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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Entries in Filk/music (52)


Adam English: The Amazing Me!


Enjoyed last night's dinner out with Jeff's gaming buddies and their families. I've posted some photos here, for those interested. I especially like this one of my friend Harald, who obviously likes green tea ice cream a LOT.

Adam, by Adam.

Today's Blathering is about my multi-talented friend, Adam English, who has recently revamped his Web page (warning: if you're at work, turn down the sound before you check this site ;-)).

Adam is part of Ookla The Mok but also has a solo CD called Sketched Out, full of songs about drawing caricatures for a living like "I Need a Whole New Head" and "The Day I Killed All the Customers." Adam opened Darien Lake Themepark's first caricature stand when he was 17 years old and has been drawing caricatures for nearly 20 years. He has also trained over a hundred local caricature artists.

Adam has a musical background, and is classically trained in piano and voice. In his first year after college, Adam worked as an opera singer. His roles included playing the High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan's
The Mikado. Adam is also a card-carrying member of the Etch-a-Sketch Club.

In addition to his music and caricature work, Adam also teaches workshops for schools about drawing, including On the Count of Three...Draw!!!, The Caricature Guy and Amazing Me. If that wasn't enough, Adam also runs the gaming concession at Holiday Hollow, a family-owned amusement park in Pembroke, New York.

The main focus of this Blathering, however, is to rave about Adam's Amazing Me school project. In this workshop, students write and draw a professional-quality comic book with the help of Adam to plot, script, pencil, ink and color a full-color 8-page comic book.

What a fantastic idea! Especially since Adam is so great with kids. From this entry in Beckett's LJ, when Adam and Rand visited her, Paul and their children:

"(re:) Adam's abilities with kids. Well, on reflection why should I have been surprised, since his main career involves dealing with kids and making them comfortable and willing to sit still and talk about what they like. He's outstanding as a caricature artist. But it's not just a front for convenience, he's genuine with them and they're instinctively drawn to him. Whether it's because he's still closely connected to that kid side or what doesn't really matter; whatever his secret is, it works."

You can check out the latest "Amazing Me" comic here. This comic was written & drawn by an "Amazing Me" workshop group, at the Webster Ave. Rec Center in Rochester, NY. Ten children, ranging in age from 6 to 13, participated in the creation of this comic.

Do check out Adam's newly-revamped Web page, especially his Amazing Me! comic archives.

Adam will be at GAfilk, now only six days away, and I believe it's his birthday on the Friday of GAfilk weekend.

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Package from Sybille!

Ronnie and me

Above photo: Ronnie and me. Luisa asked for permission to print up a t-shirt with one of my cartoons; I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

King Kong

Jeff and I enjoyed hanging out with Luisa, Reid, Michael and Ronnie yesterday. None of them had seen our house since it was an empty shell, so it was fun to take them on a tour. Afterward we went to see King Kong. I enjoyed the movie, though I thought it dragged a bit in parts.

I liked Naomi Watts in the role much better than I expected, and I was glad to see she did much more than just scream. It was odd to see Jack Black in a serious role like this; I kept remembering his manic behaviour in School of Rock so kept half-expecting him to bring out in song at any minute.

A package arrived from Germany yesterday. Thanks so much to Sybille Machat for the Christmas ornament!

Xmas ornament from Sibylle

...and the cozy Christmas slipper-socks!

Socks from Sibylle!

I enjoyed meeting Sibylle in Germany at Filkcontinental:


One of my favourite Sibylle songs is the "The Evil Eyeball", an amusing Lord of the Rings song which she performs with enormous expressiveness. :-D

Thanks, Sibylle!

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Burke Wide Bore Brass Black Tip

Try saying that title ten times quickly. :-)

Thanks to those who responded to my LJ plea for advice re: which Burke whistle to get. To those not on LJ: For Christmas, my mom-in-law has offered to fund the purchase of a high-end penny whistle that I would not be able to afford to get on my own. My whistle teacher suggested a Burke whistle, so I've been doing some researching.

Photo by Allison. Session at an FKO.

I love Internet communities. I posted my inquiry on the Chiff and Fipple Forums and got some helpful replies from experienced whistle players who have Burkes, including links to more info about Burkes and sound samples. Chiff & Fipple is a fantastic resource for whistle players of all levels, by the way.

Right now I'm leaning toward a Wide Bore Brass Black Tip. I would have liked a Low D whistle but I've tried a few, and the finger stretch needed would definitely aggravate my tendinitis. Ah well.

From public replies and some private e-mail, I get the impression that no matter which Burke I choose, I can't go wrong.

Having a basement office that is relatively isolated from the rest of the house gives me much more flexibility in terms of practising music than I had in the condo. FYI, here are the instruments I play:

Photo by Beckett.

This used to be my main instrument, though I'm way out of practice now. I started taking piano lessons when I was around 7 years old, stopped after Grade X Royal Conservatory of Music, picked it up again when I studied for my ARCT teaching degree. Quit because of life upheaval (my mom died, my piano teacher died). I taught piano, off and on, over about 20 years. Unfortunately our baby grand wouldn't properly fit into our house, so we couldn't keep it when we moved. :-(

More transportable than piano, hence my main instrument with Urban Tapestry. I never took private lessons in flute, just studied it during school music classes. I taught flute lessons for a bit. My current flute was a group gift from Jeff and a bunch of my friends from university. I've played flute on a number of recording projects.

I took a summer guitar course during high school and my parents gave me a classical guitar. For Urban Tapestry, I use a steel-string acoustic that belongs to Jeff; I don't have my own steel-string. Tendinitis makes guitar-playing an iffy thing for me these days; strumming is usually ok for a song or two, but fingerpicking is still too much of a strain, as is lugging a guitar and case around. Unfortunately this means a chunk of Urban Tapestry's repertoire is now inaccessible, but Allison has been gradually learning the guitar parts for some of these songs.

Assorted bangy percussion things:
Over the years with Urban Tapestry, I've accumulated quite a collection of percussion instruments. I would have learned bodhran along the way except for the fact that I'd never be able to carry it with me on the plane along with my other gear. Instead, I focus on smaller noise-making instruments like tambourine, shaky-egg, cowbell (I wrote "It Said What" so I could use the cowbell), claves, triangle, cabasa, etc. For luggage space reasons, I only take a small selection with me when Urban Tapestry goes to filk conventions; choosing is always hard. Hey, and my big bag of percussion instruments was borrowed by Ookla the Mok for their "Oh OK LA" CD! Rand isn't sure if any of the instruments were used or not, but I'd like to spread the rumour that they were so I can gloat properly. :-)

From the UT archives.

Celtic harp:
When I sold Inkspot, I took part of the cash and bought a custom-made harp from Larry Fisher. You can see how my harp was made here. I had one harp lesson from Sharlene Wallace before moving to Philadelphia for six months during the whole Inkspot/Xlibris stint, where I took weekly lessons from Kimberly Rowe. I had to stop playing harp for a couple of years because of tendinitis but have recently started playing again (yay!).

Penny whistle:
I started playing penny whistle when my tendinitis was so bad that I couldn't play piano, flute, harp or guitar, and I had to PLAY SOMETHING or MY BRAIN WOULD EXPLODE. Even though my tendinitis is much improved, I'm still playing whistle...I find it a wonderfully portable instrument, and I'm very much enjoying Irish music sessions at the Tranzac. I take monthly lessons from Karen Light, who studied with Mary Bergin.

Jeff teases me because I'm always wanting to learn how to play new instruments. Instruments I've attempted to learn but failed:

Violin: I rented this for a summer while in high school, but my parents made me return it. :-)

Clarinet: hurt my mouth too much.

Trumpet: I couldn't get past the wheezing anemic moose call phase.

Saxophone: Too heavy to lug around; I'd been spoiled by my flute. Had pretty much the same fingering as the flute, though, which is why I was tempted.

I've always loved making music. For me, there's something incredibly satisfying and compelling about losing oneself in the creation of music, especially creating music with other people. In university, I remember nagging friends who used to take music in school, trying to get together some kind of music group. My feeble attempts never did pan out.

Then, of course, I discovered filking and hooked up with Allison and Jodi to form Urban Tapestry.


Speaking of filking, only eight days until I leave for GAfilk!

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Acacia Sears CD, Der Struwwelpeter

My Life In A Nutshell

Exactly one year ago, I made the announcement on Blatherings that we were moving out of our condo into a house. Egads, that seems like a lifetime ago. This was my old home office.

Five days until Christmas! I only have a few more presents to get. I'm not crazy about the chaos and crowds but whenever I start to feel whiny and resentful, I remind myself of my Scrooge moment last year. I still see the same flautist around subway stations from time to time and always try to give him money.

Acacia Sears

I've been enjoying the new CD by Acacia Sears; I also ordered her "(tiny and insignificant)" mini-CD-R but haven't been able to listen to it yet because I still need the proper insert for my laptop. I first met Cacie years ago at some filk convention whose name I can't recall. I think she was about 16 years old and I was blown away by her voice even back then.

You can find out more about Acacia on her Web site including some sample soundclips from the CD. I especially like George's Tongue (lyrics by Neil Gaiman).

Thanks to Helen and Dan for my Christmas present (see photo below), which arrived in yesterday's post. To Helen: I've been trying to e-mail you, but the mail keeps bouncing back.

Helen knows I've been studying German. :-) I recall her showing us Der Struwwelpeter at the cottage years ago...have any of out there heard of this German children's story? Apparently the image on the cover helped inspire Tim Burton to create Edward Scissorhands. This Web site has some of the book online:

Der Struwwelpeter

"Der Struwwelpeter is a book in the fine tradition of 'be good or die' german fairy tales and stories. As a child, I was exposed to the charming imagery and sledgehammer morals of this book and I fear I may never remove the haunting pictures from my subconscious. However, the nightmares that followed were a very effective behavior training mechanism. As an extra burden of guilt, I am told my grandfather used to print these books to keep my family fed during the war.

I am now inflicting this horror upon the rest of the world by scanning it and translating the german text into english."

The Web site writer admits his German is not all that good; I'd be interested in hearing from you native German speakers already familiar with the story about the accuracy of his translation.

Anyway, do check out The Sad Story of Paulina Pyro, Konrad and his Thumbs, and Soup Boy Kaspar.

Lovely, eh?

Also feel free to have a sneak peek at my new Will Write For Chocolate strip, which officially launches in January. This section of the Offpanel Productions site is still being tweaked, so please do let me know if you notice anything odd. I encourage you to leave a test comment. :-) Regular weekly updates will start in the new year.

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Housefilk at Sally's


Urban Tapestry's new friend (and chocolate pusher), Franklin, is coming to FilKONtario next spring! We got to know Franklin better at Filkcontinental in Germany a couple of months ago. Not only is Franklin a talented singer and pianist, but also a sweet and good-natured individual with a wonderfully wicked sense of humour.


Our trip to Germany has affected our lives in so many ways. Not only did we leave with such wonderful memories and make new friends at Filkcontinental, but it's been great to see more German filk music influencing the North Americans.

In response to my recent songwriting poll, Michael Pereckas said he did some musical collaboration with Aryana, one of the new friends we made in Germany, as a result of a post in Allison's Livejournal.

From Michael: "I'm still boggling that three Canadian women whom I've seen in person exactly once went to Germany and as a result I'm making German friends."



At the housefilk at Sally Headford's tonight, German filk came up several times in conversation and music. Heather Borean sang "The Willow", a song by Aryana; you can find more information (in German :-)) and MP3 samples from this talented German filker here. Allison sang "Still Beautiful", another Aryana song, as well as a beautiful song by Steffi called "Remember Me."

The housefilk was much fun...thanks SO much to Sally for hosting it. The filk tonight captured much of what I believe is most important about filking: the community. The focus is not on who's the most talented or on selling CDs...those with this mindset will drop by from time to time, but they miss out on the real pay-offs.

Phil and Allison

People in this community make music for the pure joy of it. If not for the filk community (through which I met Allison and Jodi), I would never have started writing songs or singing in public. I love the mutual support and encouragement in the filk community, the creativity and collaboration, and feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it all.

I tried to capture this feeling when I wrote Home to FilKONtario, and was deeply touched when the convention committee decided to make it the closing song of FKO for the past few years.

If you're interested in finding out more about filk, please do check out (The Dandelion Report), especially the Filk FAQ. And do consider coming to FilKONtario next March 31-April 2, 2006!

John and Allison
Above: Allison and her husband John, at the Pickle Barrel.

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