Sunday, December 30, 2007
Veseliyka @ Folklore Village
Somehow, I seem to have become a member of yet another band, at least temporarily. The name of the group is Veseliyka and they play traditional balkan music. Balkan music is, to me, some of the most exciting music in the world and it is a joy to have the opportunity to play this music in yet another band (The Reptile Palace Orchestra has a lot of balkan music in its repertoire, although RPO tends to "reptilize" most everything we do) and to play it on a different instrument. Veseliyka consists of David Kantor (gajda and kaval), Yulian Yordanov (vocals and tupan) and me (tambura.) David is an excellent musician and Yuli is a former professional dancer and dance instructor from Bulgaria who can also play a mean accordian and is a superb vocalist. The instrument I'm playing with this group, the tambura, is an instrument I had never played before. I must be insane. I don't know, exactly, the history of how they came to ask me to play with them, but they were in need of a tambura player for an imminent show at Folklore Village's annual Christmas Festival in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. I suspect I wasn't their first choice. Probably, they would have preferred Biff Blumfumgagnge, string player extraordinaire of the Reptile Palace Orchestra, The Gomers and numerous others. I believe they asked a few other people as well, including my brother Bill. Bill suggested that I would be a good candidate if they were looking for someone who could pick up an unfamiliar stringed instrument and learn a bunch of songs in a hurry. I decided it would be worth a try. I had about three weeks to practice the songs prior to the performance on December 29. On the night of the show, my mood was dampened a bit due to the fact that my family was not allowed to accompany me, the event having sold out. (I have been involved in very few gigs where my family was not welcome to attend, usually at no cost [we were prepared to pay for their admission on this one.] Families of musicians and other performers sacrifice a great deal. In addition to the time spent at actual gigs, there are countless hours spent at rehearsals, practicing, etc. With very few exceptions, it's sort of an unwritten rule in musical circles that performers often bring family members with them, and they are treated like any other guest. Add this to the fact that my family and I have been involved, on and off, with FV for over thirty years, and I have to say that there were some harsh words spoken in our house about the whole business. There is much more that could be written about this particular issue, but for now, I'll just say I may have had somewhat of a bad attitude during much of the festivities.)
Folklore Village had brought Yves Moreau to teach Bulgarian dances for the day and we had sent him a list of the songs we were going to play so he could teach dances to go with them if he thought that that would be the thing to do. I must admit I felt like somewhat of an impostor playing an instrument I didn't really know how to play in the lofty presence of Mr. Moreau. (Of course, I often feel like an impostor when I play. I just pretend I'm a real musician and nobody seems to know any different, so what the heck.) After the dinner, the folksy speeches and the cute skits, it was time to play. Lo and behold, people danced. And they thought we were great. I really enjoyed playing and, when we finished, the applause was quite loud and enthusiastic. Hah! Fooled 'em again! It looks like I will have at least one more opportunity to play with Veseliyka. Look for us at the Madison Folk Ball on January 25, 2008 at the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin campus! If you have the chance, check it out - the Folk Ball is a wonderful event which I have attended every year for the last ten years or so.