Archive for the ‘YouTube’ Category

Ad Vielle Que Pourra

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Cover of the CD I bought last night

We went downtown last night to trade in some of our CDs. One nice thing about this store is you can listen to used CDs you are interested in. I came away with one that’s pretty nice. I’d seen Ad Vielle Que Pourra’s albums on ebay, but wasn’t sure what they were like. It has hurdy-gurdy, accordion, bagpipe and other folk instruments playing French and Breton music. What more could you want? Even their name refers to a hurdy-gurdy:

Ad Vielle Que Pourra is a Quebec group full of surprises. Its hallmark is traditional French instruments, but Ad Vielle plays music on them that, as the liner notes state, “is not indigenous to the regions where the instruments come from.” They intermix Parisian waltzes, Breton sea songs, bourrées, gavottes, schottisches, and original compositions with abandon. the name Ad Vielle Que Pourra is a pun–a play on the French expression advienne que pourra (“come what may”). The vielle is from vielle à roue, a French instrument commonly known as the hurdy-gurdy.

The founding members of Ad Vielle are Brussels-born Daniel Thonon, a luthier who plays an intricately carved hurdy-gurdy he built himself; Alain Leroux, born in Brittany and a fiddler specializing in traditional Breton, Scottish, and Irish melodies and songs; Clement Demers, an Ontario-born accordionist who learned Québécois tunes while living in Quebec and Cajun tunes while travelling through Louisiana; Luc Thonon, a multi-instrument musician who plays the rare Flemish bagpipes; and Gilles Plante, a Montréal-born flute, recorder, and bagpipe player who went to Brittany to study the music and culture of his ancestors.

The subtitle [of their first album] is “new French folk music”, but could easily read “some of the most stirring and emotional traditional music that you will ever hear”. With this, their debut album, Ad Vielle Que Pourra rocked the folk music scene with interpretations of French and Breton music with an intensity that is rarely heard. With combinations of diatonic accordion, bombarde, fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, Flemish bagpipes, etc., you cannot help but be moved by their bourees, polkas, waltzes, and so much more. A Gallic feast.

The second album from Montreal’s Ad Vielle Que Pourra [Come What may] transports you to another place and time. You’re in a Breton village, then in the heart of old Quebec, Cajun country, or a medieval court. There are waltzes, schottisches, polkas, and several French and Breton dances, all served on hurdy-gurdy, bombarde, accordion, Hungarian and Flemish bagpipes, flute, and various stringed instruments.

I’ll have to keep my eye out for their other albums. Below is a  sample: Andromadère, the last track on their Ménage à Quatre ablum. See what you think…

Polish Christmas carols

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I thought it was time for some Christmas music — on the hurdy-gurdy, of course! I couldn’t find very many to choose from on YouTube. So, here’s something different, a couple of Polish Christmas carols by Krystian Pisowicz.

It has a close-up view of an interesting-looking keybox. The top row of keys are above the strings, and it has a gap in the box between the two rows, where I assume the box opens, as well as  having a lid…? It sure is high off the soundboard.

The Polar Express hobo

Friday, November 12th, 2010

‘Tis the holiday season, practically.  I thought I’d add to my series on hurdy-gurdies I’ve run across in films by mentioning the hobo in the animated 3D movie, “The Polar Express,” a 2004 Christmas classic based upon the Chris Van Allsburg children’s book. There is a scene where a hobo atop the train is interrupted while playing “Good King Wenceslas” on his hurdy-gurdy. The hobo – and several other characters – is played by Tom Hanks.

Only brief glimpses of the hurdy-gurdy are seen, and even less of it is heard. Interestingly, despite the way-too-short segment, people wanting to know what he’s playing is listed first under FAQs for the film at IMDb!

You can see this scene right on YouTube. Look for the instrument just after 1:30 and just before 5:30.

I discovered this behind-the-scenes story about the use of the hurdy-gurdy in the film by the person who played it, Curtis Berak:

I was contacted to play hurdy gurdy for this movie.
By this time they had already faked some kind of sound
for the hurdy gurdy.  I was told it was Tom Hanks who
wanted a hurdy gurdy in the film.  They wanted me to
play the tune Good King Wenceslas on Tom Hanks own
hurdy gurdy.  His hurdy gurdy turned out to be an old
Camac kit which he got from Lark In The Morning.  When
I turned it on its side to play it, all the keys fell
into the keybox as they had been made too short.  This
instrument had many other problems.  I worked on it
for a few hours and was able to get it playing.

So when I went to the recording session I brought
Hanks instrument and also one of my own,a beautiful
old Baroque vielle by Caron of Versailles.  The first
thing they did was film me with a process called
motion capture so they could have the correct way of
playing the hurdy gurdy.  The Camac sounded so dredful
that they wanted me to play my own one instead.  It
was really wonderful to work with the music director
Alan Silvestre.  When we were done we had some really
nice takes of Good King Wenceslas.  So then the
director Robert Zemeckis came in.  The first thing he
didn’t like was the trompette.  So we did it again
without trompette.  Then he said it did’t sound sad
enough and could I play it two and a half octaves
lower. There was no way to do that so that was the end
of the session.

I still haven’t seen the movie but from what I hear It
doesn’t sound much like a hurdy gurdy and they did not
bother to correct the improper image of playing.

If this movie is brought back to the silver screen in 3D over the holidays, I may have to go see it again.

The band was good

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I didn’t do any hurdy-gurdy crafting over the weekend, due to a trip down to College Station ["Aggieland"] to see our son, and to attend a home football game with him at Kyle Field. We hadn’t been to one of the games in a couple years, and it is quite an experience. Texas A&M was playing the Missouri Tigers. He got us tickets in the student section, second deck. The picture below is one I took.



The 2010-2011 Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, Kyle Field, College Station

The Aggies have a bunch of traditions, one of the most well-known is the 12th Man. This requires the students to all stand up the entire game, to show they are ready to take the field in an instant, in case they are needed. Not only do they stand up, they stand on the benches! Though we are only parents, when in Aggieland do, as the Aggies do, so we stood up, too. The standing up wasn’t as bad as being in the sun the entire time. Thankfully, we didn’t get burned.

But the Aggies did get burned! The Tigers beat them 30 – 9. Well, we can always count on the band being good — one of the best you will ever see, due to its Corps of Cadets roots.

Since it was a morning game, we went down Friday evening and we slept on air mattresses in our son’s apartment, walking to the game in the morning. We wanted to see the Corps ”March-In” across campus to the stadium, a big tradition. You can get a feel for that in this video…


If you are interested in a typical halftime performance…

Frisco, or Bust!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

StephenFriedLast night I had the pleasure of driving to the new Frisco Heritage Museum in Frisco, Texas to meet author Stephen Fried at a book-signing. [Well the drive all the way across Dallas and then some, in rush hour traffic was not a pleasure!] Stephen’s fascinating book came out this past March, and  is the most authoritative biography of one of my favorite subjects — Fred Harvey. The name of the book is “Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West.”AppetiteAmerica


Frisco is an old railroad town named after the Frisco line — the other railway, besides the Santa Fe — along which Fred Harvey had some of his dining establishments and news stands.

I got to have a tiny part in the book by giving Stephen access to scans of my collection of hundreds of Fred Harvey-related postcards, for him to choose whatever he wanted to use in the book. He ended up using 5-6. So, we’ve talked back and forth via email for some time, and finally got to meet last night on his Texas and Oklahoma tour.

Ever hear of the famous Harvey Girls? Fred Harvey is where they came from. They were so celebrated that in 1946 MGM did a musical about them starring Judy Garland. The song “On the Atchison, Topeka, and  Santa Fe” won the Oscar for best song that year.



But Stephen’s book tells the real story, focusing on the man, his sucessors, and the behind the scenes story of the hospitality empire that lasted several generations. He was very fortunate to be able to work with family members and have access to personal possessions of Fred Harvey, such as his wallet, datebook, and other early records never made public before.


My Fred Harvey Kansas City Union Station postcard used in the book

If you wish to see the first part of Stephen’s book lecture at the Kansas City Union Station, the former headquarters of Fred Harvey, check out the following video.


You may have noticed that this blog is located at That is because I have made a website featuring different Harvey House locations I have visited, with “Then & Now” pictures, using my old postcards and photos I have taken at the locations. You can even buy Stephen Fried’s book from my little Amazon store, as well as other great Fred Harvey books. I also host a Fred Harvey Discussion Group that anyone who is interested in the Fred Harvey odyssey can join. Stephen also has an interesting Fred Harvey blog.


One of my postcards used in the book

Instructional DVD by Ina Lemm

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I  have had some nice email exchanges recently with Dr. Ina Lemm about her very impressive-looking “Learning to play the hurdy-gurdy” course on DVD. There is an English version in PAL format, but she tells me it will play fine on computers here. I saw a couple of her clips on YouTube, and have been interested in getting one ever since, but wanted to make sure it would work in the States first. Now that I know the procedure, I will order one closer to the time of completion of my hurdy-gurdy.

Tutor and Maintenance DVDs

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I had a couple email exchanges with Neil Brook earlier today and ended up ordering both his Maintenance DVD and the new G/C Tutor DVD. No doubt I desperately need both! I was going to wait until later, when I had the instrument put together, but as we discussed, it makes more sense to have the Maintenance one on hand, as it will be helpful for the initial setup. I’m also wondering if it might not prevent my building problems into the instrument, due to not knowing subtle things to watch out for. The less on-going aggravation down the road, the better!

You can see a sample video from each DVD on YouTube.



A French polka

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Here’s another of my favorite tunes I’ve run across on YouTube. Definitely on my “wish list” of ones I’d love to be able to play someday.

Mike Smith playing a Chris Eaton hurdy-gurdy that Mike decorated himself. What a work of art!

P.S.— Mike kindly sent me the music for this, so there’s a chance I will get to play it someday. The name of the tune is Le Paz d’Été.

Ami, mon bel ami

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

A pleasant, happy tune on YouTube, one of my favorites thus far:

Eric Raillard — musique traditionnelle du Morvan (région Bourgogne)

Amazing Grace

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I can’t wait to be able to play this on my new hurdy-gurdy. Just my speed, too — nice and slow.