2022 comes to an end, and, once again, I’d like to recall on my achievements as a composer/musician/human being along the year.
A Contemporary Ukulele
On January 2022, Giovanni Albini released A Contemporary Ukulele, his first album of ukulele music. The CD includes 14 interesting new pieces for classical ukulele, featuring works by well known ukulele players such as Matthew Quilliam and Samantha Muir, but also by amazing creators devoted to contemporary styles. Oh, and my piece The Cheerless Walk is also included in a brilliant new performance!
The compositional activity of Choan Gálvez, an appreciated ukulele teacher based in Barcelona, is here represented with The Cheerless Walk. The highly splenetic mood of this piece purges the instrument of any aura of easy entertainment, and makes the ukulele a perfect means for expressing inner feeling – almost a sort of emotional prosthesis to project the inner self outside with a penetrating voice.
It’s a great ukulele album–even if not for all palates. My favourites: The Department to the End of the World, by Matthew Quilliam, and Davide Tammaros’s The Messenger. You can enjoy Albini’s contemporary ukulele album on Spotify, YouTube and other platforms.
Speaking of Albini: I’m fortunate that he’s been playing my suite On Vacation on some of his live recitals this year.
This year I’ve reduced the time I dedicate to online ukulele lessons–you’ll understand why in the new paragraphs–, but in opposition, I’ve started back doing group face to face sessions. A community center on my neighborhood offered me the opportunity, and I’ve done three nine-sessions courses I’ve enjoyed enormously thanks to my lovely students.
Back to work on web development
You may know I quit working as a programmer in 2009 to create Ukecosas, la tienda de ukeleles and establish myself as a uke dealer and retake my career as a musician. But the last years have been quite catastrophic in financial terms, and since February I’m a happy “will code for food” worker at Omitsis, a web development firm in Barcelona.
I’m truly thankful to my employer, and I feel fortunate of being part of the team of beautiful human beings he’s gathered. I’ve never been so proud (nor even proud) of working with/for a third party!
But don’t panic–nor celebrate–this does not mean I’m done as a ukulele composer. In fact, my boss is a fan of my music.
After skipping the infection for a couple of years, on March I contracted covid. The flu-like days of the illness were not that hard, but as a consequence I felt brain-fogged and dizzy for months. My review: 0 out of 10. Don’t get covid!
Second year of The Ukulele Bookshop
2022 has been my second year of life as a music publisher. This year I’ve released a bunch of single ukulele scores through The Ukulele Bookshop, some new free ukulele tablatures, and up to three new books of ukulele originals. Let’s see what those are about.
As soon as I felt a bit better, I started working on a new collection of pieces, which got published on May.
Brevities is a collection of short solo pieces for baritone ukulele aimed at the intermediate fingerpicker. In this set I try to profit from the extended range, the sustain, and the resonance that the baritone and its tuning provide.
Always engaging, charming, clever and witty, sometimes dark or melancholic, Gálvez is undoubtedly a major voice in original ukulele composition and this book will be loved and cherished by all baritone players and their audiences.
A favourite: the ragtime Brevity for Gwendolyn.
May the Low 4th
During the Summer I completed another collection of originals which I had been secretly working on for some time. May the Low 4th contains 12 new originals for ukulele with low G tuning. Even if the opening pieces from the book are affordable, the last few ones are quite challenging! James Hill was kind enough to write some lines for the back cover:
Playful, delightful and bursting with musicality; these pieces would be equally at home in the concert hall or on the beach. This is the kind of thing our community needs: original music that explores and expands the voice of the ukulele. Bravo!
A favourite: Medina Albaida, easy to play and highly effective.
For Four Fingers
The last book of this year–released on December, 15th–is For Four Fingers, a collection of ten pieces for re-entrant ukulele. In each arrangement, the movement of the fretting hand has been intentionally restricted to the four frets at reach within a single position. The first piece employs frets one to four; the second goes from fret two to fret five, … And, for something completely different, the last one uses only open strings.
Fantastic idea and a good set of pieces for beginners!
I offered a limited edition of 25 print copies which where already sold before the release date–thanks! The PDF edition of For Four Fingers is still on sale.
As mentioned before, I’ve come back to the world of web development this year. Willing to explore new technologies, and considering it was past time to renew my personal website, I’ve rebuilt choan.es using Hugo. Which may mean nothing to you but…
Now I have new pages dedicated to my books, where you can easily access information about every piece, access video performances and audio recordings. Also, I’ve created an extensive–but necessarily incomplete–list of all my works, and I’ve documented a bunch of the different ukulele tunings I use.
Ukecosas is now dormant
Having a daily job consumes enough time as to require leaving other matters aside. Since a few months ago, my twelve-year adventure selling ukuleles, Ukecosas, is dormant. Not dead yet, but I’m not bothering anymore in promoting the business or acquiring new stock.
Is it the end of an era or a simple pause?
Some composer friends have kindly dedicated new pieces to me. I neglected to record them on time, but I’m commited to perform these pieces soon. I’m thankful to:
- Matthew Quilliam, who wrote Optimista for me;
- Tony Mizen, who kindly put a dedication to me in the score for Al Andalus;
- Laurence Diehl, author of Waltz for Choan.
After Donald Bousted’s decease, his close collaborator Stephen Altoft asked me to write a solo flügelhorn piece as a tribute. I wrote Wish You Were Wearing a Hat, he converted it in a nice performance and an interesting video, premiered on Donald’s anniversary.
Keeping on with my minimalistic pieces, I wrote Fall. I asked my friend Reid Hepworth to write a haiku to complement the music. She did!
a birch leaf moves
with the current
And, as usual, I pushed lots of videos to YouTube along the year.
Composing wise, I think I’m making progress! I’m quite proud, apart from the books, of the few pieces for fifths tuning I’ve published this year.
The Ukulele Bookshop has made preliminary agreements with a couple of renowned authors whose books we intend to publish in 2023.
I also have plans for some collections of my own. I won’t unveil them yet, as I’m not sure what I’ll be actually capable of.
I hope I’ll be able to offer some online live recitals this Spring and (fingers crossed) play some live–actually live–gigs next Autumn.
And I should complete the recordings of a long announced album and start working on the next one.
While not so active as in previous years, I’m still publishing on Patreon, and some of my scores are only available to my subscribers.
The generosity of my supporters on Patreon allows me to dedicate part of my time to musical activities. These days I’m grateful for having the support of:
Valentin Steinhäuser, Belén Doblado Regaño, Ankica, Paulo Jorge Alves Machado, Veerle sonck, Caroline Cunliffe, Jim Provenzano, Jacob Covington, Stefanie Förster, Stian Granheim, Lisa Nagro, T. Crain, Sophie, RJ, Brian Anthony, David M Pedersen, Steve Van Allen, Patrick Market, Sharon Constant, Nicola Salmoria, Cooper Toth, ukulelebo, Marcelo Yamashita Salles, Oswald, Rudi Neumaier, Susan Boukema, She Peng Tham, Beth Lamprecht, Cathy Welsford, Carol Anderson, Roberto Bajista, Pepa Zaragoza, Patricia García Vargas, Jorge Gutierrez, Jonathan Marshall, Nick Collins, Hannah Sanguinetti, Sven Thelemann, Paul Giguere, Jan Dromlewicz, Emma Edgar, Endika Portillo, Gustaf Wettermark, renee french, Tschilles, Petra Malberg, Cheryl Romero, ruben.martin, lorna herf, Christopher Davis-Shannon, Magda Diaz, Vicki Renz, Joli allen, Graciela Cano, Deborah Tolar, and Larry Usselman.