Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Going out with a bang

This has been a crazy festival season, though I'm not complaining. Keeping busy is a good thing and it's simply delicious that I've been working pretty steadily in the dulcimer festival circuit since I began teaching in 2006. Along the way, I've made many friends, some of whom happen to be the best players in the world, which has kept my A-game steadily in use. The picture above is from the final moments of the 20th Anniversary NGFDA Fall Festival at Unicoi State Park Lodge in Helen, Georgia. There I am on the left, jamming "John Stinson's #2" with (from l-r) Jeff Hames, Butch Ross, Aaron O'Rourke, Aaron Thornton and Stephen Seifert. Holy string-snap, that was fun.

The entire festival was a rollicking good time; workshops were big and full of people who really wanted to infuse their musical experience with more knowledge, something that seems to be happening more and more. The reason for that, I think, is that folks are finding more of an outlet for their music - whether it be playing for friends and family, or the church or in hospice or through YouTube. When people are looking at you and listening to you, there is definitely a desire to be good enough to the point where the experience is enjoyable. I think that's why people are looking to plus their game.

Hell, I'm looking to plus my game during this short winter break before getting back on the road (next stop: Shelby, NC for Joe Collins' Mid Winter Dulcimer Festival in February.) Nothing like jamming with the folks pictured above to make you examine your own chops and think: "yeah, I need to be woodshedding this holiday season."

Funny thing is, talk to any of those cats and they'll say the same thing. The artistic road is an enjoyable, yet bumpy one. You take your victories where you can, and know that it is an ever-winding road. When you reach the end, you're either settling or you're dead, right?

Key West Dulcimer Fest

It's official; the 1st Annual Key West Dulcimer Fest will be held in Key West, Florida (natch!) January 28th - 31st, 2010 (you've got a year to plan.) I've created a new blog (Key West Dulcimer Fest) which will be continually updated with information on the festival including performers/instructors, accommodations, behind-the-scenes prep, vendors, programs and a whole bunch more.

And Now.

So, this week - I'm finishing up work on the Manitou CD packaging and planning to peruse some of the dulcimer books I bought at Unicoi. There's a Christmas show coming up on the 19th of December with Roger Zimish at the St. Cloud Hotel and Spa, so I'll be getting ready for that. I'm also beginning the recording process for "Dulcimerica: Volume Two", which I endeavor to have ready in-time for spring.

The holiday season is upon us - everyone dig in and enjoy - have a great Thanksgiving and stay tuned for more merriment from the House of Miracles!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Christmas Each Day: Order Now!

The album is now completed and is beginning to ship out to folks who have pre-ordered.
Order now to get your copy by Thanksgiving!


Bing Futch - "Christmas Each Day"

Bing's first Christmas album was partly inspired by the classic record "The Little Drummer Boy" by the Harry Simeone Chorale. With memories of that album as the soundtrack to every Christmas growing up in Los Angeles, California, the foundation was set for a magical trip through time and space with traditional hymns and carols spanning over 500 years while circumnavigating the globe.

The Appalachian mountain dulcimer is showcased here in a wide variety of musical styles and unique arrangements of timeless classics. From the Beach Boys style harmonies of the title track and the Celtic flavor of "Deck The Halls" to solo and ensemble mountain dulcimer orchestrations. World drums and percussion with symphonic intruments and acoustic guitar add beautiful textures to tracks like "The First Noel" and "Joy To The World" while 50's rock 'n' roll, roadhouse gospel blues, folk and old-time music all take a turn around the tree. It all weaves through a combination of the story of Christ's birth and holiday season favorites, alternately kicking it up a notch and taking it down to a whisper, finally ending up with the original orchestral piece "One Winter Solstice Morn."

Bing performs mountain dulcimer, baritone dulcimer, vocals, keyboards and arranged all of the tunes. His wife, Jae, makes her recorded singing debut with a playful and joyful renditon of "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree." Roger Zimish adds flavorful acoustic guitar to seven of the seventeen tracks.

(Hear a sample of each track here)

1. Christmas Each Day (Bing Futch, 1996)

Written in 1996 for "Disney Christmas Overload", this classic original was given new lyrics and a new vocal arrangement for the 21st century, continuing its message of hope, unity and love for the future.

2. Deck The Halls (Traditional Welsh)

Though Welsh in origin, this familiar Christmas classic features a Celtic swing vibe and a "dueling dulcimers" arrangement fleshed out by bodhran and bass.

3. O Tannenbaum (Traditional German)

Baritone mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar in a quiet treatment of this tune, also known as "O Christmas Tree."

4. Stille Nacht (Traditional Austrian, Franz Gruber, 1816)

One of the most popular Christmas songs is presented here with three separate mountain dulcimer parts, woven together in a spacious arrangement.

5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional English, 1833)
We Three Kings (Traditional - John Henry Hopkins Jr., 1857)

These two traditional tunes, being both in the key of E minor, fit well together thematically in another duet between mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar.

6. The First Noel (Traditional English)

The slow cadence of distant drums powers this simple and dramatic arrangement that features intertwining mountain dulcimer parts and a luscious string section.

7. Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpoint, 1857)

This fun track features Bing's signature vocals and harmonies (along with a few well-placed sound effects) in an up-tempo journey through the snow, complete with the rarely-heard original lyrics.

8. Up On The House Top (Benjamin Hanby, 1860)

Rendered in an old-time style with just mountain dulcimer played via noter.

9. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (Johnny Marks, 1958)
© 1958 J. Marks/St. Nicholas Music (BMI)

Mrs. Futch makes her singing debut on any record with this playful rendition of the 1950's Brenda Lee classic.

10. Away In A Manger (James R. Murray, 1887)

Mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar combine together in this emotional rendition of the classic Christmas carol.

11. Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle (Traditional French, 1553)
What Child Is This? (Traditional English, 1580)

Another combination of tunes that go well together, beginning with a solo dulcimer run though a song also known as "Bring The Torch Jeannette Isabella." Then, dramatic segue into the traditional tune also known as "Greensleeves" with acoustic guitar serving as foundation.

12. Sans Day Carol (Traditional Cornish, 19th Century)

Solo baritone dulcimer makes this lesser-known Cornish carol a warm and inviting call to celebrate.

13. Cantique de Noël (Adolphe Adam, 1847)

The tune, also known as "O Holy Night", gets a reverential treatment with mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar.

14. Go Tell It On The Mountain (Lyrics, John W. Work Jr., 1907, Traditional African)

Inspired by a swing gospel recording on "The Little Drummer Boy", Bing took this popular hymn and infused it with the rockin' rhythms of roadhouse blues music, complete with mountain dulcimer, Hammond organ, soulful guitar and a gospel choir.

15. Hark The Herald Angels Sing (Felix Mendelssohn, 1840)

A contemplative remembrance in an airy arrangement with baritone mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar.

16. Joy To The World (Lowell Mason, 17th Century, adapted from Handel, 1741)

Another one of the most popular and triumphant of Christmas songs, this tune gets a world-beat pulse with a number of hand percussion rhythms, bass, bells, violins, harpsichord and a dance-inspiring mountain dulcimer drone and groove.

17. One Winter Solstice Morn (Bing Futch, 2006)

To close out the album, the only track without any mountain dulcimer present, this original orchestral piece paints a picture of a fresh snowfall and all the activity of a winter solstice morning through variations on a theme passed amongst flutes, clarinets, oboes, french horns, strings and other instruments. A big movie-soundtrack finish to Bing's first Christmas record!