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September 15, 2004


Notes from the President

I woke up this morning to Mike Surratt's arrangement of the We Three Kings/Greensleeves Medley, thinking it was the clock radio. Instead my mind was replaying the WMAS orchestra's beautiful rendition from last night's rehearsal for the holiday concert. Mike arranged two pieces for us, and they are wonderful. Thanks so much, Mike!

We had a full house last night for Peter DiGiovanni's very informative workshop on "Playing By Ear." The program also could have been called "how to hear music": Peter explained his method of listening for the scales and chords in melodies, the intervals in the melody and bass, the distinct notes in a chord, and so on. He also spent a little time demystifying the circle of fifths for us. In fact, the workshop was like a semester of music theory ingeniously organized and condensed into a little more than an hour. We didn't get through everything, though, and look forward to part 2 sometime in the spring.

For those who missed the meeting, here are Peter's suggestions for ear-training exercises:

- It's all about listening more closely than you may be accustomed to, with childlike curiosity and an unforced ear -- let the music come to you. Pay attention to the tones and their relationships.

- Scales up and down, followed by cadence sequence, in all keys.

- Intervals and scale degrees -- learn what they sound like -- sing intervals out loud -- say/sing C-G, G-C.

- Chords with inversions up and down the keyboard, in all keys -- sing them as arpeggios.

- Listen for all the tones in a chord, not just the top note.

- Check out musicalintervaltutor.com or other ear training source.

- Play (or have someone else play) any two notes together and identify the interval.

- Get accustomed to recognizing the home key whenever you listen to a song, and try to hear the bass line in your mind.

- Analyze a piece of music you are familiar with and look for the elements discussed in this workshop.

- Take a short note sequence and make a tune out of it, or see how many songs you know that start with the same notes (play name that tune).

- Spend time with a fake book -- note the patterns in the chord progressions and how they relate to the melody.

The workshop was followed by a series of duets. Lee and Barbara played Accordion Rhumba (with a second part arranged by Barbara), Perfidia and Tango Amoroso. Then Stella and Joan rounded up a couple of accordions and played Zum Abschied and Inga Lil Hambo. Next, Stella and Wei Wei performed an improvisational La Cumparsita, and, as a finale, Wei played Blue Sky (not Blue Skies).

Wendy Morrison is responsible for next month's program (Oct. 12), and it should be great.

See you soon,


The Maryland Accordion Society meets this Saturday from 2 to 5 pm in Catonsville. Dale Wise will teach Octoberfest songs. See the calendar for more information and directions.

Also, Saturday's forecast is for rain, so Paul Aebersold's Docktoberfest (houseboat) party that evening may have to be postponed. We'll send out the final word Saturday morning, so please check your email to see whether the party is on or off.

There are lots of concerts and other events coming up, so check the calendar regularly.