some were from collective memory, picked up by ear to greater or lesson degree by different players. Here are the tunes:

Jamie Allen
Far From Home
O’Donnell Abu
Mid-Winter Waltz
The Butterfly
Road to Lisdoonvarna
Golden Boy
Morning Star
Kitty McGee
Boda Waltz
Golden Slippers

Later on, during the break mid-dance, four or five of us set up in the middle of the dance floor and played waltzes for couples who circled around us. Here are the waltzes. I might be forgetting one.

The Ash Grove
Star of the County Down

Nelson Monday Jam 8-1-16

2016-08-01 Nelson PianoAnother Monday, another pre-dance jam! Wish I could get pictures of our jam musicians, but once the jam starts, I feel like we gotta keep moving, to play as much music as possible in the 45-50 minutes we have before the dance.

Had another decent turnout, as best I can remember, writing this a few days later – I think we had cello, two flutes, guest banjo, two fiddles, concertina, piano, guitar and harmonica.

Here are the tunes:

L’Oiseau Bleu
Roddy McCorley
Shove That Pig’s Foot
Mairi’s Wedding
Ashokan Farewell
Red-Haired Boy
Jamie Allen
Moon and Seven Stars
Road to Boston
Boda Waltz

And coming up this Saturday, we’ll have a pre-dance jam at the Peterborough Town House at 6:30pm. Be there!

Nelson Monday Jam 7-25-16

Starting at 7pm, we went around the (giant, sprawling) circle, and everybody chose a tune:

Father Kelly’s Reel (Portland)
Old Grey Cat (Portland)
Ashokan Farewell (Waltz Book)
Amelia (Waltz Book)
Coleraine (NEFR)
Jefferson & Liberty (NEFR)
Froggie on the Carport (Portland)
Jamie Allen (NEFR / Portland)
Moon & Seven Stars (Portland)
Connaughtman’s Rambles (NEFR)
Farewell to Whiskey (NEFR)
Pays de Haut (NEFR)

Instruments played: cello, four or five fiddles, three flutes, acoustic guitar, concertina, electric guitar, harmonica.

Books used: New England Fiddlers Repertoire, Portland Collection, The Waltz Book

Later that night, on stage…
And if I remember, the late-night contra dance sets played were:

Kesh Jig / Dan Something (?) in A / Irishman’s Heart
The Banshee / St Anne’s Reel / Flowers of Edinburgh
Waltz: Far Away

For those dances, it was Samuel on accordion, Garrett on banjo ukulele, Max on bass, Gordon on piano, and me on harmonica.

Peterborough First Saturday Jam: Correction
At the end of the early jam, I invited folks to come play at the Peterborough First Saturday Jam on August 6 before the contra dance in the Pboro Town House. I misspoke, thinking the first Saturday of August was THIS weekend, when actually it’s NEXT weekend. Peterborough jam starts at 6:30pm. If you stick around through the first half of the dance, we’ll also play some bonus waltzes during the break – in the middle of the dance floor, with couples waltzing around us.

Nelson Jam – July 18, 2016

IMG_20160718_200220The Monday night jam was once again orchestral! By the end, we had at least three fiddles, two flutes, cello, concertina, accordion, piano, guitar and harmonica.

The tune list tonight was punctuated by challenging new tunes which most of us sight-read, concluding with Mid Winter Waltz, which had a page turn that I missed, starting over from the beginning, puzzled why I was the only one confidently playing the first bars again.

There were calls to try it a second time, but we had to clear out for the dance, so a few of us regrouped behind the hall to give Mid Winter Waltz another run through.

This time, we all got the page turn and heard for the first time the shift from G minor to G major which those in the know had been waiting for. I was not in the know before, but I was now approaching the know. For good measure, we tried a second minor/major waltz outside, Tosavalsen.

Here are some of the tunes from tonight’s pre-dance jam:

L’Oiseau Bleu
Wind That Shakes the Barley
Lady of the Lake (D)
Little Burnt Potato
Mairi’s Wedding
Jefferson and Liberty
Rakes of Clonmel
Boda Waltz
Farewell to Whiskey
Mid Winter Waltz (outside)
Tosavalsen (outside)

IMG_20160718_203307Tonight was an Apple Hill night, and the hall was filled with visiting strings students attending the chamber music camp. We had four lines at one point. There were some unintentional shoulder checks. Gotta keep your swing minimalist when the hall’s that full! Usually the hall clears out around 10:00, but a good sized crowd stayed for the last two sets and the waltz. Tonight’s end of the night band was Samuel Foucher on accordion, Garrett Cameron on banjo uke, Jack Perron on fiddle, Gordon Peery on piano, and me on harmonica. Here’s what we played:

Jig Set: Rose in the Heather / Out on the Ocean / Morrison’s

Reel Set: The Banshee / Shenandoah Falls / McLenon’s

Waltz: The Rose By the Door

Del Rossi’s Jam – July 13, 2016

2016-07-13_del_rossis_01I went to the Del Rossi’s Wednesday jam every week for the first few years I lived in New Hampshire, then got busy on Wednesday nights and haven’t been in awhile. Lately, it seems like if I go, I rush and rush and STILL only catch the last couple songs. So when lessons wrapped up early today, I made a point to get to Del Rossi’s right at start time, 6pm. I even had a beer, but don’t worry, two hours of fiddle tunes is enough to metabolize one beer and send me down the road cleareyed and fully responsive.

2016-07-13_del_rossis_02Tonight the jam featured one fiddle, two guitars, a viola, a mandolin, and a harmonica. I used my low-rent smartphone to note down which tunes were played. It felt a little OCD and I worried that it looked like I was constantly texting between songs. Apologies to tonight’s jammers if I appeared to be an incorrigible millennial. I try to be corrigible, and I’m a good generation too old to be millennial. Plus my haircut’s too symmetrical. Here are the songs:

June Apple
Staten Island Hornpipe
Cooley’s Reel
Swinging on a Gate
Scollay’s Reel
Temperance Reel
The Star Above the Garter
Kitchen Girl
Angelina Baker
Ashokan Farewell
Swallowtail Jig
Mairi’s Wedding
Bundle and Go
McLenon’s Reel
Red Haired Boy
Midnight on the Water
Fair Jennie’s Jig
Hunting the Buffalo
Lovers Waltz

Nelson Jam – Monday July 11, 2016

2016-07-11_nelson_danceIf you’re interested, we have a beginner music jam before the contra dance in Nelson, NH every Monday night from 7:00-8:00pm. All instruments are welcome, and we use three books: the New England Fiddler’s Repertoire, The Portland Collection, and The Waltz Book. If you play by ear, you can travel lighter, but the books are helpful for practice at home and for trying out new stuff at the jam.

Tonight, we looked like a mini-orchestra! Four fiddles, three flutes, concertina, cello, accordion, piano, harmonica and guitar. It’d be nice to get pictures of the various groups who gather, since it does vary a lot. The picture at the beginning of this post is not from tonight’s jam, but from the dance later in the evening. During the actual jam, I was busy playing and didn’t take any pictures! Here are most of the tunes we played:

Brisk Young Lads
Boda Waltz
Jimmy Allen
Jennie’s Gone to Linton
Come Up the Back Stairs
Ashokan Farewell
Jefferson and Liberty
Far From Home
La Grondeuse
Mairi’s Wedding

Peterborough Beginners Jam 7-2-16

2016-06-02_pboro_jamWe had a great beginners jam before the Peterborough First Saturday Contra Dance this weekend! Four musicians came out, and we played tunes from the New England Fiddlers Repertoire, The Portland Collection and The Waltz Book. Instruments included guitar, harmonica, two fiddles, accordion, flute, whistle. Tunes played: Jimmy Allen, Mairi’s Wedding, L’oiseau Bleu, Spootiskerry, Southwind, Boda, Amelia, Kesh Jig, Staten Island Hornpipe, Doon the Brae, plus a few more I can’t remember. It’s a free community event, if you’d like to come play or listen. We’re there every first Saturday before the dance, in the Peterborough Town Hall, starting at 6:30. Next jam and dance are on Saturday August 6.

Winter Music News

guitars_uke_harmonicasThe picture here shows my main instruments – a Taylor acoustic guitar, a Stratocaster electric, a tenor ukulele, my diatonic harmonica case, and my new compact chord harmonica.

As winter arrives, I plan to hunker down in my studio and play a lot of music. Surprise! I do that in the spring and summer, too, if you’re keeping track.

Rack Harmonica
Lately I’ve been getting better at playing rack harmonica on jazz tunes while playing guitar simultaneously. Likewise with fiddle tunes. Never thought that’d be possible, since there’s so many notes, but apparently with practice, anything is possible!

Farmers Market
My most recent full-length solo gig was the Milford Farmers Market, where I did some looping on English country dance tunes, jazz, and contra dance tunes. Also did some singing, since I have multiple boxes of my four original CDs burning a hole in my closet. The singing I tend to forget about and accidentally downplay when I describe my musical life, but strumming and singing has kinda been my main thing for um, decades now?

I do a lot of singing with students. I’m super casual about it. “Oh yeah, hey, let’s sing.” As if it’s no big thing. But I know almost everyone’s self-conscious about it, so I hope my workmanlike attitude provides a model for folks to emulate; singing loudly in tune, singing through the nerves.

Contra Dance
This month I played my first real contra dance gig – it’s been a few years that I’ve sat in with the Monday Night band in Nelson, and the regulars, led by Perin Ellsworth-Heller, got hired for the Peterborough First Saturday Contra Dance. We had a three-piece rhythm section, myself on guitar, Matt Garland on piano, and Max Nunnemaker on bass, plus Perin on fiddle and Samuel Foucher on accordion. Worked up some modern-ish contra sets, plus a ragtime-gypsy jazz set, and we received reports later that it was mighty on the dancefloor. The soundman Peter recorded most of it, and I look forward to hearing the highlights.

Winter Walks
Went for a long walk today, with a hat and gloves, playing my harmonica. It was sunny. It felt good to be out. Dark as the photo above is, that’s just the inside of my little beaver dam. Outside, it’s crisp and lovely. I enjoy bright winter days, and plan to embrace the season in my New England home of four years.

Playing Jazz in the Springtime

tad_garrett_cropped_500Check out my jazz duo, Moonlight In New Hampshire! I’ve created a page on the website here with some audio demos, pictures, and a description of what we do.

Before we talk more about that, let’s pause to consider the present moment. Spring is here! I’m refilling the bird feeder every other day. Our strawberry plants are coming back. The hardy cactus, lying flat all winter under the snow, is raggedly returning to its feet.

My teaching schedule has been really busy, between private one-on-one lessons in Keene NH, weekly online lessons with students in Canada, France, and various US states, and my new position as music teacher for grades 5-8 at The Well School, in Peterborough NH.

My fiddle tune life has lately been limited to the Monday night contra dance in Nelson NH and the first Saturday dance in Peterborough, but the jazz side of things is flourishing.

First, I just finished participating in the spring session of the Early Jazz Ensemble at the Vermont Jazz Center, led by Anna Patton. Second, I’ve been getting out every other week or so to the same location for the weekly jazz jam. And finally, my jazz duo with Garrett Cameron is starting to really get into gear.

We call ourselves Moonlight In New Hampshire, the name being a play on the old song title “Moonlight In Vermont.” I like to say that we’re the duo that sounds like a 5-piece, because we’re both multi-instrumentalists. Garrett plays drums and sax, and I play guitar and diatonic harmonica, and I sing. You might say we sound like a sextet, actually, because I run my guitar through an octave effect for basslines, and then sample my guitar backgrounds.

Here’s my approach to jazz guitar looping – usually, the first time through the song form, I’ll sing or Garrett will play the lead on sax. During that run-through, I’ll be recording the guitar accompaniment. At the end of the first AABA, I step on the pedal again and play back the looped guitar accompaniment. At that point, I’ll overdub a walking bassline, or begin improvising on guitar or harmonica.

A note here about what Garrett does: like I said, he’ll often start on sax, then switch to drums during my solos. At that point, we’ve got a full jazz trio sound, with live drums, live soloist, and looped guitar/bass. Crazy as it sounds, Garrett will sometimes also add one-handed saxophone while continuing to play the drums with his other limbs. On other songs, to vary things up, we’ll leave out the drums and guitar loops, and Garrett plays chord tones on sax behind me during my solos. Did I mention this guy also plays Celtic music and studied composition in undergrad? Garrett Cameron is kinda badass.

For some songs, I’ll walk the bass while singing, and then add guitar chords after. Or play a fingerstyle bass+chords type of accompaniment, with pure guitar, no octave bass. I’d like to incorporate more simultaneous guitar and harmonica, sort of like a futuristic Bob Dylan, but right now I find I play better if I give each one its own turn.

I’ve begun playing some of our jazz standard repertoire in my solo gigs, and am looking forward to sharing the jazz duo sound of Moonlight In New Hampshire with audiences around New England. Enjoy the late spring and we’ll see you out there this summer. Cheers!

Tad’s Year in Review – 2014

100_1533_smallerHappy New Year! Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last year…

January – I played two gigs, one at the Blue Rock Restaurant in Shelburne Falls, MA, and one at Jesse’s, in Hanover NH. At the Blue Rock, I usually play strictly instrumental guitar music, but last January I was encouraged to sing, to great response. Not a big surprise, since playing and singing’s my usual format, but it was new to do it there, since they had asked me early on just to play instrumental music. At Jesse’s, I always sing. Two fun gigs, both within an hour of home.

February – Even closer to home, I played banjo ukulele and guitar for a contra dance at Stonewall Farm, along with Samuel Foucher on accordion, with calling by the great Nils Fredland. Stonewall Farm is about ten minutes from my home in downtown Keene, and it actually took longer to pack and unload gear than it did to travel to the gig :) Later that month, I played guitar instrumentals at The Waterhouse in Peterborough NH for their Sunday brunch music series. It’s a beautiful location, with big windows overlooking the river, which in February was partially frozen. I’m told otters have been spotted there by diners.

March – No gigs in March, but I did travel to North Carolina to attend a four-day harmonica workshop with Howard Levy. We played jazz and blues, worked on playing odd time signatures, broke down some really complex licks into breathing patterns, looked at various world musics, and hung out. Early mornings, late nights. Since she lives in the area, I got to visit my mom briefly in between workshop days!

April – I played guitar at a wedding in Walpole, NH at a beautiful apple orchard. Rain was imminent all afternoon, but it cleared up in time for the ceremony. The next day, I was back at The Waterhouse in Peterborough for brunch. No ice this time.

May – I attended a memorial for Bob McQuillen, pianist, composer, and treasure of the New England contra dance music world. Later that day it was an honor to take the stage with many of Bob’s musical friends and students in Peterborough afterward to play for a giant contra crowd in his memory. Also in May, my students gave their annual performance at Fritz, in Keene. Everybody played really well, families took over the room. Lots of applause, and a big finale song with maybe fifteen musicians playing together. At the end of the month, I flew to Indianapolis for the second year in a row, to attend the Harmonica Collective, another four-day harmonica intensive, featuring Jason Ricci, Winslow Yerxa, and James Conway, among others. Conway, in particular, has been a real inspiration to me to learn tongue blocking, since it allows for incredibly fast and clean playing on complex fiddle tunes on harmonica.

June – Played at the Walpole Farmers Market for the second time, and made another trip to The Waterhouse in Peterborough. At the end of the month, I feel I got to attend another great harmonica event by proxy – at my suggestion, one of my own harmonica students, who lives in Canada, attended a workshop in the Toronto area hosted by Carlos Del Junco and Adam Gussow, two of the biggest names in blues harp. Though I didn’t get to participate, I was happy for my student, because I know how inspiring and broadening it can be to meet and learn from great teachers and connect with other fellow harmonica-obssessed friends.

July – No gigs in July. According to my notes, I got my teeth cleaned and considered attending a music festival in Massachussetts (but didn’t go).

August – I played at Blue Rock in Shelburne Falls MA again, and this time it was all vocal, all night. In an intense three-week period, I went on a family vacation with my partner’s family, then went to my cousin’s wedding in Florida, then attended an amazing long weekend workshop in Bellows Fall VT on rhythm and improvisation with Eugene Friesen, Glen Velez, and the singer Loire. Five or six cellists, a couple singers, and me on guitar, vocals, harmonica.

September – no gigs.

October – Blue Rock in Shelburne Falls, again. Also, a pumpkin-carving Halloween party at a business in Keene, prior to the pumpkin festival. Yes, I attended the festival the night of the rioting, but noticed nothing because all the obnoxiousness and destruction took place withing a couple blocks of the Keene State campus, and the festival was apparently isolated from it. One thing I remember, though – I was trying and trying to call a friend to meet up, and my calls wouldn’t go through. I know now that this was probably because of all the cell usage in the area that night – both because folks were reporting crazy behavior, and because others were spreading the word and inviting in more partiers via social media.

November – in November I started attending a weekly class on early jazz at the Vermont Jazz Center, playing diatonic harmonica. The class was perfectly timed for me, since all year, I’d been collecting and exploring recordings of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bichet, and others. The class lasted a couple months, and it was humbling and inspiring. Thanks to my bandmates for enduring my pitch wobbles, and for welcoming me as a fellow horn player.

December – at the beginning of the month, the early jazz ensemble gave its debut performance at the VT Jazz Center’s open house, and an encore a couple weeks later. I played harmonica, and secretly began practicing jazz guitar at home again, which I’ve continued in the new year :)

Ongoing Activities – I should mention that while these notes represent my solo “Tad Dreis” performance highlights from 2014, I continue to play every Monday night at the Nelson town hall with a volunteer contra dance band, and to lead jams in Keene when the Monday dance moved there over the summer, and in Peterborough before the monthly first Saturday dance there.

Teaching – And of course, I teach private lessons every week, in my home studio in Keene, and online with students in Canada, France and various US states. Playing and singing with my students has been a big part of how I’ve stayed sharp, music-wise, since I stopped touring long-distance five years ago. A new development in my teaching world has been my recent hiring as Upper School music teacher at The Well School in Peterborough NH, where I lead music classes for 5th – 8th grade, using rock band instrumentation – voice, guitar, bass, piano, drums – plus ukuleles.

Looking Ahead – I plan on playing more jazz this spring, with the Early Jazz ensemble, and in a duo with my drummer friend Garrett. I’ve acquired a sampler pedal and an octave shifter and it’s been pretty neat to be the bass player AND the guitarist AND the harmonica player in a jazz duo setting. I’m also teaching at the Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs NY in February, which is a huge deal in the traditional music world. Offering classes on blues and fiddle tunes on harmonica at the festival, and hopefully getting some dancing in to some great live bands, plus visiting with area friends. If you’ve read this far, thanks for your interest in what I’m up to, and I wish you a wonderful 2015!