Mission Statement: To provide compelling music for dancing, particularly English Country Dance, New England-style Contradance, and other dance forms.
"Your music makes me feel like ... like I want to get up and dance!"
Ishmael plays regularly for English Country Dance in Harvard Square and throughout New England, with Boston Delight and other bands, vintage dance with CVD's Ad Hoc Waltz and Quadrille Band, and also for contradances, Colonial and Civil War era dance for reenactors and celebrations, and waltz workshops.
He performs Early Music on stringed and wind instruments, and vocally with the Cantabile Renaissance Band and the Boston West Gallery Quire, and plays for a monthly renaissance dance with "Renaissonics and Friends". He has substituted on violin with Seven Times Salt, and on five string fiddle with the Woods Hole Village Band and Paradise Bird.
As a tenor, he sings with Norumbega Harmony, the Boston West Gallery Quire, Neely Bruce's Festival Harmony and other choirs and choruses throughout New England and Quebec.
Rehearsal, leading, and directing in performance regularly for singers, instrumental ensembles, dance bands, and mixed vocal / instrumental groups. As an instrumentalist and singer, performance experience includes bowed and plucked strings including violin, viola, and string bass, woodwinds including single and double reeds, brass instruments, and percussion. This familiarity with instrument technique, tuning and range is valuable for getting the most out of an ensemble, and guides arranging and orchestration.
The Black Jokers have been known to dance in a variety of meteorological conditions not suitable for the wood or gut strings of a violin - such as a summer parade route over fresh blacktop pavement when it was 102F in the shade; drizzle, pouring rain, or snow; or in a howling wind well below freezing in January. In contrast, there are three hole pipes made of brass and plastics that are unaffected by heat, cold, or wet, and the tabor in the illustration above right ( a Remo PTS, with customization ) contains no natural ingredients.
See the Pipe & Tabor page for more details.
When I have not a fiddle handy, and the tune does not fit well on a three hole pipe (due to its one octave range) or the flageolet, (six-hole pipe, tin whistle, pennywhistle -- see the Chiff & Fipple pages for an introduction), I play recorder, either sopranino, soprano, or tenor. These tend to be quieter instruments which are marginal for street performance of Morris music, but work out well for Country Dancing (some tunes available) indoors.
After graduating from MIT and taking a real job I found it difficult to
maintain the 6+ hours per week plus travel time required for orchestra
rehearsals, so my social music participation languished until I was
introduced to fiddling, folk music of the British Isles, and dancing
(New England Squares and Contras plus English Country) in late 1976.
I began to fiddle for barn dances, as well as providing occasional
music for dances run by the
New England Folk Festival Association
Country Dance Society, Boston Centre.
That led to
Morris and life hasn't been the same since,
although these days I don't do quite enough dancing.
Depending on the style of dance and the other musicians in the band,
(or solo for small, intimate barn dances) I play mostly fiddle, but
use flageolet, recorder or mandolin for a change.
Listen to a morris dance tune played on fiddle.
Depending on the style of dance and the other musicians in the band, (or solo for small, intimate barn dances) I play mostly fiddle, but use flageolet, recorder or mandolin for a change.
Of late dabbling with multitrack recording, here published is a 2005 rendition of Thomas Morley's Good Morrow Fair Ladies of the May in MP3 with a link to the sheet music, and a 2005 version of Bruce Randall's four-part setting of Wordsworth's poem To My Sister.
You can see this instrument a bit closer in a video of tunes on the wipLstix backpacking fiddle.
Thanks to the Violin Making & Restoration Program students at North Bennett Street School we were able to try out their new duet instrument, a violiola designed and built to celebrate the program's twentieth anniversary and their command of the craft. It has both violin and viola fingerboards on one body, with one bridge, for two people to play; best for a compatible pair, as arms and bows cross.
|Unusual pairing of five-string fiddle and serpent, playing duets at the Boston 2009 Walk for Hunger.|
"You played the happiest music we've had all day."-J. C. Jones, 2009.11.07
While your leading style did not exhibit the wonderful flair
some of our friends have, you did a lot more than simply "keep time";
your direction was intelligible and sensitive and very helpful.
--R. D., 2009.03.27