Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rehearsing with the lads

The Mappamundi way - I don't know, is this is how other groups do it?

Yesterday Mappamundi member Ken Bloom and occasional member David DiGiuseppe came over to my house to rehearse for a Bar Mitzvah.

We had vague instructions from the customer: "Folky, rootsy, dancing, Jewish and Greek and swing..." Our task: to put together 3-1/2 hours of music in one rehearsal.

The lads hauled into my house:
  • Accordion
  • 2 Bouzoukis
  • Mandolin
  • Guitar
  • Clarinet
  • Two gigantic sacks of sheet music.
Ken often jokes that the Mappamundi repertoire long ago ceased being measured by number of songs and is now measured by tonnage; he says it's about thirty pounds. I'm staggered by how much music I've duplicated over the years on my rickety 22-year-old Ricoh Ripro Junior copying machine.

David got here first. He dumped his gigantic pile of music from our previous gigs on the floor and we went through the pile together, choosing according to the client's preferences.
  1. Songs in Hebrew and Yiddish - but nothing from the Holocaust of course, and it's a bar mitzvah, so a minimum of sappy love songs;
  2. Klezmer and Israel dance tunes - but nothing it would take too much time to remember, as it's very difficult to rehearse 3-1/2 hours of music in a two-hour rehearsal.
  3. Greek dance tunes, ditto - Ken and David and I have done a few wonderful Greek gigs together so we have a nice collection;
  4. Swing tunes - same selection criteria.
We gave preference to pieces we could find several copies of, and also to well printed charts - we rejected scrawled and poorly xeroxed charts, our eyes can't take them any more.

At this point Ken showed up and we presented the 50-60 pieces we'd chosen to him.

Together we peered at the pile as David shuffled through it. "We know that one ... that one's fine ... wait, let's try that one." So we'd put down the pile and try one, starting with the critical questions: "Is this really the key?" "What instrument are you playing?" "What's the intro?" "Does this use a syrtiko rhythm?" David's frequent question to Ken: "Are those really the chords you're playing?"

The rehearsal ended with a discussion of whose sound system to take: mine is ancient, from the same era as the copy machine, but David needs his for another gig that same day, so we decided on an amalgamation.

We finished in plenty of time. I'm looking forward to getting to play all the way through all the pieces, finally, when the day of the simcha rolls around.

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At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Sylvia S. said...

I don't imagine you all ever come out California way, do you? I love accordion music and checked out David's web-site. As luck would have it he will be in my area (SF Bay Area) the EXACT DATES that I will be on vacation. Bummer! Has he ever played at the Cotati Accordion Festival?


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