Saturday morning quotes 4.44: Musicality
With rumors of Spring in the air and the promise of slightly less ice on the walkways, we stop and take stock of some of the more positive forces of nature that inspire us to continue plugging away in the music racket. A particularly musical force of nature who continues to provide inspiration is one Rob MacKillop.
There was a time when skilled, talented and flexible musicians could easily find outlets for their music that actually paid well enough. Today, it is very difficult for independent musicians to make ends meet without adding a host of other skills to their repertoire. Rob MacKillop, the hardest working man in the plucked string racket, seems to have gleefully embraced the challenge and managed to use all the resources of the internet to get his music out, reaching out to other musicians, students, and listeners around the world. Rob MacKillop is also a talented photographer with a knack for old-fashioned black and white compositions such as this lovely example.
As a teacher and sharer of repertory for several different instruments, we could spend the entire day listing his contributions and accomplishments. Rob keeps Mel Bay’s printing press busy – we easily located 24 titles for ukulele and banjo alone. As a guitarist, he has performed and published several examples of Scots music but he also chooses to play some of the finer examples of modern “classical” guitar rep, such as this lovely waltz by Antonio Lauro. Rob convinced me (RA) of his great good taste when I stumbled across his project to make videos of studies and example pieces from an old guitar tutor, the same book I use for teaching, published by my guitar hero, George Van Eps.
On more than one occasion, we have begun our day listening to Rob’s playing; lute, guitar, banjo, or some other unusual instrument like the Harp Lute, an instrument he had on loan for only a few days and on which he learned to play lovely music in no time at all. Yesterday, we were treated to Rob’s performance of a French courante from the Panmure 5 manuscript, wonderfully played on an instrument by Bill Samson. The performance brought to mind the following quote from another manuscript source roughly contemporary with Panmure:
One must then sit upright in playing to show no constraint or pains, to have a smiling countenance, that the company may not think you play unwillingly, and [to] show that you animate the lute as well as the lute does animate you.
When you begin to play something well, you must alter your way of striking and flatter (as we speak) the lute-that is to strike it sometimes gently. For as the lute is a kind of language, you must imitate the orators,who now raise their voice and then abate it; now they get asleep the hearer, and now they awaken him; now they charm him and now they amaze him…
– from “Miss Mary Burwell’s Instruction Book for the Lute,” as edited by Thurston Dart, The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 11 (May, 1958), pp. 3-62
Since the video was posted on a certain social media outlet that one of us refuses to acknowledge and is not otherwise available, we are not able to share it here. But suffice it to say that Rob’s performance is among the most musical examples of lute-playing we have heard to date. Wonderfully phrased, sensitively balanced, and gracefully delivered, Rob seems to indulge in the musical experience with as much pleasure and delight as we derived in the listening.
Rob MacKillop’s playing is the definition of musicality, and we return his words in the same spirit – lang may your lum reek!