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(From WGS Newsletter No. 12, January 1994)
Since the guitar society cranked up last year, there has been much opportunity for ensemble playing. Most of the credit for this goes to Cate Fleming. (Thanks, Cathy!) One of the sidelights of this has been the opportunity to observe other guitarists in action.
Something that I've found mildly shocking again and again is the cavalier attitude toward sitting position. The same guitarist will use a foot stool, or not use one, or use it for the right foot, or use two stacked up, or use one for each foot, or cross one leg over the other. The leg on which the guitar is placed seems to be either a totally random selection, or possibly a function of which leg is closest to the guitar when it is grabbed.
Now, that's exaggerated a bit, of course. At least I haven't noticed any one player guilty of all the above. And I surely don't mean to imply that my sitting position is ideal (or that I can play any better than a sloppy sitter.) But there must be a reason sitting position is emphasized in almost every guitar method. Christopher Parkening, for example, spent a lot of time on it with each student in the master classes I've observed.
I'll admit, it would be tough to quantify exactly how much a guitarist holds himself back by not using a good and consistent position - whether or not it's the more-or-less standardized one. But it would be impossible to argue that he is doing himself a favor by placing the guitar in a new orientation every time he goes to play it. Can you imagine violinists or pianists doing that?
All I ask is that anybody who feels a twinge of guilt while reading this to consider whether a good, solid, tried-and-true playing position really takes any more effort than a crummy one...
...OR ELSE NEXT TIME I'M GONNA NAME NAMES!
P.S. If you find yourself shifting positions because you get too uncomfortable, see if sitting on a pillow doesn't help.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 15, June 1994)
Preceding the "main event" of last month's meeting was an hour devoted to informal playing. This was a society first. The stage had always been open, of course, to anyone willing to play, but no one ever seemed to want to take the plunge after the featured performer had played. Kevin (our new president) had a brainstorm: set aside an hour for open-stage playing before the featured performer. This first go-round was a rousing success.
Society members who performed were Cate Fleming, Brian Kent, Donald Sauter and Corwin Moore. Not your run-of-the-mill guitar quartet, they've got an acoustic bass guitar! It's played by Corwin, and you L.A. dudes can just eat your hearts out. A soloist and a couple of duos emerged from the ranks of the quartet, and all-in-all we heard Thomas Robinson (renaissance), Gluck (classical), Leo Brouwer (contemporary) and I. Zavadskii (say wot??? Oh yeah, Ukrainian dance.)
If a clinker or two were heard (and I'm not admitting to anything), that's all right. For one thing, the whole idea of the "informal hour" is to provide a supportive, appreciative, understanding and non-threatening atmosphere for anyone - at any level - who would like to try playing for an audience of guitar-playing friends and peers. For another, we just wanted to make sure you knew that we're human.
A real treat was having renowned mandolinist Neil Gladd play for us. He did one of his original compositions, the Toccata from his Sonata for Solo Mandolin, I believe. (Sorry, Neil! I didn't take notes.) Neil's Sonata was the first modern work for solo mandolin and it inspired other composers to write for the instrument. Neil played a Bach violin fugue and another work consisting of variations showing off the considerable capabilities of the instrument. Also, Neil won the "Good Sport of the Month" award (or would've, if there was one) for playing a mandolin-guitar duet he had never seen before with Don.
If you thought Brian and Don's Zavadskii rendition had "gasping syncopations" (as claimed by the song's introductory notes), you should have heard the mandolin-guitar duo from Brazil. This was Paulo de Sa' on mandolin and Marco de Carvalho on the... oh, go on, have a guess. Neil hosted them in D.C. during their tour of the U.S. For convenience, you may call them the "Marco Polo" duo. They performed Brazillian choros and original compositions - all without music, and all very hot. Their encore was a funny arrangement of [Kevin, do you remember what it was? Cathy and I have forgotten. Neil would surely remember], and Marco treated us to a guitar solo - de Visee's D minor suite played with the movements connecting seamlessly one to the next.
If it sounds like we had an absolute blast, you're right. You can join in, too. Bring your guitar and show up an hour early, at 1:00, for all future meetings. If you can't quite work up courage yet (or don't even play), well, show up anyway - players need listeners. Teachers, if you're of the belief that the trauma of public performance is integral to the "guitar experience", encourage your students to give it a go. It's the perfect opportunity. Except there's no trauma.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 17, September 1994)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was coaxed back from the... er, came out of retirement temporarily to compose a short piece for the new Washington Guitar Society. No doubt feeling very pleased with his first composition in, um, several years, he produced a second one - quite a coup for the fledgling society. Since Mr. Mozart is a bit, uh... infirm (shall we say?) these days, he needed the help of a society member to do the copying chores. Critics agree the two works, "The Patowmack Stomp" and "The Bureaucratic Shuffle", are destined to become classics in the guitar repertoire.
"The Patowmack Stomp" and "The Bureaucratic Shuffle" by W. A. Mozart (pdf)
[The real story: Mozart truly did write these pieces, even though they've never been played or heard before now. They were created using his Musikalisches Würfelspiel - the "musical dice game." Mozart wrote 11 alternatives for each of the measures in the piece and a toss of the dice determines which one to copy in. Actually, the 1st and 2nd endings are always the same and the last measure has only 2 choices. Thus the total number of different minuets is exactly 759,499,667,166,482. While this is nowhere near the 100,000,000,000,000,000 claimed by the publisher, it's not to be sneezed at, either. You figure that's 137,690.4 unique minuets for each person on the face of the earth (July, 1992 world population.) If only we could live off of music...
The Musikalisches Würfelspiel (K. 516f) was transcribed from piano to guitar by Miguel Coelho and published in 1976 by Carousel Publishing Corp. as "Melody Dicer".]
Mr. Mozart strenuously (as is possible at his age) denies rumors that he is down on his luck, but has offered to compose original minuets for anybody who wants one - 10 bucks a pop (negotiable.) He says to make checks payable to his agent/copyist/Wuerfelflinger (dice tosser), Herr D. Sauter.
(For a couple hundred more of these Walzers in tablature, visit my Mozart's Musical Dice Game page. And if that's still not enough, here are 1000 more.)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 18, November 1994)
As long as I've been playing guitar, I've enjoyed playing duets with guitar friends. One good source of guitar duet music is transcriptions of Renaissance lute duets, such as those in Frederick Noad's "Renaissance Guitar" book. These are generally lively, note-y and not too hard, at least if you play them with the guitar tuned like a lute - that is, with the 3rd string tuned down a half-step. But there's the problem - almost no one I've played with is willing to tune the 3rd string down. A few have grumbled and gone along with it reluctantly, but most become hysterical at the mere suggestion.
Not retuning almost always creates a few stumbling blocks in an otherwise easy piece. (Relatively speaking, that is - I claim that no guitar piece is truly "easy".) I can see it coming a mile away - the cranky chord with the 4th-string F# that would be child's play with an open-string F#. Yep, there goes my partner - doing the usual crash and burn.
Come on, people! It's not that hard getting used to the lute tuning. All you have to think is, "F# can now be played open, and add one fret to all 3rd-string notes." What was an open G is now at the first fret, the A is at the 3rd fret, etc. You won't be required to go too far up the 3rd string, but even if you have to, it's no big deal - just add one fret! Neatly written fingerings will keep you on track.
Frederick Noad was kind enough to let me reprint the "Round Battle Galliard" by John Dowland from Mr. Noad's "Renaissance Guitar" anthology (p43). In his introductory remarks to the book, Mr. Noad says that he occasionally had to drop a note when transcribing to guitar tuning, but "inexperienced players have such a resistance to [tuning the 3rd string down a semitone] that I have in general avoided the expedient" (p20.) In my view, that's downright heartbreaking. So I've refingered it here for lute tuning:
"Round Battle Galliard" by John Dowland (pdf)
If you have the book (all guitarists should), try it both ways and see if Dowland's tuning doesn't work better. It ought to! (To restore dropped notes in the Round Battle Galliard, add an open string F# to measure 3/beat 1; measure 9/beat 1; and measure 20/beat 1. Add a 4th string D# to measure 7/beat 3 and measure 16/beat 3.)
This tuning applies to vihuela music as well as the Renaissance lute. After you've started to play this music in the tuning intended by the composer, you won't turn back. It solves many more problems than it creates, and it simply "feels right" for these pieces. Playing your "lute" or "vihuela" is sure to transport you back about 400 years. The only problem is the future shock you may experience when the last notes fade away and you find yourself back in the modern world again. Bummer.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 18, November 1994)
A big thanks goes out to the members who made good music during the open-stage hour of the August, September and October meetings. This was particularly welcome at the last two meetings which featured workshops instead of performances.
Smiley faces go to Bev Ross, Brian Kent, Don Sauter and Joe Bianco. They played a wide-ranging batch of music in the form of solos, duets and trios. It can be seen that some "major works" (don't ask me what that means) are getting an airing here.
Performers Piece Composer ---------- ----- -------- Brian and Don Sonata in C Heinrich Albert Fandango Mario Gangi Divertimento for wind trio W. A. Mozart Bev, Brian and Don Citharoedia Strigoniensis Ferenc Farkas Vortragsstuecke Fried Walter Samba Quica Klaus Wüsthoff Bev and Don Prelude and Minuet Guido Santorsola Brian Mood For a Day Steve Howe (of Yes) Don La Marcial Julio Sagreras Joe Stairway to the Stars, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, and other standards. Snowy Morning Blues James P. Johnson Prelude Bach/Genesis 2 Studies Leo Brouwer
In such an informal playing setting, pieces occasionally get restarted or redone if things go a bit haywire. It's no big deal!
The pervading spirit is not, "I'm the performer up here, and you're the audience out there." It's more like, "Hey, I'll play for you if you'll play for me." In the words of folk guitarist Laura Weber, "You don't have to be a big deal in music - just do something on your own level."
Please join in.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 19, January 1995)
The program for December was our second members' recital. This one was even bigger and better than the first. Members playing in various duo and trio combinations were Brian Kent, Clemence Mertaugh, Bev Ross, Don Sauter, Dennis Utterback and Matteo Carcassi (not really; just seeing if you're paying attention.)
"Vier Miniaturen", a guitar trio by Eberhard Werdin, was roundly appreciated, but more significantly, it represented Clemence's public performance debut. Go, Clemence!
A far-out arrangement for 2 guitars of "Frere Jacques" by Leo Brouwer was given an inspired performance. Literally. Bev dedicated the performance to her life partner, Christine (who's French, get it?)
We heard a trio by Agustin Barrios, "Zapateado Caribe" (probably his one-and-only guitar trio), and another by Torsten Ratzkowski, "Cancion y Tango".
Off the beaten track, for classical guitarists, at least, was a jazzy trio combining a Charlie Parker melody and a turn-of-the-century pop song. The concoction, "Donna Lee's Back Home Again In Indiana", was arranged by Marvin Falcon and it appeared in the most recent Soundboard magazine. Which shows how "cutting edge" our members are...
There were a couple of nice duo arrangements of South American folk tunes in which Dennis made his guitar society debut. Regardless of whether any of the above can be considered standard fare, the beaten path was definitely veered from again when Brian and Don did a bouncing "fingerstyle" duo by John Renbourn called "Snap A Little Owl".
We had a surprise guest artist, Paul Grove, in town from Tucson to do doctoral research. What a treat! Without any warm-up whatsoever, he played a 20-minute set of Giuliani, Albeniz, Ponce and Torroba to near-perfection. Then, on top of that, our president Kevin Vigil was coaxed into action and spun effortlessly through some Villa-Lobos etudes. Those boys can play!
When Don issued an "I'll play one if you'll play one" challenge to Brian, Brian dug deep into his past and pulled out a rocking "Classical Gas". Upholding his end of the deal, Don got us into the Christmas season spirit with "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" (arranged by Timothy K. Sparks.) Now you know why they call the guitar a small orchestra. (Very small, in Don's hands!)
With members' concerts like these, plus the regular open-stage hour, it's no wonder that we've developed a reputation as the "playingest" guitar society around. If you weren't there, you missed out on a wide variety of well-played music. And a lot of fun. And homemade Christmas cookies...
(From WGS Newsletter No. 19, January 1995)
Here's a quick and personal overview of the Fall 1994 issue of Soundboard, the journal of the Guitar Foundation of America.
In an interview with David Russell, he says he would like to see GFA festivals do more to attract amateurs and younger guitarists. He suggests a separate competition division for younger players, and playing opportunities - such as a guitar orchestra - for all interested players. I agree, that would be fantastic. But at the same time, let me assure anyone who has never attended a GFA festival that there's a wonderful time to be had by all. To call it a "clique convention of professionals" seems overstated. In the Reverberations department, we read that the word "festival" is being retired in favor of "convention", which may strengthen the impression that it's not geared toward amateurs.
Russell talked about how a performer should handle disturbances - such as beeping watches - from the audience. Not recommended is a sarcastic, "Oh, it must be time to start." You can lose an audience by taking yourself too seriously. What this brought to my mind was a guitar concert in which the performer complained about the continuous rustling sounds from the audience, and from that point on I found my attention drawn almost totally to listening for those sounds - not his guitar.
Segovia fans will enjoy hearing Russell comment that he owes a lot to Segovia, "because I used to directly copy his phrasing."
Here are some interesting tidbits from the review of Richard Stover's biography of Agustin Barrios. Barrios only published 10 works during his life. He played for Stravinsky. The failure of his 1934/35 European tour - particularly in Berlin - may have had a lot to do with racism. He played guitar behind his head. And he had plastic surgery on his lips.
In her paper on Justin Holland, Barbara Clemenson presents many fascinating details about the man's life. The guitar is peripheral in this story of Holland's struggle to earn the respect of whites and help other African-Americans overcome their problems. In a letter to Oberlin college in 1840, Holland wrote, "I... have strove in vain to obtain a decent education for the difficulties I have to encounter are next to insurmountable." An example of Holland's activism on behalf of other blacks is his involvement in the National Negro Conventions of mid-century. When oppression of blacks in the country had only gotten worse by the early 1860's, Holland came over to the position in favor of emigration. He himself went to the West Indies during the Civil War.
Holland joined a black Mason lodge. He was adamant that the members adhere to the highest moral standards. Black Masonry was not recognized in the U.S., but Holland was successful in obtaining recogniton from lodges in 6 foreign countries.
Peter Danner tied the issue's tablature piece in with the Justin Holland article. He presents a piece by Holland composed for the guitar tuned to an E major chord. [Correction: "Musette de Nina" is actually from the operetta "Nina, ou, La folle par amour" by N. d'Alayrac (d. 1809).] One of my soapbox issues is tablature. It opens up the big, wide world of alternate tunings, and you might be shocked to find how easy it is to play from.
Dr. Danner suggests tuning the guitar down to D major instead of up to E major, for reasons of tension. Since the D major tuning is perhaps too flabby, I propose a compromise - E-flat major (from low to high: Eb Bb Eb G Bb Eb.) In this tuning three strings go down a semitone, and two strings go up a semitone, thereby keeping close to the normal total tension. As Goldilocks would say, this tuning is "juuuuust right." To make it more worth your while retuning (to whichever key), here is the theme plus two variations from Zani de Ferranti's "Carnival of Venice", op. 5, written for guitar tuned to E major:
"Carnival of Venice" by Zani de Ferranti (3 mvmts) (pdf)
Anyone who would like the complete piece in tab, send me about 6 stamps. [Revisiting this in 2019, let me say, my, how times have changed! You can keep your 6 stamps and just fire up the complete "Carnival of Venice" tablature in pdf format. WOULD SOMEBODY WITH CHOPS PLEASE RECORD THIS AND PUT IT UP ON YOUTUBE? For a bit of information on the piece, and some thoughts by an early 20th C. American guitar virtuoso, here's my main page for Ferranti's "Carnival of Venice".]
The "Society Page" department lists the "most active" guitar societies. In a very disappointing oversight, we were somehow left out. Active? Heck, we're flourishing!
In a review of a work by Russian guitarist Andrei Sychra, James Reid believes that a transcription from the Russian 7-string to our standard 6-string guitar is "undoubtedly the most practical" approach. Perhaps it is, but if I were Emperor of the Guitar World, such music would be translated without alteration - that is, observing the original tuning - into a modern, standardized tablature. An interested guitarist would play it on his 7- to 13-string guitar. (Of course, Yamaha would make good-quality, inexpensive, extra-string guitars.) This set-up would not only make Russian guitar music directly playable, but also Renaissance and Baroque lute music, and much else besides.
Two ads in the Soundboard merit a mention. Chanterelle is offering the complete works of Aguado at a very reasonable price. Their editions are always superb. I had a chance to help in a small way with this edition by providing copies of several of Aguado's works from the Library of Congress's collection. Interestingly, the publisher Schott is still claiming copyright on their editions from the first half of the nineteenth century. Rather than go to battle, Chanterelle chose to use alternate early editions, published by Chez L'Auteur.
The Library of Congress also has one Aguado work in manuscript. It is a thing of beauty. Chanterelle needed a sharp photocopy of the cover for some performance instructions written in tiny, razor-fine script. I eventually found the piece - in spite of it not being cataloged where one would most expect it, and catching a few librarians who were having off-days.
An ad in the Soundboard good for a belly laugh is the one by Personal Touch Music Publications. They supply a jingle that would do Sani-flush, Datsun, or Nair proud. It's for classical guitar. It's got lyrics. "Per-son-al Touch Mu-sic Pub-li-ca-tions." I can't get the darn thing out of my head.
Well, that's what I found. How about you?
(From WGS Newsletter No. 20, April 1995)
The oldest surviving guitar music is found in Alonso Mudarra's publication from 1546 called Tres libros de musica en cifras para vihuela. This is the third oldest surviving vihuela publication, following Luis Milan's in 1536 and Luis de Narvaez's in 1538. There are six pieces for 4-course guitar in Mudarra's book.
Of special interest is the first of these six pieces, a fantasia written for "guitarra al temple viejo" - guitar in the old tuning. And believe you me, if the tuning was already old by 1546, it is old! This tuning is like the highest 4 strings on the modern guitar, but with the 4th string tuned down one step to C.
"Fantasia a quatro bozes al temple viejo" by Alonso Mudarra (Renaissance guitar) (pdf)
Mudarra's piece turns out to be our only surviving piece of published music for renaissance guitar tuned this way. Juan Bermudo, writing in 1555, tells us that this tuning was "more suitable for old ballads and strummed music than for modern music." When you tune your 4th string down a step and strum the open four strings, you'll understand why renaissance jazz musicians were so fond of the major 7th chord. (That's a joke, son.)
The last of the 6 pieces for guitar by Mudarra was his rendition of the "Romanesca: o guardame las vacas" (look after the cows for me.) This is for "guitarra al temple nuevo" - guitar in the new tuning. This "new tuning" is the same as the first four strings of the modern guitar.
"Romanesca: O guardame las vacas" by Alonso Mudarra (Renaissance guitar) (pdf)
The vihuelists were the first to compose instrumental theme and variations. "Guardame las vacas" was a popular theme for composing variations on. Mudarra wrote another set for the vihuela, and three other vihuela composers did, too. You might like to compare Mudarra's 4-course guitar version with Narvaez's well-known vihuela version which can be found, for example, in Frederick Noad's "Renaissance Guitar" anthology.
What you can do is, first tune your guitar like the vihuela - that is, tune the 3rd string down a half-step. Play the Narvaez version like this. Without retuning, also play Mudarra's version, but on the middle 4 strings of your guitar. This very nicely transposes Mudarra's piece to the same key as Narvaez's.
Mudarra's tablature was of the upside-down sort. (The only vihuelist who published right-side-up tablature was Milan.) The 2 pieces here have been reset in an easy-to-read, right-side-up tablature. Spaces, rather than lines, represent strings, and rhythm values are given for every note or chord. The original tablature for "Guardame las vacas" can be seen in the book Guitars (Evans, p107). Mudarra's complete Tres Libros is published in a very nice facsimile edition by Editions Chanterelle. Information in this article was gathered from guitar histories by Grunfeld, Turnbull, Bellow and Evans.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 20, April 1995)
...to make our guitar society a big success!
* Show up at meetings.
* Play for the open-stage hour.
* Bring refreshments. Thanks to Cathy Cutrell for taking this upon herself so far.
* Submit articles to the journal. Anything from "Something neat I've been doing lately" to "Sub-atomic Decay in Aging Guitar Strings."
* Submit music to the newsletter. Do you have any original compositions or arrangements you'd like to share?
* Host a drop-in ensemble session.
* Typing. Enter handwritten or typed journal contributions onto computer disk.
* Take notes at meetings that feature a workshop. Put together a summary for the next issue of the journal.
* Put society promotional material in music stores.
* Donate a guitar magazine subscription to the society library.
* Librarian. Organize our journals and other publications received, and control the lending of whatever material the society accumulates.
* Historian (perhaps same person as the librarian.) Archive material relating to society activities, and the D.C. area guitar scene as well. Collect concert programs, promotional materials, newspaper ads, etc.
* Donate venue for house concerts.
* [Add anything I'm forgetting.]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 21, June 1995)
The energy and good vibes that have always been present at WGS monthly programs have been cranking up even higher in recent months. At the March meeting we were joined by an outstanding Washington-area violinist - Phyllis Fleming (sister of WGS member Cathy.) Thus, our open-stage segment featured violin/guitar, violin/two guitars, guitar solo, guitar duo, and guitar trio acts. Many thanks to Phyllis, Cathy, Bev, Don and Tom! The pieces played on violin and two guitars were actually hijacked 19th century American pieces for mandolin, guitar and banjo. Where else do you get an opportunity to hear this good stuff? (No wisecracks, please!) Also, Phyllis' violin added an extra dimension to the Praetorius quartet and quintet jam session at the end of the meeting.
Likewise, the April meeting had an interesting kick-off with Mike showing and demonstrating his authentic 19th-century guitar - not a copy! Jesse played Sor on the open stage and that was followed by a couple of duos from Brian and Don. Composer Andrew Charlton got a work-over at this session, what with a solo by Don, a duo from Bev and Don, and a trio from the Patowmack Guitar Trio (Bev, Brian and Don.) The latter piece was published in the most recent Soundboard and the trio is modestly claiming one or more or the following: Washington premiere, East Coast premiere, U.S. premiere, Western Hemis... (You get the picture.) Also, Jesse put on display a neat selection of music and books from his guitar library.
At the May meeting, we had an enjoyable and informative workshop on the interpretation of Weiss's Baroque lute music from guitarist John Stover. We also had a surprise visit from renowned luthier Douglas Ching. He showed no signs of tiring answering everyone's questions about their own instruments. Wayne brought his vihuela along; Cathy brought refreshments. Don displayed a batch of wonderful guitar publications from Chanterelle. In the open-stage segment, Kate Maynor gave her classical guitar public performance debut in a trio with Dennis and Don. She only started the instrument last September. Good job, Kate!
Understand that all of the above is in addition to the featured performer of the month. So, you see, there are many ways that you can join in the fun and frolic. We'll thank you, and you'll thank yourself. Like the non-profit radio station spots say, "The word for the day is... "Participation!"
(From WGS Newsletter No. 21, June 1995)
Jesse Tan - the Washington Guitar Society's own "Guitarzan!" (see the Apr/May95 newsletter) - has very kindly provided us with an original composition. It's a waltz called "Laurita". (Jesse also calls it "Laurie's Waltz.") Don't be surprised if it brings to mind one of Jesse's own favorite composers, Agustin Barrios. So put on your Indian headdress, spell your name backwards, and go to town!
"Laurita (Valse)" by Jesse O. Tan (pdf)
Almost all of Jesse's original fingerings are retained here, but have generally been re-notated. In this fingering system, all position changes are indicated - either by an explicit position indicator (such as C7), or by a guide finger dash. C7 implies position only; nothing about barring. -3 implies guide finger only; nothing about glissando. Performance notes (numbers in boxes) 1 to 6 are reserved to indicate a preparatory barre through that number of strings.
Don't gripe about fingerings you don't like - just change them. In the worst case, it only takes about 6 minutes (and 4.88 seconds, to be exact) to white-out every single fingering.
The manuscript has been "cosmetically enhanced" for the sake of readability. Sure has a lot more character than that modern laser printed stuff, eh?
Jesse is happy for anyone to freely use and copy his piece. Copyright has been retained, however, to encourage anyone with a notion of making significant profit on it (from publishing, say) to contact Jesse first.
Joe Bianco did a great job proofreading Jesse's manuscript and editing it where necessary to bring it into correspondence with what Jesse really meant. When Joe would ask, "What do want here?", Jesse would sidestep the question - "I don't know, what do you think?" ("But you're the composer, man!") So you can see, Jesse is no stickler for precise implementation of the printed music.
Performance notes (M=measure):
- Don't be afraid to do your thing. Hold bass notes beyond notated values. Add glissandos - for example, up to the 12th-fret D in M13. Play the coda freely. Etc., etc.
- The staffs are a bit crowded. Musical instructions always apply to the staff above.
- a tpo = a tempo.
- con gracia = with gracefulness.
- poco = little.
- rall(entando) = ritard(ando) = gradual slowing.
- M8,70: The wavy line is an exaggerated vibrato.
- M43-45: "ciciendo" means "stretch" in Spanish (says Jesse). Draw out the sequences of notes connected by glissandos.
- M66: There are natural harmonic possibilities on strings 3 and 4.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 21, June 1995)
Did you know that guitar music - specifically, 4 measures from Fernando Sor's Op. 11, no. 5 - makes up part of the Sharp Corporation's test pattern for its copy machines? (This was the case, at least, in 1995.)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 22, August 1995)
In March 1995, Matanya Ophee posted a message to a classical guitar discussion group on the Internet. He contends that Christopher Parkening's recording of the Prelude from the third violin partita in E Major on a 1982 album was sped up to clock in at 3:35. Supporting evidence is that it sounds in F. By comparison, Barrueco has taken 4:20 to play it; Yamashita recorded it in 3:22. Ophee points out that Parkening's recording (1985) of Bach's Cantata No. 29 - which is the same piece reworked by Bach for organ plus orchestral accompaniment - takes 4:55. Ophee suspects that exactly the same guitar recording is used for both pieces, but with the speed varied. (Ophee says this slower recording sounds in E.) Also, Ophee objects to Parkening lifting the religious dedication from the organ version, applying it to the violin version written years earlier - and then selling the recording for profit.
Pat Russ, Parkening's producer adamently denies each of Ophee's charges. He was present for both recordings. Nothing was sped up. The solo version sounds in F because Parkening used a capo. The slower orchestral version tempo was deliberately chosen; Parkening liked E. Power Biggs' version. Russ says it was played in the same key - F, not E - and that Ophee needs a new tape player. Russ also points out that all artist's proceeds from the 1982 album go to charity.
So there you have a taste of some guitar discussion on the Internet. The 2 paragraphs above summarize 5 full pages of computer discussion. The intention here is not to compete with the National Enquirer. (Or to take sides. However, it should be noted that even if Ophee were right about the key of the orchestral version, the 37% difference in timings is far from the 5.95% timing increase which would result from slowing the same performance down from F to E.)
Is there any interest in such a regular summary in our newsletter? It would be of interest not only to computer "have-nots" feeling left in the dust of the much-hyped "information super-highway", but also to computer "haves" who aren't inclined to go to the time, trouble and expense of wading through oceans of worthless gab for a few interesting nuggets. My own opinion is that a good summary is far preferable to the full-blown discussion. Should we take the lead on this, or let some other guitar society run with the idea? Let us know if you'd like to help with the column.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 22, August 1995)
The monthly program for July was a Members' Recital. A big round of thanks go to all those who either did or didn't have to work up courage to play for us. This included Bev Ross, Brian Kent, Don Sauter, Phyllis Fleming (violin), Mike Davis, Dave Gromadzki, Tom Hazer and Tim Evans. Also thanks to all who came to listen, who were too innumerous to mention.
A program is given below. While everything was a highlight, some aspects deserve a special mention. Half-way through the first variation of the L'Hoyer, Brian added a beeping watch to the 3 guitars. I don't know if that's what L'Hoyer intended, but who am I to criticize?
The "Chanson" duet is a golden oldie from a 1950 issue of Guitar Review, while, at the other end of the spectrum, "Tin Pan Allegretto" is hot off the presses having appeared in the most recent Soundboard. The morning of the recital, Don got around to reading the composer's performance notes and saw that he suggested dotted rhythms in certain places. So, not only was the piece something the audience had never heard before, but it was a surprise to the performers as well.
It is always a pleasure when area violinist Phyllis Fleming donates some of her precious time and talent to our society. Thanks, Phyllis!
Mike is one of our playing stalwarts, always ready to go with something from his vast memorized repertoire for occasions like this.
Tom tried to perpetuate the myth that "Romanza" ("Spanish Romance") is by "anonymous". Just kidding, Tom. That may be true, but there is an interesting article the Spring 1988 Soundboard which traces it back to Antonio Rovira, about 1876. (Unfortunately, the article does not supply references. Also, Matanya Ophee says it is a Ukrainian folk song published in 1871.)
Dave played a beautiful and lengthy arpeggio study of his own composition. Wow! Tim's advanced technique and musicality showed us why he's lead guitar for the Alexandria Guitar Quartet.
To no one's surprise, there was ample fun and positive energy at this Member's Recital. There was a wealth of material played that you won't often hear in concert or on records. Unfortunately, many of you were not there. This time around, Peg and Kate get held up as an example for public ridicule. Be careful, you might be next!
WGS Members' Recital - July 1, 1995 Trio Concertant, op. 29 ........... Antoine L'Hoyer Tema con Variazioni Allegro moderato trio: Bev, Brian, Don Chanson, op. 14 ...................... J. W. Duarte duo: Bev, Don Tin Pan Allegretto .................. Marvin Falcon duo: Brian, Don Serenade, op. 15 ....................... H. Neumann Consolazione, Romance, op. 25 ...... Napoleon Coste Phyllis (violin), Don The Parlement ........................... anonymous Branle De Bourgogne ................. Adrien Le Roy 3rd Lute Suite (Allemande, Bourree) .... J. S. Bach Mike Prelude 1 .......................... H. Villa-Lobos Fantasia Etude ..................... Dave Gromadzki Dave Romanza ........................ Antonio Rovira (?) Prelude, Cello Suite 1 ................. J. S. Bach Tom Sonata 3 (two mvmts) ..................... M. Ponce Recuerdos de la Alhambra ............... F. Tarrega Tim
(From WGS Newsletter No. 22, August 1995)
If I were to shout from the mountaintops how great it is to play Bach's music for solo violin on the guitar directly from the violin score, I surely wouldn't be the first. For example, there was a very nice article on this by Stephen Dick in "Acoustic Guitar" magazine (July 1992). But allow me to add my voice to the chorus.
The quality of the music is not in dispute. It's a massive chunk of music - and can be bought anywhere very inexpensively. No matter what level guitarist you are, the pieces will give your technique a work out. But, as Stephen Dick points out, you don't have to worry about playing at virtuoso tempos - Bach sounds just fine at slower speeds. And you might feel closer to this towering man of music when one of the middlemen - the guitar transcriber - is removed.
The inevitable questions arise about whether notes should be added, or, "What would Bach have written if he had been composing for the guitar?" My position is: Sure, add any notes you want - it's a free world - but obviously Bach was satisfied that the notes he wrote constituted complete music.
If you find yourself intrigued by the idea of playing directly from Bach's music for unaccompanied violin, let me propose an alternate guitar tuning. That would be tuning the guitar's 6th string up to G.
The lowest string on the violin is G so, obviously, we will never need any notes below that. Moreover, the one step interval between the 5th and 6th strings can be used to good advantage. For low notes, you may use the normal 5th string fret, or you can find the same note 2 frets up on the 6th string. Choose whichever is more convenient. Example 1 shows the opening measures of the Chaconne. The 4-note D minor chord is a pain on the guitar tuned normally, but is no problem with a low G.
Open strings on any instrument have a special importance since those notes are readily available no matter where you are along the fingerboard. The tuning of the violin, from low to high, is G D A E. After we tune up to G, notice that we have 3 of the 4 open violin strings at our disposal - G D and E. The fact that the guitar does not have an open middle-A string is probably the biggest remaining stumbling block in the smooth transfer of music from violin to guitar. It can get more than a little hairy negotiating those sections where Bach goes to town using the open 2nd-string A as a pedal.
During the years that our newsletter has proscrastinated publishing this article, I worried that someone might beat me to press with the idea. I haven't seen it proposed anywhere else, but I got a kick out of Kevin Gallagher's solution. He uses a single string capo on the 3rd fret of the 6th string. This capo requires a hole to be drilled into the neck! (See Soundboard, Winter 1995, page 48.)
It's also interesting to note that transcribers of violin pieces in D or D minor - for instance the Chaconne - will use the "obvious" guitar tuning of 6th string to D. This has the general effect of putting the violin's low open G even more out of reach! [My original article also poked fun at the boominess of the "drop D" transcriptions of the Chaconne. That was just stupid; sorry.]
"Up to G?" you probably gasped a while back, "Won't that cause an explosion?" On my guitar, this operation has never broken an E string. (It "only" adds about an extra 2.6 Kg tension, heh!) Admittedly, it takes a few extra moments for the string to settle in on the higher pitch.
An alternate solution is to put your other guitar - you know, the one in the closet you never use but still have no intention of parting with - into dedicated Bach service. Replace the 6th string with an A string and tune it down a step to G. You'll find the effort is very small in comparison to the payoff.
One final thought: why not do the same with Bach's cello suites? Tuning-wise, the cello is just a "big violin" - 4 strings tuned in fifths. If anyone would be so kind as to transpose them up a fifth, notating the music on the treble clef - in essence transposing them for the violin - our guitar with a low G string would be ready for action.
[The Soundboard article "Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Music" (Winter 1996, p9) by Stanley Yates may give the best answer to my rhetorical question just above. Yates lists the reasons why "very little needs to be changed" in playing Bach's unaccompanied violin works on guitar, but those reasons don't apply so well to the cello works, "and unaltered renditions of this music on the guitar are likely to produce disappointing results." (p18)]
Here's the Sarabande:
"Sarabande from Suite in D minor" by J. S. Bach (pdf)
Notes on the Sarabande:
- Fingering notation: C7 implies position only, not barre. -3 implies guide finger only, not glissando. Performance notes (in squares) 1 to 6 imply a preparatory barre through that number of strings.
- This edition is by G. Schirmer. The copyright date is 1900 so it is now in the public domain. The editor was Eduard Herrmann. He says, "It was my endeavor to keep strictly in accord with the original."
- If getting the hang of the rhythm is a problem, try setting the metronome to around 80 for the 8th notes.
- Measure 3 provides an example of using string 6 for some bass notes which are also playable on string 5. Experiment with both.
- Trills start on the upper neighbor. Non-authoritative suggestions are given below.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 22, August 1995)
The Art Of Music Engraving & Processing by Ted Ross is an important reference work laying down the rules for spacing, beaming, note grouping, etc. The author also gives a fascinating history of the development of music engraving. As an example of 19th century music engraving, he uses an extract from a piece for guitar (p30.) In his opinion, "Obviously, present day engraving has improved to an extent upon this century-old work."
Does anyone recognize this piece?
[Yes! I do! I had posed that question for decades without a response. I thought, maybe it was Regondi; maybe it was Legnani. But just now, on September 15 2019, while revisiting it for this web page, it jumped right out at me. It's the second of 6 Nocturne Melodies by M. A. Zani de Ferranti. I guess, if you want anything done right (or at all), you have to do it yourself. I have it in the Charles Hansen anthology, Classical Guitar Music of the 19th Century:
You can see this impression of it is much clearer than in the Ross book, even at this much reduced image size.]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 23, October 1995)
Here's a fun one from the collection of the Library of Congress. The full title is, "Fantaisie Brilliante On the Hymn Happy Day." It was copyright by the composer, Franklin Eaton, in 1895.
"Fantaisie Brilliante On the Hymn Happy Day" by Franklin Eaton (pdf)
Even you pagans out there unfamiliar with the hymn "Happy Day" should recognize the tune by some other name. Something about a bathroom key...
The composer seems to be quite obscure, but society members have heard Brian and Don perform his duet "Sounds From The Sea", which they also recorded ("Sounds From The Sea" on YouTube).
Both compositions feature a somewhat unusual device - big-jump, cross-string grace notes in the bass. This solo was found among the library's plucked string trios. It can happen.
As the piece is mostly in the first position, only a few fingerings have been added to what the composer supplied. The new ones are handwritten, as distinguished from the original ones in typeface. All guide finger dashes have been added. All right hand fingerings have been added.
Corrections (m=measure, bt=beat, c1=notated middle C):
m14: finger 2 on a1 was 1.
m41 bt2: rhythmic dot added.
m51 bt3: finger 2 on a1 was 3.
m51 bt4: finger 2 on a1 was 1.
m63: leger lines added for a grace.
m87,95 bt2: d1 was e1.
m90 bt1: c1 was d1.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 23, October 1995
Thanks to everyone who played for us at the most recent Members' Recital (September 2 1995). This was the featured event of the September WGS monthly meeting. The intrepid musicians were Kate Maynor, Dennis Utterback, Don Sauter, Bev Ross, Brian Kent, and Phyllis Fleming (violin). An intriguingly wide-ranging selection of pieces will be seen in the program below.
Remembrance For John Lennon Harry Chalmiers Phyllis (violin), Don Adagio from Trio Tres Facile, op. 26 L. de Call trio: Don, Kate, Dennis 8 Variations on a Carcassi Etude Richard Pick Nos. 1 and 4 duo: Don, Kate Mr. Southcote's Pavan Thomas Ford duo: Don, Bev Nina de Maconda R. Coinel & R. Maldonado Marine trio: Brian, Don, Bev Cafe 1930 from L'histoire du Tango A. Piazolla Phyllis (violin), Bev Duo pour Violin & Guitarre compose sur des motifs de Semiramis de Rossini F. Carulli Andante Cantilena Febonio Phyllis (violin), Don
(From WGS Newsletter No. 24, January 1996)
A huge "THANKS!" goes out to all those played for us at the most recent Members' Recital (November 4 1995). Also a big thanks to those who came to listen. Everybody else, come on out and join the fun next time around.
The guitar plunkers were Joe Bianco (semi-hollow body Gibson electric), Mike Davis, Ramin Rezaiifar, Bev Ross, Don Sauter and Artemis Theodoropoulou, and here's what they came up with:
Capricho Arabe F. Tarrega Mike Ricercate Concertante F. da Milano & J. Matelart La Rossignol Anonymous, trans. F. Noad duo: Mike and Don Alla Cubana J. M. Borner Rumba, Milonga, Habanera trio: Bev, Artemis and Ramin Valse No. 1 for 4 guitars G. Biberian quartet: Bev, Artemis, Ramin and Don Fantaisie Brilliante on the Hymn "Happy Day" F. Eaton Don Prelude No. 3 H. Villa-Lobos Study 7 L. Brouwer Blues in Bb Joe Pass Rainy Day arr. Leavitt And I Love Her Lennon/McCartney, arr. Leavitt Warm Feelings Tony Mottola Joe (all electric) Toy For Two Lutes T. Robinson Drewrie's Accordes Anonymous trans. F. Noad duo: Joe (electric) and Don Toda Mi Vida Os Ame' L. Milan, trans. F. Noad Po. St. Ignace, Sarabande de Gallot d'I H. F. Gallot, 1676 trans. R. Jensen trio: Joe (electric), Don and Mike
Joe's performance of the Villa-Lobos Prelude, in particular, on electric guitar caused quite a controversy, but a full-fledged riot was narrowly averted. The Milan piece is actually a song with 2 supplied accompaniments, but played simultaneously here by the guitar trio. The Sarabande is one of 6 guitar trios by Gallot, found in a 17th century manuscript we call the Gallot Guitar Book. These are the only known trios for Baroque guitar.
The Bev/Ramin/Artemis Trio had its debut at the previous meeting in October. They played:
Viento de Otono (Autumn Winds) Luis Rizzo
For the December open-stage they treated us to:
Bouquet, 4 Armenian Melodies Loris Chobanian
(From WGS Newsletter No. 24, January 1996)
John Come Kiss Me, arranged by Gallot d'Irlande, 1684, is presented here in 3 guises.
"John Come Kiss Me" by Gallot d'Irlande (pdf)
The FIRST PRESENTATION is a facsimile copy of the original in the Gallot Guitar Book. Can you read it? Here's the ticket:
The fret characters sit above the string they apply to.
a = open string.
b = fret 1.
r = fret 2.
d = fret 3.
e = fret 4, and so on.
Why was "r" used instead of "c" in French tablature? Dunno. The text shows that their r's and c's - like ours - were quite distinct from each other.
Rhythm information is skeletal; a rhythmic value stays in effect until a different one comes along.
Strums are indicated by rhythm stems attached to the top line.
- A stem hanging below the top line means to strum toward string 1 (treble).
- A stem sitting above the top line means to strum toward string 5.
A trill is indicated by a comma after the fret character.
Short vertical lines indicate simultaneous, non-strummed notes. (Totally redundant, in my view.)
Rhythm stems with no associated fret letters indicate to play the previously notated chord again. (See measure 2, beat 3.)
Unless I miss my guess, even with those simple and clear instructions, you're still struggling a wee tad with Gallot's hieroglyphics? So, then, on to the SECOND PRESENTATION, which is a faithful rewriting of the original using modern type and musical symbols.
Getting there, but why oh why did they not simply use a, b, c... for 1, 2, 3... and a 0 for the open string? Who on earth thinks of "b" as the 1st letter of the alphabet??? (Never mind, "r" as the 2nd!)
The THIRD PRESENTATION is a conversion into a modern, easy-to-read, tablature. Kinda takes the sport out of it, eh? Have another look:
"John Come Kiss Me" by Gallot d'Irlande (pdf)
[All these years later, writing in 2019, I have still never met or heard from an early music player who can read it. This is absolutely mind-blowing, considering how proud they are of being able to read every other form of tablature thrown at them. But, no, not this one, which literally millions of modern guitar players -- pop, fingerstyle, and classical -- can read mindlessly from day one out of Mel Bay publications, etc.]
As if it needs any explanation:
Numbers are used for frets.
Spaces - rather than lines - represent the strings.
A universal 6-string tablature is used even though the Baroque guitar has only 5 courses. (If you don't see anything on the 6th string, don't play it. Is that so difficult?)
Complete and continual rhythm information is given, rather than skeletal. (I ask again, is that so difficult?)
Strums and their direction are indicated by arrowheads.
Trills are indicated by a ~ in front of the note.
The quarter note is the longest rhythmic value used.
If a stem shows no frets and no arrowhead, simply sustain the previously played chord or note.
In Baroque guitar tablature, only the fingered notes of a chord might be shown. You may strum open strings that are part of the chord. (E.g., measure 2, beat 1 is a full C chord. M11 bt3 is a 3- or 4-string G chord.)
The bar chord form starting measure 9 appears very frequently in Baroque guitar music. For me, it has always been a bugaboo. (I call it the "flying wedge.") I generally play the chord 2 frets higher, which gives it the form of a 2nd position D major bar chord.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 25, March 1996)
The Johannes Vermeer exhibit which ended recently at the National Gallery of Art was Washington's fourth-ever most massively popular art show. If you managed to make it (and even more certainly if you didn't) you did NOT see his famous painting "The Guitar Player" (also called "Girl With A Guitar") showing a girl playing a moderately ornate Baroque guitar. Frederic Grunfeld proclaims the work "easily the most important of all seventeenth-century guitar pictures."
The exhibit included 21 of the 35 extant Vermeers. However these apparent three-to-two odds in favor of the guitar doll are pipped by the more fundamental "all life is six-to-five against", as Damon Runyon will say, and the young Judy does not make a show. (Several musical instruments are in the exhibit, but no guitars.) Thus, we are forced to continue applying our imagination to the shrunken, black-and-white reproduction in Grunfeld's "The Art And Times Of The Guitar" (p117), or Tom and Mary Evans' "Guitar" (p142).
(From WGS Newsletter No. 25, March 1996)
This piece comes from a 1949 collection called Album Of Negro Spirituals, arranged by American guitar pioneer Vahdah Olcott Bickford. Volume 1 contains 11 spirituals, four of which are arranged for two guitars. The collection contains such familiar spirituals as "Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho", "Go Down Moses", "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", etc. Here is a less familiar one.
"I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" arr. Vahdah Olcott Bickford (pdf)
I have fully fingered the piece. The fingerings do not necessarily observe the published fingerings. All position changes are indicated - either by an explicit position indicator (such as C7), or by a guide finger dash. C7 implies position only; not barre. -3 implies guide finger only; not glissando. Use white-out to neatly change fingerings you don't like.
For the sake of playability I leave out a few unimportant notes. These are recognizable by the omission of a finger number within a chord. See, for example, measure 5 beat 1 and measure 26 beat 3. It seems likely that the 16th notes in measure 18 are connected by glissandos.
This album is in the collection of the Library of Congress, and thanks is extended to them and to you and me who foot the bill. The copyright for the publication expired when it was not renewed after its initial 28-year period. Anyone who is interested in some or all of it may feel free to contact me rather than pester the Library of Congress. [Offer expired. DS, Oct 2019]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 26, May 1996)
The Washington Guitar Society thanks François-Marie Patorni for the generous donation of his collection of classical guitar LPs. François gave us about 35 record albums. Some have an air of collectibility, such as the Segovia 10-inch Deutsche Grammophon discs. Besides solo guitar, there is guitar paired with flute, piano, orchestra, voice, jazz combo and sappy backings (John Williams' pop stuff).
Artists include Andres Segovia, John Williams, Julian Bream, Rene Bartoli, Leo Brouwer, Konrad Ragossnig, Evelyn Schönfeld, Turibio Santos, Angel Romero, Oscar Ghiglia, Barbara Polasek, Alexandre Lagoya, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Christopher Parkening and Laurindo Almeida.
There's plenty of good listening here for those of us who still have analog ears. The records have all been given a clean bill of health - skips were mercilessly tracked down and eliminated. (It seems that some of the records had been subjected to over-zealous cleaning.)
Now all we need is for someone to step forward as the WGS librarian. The actual work required by this position would be very minimal. It would benefit many, and probably only require the sacrifice of an hour or so of tv every couple of months. With a lending system in place, other members might be inclined to share their guitar recordings, books or periodicals. How about it? Anybody?
[Do you think anybody stepped forward? Do you think pigs fly?]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 26, May 1996)
The WGS program for March was a guitar orchestra. Ten guitarists joined the fun. The largest "Thanks!" goes to our tireless president Kevin Vigil who coached us, conducted us, and even recorded us on his state of the art equipment.
The idea was for players to work up their parts on their own beforehand so we could "hit the ground running." We worked up 2 pieces, supplied by WGS member Sean Dodson. The first was "The Old Castle" from "Pictures At An Exhibition" by Modest Mussorgsky and arranged for guitar ensemble by Yvon Rivoal. The second was a more advanced modern piece, "Toccata" by Leo Brouwer.
The intrepid players included Debbie Bard (treasurer), Michael Bard (vice president), Mike Davis, Robert McMurry, Jerry Pena, François-Marie Patorni, Bryan Ramsey, Bev Ross, Donald Sauter and Steve Tjernagle. Debbie Bard gets an honorable mention, joining in on the Mussorgsky with no prior guitar-playing experience!
No doubt we will do this again. Be there!
(From WGS Newsletter No. 26, May 1996)
This timeline was derived mainly from information contained in Richard Pinnell's dissertation "Francisco Corbetta and the Baroque Guitar" (1980.) I have included Baroque guitarists who are important for their innovations or achievements, or might be known to modern guitarists via transcriptions of their music.
Publication year place Guitarist Accomplishment ---- ----- --------- --------------------------------------------------- 1596 Spain Amat First Baroque guitar treatise. Coined term "Spanish Guitar". Devised "alfabeto" chord chart using numbers to name chords. 1606 Italy Montesardo His revamped alfabeto using letter names became the standard. First published passacagli. 1620 Italy Sanseverino Included time signature, bar lines and note- values for strummed music. Used stems to indicate up and down strums. Notation for shifting barre chords one step higher. 1620 Italy Colonna Notation for shifting barre chords to any position. 1626 France Briceno Spaniard. Re-entrant tuning (like Sanz, no bass strings.) Earliest examples of many Spanish dances by a Spaniard. Used his own alfabeto system. 1627 Italy Millioni Early description of "repicco", a rapid strumming pattern. 1628? Italy Pico Altered 4 chords of the alfabeto to include dissonance. 1629 Macerata Foscarini(1) A.k.a. "il Furioso". This is his 2nd book. 1637 Italy Colonna Indicated single notes of melody between strummed chords. 1639 Italy Corbetta(1) First book - peak of strummed style. Stimulated whole school of Italian guitarists. 1640 Italy Carbonchi First Baroque guitar book in lute tablature. (Remember that Renaissance guitar tablature books had been printed in 1500s.) 1640 Italy Bartolotti Developed ringing, cascading scale called campanelas. 1640 Italy Foscarini(2) His 5th book. Perhaps was inventor of mixing alfabeto and lute tablature in earlier books. 1643 Italy Corbetta(2) 2nd surviving book. Many influences from Foscarini. 1646 Italy Granata Virtuosic student of Corbetta. This is 1st book. 7 books through 1684. 1648 Brussels Corbetta(3) 3rd surviving book. Visits Low Countries around this time (see Le Cocq.) 1650 Italy Pellegrini One known book. 1671 Paris Corbetta(4) 4th surviving book - his peak. New tuning for this book - no bass string on 5th course. Sanz called him "the best of them all." 1674 Paris Corbetta(5) 5th and last surviving book. Many duets. 1674 Spain Sanz No basses on 4th or 5th courses. Composed in Spanish and other national styles. Could copy Corbetta's style. 1676 Paris Medard Rooted in Corbetta's style, but mostly strummed and simpler. 1677 Spain Ribayez Valuable comments on performance practices. Includes pieces by Sanz. 1682 Paris Visee(1) Devoted pupil of Corbetta. 1684 Britain? Gallot Large manuscript. Pieces from 1660 to 1684. High quality original music. Many Corbetta pieces. Several trios. 1686 Paris Visee(2) 2nd book - more his own style. Greatest French Baroque guitarist. 1688 The Hague Derosier Also published a pamphlet in Amsterdam, 1696. But largest collection of his works is in the Le Cocq anthology. 1692 Italy Roncalli High quality music - first to be studied in modern times. 1694 Madrid Guerau Highly creative. Of the Spaniards, furthest removed from Corbetta's influence. 1705 France Campion Second to Visee among French guitarists. More influenced by lutenists than Corbetta. 1714 Spain Murcia(1) Treatise for playing basso continuo. 1729 Brussels Le Cocq Explains performance practices. High quality music. Includes other composers. Tells of Corbetta's prestige in the Low Countries. 1731 France Campion Last dated works. High quality fugues. 1732 Spain Murcia(2) 2 large manuscripts. Many pieces by Corbetta. 1736 Denmark Diesel 2 manuscripts contain almost 1000 pages of his music. Music not like Corbetta's.
Left out of timeline because of lack of precise publication dates:
Saint-Luc Born 1633, Brussels. Employed by Louis XIV. Popular in Vienna and Berlin. Santa Cruz Spanish. Manuscript from late 1600s. Spanish music plus some resembling Corbetta's. Count Losy ca. 1650-1721. Heard Corbetta in France. Manuscripts in Prague, but music in western European style.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 29, November 1996)
Here's a neat, little guitar duet from the collection of the Library of Congress - the first duet we've presented.
"Liten vals för två guitarrer" by Lille-Bror Söderlundh" (pdf)
I can't bore you with a lot of background information on the piece or its composer because I don't know any. [But now you can find Söderlundh's Wikipedia page - quite interesting! DS, Oct 2019] Yes, "liten" means "little". It would seem to come from a time and place - 1942, Stockholm - hardly associated with guitar duet production. The copyright office feels that this piece is now public domain - believe it or not, hardly ever a simple question to answer. If that's not correct, somebody set us straight.
The piece was fully fingered. I removed the fingerings because many of them seemed odd, plus they weren't positioned in the most helpful way. Finding your own solutions shouldn't be hard. I added the glissando line in measures 16 and 17 to make clear the intent - slide up string 2.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 32, May 1997)
This was the touching "political" cartoon that appeared in the Washington Times following the sad news of June 2, 1987:
See how all the angels have set their harps aside? :-)
The Washington Times' political cartoonist was Peter Steiner. Reprinted (in the newsletter) by permission.
(Doodle a cool-looking guitar in this space. Submit it for consideration as the WGS logo.)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 33, July 1997)
Because of opera's enormous popularity in the 19th century, there were tremendous numbers of arrangements of operatic music for solo and combined instruments. This was certainly the case with the guitar, although not much of it has been reprinted in our time. It seems that it is generally not very highly regarded. Here are some published thoughts on the matter.
In The Classical Guitar anthology (p12), Frederick Noad says, "Arrangements of operatic themes were popular in the period, but are sparsely represented here on the assumption that a large measure of their original success was due to the fact that the tunes were already well-known which is rarely the case today."
In The Romantic Guitar anthology (p13), Noad says, "Music publishing flourished [in Victorian and Edwardian times], and an enormous quantity of trivial music appeared for the guitar, with endless arrangements intended to serve as home reminders of a night at the opera, a function now better served by records."
Noad also says, "The transcriptions of this period focused mainly on the Grand Opera repertoire, which rarely translates itself satisfactorily to the solo guitar." (p95)
Speaking of Francisco Tarrega, Noad points out, "Although much criticized for adapting unsuitable works to the guitar, it was the superior ability with which Tarrega handled transcription that elevated his work above the many unskilled operatic fantasies so popular in the nineteenth century." (p12)
In "The guitar and the keyboard instruments" (Guitar Review 39), Mario Sicca provides a list of pieces for guitar and piano. He says, "Not all of the works are of the same high musical level. Some, in accordance with the taste of the time, are transcriptions of operatic arias - certainly not now deserving the honor of the concert stage." (p18)
These assertions may be more or less correct, but I would venture that, as in any genre of music for the guitar, there is a wide range of quality (which is subjective, anyhow.) Julian Bream's recording of Mauro Giuliani's Rossiniane was an eye-opening experience for many people. If it sounds good, what does it matter if you're not familiar with the operatic original? After all, for any given piece of music that you like, there was a time when you had never heard it before.
(I hope it doesn't sound like I'm beating up on Frederick Noad here. When I set out to write this article, I was sure I had similar comments from other writers, but couldn't put my fingers on them. And actually, Fred may have done more than anyone else to make this sort of music available. He's published quite a few operatic arrangements by Giuliani, Carcassi and Carulli.)
Here are a couple of operatic arrangements by Anton Diabelli. They come from the opera "La Muette de Portici" by D.F.E. Auber (1782-1871.) This opera had its premiere in 1828 in Paris. Diabelli's original 10-page edition was published by Diabelli und Comp. and was No. 11 in a series called "Apollo am Damentoilette" (Apollo at the ladies' dressing table!?). It presents 12 excerpts from Auber's opera, including a march, barcarole, cavatina, bolero, slumber song, etc. The two selections give a taste of the wide range of musical moods represented. Even if you don't know the opera "La Muette de Portici", you will hear a slow and beautiful "Gebet" ("Prayer", subtitled "Heavenly Almighty"), and a lively "Tarantelle".
"Gebet" and "Tarantelle" from "La Muette de Portici" by Auber, trans. Diabelli (pdf)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 33, July 1997)
The August 9 WGS meeting (program? get-together? guitar party? bash? - what should we call these things?) will be an ensemble session led by Kevin Vigil. The piece we are planning to rehearse is called A Trip To Rocky Point - A Descriptive Fantasie by Walter Burke. We also plan to nail the definitive recording - a mere 107 years after the piece was published. It should be a lot of fun; get a load of the composer's own description:
"This composition is supposed to represent a Trip from the City of Providence R.I. to Rocky Point and return. In imagination the listener goes over the following route: We first enter the Steam Cars, and when ready to start the Whistle blows. The sound of the cars is imitated by a lively movement in two-four time. The Cars gradually increase in speed and diminish as they approach the Point, A beautiful watering place on Narragansett Bay. As the train stops the strains of a Military Band are heard, after which we are supposed to visit the Minstrel Entertainment in progress at the Casino. While here, we listen to the selections: "My Pretty Little Dark Eyed Claire", a Song and Dance air, with jig effect, and a minstrel song with vocal chorus. Soon the Boat whistle sounds and we go on board to start for the City. While on the Boat we hear a Waltz, "La Paloma", with Castenets, a Mandolin solo etc: supposed to be rendered by the boat musicians. We next hear the boat whistle three times as a signal for the drawbridge to open; also the bell on the bridge rings three times in answer to the boat whistle. A peculiar sound is heard as the boat goes through the draw and the same sound [was] heard as the boat [left] the wharf at the Point. After passing through the bridge we land at the Dock in Providence and are escorted to our Hotel by a band in waiting."
For the sound effects, the score calls for a whistle, sand blocks, castenets and bell. Kevin will take the mandolin solo. Who wants to be the train conductor and announce the stations? They don't write 'em like that any more!
The original was for 2 Banjos and one Guitar. The banjo parts are easily playable on a guitar capoed at the 3rd fret. Each of the 3 parts is at a different difficulty level. The Guitar part is "easy" - mostly boom-chuck chords. The 1st Banjo part is "advanced", making its way around the fingerboard. The 2nd Banjo part is "intermediate", with chords and melodic material mostly in the first position.
Please join in! Let's put together a whopping guitar orchestra, not just a measly ensemble. Teachers, get your students involved. Anybody who wants a part in advance, either show up at the July meeting or call Donald Sauter at... Come on out even if you don't get a part in advance - at least two of the parts are easily readable.
Don't forget - bring a CAPO for the banjo parts.
[Do you think the foregoing announcement brought out D.C. area guitarists in droves? I ask again, do you think pigs fly? Only one guitarist besides the four already obligated and involved showed up for the session. (And he was a student of Kevin, the president.) All those years beating my head against the wall trying to make the Washington Guitar Society a smash, I wish I knew then what I know now. And that is, musicians don't really care about making music, and certainly not listening to the music of fellow musicians; what musicians do is practice music. At home... In a corner of their bedroom... Year after year... Hoping to sound like John Williams on one song one day, I guess... Anyhow, you can easily find my links leading you to the finished product of this otherwise delightful and memorable WGS session.]
Tom Butler wrote a nice review of the session in WGS Newsletter No. 34. To which I appended: Every bit as valuable as a guitar lesson; a lot more fun - and free! (Where were you?)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 34, September 1997)
When I moved to the Washington D.C. area in 1982, the previous guitar society was still active, although fading. In the first meeting I attended, an outgoing and generous fellow named Gene Marcello gave me a present of his composition Melancholy Waltz. He autographed it, "In memory of a very pleasant evening."
All I know of Gene's current situation is that he's not in the local phone books - and that he would be more than happy to see his piece appreciated by the whole guitar community.
"Melancholy Waltz" by Gene Marcello (pdf)
P.S. Can you guess the "Master" Gene dedicated his little piece to?
(From WGS Newsletter No. 35, November 1997)
I noticed on your tape one of the songs is titled "A Trip To Rocky Point". [Read about our "Trip To Rocky Point" recording session in previous newsletters.] That's so neat. Rocky Point was a 100 year old amusement park/chowder house/banquet hall. Now it's a flea market. It's still quite a landmark around here but I doubt you'd find it on a map. It is located in the Warwick Neck section of Warwick, RI.
I'll have to send you a picture. It's quite a scenic place, right on the water. Still serve great clam cakes and chowda. Even have some semi-big names play in the theatre on the grounds (Frampton and the like.) The amusement park closed only 2 years ago. I was looking forward to taking the kids [Jesse, 2, and Evan, 1] in the future, I guess not huh?
West Warwick, R.I.
October 6 1997
(From WGS Newsletter No. 35, November 1997)
In the previous newsletter we published the results of our survey. I found one of the comments, in particular, very thought-provoking. A respondent pointed out that a problem with volunteering is that you don't know what you're getting yourself into. What are the duties? What experience do you need? How long is the commitment?
He went on to propose a solution: rather than simply put out a call for volunteers, someone in charge should contact a likely individual and provide a detailed job description, so to speak.
That would seem to make perfectly good sense in general. In our case, however, I think it misses what the guitar society is - or should be - all about.
Our guitar society provides a mechanism whereby everybody who has any interest in the guitar can come together and share that interest in any way they want. There is no set of regulations carved on a tablet somewhere defining what a guitar society must do and must not do. Ours will do exactly what we want it to do - no more and no less.
The point isn't for a leader to pressure anybody into doing anything. The point is, if there is some desire among members for something to happen, then one or more of those people can step forward to make it happen.
Don't view the WGS the same way you would the movie or auto industry, for instance, which puts out a product that you have no control over, and you either approve or gripe about it. I'm not just spewing empty rhetoric by saying, "The Washington Guitar Society is you."
Several times in the past we have run a list of "real cheap things" you can do to make the WGS a success. It looked something like this:
These are the things that come to my mind. If there's something you want to see that's not listed, go for it. You don't need to be granted permission from on high.
Still, you might be wondering, "Yeah, there are some good things there, but what am I getting myself into?" That's up to you. Anything you contribute is a bonus and would be appreciated.
Thinking of bringing refreshments? You could make a gourmet double deluxe chocolate cheesecake - or you could bring a bag of animal crackers. (They're a hit, I can attest!)
Want to contribute to newsletter? It could be a dissertation on some technical problem you've overcome - or it could be a single-sentence, "My favorite piece right now is _____." Wouldn't it be fun for members to contribute short pieces on "How I got interested in the classical guitar"?
Like the idea of a WGS historian? We have done remarkable things, haven't we? You could go hog wild with file cabinets and hanging folders and computer databases - or you could toss everything into a big, old cardboard box, knowing what a thrill it will be for some guitar enthusiast a hundred years from now to root through.
Like the idea of a WGS library, but don't have a crystallized vision of what things it should keep, or how it should operate? Don't worry about it. We'll start with a brainstorming session and hammer it out as we go along.
We could really use a dedicated calendar of events person; someone who would not only passively receive notices sent in, but would actively ask around in the likely places about upcoming guitar events.
But doesn't all of that sound like work??? If it does, there's a problem. All hobbies - gardening, photography, collecting, u-name-it - take time and effort. Wouldn't be much of a hobby if it didn't, would it? If the effort seems more like work than play, that would indicate you've chosen the wrong hobby. The guitar's a pretty good hobby, isn't it?
Finally, responding to the concern about commitment: when you have to stop, you stop. We will be richer for whatever effort you contributed.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 35, November 1997)
[Page 4] Here's another guitar piece for your playing pleasure. Don't get too excited - I see from the results of the recent survey that a whopping 5% more people would rather play the music than read the ads (30% vs. 25%). What hurts is that it's the same old ad that runs in every issue...
"Louisiana Echoes" by George Barker (pdf)
Anyhow, this bouncy one-pager is from a book called Superb Guitar Solos by George Barker, copyright 1900. It has 80 pages of original compositions and arrangements by Barker. If you're wondering "Who is George Barker?", well, he's immortalized popular works by forgotten composers such as Trotere, Norton, Jaxone, Molloy, the ever-popular Planquette, Fauconier, Lutz, etc., with his guitar arrangements. I tip my hat to him.
WGS vice-president Michael Bard found the collection at a used book sale. It cost 25 cents. He gave it to me because of my broken chromosome which makes me play everything I get my hands on and I have had a superb time with it. Thanks Michael!
Sorry about the fingerings; I put them in for my own use before thinking in terms of publishing it in the newsletter. I also added the slurs in order to get the tempo up. MM = 120 sounds pretty good. There's a problem with the notation of the repeats. I think Barker's intention was: 1st time at m16, supply the beat4 notes of m8; and 1st time at m24, disregard the beat4 notes. Or, you might just ignore the repeat signs in the middle and repeat everything between m9 and m24. Sounds fine to me!
[Page 9] WGS members rejoice! We had an extra page to fill so here's another selection from George Barker's Superb Guitar Solos. "Träumerei" is the only one in it by a composer of renown. It's interesting to compare this simpler arrangement with the fuller one in Frederick Noad's Romantic Guitar anthology. My fingerings differ in places from Barker's.
"Träumerei" by Robert Schumann, arr. George Barker (pdf)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 36, January 1998)
Recently there was a discussion about tablature on the usenet classical guitar discussion group. There were quite a few postings but, to be honest, there wasn't anything said that hasn't been heard a million times before. Still you can't blame a guy, no matter which side he's on, for not letting what the boneheads on the other side say go unchallenged.
You have a choice: you may read the originals to the tune of 800 lines or so, or you can trust my little summary here (a risky proposition, at that.) [A bonus for sticking with me is you get an occasional extra 2 cents in brackets like this.]
The question was, is tablature still a valid system? SM was the first to respond, calmly listing tablature's advantages. It's easier and faster to sight-read; no sharps and flats to wrestle with; and no clutter from string numbers. An apparent problem is that modern tablatures are generally not complete, but that is not tablature's fault. It could contain note durations, dynamics, accents, fingerings, etc.
[This is one of my soap-box issues, and WGS newsletter readers have seen samples of complete and self-contained tablature. I'm not completely happy with fingerings in tablature. The best I can do is put them above the staff in red to distinguish them from the fret numbers, but, as is the case with music, they are not so instantly useful up there as right in front of the notehead. Fortunately, fingerings are needed far less in tablature.]
SM is puzzled why people claim it is harder to see the composer's intentions in tablature. After all, tablature is just another way of writing musical notes, "and has no essential differences from standard notation." [I want to agree with this 100 percent, and I almost do. If rhythm symbols are placed above the tablature staff, the differentiation of musical lines might be obscured. This must not be a big deal since you don't hear tablature players complaining about it, and when it is a problem, stems and flags could be attached to individual fret numbers.]
TS asks somewhat testily, how come the violin family doesn't use tablature? And if you put all that stuff in tablature, it'll be a complete mess. [I'd be glad to show anybody neat, readable tablature that is complete.] TS rants about classical guitarists being lousy readers [although he doesn't say that it's tablature they're reading poorly.]
SW feels that tablature can stifle creativity. With music you can change the fingerings to personalize a piece. In tablature, you would have to rewrite the passage. [This is not hard, actually, and may be easier than changing fingerings. To move a note to the next higher string you just subtract the number of semitones separating the strings, 5 or 4.]
CU, of the American Lute Society, points out how handy it is that tablature works for a whole family of instruments. If the soprano lute player is sick, a tenor lute player can jump in. You won't see that in a modern string quartet, now will you?
But TS points out that some people can play 4 different saxophones and 2 flutes. [But the woodwind instruments all use the same fingerings. The printed music is transposed so that it comes out sounding at the correct pitch. This allows for a sax player to play the entire family of saxophones.] CU keeps reminding him that he is harping on monophonic instruments. Guitars and lutes have a lot more going on; check out the complexity of the music of Francesco da Milano, Dowland and Weiss, for a start.
TS is incorrigible. He says that just because tablature may have worked for the lute doesn't make it valid today - any more than Egyptian hieroglyphics.
There, see what those of you without computers are missing?
(From WGS Newsletter No. 36, January 1998)
In the USENET discussion on tablature, a point was made to the effect that, if tablature is bad enough for string players, it should be bad enough for us guitarists. That set off some warning buzzers in my head. The claim would seem to be based on the notion that the string world has attained divine perfection in every conceivable way.
I wonder if the violin family isn't doing itself a disservice by shunning tablature. It would seem to have all the advantages for bowed strings that it has for guitar.
Lesson 1a shows a little tune I've put into violin tab. If you can see what it is, that would serve to refute the claim that tablature doesn't show music. It would support the claim that there is no essential difference between tablature and standard notation.
If you can't see the tune, then that gives you even extra incentive to take a few seconds to tune the top 4 string of your guitar like a violin and play through it. I recommend everybody, particularly tablature-scoffers, try this. (To tune like a violin, match the 7th-fret note with the open string above it, giving intervals of a 5th.)
Back so soon? My suspicion is that most of you played it without error on the first shot, and everybody else got it on the second - even you who have never played from tablature before; even you who have never held a violin in your life.
Think of the implications. You walk into your first-ever violin lesson, the teacher puts a violin (with pencilled-in frets) in your hand, a page of tab on the music stand, and without a single word of instruction you are playing violin music. If that doesn't boggle your mind, you are simply unbogglable.
Oh, but that was in the key of C, you say. Kid's stuff! All right then, try Lesson 1b: same tune, 5 sharps.
No big deal, right? And to think it also makes you an instant viola and cello player. Pretty amazing, huh?
Getting back to guitar, another point the above exercises demonstrate is how simple it is to play in altered tunings with tab. This should have huge implications in the area of guitar transcriptions, if not guitar composition in general, but that deserves a whole article in itself.
In a master class once, I heard a world-renowned guitarist - one of the biggest names - say, no, he couldn't read tablature. The best guitar reader I know personally also says he can't read tablature. This always tickles my funny bone. It reminds me of a European friend who came over to the U.S. and went to rent a car. When they said none of the cars had a manual transmission, she exclaimed, "But I don't know how to drive an automatic!"
Once I put a piece of multi-voiced classical guitar tablature in front of clarinetist friend who had never played guitar before. She played it slowly, but without error note-wise or rhythm-wise. And then she laughed at what an easy instrument the guitar is. The wound still hasn't healed.
I know that when I started on tab, within minutes my reading was at a level that took 10 or 15 years to reach with music. (Of course, my tablature reading benefited from 20 years of guitar music reading. I also only deal with one easy-to-read modern tablature format.)
Despite the above pro-tablature observations, my point is not that tablature is superior in every way to music notation - just that it wins hands-down with respect to altered tunings, and that it wins hands-down for getting started.
This may come as a surprise based on the foregoing, but I don't make the blanket claim that tablature is easier to read than music. In the special case of our standard guitar tuning I find that reading music is easier... IF the music is fingered to my liking.
(If it's unfingered, or the fingerings are wrong for my hands, or the fingerings are notated in an unhelpful way, all bets are off. I make no apologies for this dependence on fingerings; without them I see too many possibilities to sort through on the fly.)
My experience indicates that with enough practice, you can reach a point where it takes less brain power to recognize a pattern of notes than to digest a stack of fret numbers number in tablature. Still, it takes many years to reach this point and, again, that's only for one tuning.
There's a lot more to say about the readability of tablature, and the comparative readability of tablature versus music, but that's enough for now. Please try out the "Menuet" and "Gavotte", pieces for Baroque guitar composed by François Campion tablature in an alternate tuning, in this issue. [A little further down.]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 36, January 1998)
[Newsletter publisher and former WGS president, Kevin Vigil, put in his "two cents" at this point, thinking that would be the final word, heeheehee. Please read Kevin's thoughts on page 5 of the newsletter.]
WGS Newsletter No. 36 (Jan 1998) (pdf)
Thanks for the feedback, Kevin! I can respond right now - since I do the final preparation of the newsletter for publication after it comes off your computer, ha!
Are you sure tablature gets so much of the blame for the lack of guitar works from great composers? Three of the four you name (Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven) were composing after the guitar had already gone to music notation.
I agree that the nonstandardization of tablature is totally unacceptable. Since nobody else has the guts, maybe the WGS should declare itself the Tablature Czar of the Universe and decree a standardized tablature. We could even slap fines on violators. I sort of like the tablature specified in my web page www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/7049/tab.htm (now www.donaldsauter.com/tablature.htm ) (What me biased?)
Regarding your concern about isolation from the rest of the music world, anything in tablature can also be presented in music notation. In fact, most modern tablature appears right along with the music. (I wish they'd keep it separate.)
And there are already barriers in the music world. How many guitarists and other G clef instrument players are fluent on the F and C clefs? (There is a simple solution here - use the G clef for everything.) How much use does the guitar hobbyist really have for music for other instruments? Virtually everything I play - which is a lot - is meant for the guitar.
Unfortunately, I agree tablature might be a big obstacle to good sight-reading skills. Since tablature is so easy, a student who has played it for some time might develop an even greater resistance to learning music. Yes, this would be a shame in the case of a student who has the potential to make a career in music - but what percentage is that?
I stick to my guns: if we drop our anti-tablature snobbery a lot more people could be a lot more happy playing a lot more guitar music a lot more quickly and easily. That's not bad, is it?
(From WGS Newsletter No. 36, January 1998)
These two little pieces come from a manuscript by François Campion called "Le Livre est destine" (1716).
"Menuet" and "Gavotte" by François Campion (pdf)
They are part of a 5-movement suite in F. We know that F is not such a great key for the guitar in the standard tuning, but Campion uses an alternate tuning: A C F Bb E, from low to high. Notice the lowest three strings are notes of an F major chord. Imagine trying to play these pieces on guitar from music!
Baroque guitar tablature has a few quirks that perhaps make it less than ideal for demonstrating how simple tablature is to read, but you can handle it. Keep in mind:
In my modern tablature, quarter notes are the longest rhythm value used. If a stem shows no frets and no arrowhead, simply sustain the previously played chord or note.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 37, March 1998)
For your guitar-playing pleasure, here are two more pieces of multi-voiced violin music from the pen of Johann Sebastian Bach, an "Andante" and an "Adagio".
You'll remember we printed a Sarabande in D minor in the August 1995 WGS newsletter. (What? You've been throwing out your newsletters???) The inspiration that time was to make a case for playing this music with string 6 tuned up to G, since that's the lowest note on the violin. The inspiration this time was simply hearing Kevin play this beautiful Andante in a recital.
Bach wrote full-valued bass note rhythms, such as halfs and 4ers, which can't actually be held that long on the violin. In many editions, these are changed to more practical 8ths and 16ths. (See, for example, the 1900 Schirmer edition of the Sarabande we printed.)
Since the guitar can sustain the basses, I thought it would be nice to find a public domain edition which retained Bach's original, full values. The Library of Congress came through in grand style. They have one of the extremely rare, first editions of the set of 6 Sonatas and Partitas - published by N. Simrock in 1802. What you are holding in your grubby hands are mere second-generation copies from that edition.
"Andante" by J. S. Bach (pdf)
"Adagio" by J. S. Bach (pdf)
Being first doesn't mean being completely reliable, though, and I have corrected the errors I found by comparing this edition with a facsimile of Bach's manuscript. (Don't worry - I didn't mark up the Library's original.) It goes the other way, too. This Simrock edition gets the rhythm right in measure 26 of the Andante, which is wrong in the Schirmer edition and in a guitar transcription in my collection.
Again, I heartily recommend tuning string 6 up to G. Did I hear someone ask: "Why bother, if I can play the low G's in regular tuning?" My short answer: you'll never know until you try it.
The Andante is from Sonata No. 2 in A minor, and the Adagio is from Sonata No. 3 in C major. Whereas the Andante is what I would call "heart music", the Adagio is "brain" or "musician music". It makes for a satisfying playing experience, but I suspect a performance in concert would incite a snoozefest. Then again, I might be talking pure nonsense.
Comments and fixes:
Bach sounds just fine slow. For the Andante, try 8th note = 63 for starters. That will let you play the 64th notes in measure 10 cleanly.
For the Adagio, try 8th note = 76. This means the final notes in measure 12 will be a hack job, but you'll be in good company - like with the world's great violinists.
I've added the measure numbers; M = measure. Middle C = c1.
The repeat of the second section is to beat 2 of measure 13.
M11-12: 1st and 2nd ending indications added.
M20 beat 1: # added to f2.
M20 beat 2: natural added to f2.
Slur endpoints were not always precise in the manuscript.
M3 beat 3: f2 was e2.
M5 beat 2: a2 was g2.
M7 beat 1: flat added to e2.
M15 beat 3: b was a.
M29 beat 1: g1 was f1.
M42 beat 3: rhythm was 16th followed by 6 32nds.
Slur endpoints were not always precise in the manuscript.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 37, March 1998)
While we're on a violin roll (and have an extra page to fill) here's something from another old, old edition from the Library of Congress. This is Caprice No. 14 from "24 Capricci per Violino solo, Op. 1a" by Nicolo Paganini.
"Caprice No. 14" by Nicolo Paganini (pdf)
Someone wrote "" on the cover of this Ricordi publication. Whether or not it is actually a first edition, I don't know, but you can bet it rolled off the press in Paganini's day. The "24 Capricci" is Paganini's only work published in his lifetime that did not involve guitar.
A former owner made a few corrections. He added the slur in m16, the down stems in m28, and the natural sign in m36. I added the # to f1 in m16.
Admittedly, there is no great benefit to tuning string 6 to G here, so adjust my fingerings accordingly. I use the C3 notation to mean position, not barre. Try a hinge barre in m5. You don't have to be a slave to Paganini's slurs.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 38, May 1998)
Recently, my mandolin partner and friend, Don, lent me some old Guitar Reviews he bought from a used book store. Guitar Review 9, dated 1949, was devoted to the lute. A footnote to the article about Francesco da Milano mentioned that the Library of Congress held copies of his Intabolatura de Lauto, Libro Segundo and Libro Terzo. Well, you can guess where I headed.
Sure enough, Libro Terzo is still there. Its date is 1547 and it looks like it should last another few thousand years (as opposed to items from around 1900, which are turning into yellow crumbs as you read this.)
Here's a bit about Francesco da Milano. He was born Francesco Canova. He lived from 1497 to 1543. Contemporaneous writers - both musician and non-musician - heaped superlatives on his playing and composing abilities. He stood head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in the first half of the 16th century.
The introduction to The Lute Music of Francesco Canova da Milano tells us: "His works for the lute, which survive in a quantity considerably greater than that of any other lutenist of the time, are contained in over forty extant tablatures printed in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the Lowlands between 1536 and 1603, and in nearly 25 manuscripts of almost equally diversified provenance. In several English manuscripts his music appears side by side with that of the eminent Elizabethan lutenist and composer John Dowland, who was born some twenty years after Francesco's death."
There are more than 90 fantasias in his extant lute books. There are no dances at all. The 7th fantasia in Libro Terzo, which I've included in this newsletter, is an example of what the Guitar Review calls Francesco's "free", as opposed to "strict", fantasias. In these "free" fantasias, "imitative sections alternate with free, toccata-like passages."
"Fantasia 7 - De mon triste" by Francesco da Milano (pdf)
The Guitar Review lamented that Francesco "deserves to be retrieved from the limbo of 'dictionary composers'." I think they would be pleased with the current situation. For example, I found pieces by Francesco in nine publications in my music collection; and guitarists have been performing and recording his music for some years now.
Notes on the music:
In the translation to modern tablature, I corrected one error. Measure 13, rhythm 4, string 3 showed fret 2.
While evolution has generally been very good to us humans, it's pretty clear that it's been sabotaging our left hands over the last few hundred years. That "flying wedge" 4-finger, 2454 formation (see measures 6, 15 and 26) must have been child's play in the 1500s and 1600s, judging by its ubiquity. For most modern guitar mortals, it's a sure-fire crash point. Suggestion: use a 3-finger formation and leave out the second note from the top. Hey, it sounds the same!
- The Lute Music of Francesco Canova da Milano (1497-1543) edited by Arthur J. Ness. Harvard University Press, 1970.
- "Francesco da Milano". Joel Newman, Guitar Review 9, 1949.
- "Fantasia de mon triste" by Francesco da Milano. Peter Danner, Soundboard, Summer 1993.
- Also see: "Some Thoughts On Lute Tuning" (WGS newsletter, Nov94) and "The Great Tablature Debate" (WGS newsletter, Jan98).
Thanks: Library of Congress.
I found two interesting websites devoted to the lute, tablature, lute composers and 16th C. lute publications.
1. "Sixteenth Century printed tablatures for the
lute, vihuela, guitar and cittern".
2. "Lute page for guitarists." It contains some lute
pieces in ascii tablature.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 38, May 1998)
German tablature is absolutely fantastic! If you like solving puzzles...
At the Library of Congress, I stumbled on a small, facsimile edition of a Lautenbuch (lute book) from Bern, dated 1557. (It's not obvious to me if it was a manuscript or published - probably a manuscript.)
The idea of German tablature is that a unique symbol is used for each string/fret intersection.
Simultaneously played notes are listed in a column - with no gaps for unplayed strings. Rhythm values, in this lautenbuch, at least, are shown above every note and chord. (In most other ancient tablatures, rhythm symbols are shown only when a new rhythm value comes along.)
But the pieces in this Lautenbuch looked like trouble. There were no bar lines and it wasn't obvious how the music should be divided into measures. In addition to the unfamiliar font and legibility problem, two of the most commonly used symbols in the pieces were perplexing. The + sign didn't seem to be in the explanatory tablature chart at all. The frequently used | and several other symbols seemed to indicate fret 7 notes - very unlikely in this presumably modest music. I copied a few pages for further examination at home. I chose a small piece to work on. After a few light bulbs went off, here's what I came up with.
First of all, this is what the Lautenbuch fingerboard diagram is trying to tell us:
The composer had tripped me up by putting the column for open strings after fret 7, rather than before fret 1. Thus, for a few examples:
Got it? His + sign in the music corresponds to the cross with the dash on top in the chart: none other than good, old, open string 6. His | slash is really just a 1. What look like "e"s are really "l"s. Phew.
Treatment of string 6 in this Lautenbuch is not standard. Other German tablatures from the time use capital A for open string 6, and then B, C, D... for the frets right on up the fingerboard. In fact, note that there is a big problem with the system here: f represents 3 possibilities, as would l, q and x, if you follow the pattern up through the 9th fret.
So now that we have the symbols pegged, the remaining problem was rhythm. My best guess is that the composer had trouble notating dotted rhythms. (I don't recall seeing any rhythm dots in the whole Lautenbuch.) If we treat the 4er/8th pairs as dotted 8th/16th pairs, everything falls into place - not necessarily the right place, but a plausible place. (In the cadence, I let his 4er/8th rhythms stand.) If anyone has more informed thoughts on what the intended rhythm was, let me know. In any case, consider the level of sophistication of this piece in comparison with that of Francesca's. (See the WGS newsletter article just above this one.)
"(Who Knows What)" by (Who Knows Who) (pdf)
I doubt that German tablature causes great joy among too many players nowadays. However, Daniel Benko, in his introduction to a book of works by lutenist Mattheis Waissel, states, "As a matter of fact, the knowledge of reading the German notation system may be acquired within some days as easily as that of the French tablature commonly believed simpler. In comparison with the latter, the German system applies more concrete signs and leaves thus less possibilities for error."
Hmmm... Let's check that out. Here's a little contest. Below is the opening of a well-known piece. (Tune 3 to F#, 6 to G.) First person to identify it and complete the transcription wins a free string winder.
Note: In the translation of the Lautenbuch piece to modern tablature, I fixed two presumed mistakes.
Measure 11, second "l" (looking like an "e") was missing a dash on top.
Measure 13, rhythm 1 was a 4er. (Compare with measure 6.)
References and thanks:
Lautenbuch, Bern, 1556. Facsimile by Cornetto-Verlag, Stuttgart, 1997.
M. Waissel, Tabulatura (1573), edited by Daniel Benko. Editio Musica Budapest, 1980.
Awright, by popular demand, a BIG hint:
(From WGS Newsletter No. 38, May 1998)
Our January 1998 newsletter was bursting with articles debating the validity of tablature. Since tablature is getting a workout in this lute-oriented issue, I thought I'd put in my very last (ha!) two cents.
It's clear that the overriding objection to tablature is that it is not music. A player cranks out notes without any idea of what he's playing.
I won't argue that, but as is generally the case, the clear statement of a problem practically screams its own solution. Why not supply the harmony below the tablature staff in the standard notation? For example,
D: I vi ii V iii vi ii6 V ...
And while we're on the subject, why shouldn't the same be done for guitar music? After all, is the situation there much better than with tablature? What fraction of guitarists playing from music give thought to what is really going on harmonically? I, for one, would not object to editors supplying this.
Secondly, you might have noticed that I use this newsletter as a dumping grounds for any sort of crackpot idea that passes through my head (guitar ideas, anyway). Now, not too many people may have use for this latest brainstorm, but here goes.
Even after many attempts at getting used to reading upside-down tablature, it never clicked for me. Going through Francesco's Libro Terzo, I discovered that if I turned the page upside-down, I could read the tablature passably well from right to left. It's a slight bummer you have to pick up the rhythm values from below the staff, but overall, the experience is far less exasperating than poking at wrong strings in upside-down tablature.
I didn't smash my guitar once.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 39, July 1998. This piece accompanied the article, "The Guitar in an Early Sears Catalog, Round 2".)
"Pansy Blossom Waltz" was included in Brainard's Instrumental Guitar Folio, which we see advertised in Sears Catalogs from 1896-1897. The folio is item No. 71806.
"Pansy Blossom Waltz" arr. Justin Holland (pdf)
WARNING!!! Decoration only! Not great! Never recorded by John Williams! Do not play at M.M. quarter note = 208. Do not play at any speed! NOT Lagrima; not Bach; not even Villa-Lobos! Return to your scales and studies, NOW! (Who needs some sappy old waltz anyhow...)
This is a 2-page cut-and-paste job from a 3-page original. The first page helpfully tells us that Pansy Blossom Waltz comes from the Pansy Blossom Waltz. (Hmmm... but where does the Pansy Blossom Waltz come from???)
[I was joking around there, of course. I presumed the publisher meant that this was perhaps the main theme of an instrumental waltz comprising several sections. Searching the internet in October 2019, the first thing that comes up for "Pansy Blossom Waltz" is one by Claribel J. Barnard, for piano. Not only is the title and time frame spot on, but Holland had arranged several of Claribel's songs, such as "Strangers Yet", for voice and guitar. So this has to be the one Holland arranged, right? Nope.
[The search also brings up some other false leads, such as two different pieces from the era called "Only A Pansy Blossom", both in waltz time. And I actually have another "Pansy Blossom Waltz" in my collection, copied from the Library of Congress. It's by Wm. O. Peterson and arranged for two guitars by Herbert Gray (1892). Nope, nope and nope.
[Finally, I discovered that Holland's piece is misnamed; it's really the song "Dear Little Pansy Blossom" by Rosabel (sounds like Claribel, haha?) Keeping the word "waltz" packed in the title was throwing my searches off, although "Dear Little Pansy Blossom" is labeled a "waltz song with chorus". And now we can see that Holland arranged the main section of Rosabel's song; simplified the vocal chorus section somewhat; and ignored the third section of the song that follows the vocal chorus.]
The copyright date for this piece is 1886, the year before Holland's death. [But be careful trusting printed copyright dates. "Pansy Blossom Waltz" is listed as part of a series called "New Gems for Guitar By Justin Holland" which shows an 1885 copyright date by S. Brainard's Sons. When you see a printed copyright date, you can conclude one of three things: the piece was first published that year; it was first published prior to that year; or it was first published after that year. But, hey, it gives you a ballpark...]
For more information on this remarkable man, definitely track down some of the references listed below. Brainard's Instrumental Guitar Folio and its follow-up volume 2 also have some arrangements by Holland's son, Justin Minor Holland.
As always, thanks to the Library of Congress.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 43, March 1999)
One very obscure corner of the universe of guitar music is 19th century American guitar transcriptions of operatic tunes. There were actually quite a few, but the only modern edition of one that I can think of is "Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana", published in the Summer 1990 Soundboard. The opera was by Pietro Mascagni; the guitar arrangement was by Henry Vorhauer. It's quite beautiful. Oddly, there was no introductory text for that ground-breaking "Return With Us Now" column.
I get a kick out of guitar arrangements of operatic material. They can be so dramatic. Sometimes they make me want to stomp across the ceiling; sometimes they make me want to bawl all over the music; sometimes both in the same piece. Anyhow, if you don't like a given piece, you can't blame it all on the 19th C. American guitarist, a poor creature who has certainly taken his share of lumps (if he's gotten any notice at all.)
Prayer From Moses In Egypt was arranged by W.L. Hayden. It was published in or about MDCCCXC. I found it in the Library of Congress collection. The tune seems very familiar to me and also to several of my friends, but none of us can place where we may have heard it. I certainly have not yet attended or heard the opera. Anybody?
"Prayer From Moses In Egypt" arr. W. L. Hayden (pdf)
The opera Mosè in Egytto was composed by Gioacchino Rossini. It was his 24th opera out of 40, the last being Guillaume Tell in 1829. Mosè in Egytto had its premiere in Naples on March 5, 1818.
For a bit of info on Hayden, I was simply going to direct you to Peter Danner's Guitar In America anthology, but I got such a smile out of this passage that I had to pass it on here: "His composing and arranging activities commenced in the 1860s and by 1886 Hayden had reached at least opus 798... Some of his music is unbelievably bad."
Maybe so. Ah, but Rossini/Hayden... now there's a team!
(From WGS Newsletter No. 58, December 2001)
The WGS get-together for February 2001 will be a guitar orchestra led by Kevin Vigil. Kevin, of course, is known to all of us as the former WGS president, and all-around guitar dynamo. We will be playing "The Floating Ancillary Ants" by Rex Willis. This piece received an enthusiastic review in Soundboard magazine (Summer 2000). The ant inspiration is explained as follows: "During a flood, if the water is still enough, ants with no place to climb will float. They then lock their legs together in what looks like a floating, glistening red pad that is about pancake thickness and perhaps one to two feet across."
"The Floating Ancillary Ants" is in 3 parts, but is recommended for a much larger guitar orchestra. There are some scraping and scratching sound effects, and, obviously, the more guitars you have, the more ants you can sound like. The piece was designed for players of all levels: Guitar 1 is intermediate plus; Guitar 2 is intermediate; and Guitar 3 can be knocked out by beginners, even. Teachers, this is a great opportunity for your students.
Take a look at the sample extract in this newsletter and select a part.
If you need a part in advance, the best thing to do is SHOW UP AT THE DECEMBER MEMBERS' RECITAL, where parts will be available. Failing that, I can send out parts. (If the demand is large, I wouldn't object to reimbursement for the stamp.)
Getting a part in advance is NOT a requirement, however; don't hesitate to show up even if you don't get one. Of course, the session is open to everyone, whether or not a WGS member. And it's not unthinkable that your non-guitarist friend or family member might enjoy watching and listening.
Besides the fun of playing with a bunch of guitar friends, an incentive for joining in is that you will be credited in the next newsletter (yippee!), and that the results will be recorded. We have recorded several earlier WGS guitar orchestra sessions and I'd like to think that in no time we'll have a jivin' CD to pass around.
Maybe you can tell that these guitar orchestra sessions are my favorite offering of our guitar society. In 1997 violinist Phyllis Fleming rehearsed us in a work by John Duarte, which we then played as the first item of a members' recital. Over the years, Kevin Vigil has worked wonders pulling us together on pieces like John Duarte's "Summerset Follies", Musorgskii's "Old Castle", Leo Brouwer's "Toccata" and (my all-time favorite) Walter Burke's "A Trip To Rocky Point". The last one involved whistles and bells and sand blocks, not to mention Kevin's mandolin and train conductor calls.
See what you missed? Don't let it happen again!
(From WGS Newsletter No. 58, December 2001)
I had the Dictionary Of Musical Themes, by Harold Barlow and Sam Morgenstern, in my collection for a few years without actually using it too much. It presents more than 10,000 themes of instrumental music - symphonies, concertos, and chamber works. The themes are arranged in the book by composer, from Adam to Zimbalist, and there's an index which will lead you to the theme in question after you figure out the first few notes and transpose them to the key of C. In the authors' words: "The book should prove useful not only to those who are bothered by a theme and can't remember its source, but also for those who know the source but can't remember the theme."
The identification of an unknown theme can be very tricky, though. I remember my first effort. I have a shellac disc privately recorded in 1962 by George W. Mitchell, called "Songs For Children", on which he sings nursery rhyme-like verses to tunes by Grieg, MacDowell, Offenbach, etc. His tune to "The Friendly Cow" was familiar, but I couldn't name it. So I turned to the Dictionary - without luck. I later found my answer while playing through some guitar arrangements by American guitarist Charles de Janon. The tune was Anton Rubinstein's "Melody in F" - which is in the Dictionary but which I couldn't find for the simple reason that Mitchell had fit two eighth notes to Rubinstein's opening quarter note.
In fact, a reviewer in the April, 1949 edition of The Gramophone wrote, "I have tried this index out with friends of varying degrees of musicality (including professionals) with, I regret to say, no more than 20 percent success."
So I let the Dictionary languish on the bookshelf, figuring it to be mainly a source of frustration. The themes themselves are teensy, only a few measures long (2.75 inches worth, to be precise), so how useful could they be?
Well, surprise, surprise, the answer is very useful! I eventually discovered that it is an extraordinarily satisfying experience to follow along in the Dictionary while listening to a musical work. Just having a few measures of each of the main themes brings order to the whole ball of wax. The second half of a theme is sure to be much like the first, and then the whole thing gets repeated, so right there you get 16 measures of music for the price of 4. Same thing goes for the 2nd theme, and the 3rd... When the composer gets into "development" you can easily see which theme he's noodling around with. And you can't miss the recapitulations. What a resource! Makes me feel like I know something about music! Honestly, in many ways, having just those few signature notes beats wrestling with a full score hands down. (Imagine holding the equivalent of thousands of scores in one scrawny hand!)
Then there are all kinds of fun discoveries to be made just browsing the Dictionary. It's also useful in that it gives the precise identification of a work. For instance, the "Melody in F" mentioned earlier is Rubinstein's Op. 3, No. 1. It gives the original instrumentation for the piece, and the composer's dates. What more could you ask? If it's not still in print, visit every used book sale until you find a copy.
Fine and dandy, you say, but what does all this have to do with the guitar? Not much, that's for sure, but maybe a guitar presence near absolute zero is itself interesting? The themes chosen for inclusion in the book were considered by the compilers to be the 10,000 most important themes in all of music up to 1948, so which, if any, solo guitar works are represented? Here's the complete list:
Here they are as they appear in the Dictionary:
Solo guitar works in the "Dictionary of Musical Themes" (pdf)
Why just these, and no others which were important enough, say, to have been recorded by Segovia before 1948, I can't speculate.
Of course, you can find tons of themes in there which we know well in guitar arrangement. It's interesting to see them alongside the other important works by the same composer.
The Dictionary also includes two chamber works involving guitar: "Entr'acte" for flute and guitar by Ibert; and two sonatas for violin and guitar by Paganini. It lists 7 works for lute and strings by John Dowland.
And finally, I'll round this off with two pieces naming the guitar in the title, but not written for guitar. These are: "La Guitarre" for harpsichord by Louis Claude Daquin (d. 1772); and "Guitarre" for piano by Moritz Moszkowski (d. 1925.)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 58, December 2001)
...also a correction and apology.
In the article accompanying "The Galop of the Goblins" I said that Bob Wysong had never heard a Neapolitan 6th in the music of Fernando Sor. In fact, the first Neapolitan 6th that jumps to his mind when the subject comes up is the one in Sor's Op. 35, No. 14 (note 1). Sorry, Bob!
Since then I also stumbled on one in Sor's E-minor arpeggio exercise, Op. 35, No. 24 (note 2).
1. See Classic Guitar Technique, Volume II, Aaron Shearer, page 153. Or see Music for Classical Guitar, Harvey Vinson, page 54 ("Andante in C").
2. See The Classical Guitar, Frederick Noad, page 66. His performance note  coincidentally and conveniently marks the Neapolitan 6th chord. Anyhow, I suppose it counts. There's half a measure of F major harmony in an E minor piece, but it's not so striking since it doesn't follow directly after an E minor chord.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 59, March 2002)
At the February meeting, our guitar orchestra played and recorded "The Floating Ancillary Ants" by Rex Willis. Here is the result of our labor on YouTube:
"Floating Ancillary Ants" by Rex Willis (YouTube)
You're not supposed to speak for everybody in news articles, but I'll stick my neck out: we all had a great time. This was due in large measure to Kevin Vigil's expert guidance. In fact, I know everyone enjoyed themselves because everyone took parts for our next guitar orchestra session, on April 19 (see article.) There was even some talk of taking our show on the road heard at the end of the evening. (Now, I don't know about that!)
Here are the guitarists who joined in:
Conductor - Kevin Vigil.
Guitar 1 - Bob Wysong, Bill Dykes, Kevin Hassett, John Rodgers.
Guitar 2 - Donald Sauter, Mark Kowaleski, Andrew Burt, John Politte, Mark Carson, Leila Carson, Val Klavans, Charlotte Asmuth.
Guitar 3 - Bev Ross, Eric Howard, Kathy Weiland, Debby Maatta.
Special thanks to Bev Ross for bringing her recording equipment.
We've never had so many people turn out for a WGS ensemble session - and this in spite of the previous newsletter not giving the time or the place! The guitar society has been going for about 10 years now, and I'd like to think something is finally starting to ignite, participation-wise. Let's get members' recitals numbers up, too! Folks, you'd have a hard time naming anything that offers anything near the recreational bang-for-the-buck the WGS does.
As good as the February meeting was, could it be any better? Well, we could all try to show up promptly, ready to play, at 7:30. This is especially important since we have to vacate the community center at such an early hour, about 9:45. I felt like we were just beginning to pull the piece together - just reaching the starting point - when we had to break up.
So, come prepared. Let's hit the ground running. Have your part worked up like you would a solo. Remember to bring your guitar. Remember to bring your music stand. Remember to bring your foot stool. Remember to bring your personal page turner if you need one. Remember that the WGS is just a volunteer operation. The $12 million Ford Foundation grant was lost in the mail; our president pulls down a zero-figure income; and the WGS International Headquarters look suspiciously like our homes.
In the "Ants" piece, probably half of us were playing a part we had never played before. For instance, even though I had sent out five Guitar 1 parts, three of the four Guitar 1 players at the session were seeing it for the first time. Don't sweat choosing a part. I can assure everyone it is not worth the trouble trying out several parts to find your "perfect fit". Take one and go with it. Sometimes you'll be Guitar 1, sometimes Guitar 9 - all parts are important!
Getting back to the time problem, both of our locations, the Levine School of Music and the Chevy Chase Community Center, kick us out fairly early. If anyone knows of other locations for WGS meetings without such time constraints, pipe up. It would be nice to find a place convenient to our Virginia members to alternate with our D.C. location(s).
(From WGS Newsletter No. 60, June 2002)
The WGS Guitar Orchestra played and recorded "Tango Estampie" by Luq Lévesque at the April meeting. Almost everybody reading this missed a chance to be part of something that was not only a lot of fun, but much farther reaching and longer lasting than the event itself.
"Tango Estampie" by Luq Lévesque (mp3 sound file)
A very special thanks goes to Phyllis Fleming, D.C. area violinist (and tour guide extraordinaire) for directing the orchestra. You're going to have to find a better writer than me to describe what a great job Phyllis did pulling us together, and how enjoyable she made it for us all. The recording above represents only about our third play-through of the Tango, if I remember rightly. Keep in mind that the orchestra consisted of players of all levels of ability - no more than two or three of whom had seen or played their part before (we'll get back to that.)
Tuning a bunch of guitars always seems to be a problem, but Phyllis came up with an effective and efficient method. The first step is for everybody to tune up as well as possible to some standard note. Then, a "concert-master" with trustworthy tuning gets the ball rolling by playing his open high E string. Then, going up and down the rows of the orchestra, everyone plays the same open string in rapid succession - ping, ping, ping, ping! When an out-of-tune note is heard, any keen-eared soul calls out "sharp!" or "flat!", and the process is halted for a moment while the note is fixed. The process continues until all the open string notes are right on. It goes quick.
Rehearsing and playing the Tango was, for me, as fun as the guitar gets. Still, there were some disappointments. The crowd was smaller than for our previous guitar orcestra. For "The Floating Ancillary Ants" in April we had 15 players; this time we had 10. Figuring everybody had had a great time then, I was hoping to see that group, plus more. Actually, I can't understand why we don't get numbers in the hundreds - not that we could accommodate that many, but if even a tiny percentage of the area's thousands of guitarists thought it was a fun thing to play with, and for, fellow guitarists, WGS orchestra sessions and members' recitals would burst at the seams. Teachers, this is a fantastic opportunity for your students.
I had distributed parts of the Tango in advance to more than 20 guitarists, about 5 of whom showed up. No doubt obligations arise that are more important than a guitar society get-together, but a better reliability rate would minimize people having to switch to a different part at the session.
We could do a much better job getting ourselves set up. It wasn't until 8:00 or so that everybody had finally settled into his spot in the orchestra. There were definite forces working against getting going - party types bent on socializing first - but I won't name names. If this was making me a little "uptight", you can understand I was having a flashback to the previous, "Ants" session, where we had also frittered away the first half hour - and got kicked out just as we were starting to pull the piece together. I could imagine - and would like to see - a hundred guitarists arriving and setting up within a few minutes. By the way, begging people who do show up to pull out their guitars and join in is getting a bit wearysome.
It was unfortunate that the community center was somehow not expecting us that evening. I am very grateful that they wrestled a room away from a couple of ping-pongers for our sake, but still, it would be nice to have a meeting place where we can relax and have a good time, and not always feel like we're imposing and on the point of getting thrown out. Does anyone who digs guitar and enjoys entertaining have a ranch-style home with a large basement?
All in all, though, the pluses beat the minuses by a country mile.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002)
[This item appears in the newsletter as one run-on paragraph, with each thought separated by a *. That was groovy, but it's been done, and I'll make it easy on you here. Also, please read John Politte's "Reflections on the Alexandria Guitar Festival" in the newsletter. I think it may be the most touching article ever contributed to the WGS nesletter.]
Master class tip from John Patykula: Moving the right hand, besides
giving a variety of tone colors, actually helps to relax the
arm, in contrast to parking it in the same position for long stretches.
Carolyn Holbrook's performance of Sor's B-minor study for John Patykula's master class was her first public performance. Good going, Carolyn!
Master class tip from Nicholas Goluses: Leopold Mozart, in his violin method, said that nothing should go faster than you can sing it.
Student Mauricio Perdomo performed lovely compositions of his own with a cello partner. (Good one from Nick Goluses when making a performance suggestion to Mauricio: "I've met the composer; I think that's what he would want.")
It seemed like there was a prize for almost every raffle ticket bought at the evening concerts.
A buddy of mine won a copy of Joe Mayes' recording of Thomas Robinson's lute music (on lute.) We're not talking virtuosity here, but it yielded, for me, the most enjoyable listening experience of any guitar or guitar-related recording in memory.
From John Patykula's talk on Manuel Ponce: Ponce's first composition was "Dance of the Measles", written at age 5. Ponce wrote "Estrellita" at age 11 or 12 and never received royalties from it. He did, however, make use of the theme, much distorted, in movement 2 of his violin concerto.
Master class tips from Petar Kodzas: Practice in front of a mirror. Mute ringing notes with both hands for a perfectly clean cut. (One hand may leave a harmonic ringing.) Use scales to work on legato. Play 4er notes slowly, but think 32nds, and make quick motions on the last of the 8 ticks. When you get nervous in performance, focus on the beat/pulse.
Student Erin Maloney played Villa-Lobos' "Mazurka-Choro" nicely to start with, but the improvement after coaching by three different teachers was quite remarkable.
Erin played a Rawdon-Hall guitar, which you may have seen advertised in Soundboard magazine. It sounded really good.
Petar Kodzas had a funny theory about the seemingly unrelated section of arpeggios at the end of the Mazurka-Choro. Heitor says to himself, "Man, this piece sounds just like Tarrega, I ought to put a little of myself into it!"
Master class tip from Joe Mayes: "Always better to arrive late than leave [a note] early." (Don't know if I sign off on that one.)
From Joe Mayes' talk on the 19th Century guitar: Fan bracing coexisted with transverse bracing from the dawn of the 6-string guitar. Joe happily let us play instruments from his collection, including an original "Lacote-school" (1830s?) guitar and a hundred-year-old Spanish guitar.
Master class tips from Nicholas Goluses: when shifting, be like a helicopter - lift, shift, land. You have to be brutal on yourself in the practice room. Force yourself to play a problem passage 5 times in a row without a glitch.
Personal favorites from the evening concerts:
By the way, Larry still needs to pay up. He bet the audience that no one had ever heard this piece before; I had played it that morning.
And finally, finally, in spite of what John Politte would have you believe in his reflections, I was there in the front row for his masterclass performance of "Somewhere, My Love" - and he sounded just fine.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002)
The August 16 members' recital was great fun. We had the best turnout in ages for a members' recital. We even had time for some impromptu ensemble playing. What you missed was:
Try To Remember music by Harvey Schmidt Largo (Goin' Home) Antonin Dvorak Autumn Leaves Joseph Kosma quartet: Cathy Harrison, Michael McDonald, Mark Castro, Bill Dykes Anima (Spirit) Eric Howard I Feel You... Eric Howard Love's Joy Eric Howard Eric Howard Andante Ferdinando Carulli duo: Charlotte Asmuth, Val Klavans Prelude No. 1 Heitor Villa-Lobos Charlotte Asmuth Blackbird John Lennon/Paul McCartney Val Klavans from "King Arthur" (semi-opera) Henry Purcell Prelude trans. Tilman Hoppstock What power art thou See, we assemble Allegro trio: Beverly Ross, Bob Wysong, Donald Sauter 2 Tangos Astor Piazzola Bordel 1900 Cafe 1930 Phyllis Fleming (violin), Beverly Ross (guitar)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002)
In July, about seven or eight guitarists showed up for our guitar orchestra rehearsal and recording. Bob Wysong patiently pulled together a bunch of players with varying levels of experience. One player very naturally assumed Bob was a professional conductor. (Hey, Bob! Did you ever think of a career in music?)
We got four pieces by Michael Praetorius in the bag - "Bransle de la Torche", "Gaillarde", "Ballet des Coqs", and "Volta". These were all five part pieces arranged by Gilbert Biberian. Our future WGS Guitar Orchestra album on compact disc is shaping up very well, indeed!
"Ballet des Coqs" by Praetorius (mp3 sound file)
"Bransle de la Torche" by Praetorius (mp3 sound file)
"Volta" (with Bob's direction) (mp3 sound file)
(Don't ask me what happened to the Gaillarde.)
Our fearless guitarists were: Bob Wysong (directing and also playing Guitar 1), Bill Dykes, Cathy Harrison, Eric Howard, Joe Kuchler, Bob Nagle, Beverly Ross and Donald Sauter.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002)
Brian Kent and Donald Sauter very generously lent out copies of their debut guitar duo compact disc a few months ago. If you got one and love it to death - great, keep it. It's all yours. But if you notice it just lying around after a listen or two, how about passing it on to somebody else who might be interested? Or you could bring it back to a WGS meeting and get it back to one of the duo guys, who can then put it back in circulation. (One of the ulterior motives for lending them out was to hook people into coming back to WGS meetings.)
The WGS thinks the Kent/Sauter Duo has done an admirable thing and encourages all local guitarists to share their recordings. [I concur. DS, Oct 2019]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002)
Stuart Weber program, June 14 2002 Prelude M. Ponce a.k.a. A. Scarlatti Red, White and Yellowstone Stuart Weber Simple Gifts arr. R. Ravenscroft Nick's Foundation Stuart Weber, ded. Grandpa Humoresque A. Dvorak Darkness Stuart Weber Chaconne J. S. Bach Koyunbaba C. Domeniconi
And some memories...
Stuart spent most of his life thinking the Dvorak "Humoresque" was just "Jack Benny's theme song."
One audience member was clearly captivated by "Koyunbaba". No surprise, as far as that goes, but I'm sure I remember this same listener being thoroughly disgusted by a well-played rendition of the same piece in a previous WGS recital.
Stuart's guitar by Jeff Elliott sounded fantastic.
My single favorite item was "Red, White and Yellowstone" (as in "River".)
Stuart turned down requests for "Recuerdos" and "Asturias". He used to play them - in his days as a student of Parkening - but explains he "can't go back."
Stuart told a funny anecdote about a young punk rocker who, upon finding out that Stuart was a guitarist, too, asked him, "Hey, do you know the Shackenny?" Shackenny? Shackenny? What's the Shackenny? "You know, the Shackenny. I don't know who wrote it. It goes like, bum bummm buh bum bum..." At which point Stuart finally realized the kid was talking about Bach's Chaconne!
Practicing is Stuart's very favorite aspect of the guitar; more than recording, more than ensemble-playing, and more than performing, even.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002)
The WGS newsletter announces an new, upcoming, regular interview feature! We plan to start calling D.C. area guitar teachers at random to have them explain why they are all so oblivious to the Washington Guitar Society. Why they don't encourage their students to get involved in the WGS, for instance. (Never mind, themselves.) Besides the recitals of fine performers, we have members' recitals, open stages, and guitar ensemble and orchestra sessions.
We here at WGS believe that, the more enthusiasm there is for the guitar around the Washington area, the better life will be for guitar teachers (more $$$.)
But maybe we're missing something...
(From WGS Newsletter No. 61, September 2002) It was a year ago... :-(
Here's a paragraph from The Lady Higher Up, by O. Henry, about 1905. Your efforts to understand what O. Henry is saying will be well rewarded.
Seaward this lady gazed, and the furrows between steamship lines began to cut steerage rates. The translators, too, have put an extra burden upon her. "Liberty Lighting the World" (as her creator christened her) would have had no more responsible duty, except for the size of it, than that of an electrician or a Standard Oil magnate. But to "enlighten" the world (as our learned civic guardians "Englished" it) requires abler qualities. And so poor Liberty, instead of having a sinecure as a mere illuminator, must be converted into a Chautauqua shoolma'am, with oceans for her field instead of the placid, classic lake. With a fireless torch and an empty head must she dispel the shadows of the world, and teach it its A, B, C's.
Guitar soundtrack to the above:
"America (My Country 'Tis Of Thee)" - three venerable guitar arrangements (pdf)
1. "National Anthem", arranger not named, from "Guitar Album - collection of various pieces for guitar solo", date not given but surely 19th century, published by Lafleur & Son, London.
2. America. "My country! 'tis of thee" excerpt from "Gems of Sacred Music", arranged by W.L. Hayden, Op. 690(!), copyright 1883, published by W.L. Hayden, Boston.
3. America. "God save the Queen" or "Heil dir im Siegerkranz" from set of "National Airs", arranged for 2 guitars by Alfred Chenet, copyright 1898, published by Alfred Chenet & Co., Boston.
Music liberated from the Library of Congress (on photocopies.)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 62, December 2002)
At our October get-together, we rehearsed and recorded "Summerset Follies", for six guitars, by John Duarte. Please excuse the broken record: everybody there had a great time; those of you who weren't there missed a very wonderful aspect of guitar playing.
Phyllis Fleming worked her usual magic, pulling together a bunch of guitarists of all different playing levels. Phyllis, a career violinist, never once cussed us out for our plodding, turtle-like fingers, our lousy tuning, lousy reading, lousy ensemble and lousy conductor following - the likes of which she surely hasn't seen since junior high school orchestra. Exaggerating here (slightly) for effect, of course - by the end we sounded pretty darn good! Still, those of us without orchestra playing experience stand to learn a lot from Phyllis about how the professionals do it. For instance, if you goof up during a recorded take, hold your mild expletive until after the tape stops rolling.
Our fearless guitarists were: Bill Dykes, John Politte, Dale, Andrew Waldron, Gwen Frederick, Cathy Harrison, Bev Ross, Bob Nagle, Bob Wysong, Donald Sauter and Matt Weiner.
Bev Ross recorded the affair, and Matt Weiner volunteered his expert services in converting the tape into a format for the web.
"Summerset Follies" by John Duarte (mp3 sound file)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 62, December 2002)
"Summerset Follies" is a set of variations on a famous melody called "La Folia" (the folly, or fool). "La Folia" has been used by many composers since the 17th century "as a theme for continuous variations, similar in form and treatment to the chaconne and passacaglia" (Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music). There is a very impressive website devoted just to musical works based on the folia theme. It's called "La Folia, a musical cathedral (1672-2002)", and I hope it's as easy to find when you read this as it was in 2002.
Baroque guitarists included early versions of the folia in their tablature books. In fact, Francesco Corbetta's version in his 1671 book had several important features which became part of the standardized "later folia" which is the familiar tune that Duarte and many others have set. The first setting of the "later folia" was by Jean-Baptiste Lully in 1672.
I've included a folia by Gaspar Sanz in this newsletter, although it's not the later folia. It's from his Instruccion de Musica sobre la Guitarra Espanola, the second of the three volumes, dated 1675 (I think). You have three choices: play from Sanz's tablature; play from the modern tablature which is completely faithful to Sanz's; or play a transcription in music notation. There's one in a highly-recommended anthology called Easy Classics For Guitar, edited by David Nadal, published by Dover, 2000.
"Folias" by Gaspar Sanz (original and modern tablature) (pdf)
It seems that Sanz played a guitar without bass strings - both strings of the 4th and 5th pairs were tuned to the higher octave. Gaspar, you hadda be nuts! Your music sounds great with bass notes! Anyhow, I'll bet not many of the 17th C. guitarists who bought your book restrung their guitars like that. Still, the modern performer should consider adding or substituting the higher octave wherever he sees a 4th or 5th string note. Let me call your attention to the first beats in these measures: m35, m37, m39, m41, m43 and m45 - but you be the judge of what sounds good.
Other guitar composers have jumped on the Folia bandwagon. Fernando Sor did it in his Op. 15; Mauro Giuliani got around to it in his Op. 45. If you want another nice baroque guitar example, you can get to it from my page devoted to Francisco Guerau. Here's a direct link to his "Folio" for modern guitar, with octave notes added where it seemed right.
Explanation of ornament symbols in the tablature:
~ = trill (starts on higher neighbor).
^ at foot of fret number = mordent (main note to lower neighbor and back up.)
# = vibrato.
Sanz's instruction, "Esta Glosada Toda se Corre" at measure 50 means to play fast: "This whole gloss (variation) races."
(From WGS Newsletter No. 63, March 2003)
Dang groundhog. Looks like Phil and his shadow were right - six more weeks of this winter mess.
On the evening of the February 21 WGS guitar ensemble meeting, roads were still messy from the massive snow dump four days earlier, and the cold rain didn't serve to make matters any jollier. But four WGSers made it out. And we even had an audience.
The guitarists were, in order of arrival: John Politte, Donald Sauter, Bill Dykes and Amy Penchuk. It was Amy's first WGS showing - welcome! Our fine audience - appreciative but refreshingly unobsequious - was named Jay.
We played "Trio für drei Gitarren" by Fritz Pilsl (1978) and sounded fine. The piece itself brings Hindemith to mind, as noted by Bob Wysong. After wringing out the modern Pilsl to our satisfaction, we spun through Frederick Noad arrangements of pieces from the renaissance, baroque and classical eras just to show off our versatility. There was much conversation along the lines of, "We should get something like this going on a regular basis."
To which I say, "Why not?"
(From WGS Newsletter No. 63, March 2003)
I have a sister who lives on Unalaska, an island about halfway out in the Aleutian Islands chain from Alaska. She wrote recently:
"We have 2-3 radio stations. One is religious that always comes in. One is public radio. One is off the air about 80% of the time but offers a really interesting variety of blues - it's out of Dillingham, Alaska. We listen to shortwave, though, so we actually could listen to tons of stations.
"Radio Russia has great classical music at times. The other night there was a recording of a Russian classical guitarist from the '50s, '60s. He was persecuted for using a 6-string "foreign" guitar (Spanish). Eventually, he got it accepted into the Moscow University music program. I think the original Russian guitar had 5 strings. It is amusing to hear Russian versions of classical guitar music & jazz. Their jazz from the '30s & '40s has a definite different slant from early American jazz - if you can imagine "heavy" jazz, you maybe can imagine Russian jazz."
For the record, the Russian guitar has 7 strings tuned to a big G chord, DGBDGBD. (Written a little more rigorously, that would be: D G B d g b d'.) I know there was some friction between 7-stringers and 6-stringers in Russia, but I'm not sure which guitarist Radio Russia was spotlighting. Perhaps it was Peter Spiridonovich Agafoshin, who converted over to the 6-string guitar after hearing a Segovia concert in 1925. And, yes, he became the first guitar teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. But Agafoshin died in 1950.
Agafoshin's famous pupil Alexander Ivanov-Kramskoi (1912-1973) recorded during the '50s and '60s (I would presume) and also taught at the Moscow Conservatory, taking over his master's position. Ivanov-Kramskoi had his "Segovia experience" in 1936. My web search didn't turn up anything about Ivanov-Kramskoi being persecuted for using the 6-string guitar, but maybe such treatment for western-like behavior in that era is to be taken for granted, I don't know.
I've long suspected that there is an untapped wealth of music for the Russian guitar that can be played directly on our 6-string guitar. Much of the Russian guitar music I've seen transcribed for our instrument is transposed up one step, for example from D to E. A reason for doing this is that the Russian guitarists always transposed Western European 6-string guitar music down a step for their instrument. In my experience, these transcriptions for our 6-string guitar usually have really tough spots - difficulties that I'm sure don't exist on the 7-string.
I believe we could get more authentic and natural transcriptions by leaving the Russian guitar music at its original pitch and retuning a few of our strings. The 6th string would surely go down to D. Tuning the 1st string down to D would give us the exact, same first four strings as the Russian guitar. Still, depending on the piece, keeping our 1st string tuned to E may serve just fine. The 5th string could go down to G (the Russian 6th string), or up to B (the Russian 5th string). Maybe in some pieces it could stay right at A, which is right in between. Since there's generally not as much going on in the bass as in the treble, you'd think at least one of these three options would work pretty well.
Wow, that's a lot of strings retuned; how in the world could we ever get used to it? Believe me, it's not so hard at all. We're already experienced with the 6th string tuned to D, and many of us have experience with the 5th string tuned to G. If we really must tune the 1st string down a step to D, it's not catastrophic - just add 2 frets to where you would ordinarily play a note. In any case, a healthy dose of fingerings will keep us on target with the retuned strings.
I've supplied a Polonaise by 19th-century Russian guitarist Andrei Sychra in this newsletter.
"Polonaise" by Andrei Sychra (pdf)
The cover is all in Cyrillic except for two lines of French: "Journal de Petersbourg pour la guitare, par A. Sychra." A librarian hand wrote the date: "[1828-29]". You'll find the polonaise works very well on the 6-string guitar with just the 5th and 6th strings tuned down.
I know how lousy modern fingering symbols look on a facsimile copy of a beautiful, old music engraving, but I suspect few readers would wrestle with it otherwise. Any WGS member who is disgusted, offended, or outraged by the fingerings, or simply wants to give it a go with the 1st string tuned down to D, just ask me for a clean, unfingered copy. For flavor, I've left in all of Sychra's original fingerings for the Russian tuning. Notice how all of the low B's would have been played open on the 7-string guitar. The low note in measure 2 should be an E. I feel sure that a "Fine" is intended at the end of staff 5, and that a "dal segno" to the beginning of the Polonaise proper (measure 5) is intended after playing the Trio. A polonaise is a stately Polish dance in moderate 3/4 meter. Thanks go to the Libary of Congress for providing this piece.
Ok, folks, it's time we had a little heart-to-heart talk. I know nobody plays the music in the WGS newsletter. We even had a survey once where more people said they liked reading the same old ad in every issue than playing the music. Nobody likes to be a beggar, but you've finally reduced me to that state. What's your guitar for if not for turning black dots on a piece of paper into livin', thrivin' sound waves? Please play this piece. It's good; it's playable; it's fun. If it turns out that I have deceived you, and playing this piece causes irreparable harm to your well-being, I invite you to smear my reputation from one end of the world wide web to the other.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 63, March 2003)
In the Black History month that just passed, I did a little experiment with Google News. Searching for names like George Washington Carver and Benjamin Banneker returned the expected number of hits in recent newspaper articles, but Justin Holland (the guitarist) returned none. This shouldn't surprise me too much, though. If hardly any guitarists are familiar with him, how could I expect the world at large to know him?
Justin Holland was only the most important American guitarist of his time - 1860s to 1880s. He published about 300 of his guitar arrangements, and he worked in many ways for the betterment of life for blacks. By any gauge, he was a very remarkable man. Until shown otherwise, I claim Justin Holland was the first black American known throughout the country for his work.
If you visit my web page devoted to Justin Holland, you can find links to several other pages with information on Holland... PLUS you will find links to recordings of his set of 20 Scraps From The Operas For Two Guitars, published in 1868. For most of the Guitar Primo parts, you'll hear our own excellent Bob Wysong, and on the others, Wilmington, Delaware's top-notch Chris Braddock. I try to do my very best on all the Guitar Secondo parts.
There should be some familiar tunes among these 20 "scraps" - actually, a lot more than 20, since each one is really a medley of two or three tunes from the given opera. For instance, the set opens with the famous "Faust Waltz" and "Faust March" from the opera Faust by Charles Gounod. At least, I'm sure in the "old days", everybody would have recognized these and many of the others. But I'm afraid our cultural awareness may have fallen off a cliff in the 1960s after Elvis and the Beatles came along and everybody said, "Hey, let's just stay stupid!" Before then, pop music was something everybody grew out of. (A bit unfair? Sorry for the editorializing.)
(From WGS Newsletter No. 63, March 2003)
After the last newsletter went to press, I realized I had wanted to say a couple of more things about the famous melody called "La Folia". I had mentioned a few of the guitar composers who wrote pieces based on the tune, but I forgot to mention that the Sarabande from Robert de Visee's famous "Suite in D Minor" is none other than the Folia.
Also, I wanted to mention that you can hear the Folia in Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It's quoted toward the end of the second movement. Maybe that doesn't amaze you, but the fact that this was just noticed very recently should. In 1994, a young music student, Lucy Hayward-Warburton, caught it and pointed it out to her tutor. He was astonished, as well he should be.
Taking a little fun out of that story is that further inquiry shows that it had been mentioned before, by Reed J. Hoyt in a letter to the editor of a music journal in 1982. Still, it's quite incredible that such a thing could have gone undetected by musicological brains for over 170 years, considering that Beethoven's Fifth is one of the most picked over, scrutinized and analyzed pieces of music there ever was.
You can hear this excerpt at the web site I mentioned last time: "La Folia, a musical cathedral (1672-2002)".
(From WGS Newsletter No. 64, June 2003)
With Memorial Day just gone and the 4th of July coming on, I thought something patriotic would be appropriate for this edition of the newsletter. Maryland, My Maryland! is, of course, Maryland's state song, but before your chest absolutely bursts with patriotic pride, remember that it's the only state song that calls for smashing the federal government.
This guitar version was printed while the war was in progress. It's from Winner's New Primer for the Guitar, published by W. A. Pond, 1864. No arranger is named, so does that imply Septimus Winner, the man, himself? I've never been sure about this. (When I search the web for "septimus winner" and "guitar", only two pages come up before my own - a sorry state of affairs.)
"Maryland, My Maryland!" and "Ode to the Hon. Henry Clay" (pdf)
Maryland was prevented from leaving the Union during the Civil War by federal strong-arm tactics, but it was a slave-holding state and largely sympathetic with the South. A Maryland native named James Ryder Randall working as a teacher in New Orleans wrote Maryland, My Maryland! after hearing news of the Baltimore Riot in April 1961. Massachusetts troops passing through Baltimore were confronted by a pro-South mob. Four Union troops and 12 Baltimoreans died in the skirmish. This is considered the first bloodshed of the Civil War. Randall fervently hoped his poem would inspire Maryland to secede. Here's his first verse:
The despot's heel is on thy shore, Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!
The New Orleans Daily Delta published Randall's poem. Practically every southern newspaper copied it. A pair of Baltimore sisters got the idea of singing it to the tune of Lauriger Horatius, better known to us as O, Tannenbaum ("O, Christmas Tree"), and in a few months it became the "Marseillaise of the Confederacy."
WGS members below the Potomac may particularly enjoy verse 6. (Don't ask me how the extra line fits into "Oh, Christmas Tree".)
Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain, Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain, Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain--
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain, Maryland!
Arise in majesty again, Maryland! My Maryland!
In fact, the Confederate First Maryland Division under Stonewall Jackson fought the Union's First Maryland Division on Virginia soil, at Front Royal, on May 23 1862. The Union got whupped.
Here's the 9th, and last, verse. Maryland got the nickname "Old Line State" because of the courage of Maryland soldiers in the war for independence. ("Line" refers to Maryland troops lined up abreast at the front. The heroic Maryland and Delaware lines were singled out for praise.)
I hear the distant thunder-hum, Maryland!
The Old Line bugle, fife, and drum, Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! She burns! She'll come! She'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!
"She spurns the Northern scum!" Whew, now there's a state song for you. There was a Maryland state senator who wanted to whitewash history and abolish the song in 1984. He had to back down after a death threat. By the way, Union soldiers sang a sissy version which began:
The Rebel feet are on our shore, Maryland, My Maryland!
I smell 'em half a mile or more, Maryland, My Maryland!
Their shockless hordes are at my door,
Their drunken generals on my floor,
What now can sweeten Baltimore?
Maryland, My Maryland!
The second piece, Ode To The Hon. Henry Clay, by Francis Weiland, is from Winner's Guitar Primer, 1858. Henry Clay died in 1852. He was known as the "Great Pacificator" and "Great Compromiser" because he was instrumental in three compromises which saved the Union. The first was the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The second was the Compromise Tariff of 1833 which placated South Carolina which was threatening to secede because of unacceptable tariffs set by Congress. The third was the Compromise of 1850, consisting of five measures aiming to settle the issue of slavery in newly added territories: California to be admitted as a free state; no specific slavery regulations in Utah and New Mexico; Congress not to interfere with slave trade in the Southern states; etc.
In 1824, Clay pushed through legislation he called the "American System". This provided for internal improvements, such as the construction of roads and canals, financed by the national government. Clay was a frequent presidential candidate, but never a winner. He is famous for his quote, "I had rather be right than President."
All I know about guitarist Francis Weiland is from a 1981 Soundboard article accompanying his theme and variations on Home Sweet Home. That piece was published in 1841, which helps to give an idea of the time frame in which he was active. We think Weiland was a Philadelphia guitar teacher.
Maryland, My Maryland! is from Winner's New Primer for the Guitar, published by W. A. Pond, 1864.
Ode To The Hon. Henry Clay is from Winner's Guitar Primer, 1858.
Thanks to the Library of Congress for the music.
The Baltimore Riot which kicked off the Civil War occurred in April 1861, not April 1961. I regret to report that several readers had trouble mentally correcting this typo in the "Maryland, My Maryland!" article.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 64, June 2003)
In April, we had a members' recital. Here's what we played:
Citharoedia Strigoniensis Ferenc Farkas, 1974 trio: Bev Ross, Bob Wysong, Donald Sauter Toy for Two Lutes Thomas Robinson, 1603 trans. Frederick Noad duo: Bob Wysong, Donald Sauter Spagnoletta Anonymous Toy Francis Cutting Alman Robert Johnson Greensleeves Francis Cutting Guardame las vacas Luis de Narvaez Queen Elizabeth's Galliard John Dowling above six trans. Frederick Noad solo: Bob Wysong Gymnopedie Eric Satie Blue Moon Richard Rodgers arr. Laurindo Almeido Minuet in G from the notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach anonymous Choros Heitor Villa-Lobos solo: John Politte Etude no. 1 Heitor Villa-Lobos Lute Prelude, BWV 999 J.S. Bach Recuerdos de la Alhambra Francisco Tarrega solo: Naim Kocak Trio fur drei Gitarren Fritz Pilsl trio plus 1: Donald Sauter, John Politte, Bill Dykes, Bob Wysong
Member recital notes:
- The guitar trio handed out a nice cd of miscellaneous pieces they had recorded over the years.
- This was Naim's first WGS visit. Welcome, Naim!
- See the newsletter pdf file for editor Bill Dykes short review of the recital.
At the May meeting, we worked up the first two movements of Federico Moreno Torroba's Rafagas, written for four guitars. Our ensemble consisted of 6 guitarists: Bob Wysong, Donald Sauter, Bill Dykes, Bob Nagle, John Politte and Amy Penchuk.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 65, September 2003)
Our July meeting was a Members' Recital. There were a bunch of new faces and our turnout was the best for a members' recital in memory. Best of all was the lively, friendly atmosphere which would make the typical guitar recital seem like a funeral in comparison. Here's what we played:
Adelita F. Tarrega Love's Joy E. Howard Eric Howard Cavatina (theme from the Deer Hunter) Stanley Myers duo: Amy Penchuk, John Politte Bourree in E minor J.S. Bach Corcovada A. Jobim John Politte La Frescobalda G. Frescobaldi Caldwell Punto Cubano arr. Vladimir Bobri Terpsichore Jose Ferrer La Rossignol Anonymous Saltarello V. Galilei, arr. H. Vinson duo: Bob Wysong, Donald Sauter Minuet in G Beethoven, arr. J. Castle Sonata, 1st mvmt N. Paganini solo: Bob Wysong Andante from Sonata in C W.A. Mozart Theme and variations M. Giuliani duet: Oscar Velasco, flute Tony Campanella, guitar
This left plenty of time for impromptu ensemble playing. As if being a top-notch flutist isn't enough, you should've heard Oscar ripping through guitar flamenco improvs in combo with Bill Dykes. (Oscar borrowed my guitar, which has never in the 30 years I've owned it known such blazing fingers.) Oscar's guitar teacher back in El Salvador was a student of Barrios's.
In the last half hour, the remaining four guitars and one flute spun through a bunch of Frederick Noad ensemble arrangements from various periods.
P.S. John, in your case "cavatina" means a song-like piece written for instruments.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 65, September 2003)
One reason I chose this piece for the newsletter is because it's quite an oddity. I have copied many 19th century American guitar editions from the Library of Congress. About 1230 of these works are arrangements - not original compositions - for the guitar. I had gotten curious about what sort of music guitarists would choose to arrange, presuming that would be representative of the most popular music of the time, by and large. I found arrangements of pop songs, folk tunes, opera and classical and semi-classical works. But among all those 1230 arrangements, only three pieces reached back to the baroque period. This is one of them.
George Frideric Handel composed the oratorio Saul, from which this "Dead March" was taken. Interestingly, the other two baroque pieces mentioned above were also by Handel, namely two arrangements of the famous "Largo" from his opera Serse. So, according to 19th century tastes, Handel shuts out Bach, three to nothin'.
The Dead March was arranged for guitar by the very prolific W. L. Hayden. (See WGS newsletter No. 43, March 1999, for Hayden's Op. 264, "Prayer From Moses In Egypt". As if you save and bind back issues of the newsletter. One day you'll be sorry...)
"Dead March from Saul" by Handel, arr. W. L. Hayden (pdf)
It appears that the Dead March had a life of its own outside of the oratorio itself. I'm guessing it was played by organists, at least, on appropriately somber occasions - can't say for sure it still isn't. For a humorous anecdote about the Dead March being played by a great British organist in 1842, using his rump on the keyboard for special effects, go to Google and search on "dead march" and "camidge".
Did I mention, an oratorio is a lot like an opera except it isn't acted out, and the subject is religious?
A second reason for presenting this piece is to give you practice playing sloooow... I have a recording by E. Power Biggs and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and their tempo is somewhere around 37 beats per minute. I think it was John Duarte who recognized the phenomenon of the "guitarists tempo"; not only can we not play fast (sorry!) but we can't play slow, either, so everything sort of settles in at the same, middlin' pulse. If that accusation riles you, here's your chance to prove you can at least maintain a steady, snail-like tempo. Set your metronome to the closest thing to 74, and use those ticks as 8th notes. Turn off the metronome, turn on a timer, start playing, and see if you finish up right at 3:30.
All that remains is to put the Dead March in its proper context in the oratorio so that the expression you put into your performance will bring your audience (and you) to tears. It should.
The oratorio is called Saul, but it's really the story of Saul and David, which is told in I Samuel in the Bible. Samuel was the last of the great Judges, who were the leaders of Israel at that time. When Samuel got old, the people asked for a king to lead them. The Lord chose Saul to be the king. Samuel anointed Saul as king. Saul reigned from about 1030 to 1010 B.C.
Saul ruined things for himself by disobeying a command from the Lord, communicated to him by Samuel who was also a seer, to destroy every last Amalekite in battle.
Then David comes into the picture. Because the Lord was dissatisfied with Saul, he directs Samuel to anoint the shepherd boy David as the next king. David goes on to defeat Goliath and rout the Philistines. When he returns, the women dance and sing. Saul has killed thousands, but "David his ten thousand slew; ten thousand praises are his due!" This makes Saul jealous, and he schemes to get David killed. Saul even tosses spears at David while he plays his harp. In spite of this ill treatment David maintains utter respect for the king and never retaliates even though there are ample opportunities to kill Saul himself.
Saul had a son Jonathan who swore eternal friendship to David. Jonathan declares, "Henceforth, Jonathan and David are but one." Jonathan aids David in avoiding Saul's attempts to kill him. Meanwhile, the aged judge Samuel dies.
Saul has to contend with the Philistine army, and is terrified. He pleads to the Lord for advice, but finds himself forsaken. In desperation, he visits the witch of Endor and has her call up the spirit of Samuel. Samuel is not pleased at the disturbance and delivers bleak news to Saul: "Israel by Philistine arms shall fall, and thou and thy sons shall be with me tomorrow."
When David learns of the death of Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, he tears his clothes in sorrow. He composes a lament for Saul and Jonathan: "In sweetest harmony they liv'd, nor death their union could divide. Eagles were not so swift as they, nor lions so strong." In another verse: "For thee, my brother Jonathan, how great is my distress! Great was the pleasure I enjoy'd in thee, and more than a woman's love, thy wondrous love to me!"
Think about all this when you play the "Dead March from Saul".
In case you've forgotten how David's story fits into the bigger scheme of Jewish history, remember that it was prophesied that the Messiah - the king who would restore Israel - would be a descendant of David and born in Bethlehem. All the "begatting" in the beginning of Matthew lays out the 14 generations from Abraham to David, the 14 generations from David to when the Jews were carried away into Babylonia, and the final 14 generations to the birth of Jesus.
- An "x" in front of a low F# means to finger it with your left-hand thumb, up and around the fingerboard. Show your teacher how easy this is.
- At the end of beat 2 in measure 4, I suggest leaving out the D and E at the bottom of the thirds.
- Quotes in this article are taken directly from the libretto, written by Charles Jennens. For their counterparts in the Bible see I Samuel 18:7, 20:17, 28:19, and II Samuel 1:23,26.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 65, September 2003)
David Allen Coester is a name that should ring bells with long-time WGS members. He was introduced to the classical guitar at Northern Virginia Community College, and after going to the Manhattan School of Music and gathering many other feathers in his hat, came back and played for the WGS in May 1994.
David has a web site with a wonderful batch of public domain, 19th century American guitar publications. Currently available are:
For an example of the neat little things you can discover in this sort of music, if you're willing to pull your snoot down from out of the stratosphere for a moment, give a play to "From the Opera of Genivieve" - meaning "Genevieve de Brabant", by Jacques Offenbach - on page 59 of "Winner's New American School". Here's the incentive (and also a little experiment to see if any WGS members ever read the newsletter): the first WGS member who can tell me what he hears in that piece will have his membership extended by a year. [Do you think anybody gave it a shot? Do you think pigs fly?]
And check out page 78 of "Winner's New American School". There's an arrangement of "O Dolce Concento". My claim is that this is the piece Fernando Sor worked from when he wrote the Magic Flute variations, Op. 9. The question is not, how did Sor come to change Mozart's "Das klinget so herrlich" melody, but who was the first person who took "Das klinget so herrlich" and cooked up "O Dolce Concento" from it? In any case, I've seen an "O Dolce Concento" for piano by T. Latour that has some variations that make me wonder if Sor wasn't inspired by that particular version. One of the Latour variations even looks like the model for Sor's first variation on "La Folias".
Go to www.meantone.com and click on "Free sheet music downloads."
(From WGS Newsletter No. 65, September 2003)
At the recent Alexandria Guitar Festival, some members of the Washington Guitar Society gave a lunchtime presentation on the final day. We said a few words about our society, and then hosted a guitar question-and-answer game. This was the brainchild of John Politte. See John's write-up on our "Guitar Jeopardy" session in the newsletter.
Well, it's your lucky day! Here are some thought-provoking questions from that quiz. These were drawn almost exclusively from old WGS newsletters.
1. Name the African-American guitarist who was the most important
American guitarist of the 1860 time frame. He published over 300 guitar
arrangements and an important guitar method.
HINT: first name Justin
HINT: last name evokes the Netherlands
2. The most important Russian guitarist of the early 19th
century was Andrei Sychra. How many strings did his guitar have?
EXTRA CREDIT: What chord are the 7 strings tuned to?
3. AUDIO JEOPARDY: What is the name of this famous theme? Composers
throughout the centuries, including guitar composers Sor, Giuliani
and Ponce, have used it as a basis for variations. Here is the
beginning of the theme as set by John Duarte, played by the WGS guitar
ensemble. (Start cd... "Dum duummm, da dum dum.")
HINT: the Fool's Dance
4. Name the famous Spanish Baroque guitarist who recommended
against using bass strings on the guitar? He thought they were ok
only for noisy music and for accompanying songs.
HINT: He wrote the famous Canarios.
5. The 1894 Sears Catalog was the first with a "Musical Goods
Department". How much did the "Washburn American Guitar" - its most
expensive model - cost? (Moderator responds to each guess with
"higher!" or "lower!")
QUICK FOLLOW-UP: Which guitar string was the most expensive?
HINT: You only have 6 choices!
6. What would you find in the M127 boxes at the Library of Congress?
7. Identify the guitarist based on these clues (doled out one at a time):
CLUE: 19th century
CLUE: friend of Fernando Sor
CLUE: played with his fingernails (unlike Sor)
CLUE: invented the tripodion, a stand to hold the guitar for the player
CLUE: most of his output were small pieces, such as waltzes
CLUE: wrote Troi Rondo Brillants (one recorded by Bream)
CLUE: first name, Dionisio
CLUE: If you don't have it by now, I give up.
8. What's it mean when a guitarist drools from both sides of his mouth?
9. Name the most important American female guitarist of the
20th century. She composed, arranged, concertized, collected guitar
music and started the American Guitar Society in California.
HINT: initials VOB
HINT: changed her first name to Vahdah for astrological reasons
HINT: husband was guitarist Zahr Bickford (and if that doesn't give it away...!)
10. Who wrote the earliest known guitar music?
HINT: published in 1546
HINT: included in a volume of music for the vihuela
HINT: one of the pieces for guitar was "Guardame las vacas" ("Watch the cows").
HINT: first name, Alonso.
11. In the WGS Newsletter, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Sep 1994), you can find guitar
arrangements of two never-before-heard waltzes by a famous composer. Who
HINT: very famous
HINT: I mean, really, really famous.
HINT: German, 18th century [Some people say Austrian.]
12. If you examined all the arrangements for solo guitar at the
Library of Congress, what would you have to conclude was the "No. 1
Greatest Hit" of 19th century America?
HINT: very sentimental song
HINT: "be it ever so humble..."
Guitar Jeopardy Answers
(Pretend these are upside down, or at least on a different page.)
1. Justin Holland.
2. The Russian guitar has 7 strings tuned to a big G chord - DGBDGBD.
3. La Folia, or Folies d'Espagne. Coincidentally, later that same day Greg Koenig played the Giuliani variations, and Nicholas Goluses played the Ponce variations.
4. Gaspar Sanz.
5. $26. The cheapest model was $4.50. The G string, made of "best quality gut", cost 15 cents apiece. The basses cost 10 cents apiece.
6. guitar music (doh!)
7. Dionisio Aguado.
8. The stage is level. (Glen Caluda accused Joe Mayes of answering this one from experience.)
9. Vahdah Olcott Bickford. She was also on the original Guitar Foundation of America board of directors.
10. Alonso Mudarra. The 6 pieces were for 4-course guitar.
11. W. A. Mozart. The waltzes were constructed from Mozart's musical dice game which yields a few quadrillion distinct walzes, or "Schleifer".
12. Home Sweet Home, by Sir Henry Bishop. Not to be confused with other popular "home" songs such as "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Old Folks At Home" (an alternate title for "Swannee River"), both by Stephen Foster.
Follow-up: In WGS Newsletter No. 69, Tim Healey commented on question 10. I'm not 100% sure, but I think he was disputing my answer on three grounds.
1. That the earliest surviving book of music for vihuela was by Luis Milan and published in 1536, predating Mudarra's by about 10 years.
Yes, that's true, but Milan's book did not have any music for guitar. Mudarra's had 6 pieces.
2. That Luis de Narvaez "wrote" "Guardame las vacas", not Mudarra.
Neither one of them wrote it. They took an existing popular ballad and arranged it for guitar, in Mudarra's case, and vihuela, in Narvaez's case.
3. The vihuela had 6 courses, tuned like the Italian lute.
But my question was specifically about the guitar, what we now call the Renaissance guitar, having 4 courses tuned like the top 4 strings of the modern guitar. By the way, don't wonder about how or why the location of the third migrated up a string pair in going from the vihuela to the guitar; the guitar tuning came from removing the 1st and 6th courses of the vihuela. Anyhow, that's what I've read, but I would put money on it going the other way: the simple 4-course guitar got gussied up for the emerging virtuoso industry, and an extra course was added on the top and bottom.
(From WGS Newsletter No. 68, June 2004)
The Library of Congress now has a complete set of Washington Guitar Society newsletters from No. 1 (September 1992) through No. 65 (September 2003). While they politely declined my request to build a new wing for the collection, or at least install a fancy case for it where everybody walks in, they were very appreciative. They wrote,
"The Library is delighted to have the complete run of your newsletter. While we are national in scope, it is good that we can offer local materials as well, especially our hometown."
Patricia Baughman, reference librarian in the music division, spelled out what's in store for the newsletters. She has "forwarded the issues to the cataloging section of Serial Record. There it will be officially accessioned and a cataloging record completed. This means a record is generated which will eventually show up in the on-line catalog. I have no way of knowing how long this process may take, it depends on the work flow and how many other titles are ahead of it in the queue. Then, when it returns to me, I will prepare it for binding and six weeks after it gets to the bindery it will be returned to Music Division and be ready for use."
I think everyone who has had a hand in the newsletter over the years has a right to feel proud. If you're going to end up in a library somewhere, LC is a tough act to beat.
Looking at it from "the glass is half empty" point of view, I admit to a touch of disappointment that there was never any support for my idea that the newsletter document all known guitar performances, WGS and non-WGS, in the Washington area by printing the concert programs. How interesting that would be in the here and now, and how fascinating for future music historians. And what a great "equalizer" - your own open stage performance could have appeared right beside a Pepe Romero program, and who from the year 2525 would know the difference?
Still, the WGS newsletter has always been in a class by itself. No brag; just fact.
[Reality check: Do you really believe that LC did anything with our newsletters? Do you think pigs fly?]
(From WGS Newsletter No. 68, June 2004)
The following is from an article about Manuel Barrueco in the Baltimore Sun (May 1 2004, page 1D), called "First String; Manuel Barrueco's talents on the guitar and in the classroom draw eager students to the Peabody Institute":
As he has for the past eight years, Barrueco will hold a weeklong master class at Peabody early next month for students from around the country and beyond. But he won't be taking part in the World Guitar Congress at Towson University going on at the same time. "Originally I was supposed to be involved," he says, "but we couldn't see eye to eye on things."
Anybody heard any good rumors?
(From WGS Newsletter No. 68, June 2004)
From "Who's Afraid Of Classical Music?", 1989, by Michael Walsh, music critic for Time Magazine, page 151:
"I have spent the better part of my critical career avoiding classical guitar in all of its manifestations."
Walsh does go on, however, to say some kind things about Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez".
(From WGS Newsletter No. 73, Autumn 2005)
There was no commentary to go with this page of short waltzes by Luigi Legnani. But here is my email with my suggestion of including some favorite waltzes from Legnani's set of 36:
If you want a piece of music to dress up the newsletter, and they can be extracted from pdf files (I have a suspicion Adobe Acrobat makes that hard or impossible) I've attached a Legnani collection of 36 short waltzes. They're all 2 or 3 lines, and kind of nutty little things.
I remember some of my favorites being Nos. 12 (an easier study in thirds than Sor's), 15, 16, 18, 19 (with a momentary Neapolitan 6th), and 26 (funny the way minor takes you by surprise in the second measure).
This pdf [attached to the email] is one of the 1000+ guitar editions in the Royal Copenhagen collection.
Four Short Waltzes by Luigi Legnani (pdf)
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