Saturday, September 8, 2007

Whoops... there goes the summer!

Well... much has happened since I last posted. I traveled to California in December to work with the Kitka women's ensemble in preparation for a joint project with Kavkasia. I taught them a number of Georgian songs and helped them polish up some others they already had in their repertoire. They are wonderful! I couldn't have had a better time or asked for finer results. In January I traveled to Toronto for some concerts with Kavkasia, and then back to California for three joint concerts with Kitka. Our grand finale was the Svanuri Sazeimo Perkhuli, a two-choir round dance which brought the house down. It was magical. I sincerely hope I have many more opportunities to work with Kitka in the future.

In late February I went to Chicago for a week-long residency with Dr. Clayton Parr at DePaul University. He had been teaching his choirs Georgian folk and composed choral works and invited me to come help polish things and join them for their performance. Clayton is a powerhouse, amazingly gifted and super-energized. He had already prepared the choirs remarkably well and it was a delight working with them. At the end of our visit we traveled to the offices of Hal Leonard publishing and pitched our book project: "Teach Yourself Georgian Folk Songs" - well, that's not the title, but that's what it will be. It looks like Hal Leonard wants to publish it! I'm very excited.

In March I recorded a little demo of Georgian songs with Emily Miller and Jodi Hewat, calling ourselves Nanina. The recording came out pretty good, although Emily has now moved to Nashville to go to grad school. Sigh... But there will surely be more Georgian music coming from NYC. Watch and see.

In April I did a lovely workshop at Cornell and visited with my dear friend Will Parker, who has the most amazing collection of Melodiya LPs, including many discs of Georgian music. He's going to transfer some to CD for me, and I asked him to do one transfer before I left for Georgia in May. I'll get to that later.

Another significant event in April was establishing contact with Peter Gold, who traveled to Georgia and made field recordings of Georgian Turks in 1968. He published an LP of these recordings in 1972, which I knew about from Frank Kane. I had tried to contact Peter several times over the years, and decided to try again. I found him! He is completely delightful and very enthusiastic about Georgian music. He and I are hoping to travel to Georgia next year for his 40-year-anniversary since his first visit. He hasn't been since! We hope to return to some of the places he visited in 1968, and to give copies of his complete field recordings from that time to several archives in Georgia and Turkey. That should be exciting! We're now looking for a sponsor to cover the costs of the trip. I'm thinking it would also be an excellent opportunity for a documentary. Any takers?

In May I traveled to Tbilisi for my first "tour." Together with my dear friend and colleague Maia Kachkachishvili, I organized a trip to Svaneti for serious students of Georgian folk song. We spent about 10 days in the village of Lenjer, guests of Islam Pilpani, one of the last great songmasters of Georgia. We had two other teachers join us, also unparalleled songmasters: Tristan Sikharulidze from Guria, and Polikarpe Khubulava from Samegrelo. We had a great time, although some bits were - challenging. Yes. The best was towards the end, however, when we all began to see the magic that was happening among the three songmasters. They were reminiscing, singing old songs, joking, having a great time. It was beautiful seeing Polikarpe and Islam swimming in the Black Sea! And Islam hadn't been there for over 20 years. And then seeing them on stage in Tbilisi, especially when they performed as a trio... it was electrifying. I am proud to have been the force that brought them together for this project and I hope I can do it again.

Since returning from Georgia in June, I haven't had much activity. Now I am looking for workshops in closer proximity to my home so that I won't be traveling as much. Day trips are okay, and the occasional weekend, but no more weeks on the road. I've also started doing artwork again, making cartoon furniture and working on some children's book ideas. We'll see where God leads me! I'll be singing in concert with the Kartuli Ensemble on Sept. 23 in Lagrangeville, NY (near my hometown of Poughkeepsie).

There's much more to tell, but another time. Peace to all & keep singing!