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Archive for May 19th, 2007

Finishing: NYC Sunday Concert

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

I’m in a phase of finishing things long left undone. I finished socks I started last year, legwarmers from March, finished some ends on another pair of socks from February, scoped out what the last half-dozen rows will be on a gift knit, am trying to finish my summer calendar/teaching schedule, answer all the emails that have waited too long in my inbox, and write the last of the NYC trip. I need to have some closure before I get moving on the summer season (slow teaching time, heavy studio time).

So back to NYC: I took SO many photos Sunday and none at all Monday though I wish I had. At this point I have developed some and not others, and those which are ready will be the ones you see. I need to go forward and we’ve been home enough to go on to other stories, no matter how good the New York story might be. at least to me.

There was far too much going on for me to capture it all but I still have more photos to show you than space to display them! It’s a lovely problem, indeed.

These performers were on, Sunday, but this is not the order in which they played.

Victoria Vox
Joel Eckhaus
Fred Fallin
Eilidh MacAskill
Steven Sproat
Hot Time Harv & His Roller Coaster of Kicks
M David Hornbuckle & the Dixieland Space Orchestra

nycvictoriaandfriends.jpgI must say that Victoria Vox just amazes me. She’s talented, musical, beautiful, approachable, kind, sweet yet gutsy, and she runs an entire music career from her car and the internet. She plays nearly 300 concerts a year… she was even in Lansing last August when Brian and I were in Minnesota, go figure.

It seems that everybody loves Victoria. Here she is (standing, far left) playing with two musical friends on backup and Yan Yalego from France in the shadows at right with his amazing mouth trumpet. Mind you Victoria does a mouth trumpet (different technique) that is pure and clear and wonderful… Yan’s is more bluesy… so here they shared the stage. two fine trumpets together. Cool. I found a Youtube video of her finishing up her song Ukulele Lady at the fest, if you’d like a quick listen, or see the most amazing Youtube I personally have ever seen… Uking at the Wheel.)

nycjoeleckhaus12.jpgJoel Eckhaus is always a favorite of mine. We have known him as long as we have been traveling the ukulele circuit. He builds instruments (including the beautiful Blue Heaven uke Brian bought from him a year ago in NYC). I’m told he teaches excellent workshops but since I don’t play uke I haven’t experienced one.

Joel also performs, often with very talented friends. And he enjoys occasionally changing the words of a well-known song and turning them upside down. He delivers with total deadpan as the audience chuckles and occasionally groans. He introduced a new one to us at the festival. He has a CD under the group name “Ukulele Eck and the Fabulous Lacklusters.” (Ukulele Ike/Cliff Edwards was one of the most famous popular musicians of the mid-1920’s, so even that is a play on words.)

nycfred.jpgThen came the one-of-a-kind Fred Fallin. He’s a historian and storyteller, a former schoolteacher, and a true champion of all things ukulele. He played us all sorts of numbers from the Tin Pan Alley genre (1920’s popular music which came out of New York City) including historical information before and after each song, to put them into perspective.

Fred will never be able to tell all his stories, he’s so full of knowledge, but he sure is giving it the old college try. I love the photo of Fred expressing himself once more with his hands as he explains. Few people are as passionate about life and music as Fred Fallin, and I am honored to be counted among his friends, though we do not see one another nearly enough.

nyceilidh.jpgEilidh MacAskill, performance artist from Glasgow, Scotland also did her part. This year she is doing a ukulele performance every day, and she’s calling it “Eilidh’s Daily Ukulele Ceilidh.” For those of us who are not familiar with these words, all four of them rhyme perfectly (Aylee’s Daily Ukulele Kaylee, is how I’d maybe spell it). A Ceilidh, as she explains, started as a sort of gathering/party one might have with friends at one’s home… though it has turned into more of a high-energy, perhaps raucous or frenzied thing, and my take on it was maybe they are larger now but that may be me reading into it.

This year she is yet again redefining the ceilidh and making her own uke party every day. She was quite funny in a straight-deadpan sort of way on stage (my kind of humor, I loved it… here she is describing her ukulele, using words usually used to describe a woman’s body and without cracking a smile, it was very funny). Off stage she’s quite fun and engaging. I hope we can go over to the United Kingdom (UK) sometime and make our way around and maybe see her again. We now know folks in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. It would be such fun to go over there and see folks and all these fascinating-sounding places.

Steven Sproat wanycstevensproatandgabriela.jpgs also on Sunday night. He’s another one from the UK and Brian took one of his workshops. He does a good variety of styles including some in the style of George Formby (wildly popular English Uke player/actor who performed from 1921-1961) but he does original material and a very diverse mix of songs from sentimental to energetic.

Steven was joined on stage for one number by his daughter who is shown in this photo. She is an absolute delight… smart, sharp, friendly and talented. I got to know her, once again, sitting at the performer tables selling CDs. She is a master seller and made sure they did not take any of their CDs back on an airplane home. Go, kid (click the last 2 links for Youtube videos of the performance, the first in Formby style… listen to the whole video, don’t miss the final solo which is amazing… second video is with his daughter)!

nychottimeharv.jpg Hot Time Harv and His Roller Coaster of Kicks came on, a very popular NYC band with a slapstick, high-energy, talented musician crew… a large band for a Ukefest.

The guy sitting next to me knew every word. They are extremely good at what they do. My brother would have really loved this act. I prefer subtle over slapstick as a personal choice (face it… I sing love songs), but man, these guys nailed their act and how!

Even if you could turn off the sound for this act, they would be interesting visually. Harv really grabs your eye as he leads the band, and they all have their own unique style. This act is not for everyone and they know that… but as I’ve said here before, nobody makes it in show biz by being vanilla. These guys have it totally figured out. I did get a chance to chat with some of the guys in the band before and after the show (especially the guy with the light-colored hat). I enjoyed the few interactions we had.

nycdixilandspaceorchestra.jpg M David Hornbuckle and the Dixieland Space Orchestra came on as well, I’m not sure in what order again. I missed a lot of their act, but they have a decidedly New Orleans sound when that trombone comes out. They were another band with a fairly large group for the Uke circuit.

If I remember right they had two ukulele players (one was a multi-instrumentalist including the trombone). I grew up with New Orleans/Dixiland jazz, my dad loved it. I’m thrilled to see folks this young doing music with that flavor.

Their costumes were striking… all white head to toe with black flowers. Any style clothing, but all white. It’s clear to me these guys often play where people can dance! It must have been odd for them to have a seated audience, or so it seems to me. Check out two of their NYUkefest pieces at Youtube.

If you are curious for more Youtube videos than I took the time to link, you can get a list of all items for “New York Uke Fest” on Youtube if you click here, and you can pick from the 134 results as you wish. Man, things have changed in just one year on the web. Last year I don’t remember seeing any Youtube videos after the fest… maybe some people had them but I didn’t see them. Cool, huh? You can sort of be the fly on the wall and listen to only those acts that strike your fancy, no travel costs and at your own schedule. Very cool.

Or maybe I’ve said so much you are done with this subject for a year. That’s fine, too. Thanks for tuning in.