Summer Solstice Sunset Singalong at Standish Village

It’s a mouthful, but every single word is significant. Today is the official summer solstice in 2018, otherwise known as the longest day of the year. Yesterday, being the Wednesday that my ukulele group meets each week, we gave our first public performance for the senior residents and staff members of a nearby building. Sunset is that magical time when you know the deadline of darkness is approaching, and everything must get done by then. To make it participative, we called our gig a singalong so the audience would be encouraged to join us in the singing. Standish Village is an award-winning assisted senior living residence, housed in a historic landmark building (no. 24 in this document), in Historic Lower Mills, just a short walk from Walter Baker Artists Lofts where we regularly meet to jam (or rehearse).

What’s noteworthy? One person had just learned how to play the ukulele three weeks ago in my crash course, four others had never performed on the ukulele before, and it was our first performance as a group.

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Ukulele Melee 2018

The first time I saw the name of the festival “Ukulele Melee” I thought there was a typo or misspelling. I knew that “mele” was the word for music in Hawaiian. What then was “melee”?

“Melee” means a confused fight or mass of people, a word that originated from 1640 French mêlée and Old French meslee meaning “brawl, confused fight; mixture, blend.” It wasn’t until the one-hour drive to the festival in Hamilton, Massachusetts that morning of Friday 27th April that I learned the origins of the festival name.

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Earth Day ukulele workshop and jam

If we celebrate birthdays, why not one for Mother Earth? Every April 22nd, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day in different ways. While I was living on Maui, I started using music to gather community and raise awareness for sustainability through concerts and jam sessions. It’s a combination of entertainment and education. The last one was my piano class joining forces with the ukulele class (video below). This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday 22nd April 2018, and I’m determined to do something special.

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Guitar and mandolin duo and trio at Great Falls Coffeehouse, Massachusetts

The guitar duo of Mark and Beverly Davis gave a memorable performance at Great Falls Discovery Center in Western Massachusetts, featuring the beloved “Lass of Patey’s Mill”

Robert and I were thrilled to see the announcement of Mark and Beverly Davis’ Duo concert on Facebook: Friday August 14th, 2015 at Great Falls Coffeehouse, in Turners Falls in Western Massachusetts. We were in Boston, five years after we first made contact with Mark on Skype from London to book our concert in their home in Connecticut. In planning our road trip, we remembered fondly of their hospitality and their beautiful CD which accompanied us on our long drives in autumn in New England through our five week concert tour that ended in Maui on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.

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Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection

Watching an art and music improvisation session reminded me of the various collaborations I’ve had with artists in London, Utrecht, Crete, and Brugges. It’s about the process.

As a finishing touch to my recent application for an innovation grant, I asked the Maui-based artist Mike Takemoto if he would consider having his students collaborate with mine. I was thinking along the lines of an exhibit of paintings of musicians, music instruments, or music notes. It would be an extension of the piano ensemble poster exhibit that I “curated” and organized with the photography teacher Harvey Reed and his photo and design students last spring. Such interdisciplinary collaboration raised awareness of the activities we wanted to promote.

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The real thing

After you’ve spent time hearing of, reading about, listening to, discussing with, talking about, and writing about something, you become familiar with it. When you finally get to see or experience the real thing, you value and appreciate it more.

When audio recording technology was invented, there was fear that fewer people would attend live performances.

When sheet music printing became possible, there was fear that people would learn the music and compete with professional performers.

The arrival of the Internet, mobile telephony, smart phones, iPads, Youtube, and Pandora radio made recorded performances searchable and easily downloadable.

All this helped to familiarize listeners and popularize music, composers, and performers.

What does this do for live performances? The audience becomes more informed and more appreciative. It increases the value of attending live concerts.

Radio shows, TV shows, written reviews, and blogs about music and musicians all serve to inform and educate.

We, as the audience, can choose better than before.

Most of us find comfort in the familiar. How much more familiar can we be of a subject that we’ve read about, heard of, discussed with, talked about, and perhaps even written about.

A music, like a movie, a painting, a novel, or any other creative output, requires that process of familiarization before it achieves value to the listener.

Facetime for video communication with dad

One of my top missions on this trip to Taiwan was to get my 82-year old father hooked on iPad, more specifically Facetime. He’s already familiar with Youtube. Facetime is even better — he would then be able to watch performances live.

Facetime is a free application for the iPad, iPhone, and iMac computers. It’s a free, bilateral video communication over the Internet. In some ways, it’s better than Skype video.

The iPad presents a disruptive technology I had hoped he would embrace, just like the way my sister had. When I arrived at his home a few days ago, he pulled out the iPad carefully from a black case and asked me what he was supposed to do with it.

My brother had bought it last October from the Apple store near my dad’s condo but didn’t have enough time to “train” him how to make the most of the iPad and its applications.

My father was still switching on his old desk-top (PC) computer, Internet modem, and e-mail to communicate with us.

To use Facetime, you must have someone at the other end available to be contacted. Neither my brother nor my sister have their iPads connected and ready to roll at all times. After a few futile attempts, it’s no wonder you’d give up.

After simulating a live Facetime session from different rooms in his home, I now gave him an assignment.

“Wake me up tomorrow morning with Facetime,” I said. “Just leave your wifi on. Leave your iPad on — let it charge overnight. I will do the same.”

“What time should I call you?” he asked.

“Whenever you wake up. Just press the button to turn on the iPad and click on the Facetime icon. Do you remember how to look for me?”

We tried it a few times.

We would need to practice with my sister and brother next. This would not replace e-mail but it’s better than the telephone, for he is getting hard of hearing.