Tag Archives: music

Bridge Chamber Music Festival

I had the opportunity to write some previews on upcoming concerts for the Bridge Chamber Music Festival. It’s fascinating to hear directly from the artists about the music being performed and the history behind the composer’s inspiration for each piece and what was going on in that time period in another part of the world. View the write up here: http://bridgechamberfestival.org/preview/.


Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 9.04.50 AM

Jazz session in Northfield

[This article ran in the Star Tribune south metro edition. Read the full article here.]

Jazz guitarist Samuel Miltich said he has always loved acoustic string music.

“As a young person, Duke Ellington and George Gershwin were two of my favorite musicians, but the music I was surrounded by tended more toward bluegrass and acoustic folk music,” he said. When he heard Django Reinhardt, the legendary jazz guitarist from Europe credited for originating Gypsy jazz, for the first time at age 15, it changed his life.

“It was my first introduction to jazz being played on acoustic string instruments, and I immediately fell in love with this melding of musical influences, and since then I’ve dedicated myself to this music,” he said.

Miltich, a childhood prodigy and now a world-renowned jazz guitarist, plays original compositions and tunes from a variety of different genres and even different cultures — Brazilian choro music, French musette, American jazz standards — but through it all he’s maintained the style and technique of Gypsy jazz.

Miltich performs with the Clearwater Hot Club and is one of four featured musicians performing in Northfield this spring as part of a Gypsy Jazz Jam Series. Miltich plays April 17, Mark Kreitzer of the Mark Kreitzer Band on April 30, Robert Bell of the Twin Cities Hot Club on May 15, and Reynold Philipsek of the Sidewalk Cafe Trio on May 29.

The public is welcome to take part in the series at the Eagles Club, 304 Water St. S. in Northfield. The shows start at 7 p.m. Attendees can just listen, or they can bring instruments and join in the jam session.

“The atmosphere for musicians will be very open and supportive,” said Martha Larson, a cellist and the founder of the Gypsy Jazz Jam Series, who also plays with Miltich and Kreitzer on occasion. “The featured musicians are all terrific teachers as well as players; they’ll share some tips and tricks throughout the session. We’ll project music charts on the wall so everyone can follow along. Those who want to solo can test out their chops in a supportive environment. Those who want to play along with the chords can sit back and relax.”

Martha Larson was first immersed in the Gypsy jazz live music circuit in Chicago, where she and her husband lived before moving to Northfield. “It’s not only the visceral music that drew me in, but also the culture,” said Larson, who describes Gypsy jazz as an open and inviting form where virtuosic players and newcomers intermingle with ease.

Musician Robert Bell of the Twin Cities Hot Club explained how Gypsy jazz evolved.

“To satisfy the enthusiasm and excitement that many Parisians had for the American art form known as jazz, a group of the finest musicians was assembled,” he said. “Enter Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.”

The practice of “jamming” was how the two eventually formed the Quintette du Hot Club of France. While “jamming” is an integral part of jazz, it is actually an entire cornerstone of Gypsy culture, he said — it’s is how the music of the Roma [Gypsies] is passed along.

When the Gypsy music combined with American jazz, many new compositions were introduced. But the music is still learned in the same way: by jamming.

Larson explains how the music infuses modern sounds through improv on top of the traditional French bistro jazz melodies of the 1930s and that the guitar emulates the swing drum beat — the down strokes being the beat and the up strokes as ornamentation.

“There’s something about this sound that is both sentimental and modern,” Larson said. “The use of acoustic string instruments gives it a warmth and a distinction; the swing repertoire is fun, uplifting and danceable … while the ballads are beautifully melodic.”

Why has Gypsy jazz retained its currency from when Reinhardt and Grappelli made it popular in Paris during the 1930s? Maybe because it’s a style that’s always reinventing itself — its roots are in improv­isation, an approach where no two artists can express a tune in quite the same way.

“The Gypsy element adds something exotic to the music being it’s European,” said Jazz guitarist and composer Reynold Philipsek, whose music is strongly influenced by Django Reinhardt. “I traveled to Europe and spent some time in France — that got me more interest in Gyspy jazz. My grandparents also came from Eastern Europe and those roots are part of the strong connection,” Philipsek said.


– Amy Acheson is a Northfield writer.


Note: Acheson Creative also custom designed a poster for the 2014 jazz series – to view it, go here.



Vintage Band Festival Delivers a Blast From the Past

Screen shot 2013-04-06 at 8.47.41 AMTravel through time — compliments of the Vintage Band Festival — as it takes you on a whirlwind musical extravaganza August 1-4 in southern Minnesota.

This notable event will be the highlight of the summer – welcoming 30 US and international bands as they perform an astonishing 100 concerts over four days! The festival is located in the historic river town of Northfield, just south of the Twin Cities, known for its Defeat of Jesse James Days, esteemed private colleges of St. Olaf and Carleton and Ames Mill, home to Malt-O-Meal® cereal.

History is in the making as this exciting musical event offers a wide range of genres, heritage influences, and period-inspired performances — with a whole host of event attractions and entertainment, sure to please any modern day history buff.

The resounding pulse of the festival is through its musicians and their expression toward the remembrance of historic accounts, cultural authenticity, and the movement music has made over the years.

Vintage Band Festival, Matterhorn Alphorn Trio – Photo by David Perez Photography

What constitutes vintage you might ask? It’s music from around the world dating back from approximately the mid 1700s up until the mid 1900s for this festival. Many of the reenactment bands use actual antique instruments and dress in period clothes. (Some take great care to be authentic down to their buttons and shoelaces for the shows.) The songs come from old sheet music or handwritten part books. Unique, old instruments have been restored, tuned and scored — to create an outstanding repertoire of unforgettable music that has made its mark in history.

AlphornExperience the sounds of Baroque, Balkan, Klezmer, Mariachi, Jazz, Civil War, German, New Orleans, Austrian, and Swedish tunes — all in one weekend, as a variety of ensembles participate in the Vintage Band Festival, including international bands, nationally recognized vintage bands, Midwestern vintage ensembles and a number of Minnesota-based brass bands and community bands.

The Festival concerts run back-to-back as the four-day weekend is jammed packed with the finest of brass and wind music. Concerts are held at various indoor and outdoor venues throughout Northfield. Vintage Band Festival satellite concerts are also available in nearby communities, as optional daytrips, to experience the richness of this cultural area.

Beyond the scheduled concerts, cameo appearances take place as strolling musicians tool through shops, the riverfront market, and along Northfield’s downtown main street to add to the flavor of this nostalgic scene. You might hear the sounds of an ophecleide trio, sackbut duo, helicon quartet, or clarino trio to name a few.

Surrounding the festival are numerous auxiliary events: a historic horn exhibit, Battle of the Bands, vintage “base ball”, ballroom-style dance, vaudeville entertainment, Lunch Listen & Learn concerts, massed concert, Sunday music in area churches, and the annual gathering of the Historic Brass Society.

For a full list of the festival’s bands, performance concert schedule, events and attractions and suggested itineraries, visit vintagebandfestival.org.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Advertorial written for Leisure Group Travel by Amy Acheson. To view the article online, go to http://leisuregrouptravel.com/vintage-band-festival-delivers-a-blast-from-the-past/.