Monday, February 4, 2008

Cello, folkish

I went to an acoustic folk concert last night (violin, mandolin, guitar, string bass, ukelele, voice). It was fun, and the instruments were all equal contributers. I was thinking, again, that it would be nice to play in this sort of a band, just 4 or 5 people: cello and other string or folk instruments, where all instruments are equal and the cello can take the lead on the melody as often as the other instruments, assuming one's cello playing is up to par. I am not sure who would want to play this sort of music with me, or when I would have time for it. It was inspiring though, and I think I will start working on Abby Newton's Crossing to Scotland and fiddle camp music again, my favorite folk-style cello music.


CelloGeek said...

SheetMusicPlus was having a sale on Mel Bay books so I purchased Crossing to Scotland recently. It was really fun to play through - I want to spend more time with it.

Maricello said...

So glad to hear you liked it too! Did you get the CD too? I bought it a few years ago and it must have taken me months to learn and memorize the first piece I worked on (Wagon Wheel Notch). Now they come a little more easily, but memory and intonation remain a challenge. :-)

Guanaco said...

I look forward to being able to play in a similar group one day. Maybe my ears have become hypersensitive to cellos, but it seems as if there are a lot more cellos playing in "current" music on the radio. I'd bet that the demand for cellists for these types of groups will increase over the next few years.

Terry said...

I've left a post on my oft-neglected blog concerning the recent rise in popularity of the cello in acoustic music that might add to the discussion.

Maricello said...

This is probably cheating, in the folk music world, but I hope the use of the cello gets popular enough so that someone writes out some decent four-part music for such small folk ensembles; for instance, fiddle and/flute, mandolin, cello, and guitar. I guess what I want is for Abby Newton to write down her arrangements. :-)

I see that Renata Bratt is teaching cello at a fiddle camp near Albany, NY this. I will look into that. I guess I will have to learn to write my own arrangements, and that is what she seems to be teaching.

Terry said...

While I like Abby Newton's work, I don't think the arrangements, themselves, are the piece's strong point. An exception being the harmony parts done by fiddler Alasdair Fraser. He does a superb job of playing an interesting line that supports the melody on cello, yet lets the melody on cello come through.

Nor am I crazy about Renata Bratt's arrangements, as can be heard on her CD. Nice, but not what really inspires me.

The cellist that can really arrange, to my mind, is Barry Phillips. He arranged many of the tracks on many of the CDs at Some of them - sublime.

But then, he has a Master's degree in composition from the San Francisco Conservatory. I wonder what he would he teach in a folk band arranging class.

Maricello said...

Thanks Terry. I took a look at the site you mentioned, but haven't found any cellos.

Renatta Bratt's Fiddling Cellist is exactly what I need to play with the large fiddle group I am currently playing with, which plays mostly old-time music, mostly everyone on the melody except guitar, string bass, etc. I can choose. So it makes sense for me to go to that fiddle camp, for that purpose.

And possibly as a stepping stone toward the smaller, equal-instrument group.

My impression of Alasdair Fraser is too much fiddle, not enough cello, though I admit I haven't listened to them much.

Terry said...

I think I'd like to take back my comment. I wasn't at all clear.

Absolutely go to the fiddle camp. Dr. Bratt plays great, has lots of ideas for accompaniments, and I'm sure will be very informative and inspiring. I have great admiration for Dr. Bratt. I've been in one workshop with her (at NCDF in 2006! and I think fiddle camp with her will be great.

I was thinking of arranging as telling everybody what to play, when, rather than just what the cello plays. In that regard, I highly admire Barry Phillips. His page at Gourd records is at:

Some mp3 samples are at:

or under his wife's page at:

such as:

or for other people's CDs, such as:

Often the cello is hardly noticeable and that's fine with me most of the time. The Simple Gifts sample is too short to give it justice. It's an absolutely marvelous arrangement --- still gives me goosebumps. Wondrous Love has wondrous stuff on it, too. But in these cases, it's not about cello, it's just about arranging, and cello happens to sometimes be in the mix.

Maricello said...

Thanks for the clips, Terry, and for the encouragement about going to the camp with Renata Bratt. I'm definitely leaning in that direction.

I heard Appalachian Spring last night, played by the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra. Now, that's a good arrangement of Simple Gifts! :-)

I love Simple Gifts and have several published arrangements for various combinations of instruments. I copied Yo-Yo Ma's version of it with Alison Krauss at a cello recital last year. My daughter sang, beautifully, of course.