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Posts Tagged ‘ukulele’

Two New Ukuleles

I check Craigslist once a day for ukulele sales. I got lucky last week when I discovered a local musician not only had two ukuleles for sale, they were both unique and handcrafted. I present to you my new banjo ukulele and cigar box ukulele.

Let’s start with the banjo ukulele because it’s the first instrument that caught my eye. The banjo ukulele is what Matte, the musician who built it, calls a “canjolele” because the head is made from a cookie tin can. Can + Banjo + Ukulele = Canjolele. It has a stained poplar neck and is 15″ long or so with an electric pick up and sounds tremendous through my Roland Microcube amp.

This banjo ukulele is the same length as a concert ukulele but the head is so small it can't fit snugly in my instrument stand, instead resting on the carpet.

This banjo ukulele is the same length as a concert ukulele but the head is so small it can't fit snugly in my instrument stand, instead resting on the carpet.

The banjo body gives the uke a metallic, tinny sound. But this is no banjo skin, but rather a cookie tin. The effect is still the same, however.

The banjo body gives the uke a metallic, tinny sound. But this is no banjo skin, but rather a cookie tin. The effect is still the same, however.

Uke creator, Matte, entitled this instrument "Forsaken Orchard" after the pears on the banjo head. Don't worry, those paint cracks aren't real, but just part of the oil painting design on the tin.

Uke creator, Matte, entitled this instrument "Forsaken Orchard" after the pears on the banjo head. Don't worry, those paint cracks aren't real, but just part of the oil painting design on the tin.

The banjolele also features an electric pick-up. Notes come out quite staccator through the amp, but in my limited knowledge of banjos I can't recall hearing one which resonates all that much in the first place.

The banjolele also features an electric pick-up. Notes come out quite staccator through the amp, but in my limited knowledge of banjos I can't recall hearing one which resonates all that much in the first place.

I went to Matte’s to buy the banjolele but ended up falling in love with a cigar box ukulele. The cigar box uke he listed had already sold so he made me this one just in time for my visit on Friday. It has a sealed poplar neck, an electric pick-up, and is around 15″ long. I’m actually even more excited about the cigar box uke than the banjolele, but I think that’s because I’m more familiar with its sound and am still figuring out fingering technique on the banjolele.

I've taken to calling the cigar box ukulele "The Ashton" after the cigar imprint on the box. It's the lenght as a concert ukulele and fits in the instrument stand quite nicely.

I've taken to calling the cigar box ukulele "The Ashton" after the cigar imprint on the box. It's the lenght as a concert ukulele and fits in the instrument stand quite nicely.

The body features two sound holes, each covered with an ornate decoration.

The body features two sound holes, each covered with an ornate decoration.

The Ashton cigar box still opens, a hinge keeping it closed on the bottom, so one can store their capo, tuner, etc.

The Ashton cigar box still opens, a hinge keeping it closed on the bottom, so one can store their capo, tuner, etc.

The Ashton also features an electric pick-up and sounds tremendous through my amp.

The Ashton also features an electric pick-up and sounds tremendous through my amp.

I have my mother’s old soprano uke from her high school days, the concert size uke she gave me for Christmas in 2005, my shiny black Lanikai electric concert uke, an Oscar Schmidtt baritone uke, and the gem of my collection, a Lanikai electric tenor ukulele. With these two new, handcrafted beauties becoming ukuleles #6 and #7, I truly have UAS – Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome.

I've set my two new ukuleles next to my tenor uke for size comparisons. Both the Ashton cigar box uke and the banjolele / canjolele are the length of a concert ukulele.

I've set my two new ukuleles next to my tenor uke for size comparisons. Both the Ashton cigar box uke and the banjolele / canjolele are the length of a concert ukulele.

-nm

I’m performing in the Chicago Improv Festival.

In case I have blog readers in the Chicago area (Do I have blog readers in the Chicago area? Leave a comment and let me know!), you can catch my solo musical improv showcase, The Uncle Ukulele Show this weekend at the 12th Annual Chicago Improv Festival (CIF).

Catch me on Saturday, April 18 at 10:30pm at the Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Theatre (here’s a map pour vous) for a paltry $15. Space Robbers (Chicago, IL) and Rooster (Bellingham, WA) are also on the bill. You can purchase tickets here. Purchase ten, if you like.

I attended CIF as a student in 2001-2003 and performed there with Rick in 2004. I took a break for a few years due to work obligations and I’m excited to go back (and to perform, no less, which definitely has me more than a little excited). I’ve been fortunate enough to have performed at eight improv festivals, not counting doubles, and while I’ve been to other festivals that are the first to come to mind when I think great producing (Milwaukee, Denver), a local improv scene (Toronto, Gainesville, Santa Cruz), or an amazing time overall (Miami, San Francisco), Chicago is the festival I think of first when I think of sitting back and watching tremendous shows that sometimes feature famous talent. Better get my rear in gear, though, because I drive out early Thursday morning and I still need to pick which shows I’m attending and order tickets.

My old friend, Paul, and his lovely wife, Suzie, have offered up their spare bedroom in Evanston. That means I’ll be driving into the city for a few days and that’s okay; I’ll take traffic over ridiculous hotel expense any day. Paul and I did improv together in Minneapolis before we both moved to Denver and Cheyenne, respectively, and performed as the duo, The 80’s Ninjas, and it will be nice to see him and Suzie again. I also hope to see a few friends from my favorite improv discussion boards, YESand.com, and perhaps meet a celebrity or three. I’m signed up for a workshop/lecture on directing sketch and improv by Mick Napier and am thinking about taking another workshop.

More details to come. Pending internet access, I hope to blog about my experience at CIF. Stay tuned, dear reader.

-nm

Denver Improv Festival – My Trip, Day 5

And that’s a wrap.

I was first up for Saturday’s shows at the Denver Improv Festival and I was pumped. Here’s some thoughts on my show and the rest of the shows that evening:

The Uncle Ukulele Show – I left the stage feeling good about my show. I had a fun crowd who seemed into it, and that’s the most important thing to me. I did seven songs including the two brand-new pieces I’ve been working on. I haven’t performed The Uncle Ukulele Show since the Milwaukee Improv Festival in August, and my show in Denver admittedly had a few hiccups in terms of smooth transitions and a fumbled chord or two, but the audience stuck with me, as far as I could tell. It was nice to have a mixed house of improvisers and non-improvisers, too, and they surprised me by singing along to choruses several times. One thing I would take away from this last show in terms of how to improve my show is to just memorize my set list. I wrote it down and I think because of that, I tended to rely on it too much. If it’s only in my head, it forces me to remember it or at least deal with it if I forget what’s next. I had fun, so thanks, DIF! Standout Moments (to me as the performer): The audience spontaneously singing along to one of my new segments (that was so cool!), the pleasantly surprising moment during my pop song when the horse I was riding sprouted wings and a horn to become a Pegasus Unicorn (the look of surprise and delight on my face was, apparantly, pretty hilarious), and Bat McCain biting Obama Goat and making him Vampire Obama Goat (I think we all remember that debate).

Curds Only – Ryan Williams (from last night’s solo show, Kumate) and Chris Woolf (who provided tech for the show at the Impulse last night) reunited for their longform duo, Curds Only, and it was obvious these guys were excited to be working together again. Both actors got really physical with their improv, something I love to see, and their attitude was a sort of faux bravado that set a laid-back tone for the show. The first suggestion they received was “bus station,” one of the most cliche improv suggestions in the universe and I thought, “Oh, no,” in my head, but I was so glad to see them do something cool with it; in their structure, they establish one or two characters apiece and then switch off and play each other’s roles. The connected listening required for this was commendable and a half. Standout Moments: An argument between friends over the best knapsack ever, a good cop / bad cop game of a dude named Larry tied to a chair being worked over by Casbury and Murphy, and a kid in love with ice cream promises to sell ice cream at his school whose vendor / supplier asks, “You’re not going to get high off your own supply, right?”

After the show, we loaded up all of my gear into the car and had dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery. The camera got put in the car, too, so no more photos from me, unfortunately.   Burger: The Bourbonzola. Parking ticket: validated. Post-show feeling: Awesome. Back to the Bovine? Yep.

A.C.E. – Featuring an American, a Canadian, and an Englishman, A.C.E. has been improvising in Denver for a long time and I remember seeing some fantastic improv from them during my days frequenting the Improv Hootenanny. They had the audience laughing last night, including me, and yet in all honesty their set was loose, distractingly loose (missed gifts, silent moments of actors staring at each other and not knowing what’s going on, constant corpsing ((“Corpsing” is breaking character by laughing in a scene.)) ). And I know their set was loose because I’ve seen them do some tight, solid improv. Also, I’m surprised every scene was a three-person scene; if that’s an ensemble’s specialty, great, yet without a single one- or two-person scene in the set, some third-person entrances run the risk of feeling forced. I want to be honest to my impressions and I think mine come from a place of wanting more, having seen them be so great. Standout Moments: Jamie Krutz provided phenomenal electric guitar background music for the entire show, including some improvised songs. Jamie is like the Warren Zevon of the Denver improv scene and it was a pleasure to see him again. Also, I loved the line, “Don’t take away my chipmunks! I’m addicted!”

Drum Machine – I think I always knew, but have finally figured out how to articulate, why Jill Bernard’s improv shows are so endearing, captivating, and successful: they’re based in emotion or more precisely, love. She gets suggestions to set the scene, including a topic and a historic backdrop, but really it’s the emotional relationships revolving around love that drives her improv. Jill ditched her drum machine in favor of live keyboardist and former Minneapolis improviser, Seymour Muchmore, and he definitely added some talent to the already excellent show. Her tale of two brothers and a new lover for the older brother accidentallly inventing beer had the grand scale of many of the Drum Machine tales I’ve witnessed, and Bernard’s crowd was nothing less than satisfied, if not downright giddy (all one needed to do was listen to them gush in the lobby after the show). Standout Moments: “People in love don’t drown!”, a brother named Trigg, a father happy to be rid of his idiot daughter, a floating corpse, and “Love is all the scuba gear I’ll need.”

After the 9:30pm show, Kelly and I went back to Sam’s No. 3 and had the same server. She was even more flabergasted that we were back two nights in a row. ((“Well, back again?! Deja vu, huh?! Deja vu!!!))

Dishwater Blondes – There’s been much written and said about women and comedy, women and improv for that matter. And in a way, even mentioning how improv is mostly populated by white men when talking about an all-women ensemble bows to the cliché. And still, maybe it’s because most improv I see is performed by “people who look like me” that I’m left amazed by strong female improvisers, and this group of five are talented. Characters were great, relationships were funny, and I’m always a fan of a callback-heavy set, especially when it doesn’t feel forced (which it wasn’t; everything was highly organic). None of them succumbed to the “look how crazy and/or sexy I can be” trap that some female improvisers fall into (I could say the same about men falling into the “look how aloof and/or weird I can be” trap) Standout Moments: a persistent informercial that reaches out of the TV and turns itself back on, a psychic who bases her readings on whatever movie she saw the night before, sudden baby births and absent-minded physicians, and “I see the future in spaghetti noodles… I keep a dream diary.”

SCRAM – Joe Bill and Jill Bernard teamed up for a two-person Scramble, a longform structure Joe told me about in the car on Friday which got me pumped up to see it. Actors create two two-person scenes running concurrently, interacting with an absent “ghost” character until they switch off and enter the other person’s scene, taking on that “ghost” character and fleshing out the scene further. This book-ended the show which only comprised of one single scene – an estranged father and daughter waiting for a long-lost daughter (who may not even actually be his daughter) to arrive. This structure was a breath of fresh air, having some of the most tender, emotional moments of the festival. Five minutes would pass without a laugh because the audience was so caught up in the relationship between a depressed daughter and her ungrateful father. Again, Jill does well with scenework revolving around love, and the relationship she and Joe created was captivating. Standout Moments: Guessing what brand of pudding the last pudding cup is, “Listen up, because I’m rarely going to say this: ‘thank you.'” and this exchange: Father: “Do you know what the last line of the telegram was?” Daughter: “Was it ‘stop’?”

We didn’t stay for the afterparty; we were just wiped out. We said our goodbyes to Joe, Jon, Jean, and many others, and headed back to the hotel. Sleep called us to bed and I did not protest.

Kelly and I caught every single DIF show this Friday and Saturday, choosing to pony up some cash for her tickets (I had free admission as a performer) and immerse ourselves in the festival all weekend. I’m surprised by how few improvisers, especially DIF performers with free admission – came close to this feat over the course of the festival. Now, let’s get hypocrisy out of the way: I’ve been out of town or getting married during both of the improv festivals in my neck of the woods, so perhaps I’m off base here and just don’t understand what it’s like to be an improviser when a festival is being held on the home turf. But this is my ninth festival appearance and the first I can remember when it really felt like some local improvisers were picking and choosing when to be there, as opposed to most festivals I’ve attended where it seemed most local improvisers made it a point to be there as much as possible.

I’m not trying to take away from those improvisers who showed up to a bunch of shows – there was a healthy handful, and they rock for supporting the festival. But showing up only to perform your own show and immediately leaving afterward? To me, that 1. doesn’t build community, 2. doesn’t foster the festival, and 3. comes off as pretty snobby. Pardon me for being frank on this matter (hey, at least I’m not naming names), but after experiencing festivals that brought local improvisers together (Milwaukee immediately springs to mind, as does Miami), it was unfortunate that, to this non-local, it didn’t necessarily feel like the majority of local improvisers were choosing to consistently show up. Double-kudos to those local improvisers who made it their business to support this festival which ultimately supports the local improv community. It’s a symbiotic relationship that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But that’s a small mark on what was otherwise a fun, well-run festival. Jon Lannen and Jean Schuman, thank you. Joe Bill – it was great to see you again, hope it’s not another year before we meet again. Jill Bernard – I think I saw you more this weekend than I have in the last six months, which is a bummer; let’s change it up! Matt Fogel – thank you for the amazing tech. Howard – your hosting skills were top-notch. Carl Wedell and Frank Haas – your hospitality was truly appreciated (as well as the tip of grinding cinnamon with my coffee beans). Good to see so many familiar faces again: Ryan Williams, Chris Woolf, Eric Farone, Adrian Holguin, and many more.

We’re heading out to the airport. If anything ridiculous / amazing / tragic happens, I’ll do a final update. Otherwise, that’s my report from the fourth annual Denver Improv Festival.

-nm

Denver Improv Festival – My Trip, Day 4

This post not only describes the rest of yesterday’s Denver Improv Festival events, but features the very first FOOTNOTES to appear here at The Scrawl! ((yay!))

Kelly and I ate at the Rock Bottom Brewery on 16th Street and Curtis for three reasons: 1. the food is okay, 2. it’s a block and a half from the Bovine Metropolis Theater, and 3. if you bring in your underground parking garage ticket and order something they’ll validate your parking. Back in the day when Rick and I would come and do some improv, this was standard operating procedure and, after checking in with a few locals, it’s still the preferred parking method of choice for Denver improvisers.

It’s neat to return to a venue I used to frequent so often, yet had been away from for three years. We attended all of the shows last night, so here’s a brief breakdown of who we saw:

Convention? (Denver, CO) – This large ensemble (at least 13 people) portrayed what appeared to be the final act in a running series running parallel to the national election, with last night’s show focusing on three candidates and their teams reeling in their defeat. Each team was focused on for several minutes apiece, followed by a moderated Q&A session featuring all of the characters. There were some funny moments and many of the characters established themselves as well as their relationships with each other, even across party lines (nice to see improvisers reach across the aisle). I honestly felt like I was clearly watching the finale of a show I never saw, and that left me feeling like I was missing something, but there were laughs to be had, anyway. Standout Moment(s): a clueless VP candidate (Amanda Kennedy) spouting off a slew of non sequiturs, a felonious husband and a campaign manager (Mark Shonsey) singing a cut from their new Christian rock CD.

The Sanscript Players with Joe Bill (Denver, CO / Chicago, IL) – This is the house team for the Bovine Metropolis, one of the two host theaters of the festival. This was also a large ensemble and they asked Joe Bill to play Armando for an Armando Diaz Experience. ((Named for the inventor of this longform structure, one person steps forward as “Armando” and asks for a suggestion. They tell true stories from their own life to “fill the pot” with ideas and the ensemble creates scenes inspired by the stories. The Armando steps in few scenes to fill the pot even more. A very callback-friendly, organic, and symbiotic form.)) Kelly’s a big fan of the Armando (she’s seen me do a few) and this group is clearly comfortable working with each other, getting physical, using the space, etc. Standout Moment(s): a man trying to climb out of a window over and over to avoid getting married with his friends at a triple wedding, a woman who bottles her emotions – personified by another actor popping up in a window as a disembodied head screaming to be let out, and Joe Bill on conspiracy theories: “I think conspiracy theories are natural because keeping secrets is natural. That’s why I’ve been divorced twice.”

After the show we went around the corner to Sam’s No. 3 and had malts. I had an extra malty cookies’n’cream malt while Kelly created a chocolate / mint / strawberry concoction which left our server flabbergasted. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe someone, but trust me, it’s quite appropriate for her reaction. ((“In all my time here I don’t think that combo’s ever come up! That’s something unique!”))

Kumate (Chicago, IL) – This was the first of three solo shows at this year’s DIF, the others being mine and Jill Bernard’s Drum Machine. Ryan Williams took the stage in kung-fuitized wardrobe and asked his audience for a location they’ve never seen in a Kung-Fu movie; he got “Antarctica.” After a mood-setting, and funny, pan-flute song, Williams then displayed some of the most patient improv I’ve ever seen. For three minutes or so, he established the setting – a ship at sea – and three characters – a deckhand swabbing the deck, the first mate at the wheel, and the captain in the crow’s nest, all through fluid, kung-fu inspired spacework and sound effects (think of that “Sh!” “Schuh!” type of noise you hear in the kung-fu movies when someone swings a fist in the air). The first words of the show were “LAAAND HO!” and we were off. Williams created an adventure journey, a love story, and a penguin-hunting tale in his time on stage and it all came to a satisfying conclusion by the time a second pan-flute song closed the show. Standout Moment: “I’ve been eating nothing but penguin for three weeks!”

The Drinks (Denver, CO) – Mark Shonsey took the stage for a third time (he was also in Convention? and The Sanscript Players) with fellow Sanscript Player Nanna Ogburn for a duo longform structure. They established their characters, setting up their relationship of a tension-filled semi-marriage, ending with the Nanna’s character explaining, with a big grin on her face, that if he ever tried to leave she would kill him. The rest of the show became a cat-and-mouse game to see if the husband could push the seemingly goody-two-shoes woman over the edge so she finally killed him. There were plenty of laughs, though while I fully embrace John Gardner’s theory of the importance of delay in fiction, I think the audience was really just waiting for her to kill him. I wonder if part of the reason that moment (spoiler!) never came was the aftermath of that moment was because that wasn’t something they had anticipated ever happening, but man, a duo show between one live character and one dead body character could be interesting. At any rate, both players’ characters were top-notch, their interaction was the stuff you hope your students will create in your improv classes, and I laughed plenty. Standout Moment(s): After establishing his life was in danger, the uneasy lover squeaks out, “What do you want to play for game night?” and near the end of the show, after going down on one knee to beg for his life, Nanna’s character screamed in delight that he was proposing marriage (“You did the knee thing!” “No, no, a lot of people go down on one knee for a lot of reasons! Tying a shoe! Picking up a dime!”)

After this show, Kelly and I went back to the hotel and took a nap. We had over an hour and seriously, we were both pretty flippin’ tired. Hooray for king size beds with fancy-schmancy blankets and sheets!

The rest of the night was at the Impulse Theater. This is where my old improv partner, Rick Simineo, got some of his training so while it always came highly recommended, this was unfortunately my first time actually going there. It’s a cool space, a very night club / comedy club feel in the basement of a local brewery and plenty of cabaret-style seating and what looked like a well-organized list of tech candy (well-placed tech booth, solid lighting, large backstage, multiple entrance locations, etc.).

Impulse Theater (Denver, CO) – A house ensemble did a round of short-form games including Rewrite (a.k.a. Take That Back, a.k.a. Ding!, a.k.a. Should’ve Said), Forward/Reverse, and Styles Replay. They played a game similar to World’s Worst in that they’d get a suggestion for a topic of a song (dogs, cars, etc.) and would switch up a real song with lyrics pertaining to the topic. I’d never seen that game before and it killed; definitely something I’d like to try sometime. The ensemble was great, really working together well. That may be because it was their third set of the night, according to Adrian Holguin, whom I know through YESand.com and have met in-person at least one or thrice before. It’s always cool to see YESand friends in the flesh and performing, and Adrian did a super-awesome job. Standout Moment(s): Michael Solomon repeating “Noooo, noooo!” ad nauseum in Forward / Reverse, a Steven Spielberg-style scene in Styles Replay featuring Adrian Holguin as Indiana “Manuel” Jones, Liberty Gordon as a ridiculously-wigged preggers secret lover, and wow, Sara Vandas can sing!

FORK (Denver, CO) – DIF co-producers Jean Schuman and Jon Lannen took the stage for their duo show and were clearly having a fun time. They opened by getting two separate suggestions and took a seat on opposite sides of the stage, creating character monologues running concurrently and every once in a while, taking inspiration from one another – a very cool exercise in listening to your partner (I might have to take this as a workshop exercise). The show featured a series of relationship-driven scenes and musical interludes provided by LA-based guest Stephen Wilder and a keyboard accompanist, Seymour Muchmore, who worked at the Brave New Workshop around fifteen years ago. FORK’s set was fun and what I usually might call “loose” but I’m going with “playful” as a show ending after 1:00am by the producers who’ve been running around for weeks getting last-minute details done shoudl be. As I said, they clearly were enjoying themselves and that sensibility carried over to the audience. Standout Moment(s): Jon going off on a Milli Vanilli diatribe, Stephen as public defender singing about what a shrew the judge (Jean) was, and Jean actually making herself out-and-out cry for her judge character.

Due to camera battery issues, the only show I got to take photos of was FORK, but here they are:

After the show, Kelly, Jill Bernard, and I headed back to the Hampton. I dropped off the ladies and had an adventure in parking. Then, sleep. Sweet sleep.

Unfortunately, the workshop I was scheduled to teach today didn’t fill, so today we’re playing it low-key. Some writing, some essay grading, some ukulele practice, some blogging, some napping, and some mindless TV watching. Tonight I appear with Curds Only (Denver, CO / Chicago, IL), then we plan to catch the rest of the shows this evening. I’ll keep you posted, dear reader.

-nm

Your Friday Recommendation #26

This one specifically goes out to those who write on their computers, and even more specifically to those who write on computers hooked up to the internet. Would you like to know how I wrote 2,000 words on my computer this morning?

I wrote on a computer that was disconnected from the internet.

I’m easily distracted and the more I set myself for focused work, the more likely I am to get it done. Even in the middle of writing that sentence, I checked my email, adjusted my ukulele so it wouldn’t rest against the blinds, and stared at something shiny. Okay, that’s an exaggeration (I did move my uke), but that sort of situation has certainly happened to me before. Today I managed to sit down and write 2,000 words for the first time in a long time (I’m lucky if I squeak in a few hundred, and 1,000 words in a day is an amazing feat for me, though it is my daily goal). Removing all other distractions was helpful – I was at a coffee shop away from my TV and DVD player and books and video games and household cleaning projects – but the number one thing to cut myself off from to get writing done was definitely the internet.

Whether the internet was created to help government communication or how save organizations money or connects us all globally, really for me the internet is one huge distraction, and sitting down to write on a laptop with a broken wifi card helped me get the job done (that said, the story I’m writing is really sad and I think I need to go watch a funny TV show for a little while or see a toddler play with a puppy).

My recommendation to those of you who write on a computer connected to the internet? Disconnect your connection and start up your focus on writing.

(The awesome photo accompanying my post is borrowed from a post at GearFire: Tips for Academic Success about ways to keep busy without the internet, which was a response to an article at Speaking Freely that gives advice on things to do sans said dreaded shiny internet distraction.)

-nm

I’m performing and teaching at the Denver Improv Festival

I received word a few days ago from the producers of the Denver Improv Festival (DIF) that I’ve been invited to perform my solo improv showcase, The Uncle Ukulele Show, and teach a youth-oriented improv workshop in the mile-high city this November. This marks my ninth improv festival appearance overall, my fifth performing The Uncle Ukulele Show, and my second appearance at DIF.

For The Uncle Ukulele Show, I’ve been working on a few new song structures and have challenged myself to premiere at least one of them at the festival. After this summer’s tour performing at SFIF, SCIF, and MSIF, I’ve found I have an hour’s worth of structures and games to draw from, and I like the prospect of cultivating even more. This is important to me as a performer, as getting stagnant isn’t something I’m interested in. That said, I’m hoping to find some ensemble improv work soon, too, as one can only do the solo thing so long. In the meantime, I’ll keep practicing and creating at home on the uke.

As for the youth workshop, I have some original and some borrowed exercises which I think can help performers get to the focus of a scene as soon as possible without compromising patience. This way, performers can make what the scene’s about upfront and prominent rather than take the first few minutes trying to figure out what’s happening. I’ll probably post more about the workshop soon, and maybe even try out a few things over the next few weeks with the youth performance team I’m coaching at the Brave New Workshop these days (their first FREE show is on November 2 at 4:00pm, dear reader).

My plan right now is to blog during the entire Denver Improv Festival, November 6-8. Stay tuned.

-nm

Your Friday Recommendation #23

I can’t believe I’ve been a Beck fan for ten years and this will be my first time seeing him live.

I’m not the world’s biggest concert fan, but every once in a while an artist I really enjoy comes to town and all the things I hate about concerts – the pushy crowds, the hazy smoke, the unidentifiable smells, how I’m buying a ticket for a seat which I won’t get to use because everyone in front of me is standing so then I have to stand – all of that melts away. I’m too thrilled by the prospect of “sharing” an evening with a great artist, and impressing everyone around me with my well-tuned sing-a-long skills* during the show. I wonder if one can gain a better insight into an artist by seeing them perform live. The show is Tuesday night so I’ll post some follow-up next week.

Gearing up for the Beck concert sees me listening to his latest record, a collection of music that’s held my attention since it came out this summer. Today’s recommendation is Beck’s eight studio album, Modern Guilt.

And lucky me, someone worked out the chords to the record’s lead-off song, “Orphans,” online so I can pluck it out on the ukulele. There are places where the rhythm of playing notes and singing the lyrics don’t necessarily match up which is difficult for me to overcome but I’m trying. Someday I’ll learn enough sharp note chords to play one of my favorite Beck songs, “Pressure Zone,” from the record Midnight Vultures.

Give the record a listen, and I’ll update you on the concert next week.

-nm

* Well-tuned sing-a-long skills may not actually be well-tuned nor skillful.