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June 17, 2005


Meeting Notes

Despite the heat and humidity (weren't we just saying "despite the cold"?) we had a very good turnout for Dale Wise's improvisation workshop at Tuesday's meeting.

The goal of the workshop was to encourage us to embellish and not just play the notes written in the sheet music. Dale first laid out the building blocks of embellishment -- steps (neighboring notes), skips and repeated tones -- and explained how to use these in various nonharmonic functions to add color to a piece of music or transition from one note to another.

[Because some of the material Dale presented was a little complicated, we consulted WMAS member Anne Johnson, who has been studying music theory, and have supplemented Dale's information with material taken from Northern Virginia Community College class materials (developed by Dr. Barbara Ryland Wells) and the textbook "Music in Theory and Practice," vol. 1, B. Benward and M. Saker, McGraw-Hill Higher Education Publishing.]

A Non-Harmonic Tone (NHT), by the way, is a tone that does not fit with the surrounding harmony.

Suspension: an NHT that is held over from a previous chord tone and is followed by (resolves by) step down.

Retardation: an NHT that is similar to a suspension except that it resolves up instead of down.

Anticipation: an NHT that anticipates a chord tone in the following chord. It is usually preceded by step, and the anticipated tone is repeated in the following chord. It is usually accompanied by a dotted rhythm.

Upper Auxiliary (aka Upper Neighboring Tone): an NHT that is preceded by step and resolves by step in the opposite direction.

Lower Auxiliary (aka Lower Neighboring Tone): an NHT that is preceded by step and resolves by step in the opposite direction. The difference is that the LA steps down then up, while the UA steps up then down. A grace note is an example of a UA or LA.

Passing Tone: an NHT that is preceded by step and resolved by step in the same direction. (A run is an example of this.)

Appoggiatura: an NHT that is preceded by skip and resolved by step.

Escape Tone: an NHT that is preceded by step and resolved by skip.

Other NHTs:

Cambiata: an NHT between chords that is preceded by skip and resolved by step.

Changing Tone: two successive NHTs between chords. The first leaves the chord by step, then skips in the opposite direction to a second NHT that is then resolved by step in the opposite direction.

Pedal Tone: a tone that is held throughout a series of chord changes and is sometimes harmonic and sometimes non-harmonic.

Obviously, these techniques are better demonstrated than explained. If you can't figure them out, we can revisit them at a future meeting.

By the way, this is what Webster's has to say about "appoggiatura": a rhythmically strong dissonant grace note used melodically and resolving to a principal harmonic tone, usually by a single scale step. And about "passing tone": a note part of a harmonic scheme but introduced for ornamentation or for smoother transition from one tone or chord to another. And about "suspension": the continuing of one or more tones of one chord into a following chord while the other tones are changed, so that a temporary dissonance is created.

Some people commented that they know and use these techniques but didn't know the terms or theory. Now we do!

Thanks, Dale, and it's wonderful to see you back on your feet!

Joan Grauman
Our thoughts are with Joan, whose mother died June 15. We thank her for turning up that evening to conduct the Potomac Ensemble's performance in Dale's concert, and for performing herself and with her husband, Dan.

Fourth of July Parade
There is still room for musicians on the WMAS float in the Fairfax Fourth of July parade. It's an honor to have been invited to participate, and it's a LOT of fun to ride in a parade instead of watching from the sidelines. It is also FREE advertising for the group! Please contact Lee and Ron Paulson if you're interested. Lee has a simple medley that, after a couple of tries or just listening to it, you will be able to play without any trouble.

Waltz Night July 12th at 7:30
Our next regular meeting will be Waltz Night. If you haven't already signed up, please pick a waltz or two and send the name(s) to Mara at or Karen.

We already have the following tunes on the list:
Mike Rubin - The Anniversary Waltz
Ron Charvet - TBD
Peter DiGiovanni - Danube Maiden
Karen & Peter - Skaters' Waltz
Mara & Leone - Cajun Waltz & Swiss Boy Waltz
Phil Fox - Let Me Call You Sweetheart
Robert Ford - Under Paris Skies
Bob Juszczyk - Sunrise Waltz & In Warsaw Waltz
Sergio Fresco - Il Valzerone
Joan Grauman - Scandinavian Waltz
Joan, Peter & Mara - Lovers' Waltz
Mara & Rick - Mon Parnasse & Shannon Waltz
Bob Duca - Big Mamou
Dick Dangel - Someday My Prince Will Come
Jim Vandelly - Berioska Waltz (Birch Tree Waltz)
Eric Schwarz - TBD
Elizabeth & Fred Nelson - Kentucky Waltz, Lonesome Moonlight Waltz & Waltz of the Whippoorwill (maybe)
Clay - Georgia on My Mind, Carolina Moon & Good Night My Love

Polka Night drew a lot of dancers, so despite the summer heat we expect a good crowd. Mike Rubin will provide dance instruction.

Thanks to the people who have been helping with food every month. For the July meeting, because it is Waltz Night, please bring a bottle of soda or some snacks if at all possible. Would anyone like to take charge of a food sign-up list?

Accordion Events
There are accordion events almost every week this summer. Be sure to check the calendar for the current listings.

New Year's Eve 2005
Gary Koerner is already thinking about New Year's and would like a group to perform at First Night in Charlottesville. If you are interested in finding out more about this please contact him at glkoerner@earthlink.net.

Dale's Concert
Dale's concert Wednesday night was wonderful - full of laughter and music. It is always inspiring to see so many young people playing jazz, classical and other music on the accordion. It was a well attended event and everyone sounded great!

Verne Meisner
In case you didn't hear, Verne Meisner has died. The June 15 Washington Post carried an obituary, and you can also see one in Meisner's hometown paper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 11th.