August 18th, 2004


Back from Sutter Creek

And the landlord and landlady have moved back to the U.S., into this house. I'm uncomfortable not because of that so much as the fact that the landlord is also my "boss". I know I haven't been working on the database entries as much as I should be, so now I feel like I'll be compelled to work the whole time I'm home, all the time.

But the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival this weekend was fun. I stayed in "Skunk Hollow" again, a Victorian house where several composers stay. Instead of the living room like last year, I shared a room with composers Tom Brier and Eric Marchese. I gave Eric a copy of Puppy Dog Rag, my latest ragtime composition. Of course, I'd already sent a copy to Tom. He ran through it once on Saturday night at the house. It took a few tries to figure out the opening bars of the A strain, but once he got it, he played the rest perfectly apart from a little slip in the dogfight. I taped that run-through, but I won't put it up officially because it's a bit rough. Hopefully I'll catch a better performance at a later date.

Composers Kathi Backus and Gil Lieby came out of the kitchen as it was being played, wondering what it was. Kathi in particular liked it, just as she liked my Tattle-Tale Rag a year ago. Tom then played the three other rags that I've composed this year, and Kathi asked if I had this stuff for sale, which she had asked last year too. I showed her what I had, and was going to give her a copy of everything, since she took such an interest and is a fine pianist. I gave her even copies of rags which don't yet have covers (thus are not for sale yet) -- basically everything I have in print, which would be 13 rags (of 15 composed thus far). She felt compelled to pay me for them, though, and paid me quite a fair amount. She said she prefers to play the music of ragtime composers who are living, and thus, "Now I have a lot of new music to learn over the next year!" So perhaps by this time next year I'll have heard her playing one or two of mine. She said she might be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento this November, too, so who knows ...

Tom was considering playing two of my recent compositions in his sets, apparently, for he had the sheet music with him. He decided to hold off on a first performance until he's got them down a bit better, but I did record him playing them almost flawlessly in the house on Saturday night:

Frivolity Rag
Priority Rag

I also recorded him playing one of my older compositions, the Infernally Unnamable Rag (slight pause before the Trio because I had difficulty turning the page for him, but otherwise a perfect sight-read).

Pianist Ron Ross from Southern California bought a copy of my Mad Scientist Rag at the suggestion of Pepper Rae (my biggest fan, though she still won't tell me her real, Hungarian name!). It's definitely my best seller! Ron is one of the heads of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club of Pasadena.

Janet Klein and Carl "Sonny" Leyland both remembered me from past festivals, even though I've only spoken with them briefly. Janet bumped into me (literally) on her way out of the Ice Cream Emporium as I was going in, then said, "Well, here we are again!" in her adorably flapperish way. I've never seen her "out of character"; perhaps that 1920s flapper persona is the real Janet! At the end of the festival, Sonny came up to me and said, "Nice to see you again," and shook my hand.

Instead of teasing Tom Brier in the finale concert like they usually do at this festival, they decided to make the whole thing in honor of him. When Brad Kay was sick and couldn't attend, Tom had to fill in as one of Janet Klein's "Parlor Boys", playing the songs based only on notecards with the chords written on them -- in a different key than the original sheet music in most cases. Janet and everyone was really impressed by how he did, especially considering his reputation as a loud pianist which wouldn't work with such a delicately soft voice as Janet's. Of course, he still had his own sets to do as well. On Saturday, therefore, he ended up playing nonstop for four or five hours. The finale ended with the entire audience singing a parody of Gershwin's "Swanee", all about "Tom-mee".

Anyway, I've been encouraged to join the list of composers who have written a rag based on the Sutter Creek Festival, or "Skunk Hollow" itself. Tom wrote a Skunk Hollow Rag. My ideas are something about the Ice Cream Emporium owned by the head of the festival, Stevens Price (he has composed Chocolate Ice Cream Rag, Soda Jerk Rag, etc.), or, relating to "Skunk Hollow" and the pianos in the parlor room, I came up with the title Skunk in the Parlor. That title is really cute, I think. It even lends itself to the possibility of being a song (a "Grand Olfactorio"?). I guess it would be something about a skunk coming in when hearing the ragtime music, and taking a liking to the black-and-white keys, because they match the stripes of his fur. But I haven't been able to come up with any actual lyrics. Somebody out there have any ideas ... ?

oh, and the speedometer light is out again, so I'm back into stealth mode! heh.