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Kristos Round III: Two New Songs, a Full House, and a Broken Castanet

posted in performance on august 20th, 2009

For those of you following along at home, just for the record: yes, this recent spate of shows is why other additions to Ravenna Flamenco have been slow lately. But fear not! I’ve got more in store in the article/tab/online tools department soon. (Okay, fine: after the Arts in Nature Festival show this Saturday, but soon all the same!)

In the mean time, how about a show rundown? Actually, I think the title and the pic pretty much sums things up. Kristos was all of about standing room only during our first set. It thinned out a bit through the second set, but my suspicion is this had more to do with the advancing hour on a Sunday night than with any artistic transgressions on our end. There’s word that we may be remedying this day-of-the-week problem for the next show, by the way. I’ll keep you posted.

How, you might be wondering, did this full-house-ness affect my infamous nervous system? (Toque devotees know this is a favorite topic/obsession of mine.) Mercifully, there wasn’t an all out neural mutiny. In fact, thanks, I think, to just sitting down and chilling the hell out before going on (cf. the 7/15 post), I think I was calmer for this show than I have been in the past for shows with half as many people.

My hands were still cold (hence the Dickensian urchin gloves for the first four or five songs), but they weren’t stupid. As they usually do, they warmed up quite nicely about half-way into the first set. This cold business is still obnoxious, but it’s not nearly as obnoxious as a completely non-compliant extremity. I’m still experimenting with my zen/hippie pre-show ablutions, but so far so good.

I’m also starting to tune in to concentration issues. For the last week or so I’ve been meandering my way through a book called The Natural Classical Guitar by Lee Ryan. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here (a book review could soon follow); among other things, Ryan’s gotten me to thinking about where my mind goes when I’m playing. On a certain level, this should be obvious: I should be thinking about the music (though in reality, of course, it doesn’t always work that way). But even in "thinking about the music," whether I think ahead a few notes or revel in a passage that just came off well (or cringe at one that didn’t), were my mind goes and how long it stays there matters.

Ryan’s advice is to "play in the moment"—i.e. to think about the note you’re playing now. It turns out this isn’t always easy to maintain for long periods, but even staying aware of where your mind is going on a meta-level (nerd-speak warning!) means that when one’s thoughts go awry (or away), one can more easily bring them back on track. The idea is that the more you consciously do this, the easier it gets.

I bring this up only because Kristos can be loud: it brings my attention to (and challenges) my concentration. In some ways, the constant din of restaurant noise can be a pain, but it also forces me to be selective in where I let my attention wander. My hope is that learning to tune out crowd noise and crashing dinnerware will also teach me to tune out (or more easily let go of) other aural irritants and concentrate on making good music.

This said, I feel I should point out that the audiences and staff at Kristos have all been great and have all been really supportive in helping us create successful shows. But it’s still a busy restaurant and a lot of people out having a good time—and raucous or not, I wouldn’t have it any other way. (And, to Kristos’s credit, the broken martini glass during the alegría was in perfect compás.)

But wait! What about the title? This blog post has nothing to do with what I said I was going to talk about! An abuse of artistic license? I should say so. Well here be the details: the new songs were a new bulería and Dani’s solo arrangement of Zorongo (both of which came off swimmingly); the full house bit we covered; and the broken castanet was all Zanbaka—and it was broken while playing (and yes, they were fiberglass castanets and no, they’re not supposed to break—no mercy for props!).

Now go play!


tags: castanets, kristos, zamani
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