Monday, July 31, 2006

Playing pipes at Los Andes

I was playing smallpipes in the inner andean río Claro valley at Pisco Elqui last week. Being the only one there learning the A fingering of those pipes, reminded me that the bagpipes or gaitas are rather an uncommon instrument over here.
The bagpipe is a folk reed instrument I do really like because its piercing sound and droning that is somewhat little known in Chile and probably even more in most other andean countries. Traditionally here it is an instrument that was locally played and kept intra muros by mostly spanish galician and asturian players at fiestas and other gatherings at the Club or centro español of every single major town in Chile. Other pipes like the irish and scottish styles were more restricted to smaller british communities. These pipers not matter its origin usually gathered as pipebands with a few pipers plus drums. Examples of these folk traditions that have developed its bagpipe repertoire for quite a while are the Lar Gallego de Chile, Os Derradeiros at Temuco, and thanks to the people gathered around the chilean asturian piper Andrés Soberón, the banda de gaitas asturianas de Santiago and the Grupo de gaitas asturianas de Valparaiso, more recently the Eagle School pipeband from Antofagasta and the Andes Highlanders Pipeband at Santiago. On the other hand, from the late 1990's onwards there have been a new development by the use of bagpipes outside the typical folk pipeband repertoire within folk assembles or celtic bands started with the earlier Lir (gaita asturiana) and Viento celta (uilleann pipes), plus perhaps a dozen other bands. A few of them have recorded CDs using bagpipes such as Viento celta, Puerto celta (gaita gallega, uilleann pipes), Banda danzante (gaita gallega, uilleann pipes), and Veigal do Maipo (gaita gallega).
Current chilean celtic bands seems to use more gaita gallega and uilleann pipes than any other styles. However, at least four other chilean folk groups of other non celtic traditions play galician, breton and medieval bagpipes in their assembles. Two of them, Calenda Maia and In Taberna focus on medieval folk musical traditions, Aurha from Valparaiso uses them to add its sound to their world music fusion, whereas another band, Tripolis from Antofagasta focus on the greek folk musical traditions.
Across the Andes, in argentinean cities like Mendoza, and Bariloche there are pipebands or pipers, such the asturian Folixa that along the chilean galician and asturian bagpipers have even organized recently a south american spanish style pipeband gathering, and now they are on their way to have the II gathering next December at Santiago. Therefore, this chilean bagpiper's listing have organised members playing in bands at Antofagasta, Valparaiso, Santiago, Concepción, Temuco, Valdivia, and on the Magellan straits at Punta Arenas.
The bagpipe is a temperamental instrument, and most of those found in Chile are imported from european makers by clubs and the bands themselves. Also, there are at least a couple of pipers who assemble bagpipes sets on request. Leo Rivas using Dave Daye chanters do make irish uilleann practice sets, and Lucas Canga with the collaboration of one argentinean maker from lago Puelo and the galician Arraiamuida obradoiro (workshop) is offering in his blog school and professional galician and asturian gaitas, scottish GHB and smallpipes, plus chanters and reeds. Another maker, José Ramón Castaño makes galician cane reeds and drones.
More info on bagpipes in Spanish at
Many of these bands have been previously selected and some will be present from next October 6th to 8th in Valparaiso at the IV Festival de Música Inmigrante.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Puerto celta et al

It has been a year since we ended the recording of this CD that outlasted the band born as Nimloth in 2002. Two of the former members, David and Pilar left the group to start a new band Riveira and the remainder 4 members started a new project focused more on the fusion of latin american folk music within the celtic framework so we called it banda celtamericana. Riveira started its way with a showcase its 4 founding members with the Clan celta in Coquimbo, and since then under the leadership of David Letelier, and after Pilar left the band has included 3 new members focusing more in the galician and irish traditional music.
Meanwhile, through 2006 Banda celtamericana was awarded a state grant that allowed them to tour north and southern Chile showing the CD already recorded in 2005 trough cities and towns in the north at the Elqui valley such as Horcones, Pisco Elqui, Paihuano, and La Serena, at the area surrounding Valparaiso in cities such as Quillota, Llayllay, and Casablanca. Finally, during the southern summer it toured in the south through towns such as Villarica, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Octay and Puerto Montt.
Now an update, the work started when the banda celtamericana's founding members still were known as members of Nimloth had an experience doing the music for a documentary film on Gabriela Mistral by Luis Vera released in 2005. That seminal work, later got a new update and compilation, some of it composed while touring at the same Elqui valley where this Nobel prize lived her younger years. This work was recorded at the end of 2006, and one of its songs Mi Niña (Miedo) was finalist (5 of 298 accepted competing songs) in the pop genre at the Luis Advis national composition awards of 2006. New developments came in with the new year when the banda celtamericana got news that had been selected with a travel grant by the cultural affaires directorate of the chilean foreign office to tour UK (England, Scotland and Ireland).
A new update, this european tour called "Banda celtamericana en tierras celtas" was done through July of 2007 being a terrific experience and getting great feedback from UK audiences at the places where they played showing its new CD Celtamericana.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Orquesta Hohner de Valparaiso

The Orquesta de acordeones Hohner de Valparaiso is born in this cityport in 1939.
During over 65 years this orchestra has brought the accordion sound to its highest level. Her founding director, Helga Neisse de Junge started this group after teaching accordion for a while in the late 30's at the Kirsinger music store.
From 1939 onward they started to play as a band and they begin to perform to open public venues starting in 1942, accomplishing tours through Chile and Europe, receiving many honours by the city and the state, being one of the latest the silver congress medal at the presentación de gala en 2005 at the congreso nacional.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fiddling with Darwin

A few days ago I got the sad news saying that a good friend, David Yudilevich had passed away. It was in one of his frequent swallowtail trips to London on his way for a conference in Israel when his heart said it was enough. When I heard the news that night, I took my fiddle and a bagpipe, and I played singing an old farewell sea song shanty, Leave her Johnny, leave her....most probably played on similar circumstances on board of the ship associated to Charles Darwin's biography he studied so eagerly.... the HMS Beagle .

David Yudilevich was the major promoter of historical studies in Chile of naturalists like Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt. Since we met in the 90's , it was through him that we discovered personal facts that linked naturalists like Darwin and Humboldt as persons, scientists and travelers to Chile. As a geologist I had done part of the Beagle's expedition trek, and I was amazed about what Darwin had done. Then, we started a collaboration whose outcome produced papers on the figures of Humboldt, Darwin and Fitzroy.

One of those facts I discovered and I discussed several times with David, it was the figure of Darwin's personal assistant on board of the HMS Beagle, Syms Covington, officially, "fiddler and boy to the poop cabin" of the ship, who even copying his master started a diary like him. Who was this person that recollected, prepared and shipped all the materials that Darwin and other scientists used later to describe the Nature that the Beagle expedition was discovering through its trek?.

David shared his enthusiasm and left his imprint in many of us who met him.... his work is still a working project that will continue producing answers to those questions and dreams that David discussed and outlined with us.
We will miss you David.....

Kirsinger & Cia. in Valpo

Carlos Kirsinger y Cia. was a music store founded in Valparaiso by Carlos and Reinaldo Weinreich in 1859. Kirsinger started as a bookstore selling all kind of wares related to the musical business including also music printing and a postcard company, as well as representing european piano brands such as Bechstein & Pfeiffer, and accordeon brands such as Hohner. The music store even started an accordeon academy there, whose outcome was the Orquesta de acordeones Hohner. Kirsinger also had branches in Santiago and Concepción, and along with Niemeyer and Brandt were the main printers & importers of musical instruments in Chile through the XIX century and beginning of the XX century. In that regard, Kirsinger went further than others since they started assembling instruments such as pianos they imported as parts from Europe and also they started making instruments under their own brand such as guitars, mandolins and other plectrum instruments such as the bandola cittern (photograph above) belonging to our collection, most likely made in the 1910's..
Kirsinger was the main printer of music scores around 1900's, and it was the main benchmark for Valparaiso's musical life of that era represented in tertulias, sessions, and parties. Many of these scores have been rescued and some may be heard again thanks to the Memoria chilena audio web project.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

La Banda celtamericana

La “Banda Celtamericana” está compuesta por 6 jóvenes músicos provenientes del norte, centro y sur de Chile, cuyo repertorio está basado en interpretaciones y composiciones basadas en la llamada “música céltica”, añadiéndole elementos pertenecientes a las sonoridades latinoamericanas, tanto en sus instrumentos, como también en sus ritmos y melodías. Sus integrantes comenzaron a trabajar desde Octubre de 2002, bajo el nombre de “Nimloth”, interpretando música tradicional de países como Irlanda, Escocia, y ciertas regiones de España como Galicia y Asturias, trabajo que se vio plasmado en el proyecto "Puerto Celta: Música Celta desde Valparaíso", CD auspiciado por el Fondo de la Música 2005, y que incluye gran parte del trabajo realizado desde sus inicios hasta ese entonces. Entre los escenarios que se han presentado se encuentran el Teatro Municipal de Valparaíso; Teatro Municipal de Viña del Mar; el III Festival Internacional de Música Celta, Teatro Oriente, Santiago de Chile; Festival "Sonidos en la Bruma" en Valdivia; así como en el Salón de Honor del Congreso Nacional y los Carnavales Culturales de Valparaíso 2005. A fines de ese año, “Nimloth” se reforma como “Banda Celtamericana”, y actualmente está compuesto por Annarosa Arredondo, Rodrigo Poblete, Ernesto Calderón, Víctor Choque, Marcos Muñoz y Marcia Fonseca, todos formados en el Instituto de Música de la PUCV; junto a Luis Chirino, quien se desempeña como investigador y productor de la banda.
Entre sus próximos proyectos se encuentra llevar a cabo el proyecto “Itinerancia Banda Celtamericana” seleccionado por el Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes, el cual se está llevando a cabo en las regiones IV, V y X, siendo su principal objetivo el difundir el disco “Puerto Celta” mediante conciertos gratuitos dirigidos a toda la comunidad En el norte se están presentando en localidades como Serena, Paihuano, Pisco Elqui y Horcón; en la V región la cita será en Quillota, San Felipe, Casablanca y Limache; y en el sur estarán en Puerto Montt y otras localidades de la región de los Lagos. Paralelamente a esto, el grupo tiene entre sus planes desarrollar un nuevo proyecto titulado “Gabriela Mistral, una visión Celtamericana”, consistente en la grabación de un nuevo disco, esta vez auspiciado por los fondos concursables "CONFIA" de la PUCV, y que incluirá la música que sus miembros compusieron y grabaron para el documental de Luis R. Vera: "Gabriela de Elqui: el misterio de una cigarra", desarrollado durante el 2005, y que revisa aspectos fundamentales de la biografía de Gabriela Mistral, junto con el arreglo de temas tradicionales de países tanto europeos, herederos de la cultura céltica, como latinoamericanos.
CD “Puerto Celta”:
El proyecto "Puerto Celta: Música Celta desde Valparaíso” fue producido entre los meses de Agosto y Diciembre de 2005, en el Studio Azul de Viña del Mar, y contó con el financiamiento y apoyo del Fondo Nacional de la Música 2005.
El disco contiene 16 temas, que abarcan tanto composiciones propias, como temas tradicionales de Irlanda, Galicia, Escocia, y uno de Chile, compuesto por Jaime Barría, director del grupo de música sureña chilena "Bordemar". Cabe destacar que este trabajo viene a ser la primera grabación de música céltica en Chile, fuera de la región de Santiago.
Los instrumentos utilizados van desde las tradicionales Gaita Gallega y Uilleann Pipe irlandesa, tin whistle, irish bouzouki y otros, hasta las zampoñas, charangos y arreglos más cercanos a la sonoridad latinoamericana. El disco ha sido lanzado en formato digipack, y a fines de Febrero de 2006 fue transmitido por el programa radial "Aires Celtas", de España, donde obtuvo excelentes comentarios:
"Hemos recibido una maravilla desde Chile: Puerto Celta. Desde ya un agradecimiento a este grupo tan maravilloso.”
Veo en este Cd, una presentación de algo magnífico. Olé por la presentación de este disco que está en mis manos, que maravilla"

(Juan Armando Salvador, conductor del programa radial español "Aires Celtas")

Monday, July 03, 2006

Banda Celtamericana going to Coquimbo

We have been awarded a state grant from Fondo de la Música (Fondart) 2006 supporting our next tour CD Puerto Celta of the Banda Celtamericana that will take us through three chilean regions starting this month, now in the northern region of Coquimbo, later through the southern spring in the central zone of Valparaiso and, finally at the beginning of the new year down south at Los Lagos. Besides the Fondo de la Música grant, we are being co-sponsored in the tour by the municipalities of La Serena and Paihuano, the British Council and Bignoise music.
Starting on July 22th we will be visiting and playing free shows along with our dancers at La Serena and localities at Paihuano in the Coquimbo region, and from September onwards in Limache, Quillota, Casablanca and San Felipe in Valparaiso region. More details concerning this tour will be published soon.
Our updated calendar is the following:

- July 22th at Teatro municipal de La Serena, 20 hrs.
- July 24th at Anfiteatro Horcón, Pueblo de los Artesanos, 19 hrs.
- July 26th at Multicancha Escuela Pisco Elqui, 19 hrs.
- July 28th at Teatro Municipal de Paihuano, 20 hrs.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hispanic citterns in the Americas

From my current cittern collection, you could see at the photograph above, from left to right: a portuguese APC Coimbra fado guitar, a spanish Vicente Sanchis tenor laúd, a mexican Lonestar tenor cuatro, a puertorican Don José tenor cuatro and, a chilean Kirsinger bandola. These are citterns (cistros en castellano), teardrop shaped plectrum family instruments of european origin with 5 or more steel string courses. In earlier times most used single strings and they developed in different hispanic nations within families such as the bandurria and more recently the fado guitars and folk violas from Portugal. In Latin America, these instruments developed some local variations that were at last standarized and popularized into the puertorican cuatro, and the bandola from the colombian Andes, both tuned in perfect fourth.
Some years ago, I wrote some data facts with photographs about alternative tunings and features these citterns have that may ilustrate anyone interested ....