Nice surprise

This year we have a new apartment, that is built in one of the houses at the end of the garden. Our neighbours are the owners of the agriturismo. There is a constant stream of animals here. Bosco, the dog that I call our life guard, three cats, of which two are parents to two little kittens. The kitten mama and the kittens live just outside our house. We all love them, even my stepdad who claims to hate cats, lol. :D

Castelluccio di Norcia

So since a few days we're in Italy! On the way down to Abruzzo we stopped by in Norcia, Umbria, since I wanted to go to the little place Castelluccio that is famous for all the flowers that are in bloom at this time of the year. Lots of photographers go there, because the landscape is a fantastic exhibition of colours. The fields look like they're painted in all kinds of colours, it's a masterpiece, really. Sadly, this year everything is a little delayed because of a cold spring with late snowfalls in the mountains, so the blue and violet flowers weren't in bloom yet. However, I had a good time walking there with my camera, while the rest of the family had coffee in Castelluccio, the little village on the hill.

I suppose that another year we should stay in Norcia for a few days and maybe get in touch with people in the area beforehand, to know more exactly when everything will be in bloom.

RIP Ralph Stanley :(

I suppose that today, Brexit is the biggest news, but for me, what hit me most was the sad news that bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley has passed away.

He was one of my big heroes in bluegrass music, I've always loved his songs and tunes and how he kept the tradition. He had a FANTASTIC voice and his duets with various musicians were all brilliant, especially that with Patty Loveless, their voices fit so incredibly perfect together (I promise to post a video eventually, right now I'm in the car on the way to Italy). When I search for good gospel songs I always browse through the Stanley brothers archive.

He was known as a bluegrass banjo player but he was also brilliant at clawhammer banjo, which is my preferred banjo style. His recording of "Little birdie" comes to mind. Everything makes up for the fact that there's usually never any mandolin player in his bands.. :)

Rest in peace, dr Ralph Stanley, your music truly lives on.

Regarding playing music

I'm going to start playing music again. Well, it's not that I've stopped doing it, but I've been doing it so very sporadically during the last few years. I think it's been partially because of job stress, that I'm tired and restless after work and find it hard to make myself do something productive music-wise, but also because I've set such high standards on myself and that makes it hard to find inspiration, because it's like I think I have to have so much time in order to see any point with practicing. I've been practicing some concertina but not much more.

This weekend we were invited to friends of ours. We haven't known each other for so long, E showed up at our Irish music session some year ago, a brilliant but very nice and humble singer from Holland, but who lives in Sweden since many (I think) years. She has a husband who is learning to play some instruments and they have a nice place to live with a huge garden. We invited them to our house for Easter, for dinner and music session, and now it was their turn to invite us. After a fantastic dinner we started playing and singing. I haven't played anything at all for a long time but I had brought the mandolin and the guitar. I play the mandolin very rarely these days. I can't explain why, I seem to not enjoy it, but I think it's mostly because I expect myself to be so brilliant, and just find that I think my playing sucks. But, when I do pick it up, and especially if I do it without planning to play, or without having any particular expectations, then my playing really goes well, I kind of get into "the flow".

Both Daniel and E expressed that my playing sounded so good, and why don't I play more mandolin?? That really made me feel good, inspired, encouraged to play. And today we discussed trying to learn some common songs and tunes, and do some arrangements for the sessions. That kind of thing also encourages me to play, I kind of need goals, and specific things to focus on. Now I've promised Daniel to learn six Irish tunes and six American tunes well on the mandolin, and then record them. I'll have this as a project during the Autumn. I really hope I can get back to my previous playing form... and the enjoyment I used to have back then.

I'll never give up the concertina but the mandolin is very dear to me, it was the first instrument I learned to play properly and also the one and only that I feel that I CAN play well, although I sometimes think I suck at it (it's usually when I compare myself with others).

So I guess... to be continued, and it will be an interesting autumn music-wise.