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Showmanship - or Showoff?

Wesley S 17 Sep 07 - 03:02 PM
Phil Cooper 17 Sep 07 - 03:32 PM
pattyClink 17 Sep 07 - 04:12 PM
Stewart 17 Sep 07 - 04:48 PM
Linda Kelly 17 Sep 07 - 05:04 PM
MystMoonstruck 17 Sep 07 - 05:17 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Sep 07 - 09:10 PM
Songster Bob 17 Sep 07 - 10:35 PM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 18 Sep 07 - 03:15 AM
frogprince 18 Sep 07 - 03:19 PM
michaelr 18 Sep 07 - 07:13 PM
jimmyt 18 Sep 07 - 08:12 PM
Leadfingers 18 Sep 07 - 08:31 PM
Sorcha 18 Sep 07 - 08:33 PM
Don Firth 18 Sep 07 - 08:45 PM
Leadfingers 18 Sep 07 - 09:11 PM
John Hardly 18 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM
Sorcha 18 Sep 07 - 09:49 PM
HuwG 18 Sep 07 - 10:30 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 18 Sep 07 - 11:09 PM
M.Ted 19 Sep 07 - 12:07 AM
Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive) 19 Sep 07 - 02:58 AM
Grab 19 Sep 07 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,petr 19 Sep 07 - 01:31 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 19 Sep 07 - 01:55 PM
Bill D 19 Sep 07 - 02:16 PM
michaelr 19 Sep 07 - 05:17 PM
greg stephens 19 Sep 07 - 06:25 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 19 Sep 07 - 06:50 PM
Gulliver 19 Sep 07 - 07:13 PM
Rowan 20 Sep 07 - 07:28 PM
John Hardly 20 Sep 07 - 10:06 PM
frogprince 20 Sep 07 - 10:33 PM
frogprince 20 Sep 07 - 10:45 PM
frogprince 20 Sep 07 - 10:50 PM
harpmolly 21 Sep 07 - 02:04 PM
harpmolly 21 Sep 07 - 02:16 PM
Ebbie 21 Sep 07 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 21 Sep 07 - 04:11 PM
GUEST,petr 21 Sep 07 - 05:15 PM
gnu 21 Sep 07 - 05:32 PM
John Hardly 21 Sep 07 - 05:50 PM
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Subject: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Wesley S
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 03:02 PM

I'm guess easily annoyed sometimes. Yesterday I saw a performance by a piano player. All he was missing was a candelabra. While playing a slow piece he would frequently lift his left hand in a slow arc to a level above his shoulder – sometimes higher than his head. And on several occasions – I assume he was "emoting" - he would tightly close his eyes and his head would roll back so that his face was pointed at the ceiling. I can only imagine that he was trying to prove that he was capable of playing the piano one handed without looking at the keyboard. How special. I found his performance mannered to say the least. It was so silly looking that I had a hard time watching him. Yet I know he has sold a few million CD's.

I understand that a musician needs to put on a performance. When I watched videotapes of our group performing I realized that I looked stiff and uncomfortable. I had to learn to loosen up, smile a little and look like I was having some fun. But at some point you start to cross over the line. And one person's showman is another person's showoff. And the line can be very easily crossed. Musicians need to look like they are enjoying the music in order for the audience to be able to enjoy it to. I think Van Morrison for instance is a brilliant musician. But there are times where he looks like he'd rather be having a root canal than be on stage. But when you watch mandolin player Sam Bush perform it looks as if no one in the world is having more fun than he is.

So when does it go over the top? When do you start looking like a fool? Do any of you get to watch yourself on film? And have you changed your performance because of what you've seen?


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 03:32 PM

"one person's showman is another person's showoff." Can easily sum it up, Wesley. I think if someone is obviously putting up a front when performing, it's too far. I think the main distinction is the difference between, "this is a good song and I love playing it," and "look at how clever I am singing this song, that I don't particularly like."


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: pattyClink
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 04:12 PM

Matter of taste, isn't it? Some performers value restraint and elegance, as do some audiences. Others don't enjoy it unless there's melodrama and induced tears, and the performer is chewing the scenery. Seems all you can do is find out where you and your audience are comfortable on the continuum.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Stewart
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 04:48 PM

There's another aspect to this, and that is an obviously fake style and affected accent. Like watching a city-bred folksinger from a middle-class background trying to sing a song about a poor share-cropper with a "Woody Guthrie" accent and dress. It just doesn't go over very well. Or a Bob Dylan imitation (why in the world would anyone want to do that?).

Just my thought on the matter.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Linda Kelly
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 05:04 PM

hangings too good for him


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: MystMoonstruck
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 05:17 PM

I'm too busy thinking about bowing a tune to worry about how I look, but so many people have commented that I look happy when I'm playing and that so many musicians look fierce and grim as if they're angry or upset. A lot of people say that a smiling musician is unusual. Hmmm... I know that I am concentrating intently at times, so I'm surprised to learn that I do it with a smile instead of a grimace, as I would expect would happen. I really do love my bowed psaltery, and it relaxes me to play it, so maybe that's what shows. Even when I was on stage at an event, I truly wasn't aware of the audience, which is strange since I'm a shy person.

I do know what you mean about the chewing the scenery type. I see that a lot with young singers today. It can be irritating to watch those who go overboard.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 09:10 PM

To coin a phrase----




                                          whatever works.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Songster Bob
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 10:35 PM

Well, that head-back, eyes-closed thing is common with concert pianists (or used to be), and sometimes, anyway, comes from "communing" with the music. But the raised hand, leaning left and right, etc., is often showing off, which some feel is, indeed, "showmanship."

However, it is good to see people at least trying to do something to make their show into a show, even if it's artificial. I'm in a couple of bands, and mainly just play, but have been reminded by the leader of one of them that I should connect with the audience, not just concentrate on my left hand (playing fretless Minstrel banjo takes a bit of concentration, at times). So I've been improving that. When I do a solo show, I am much better at connecting with my listeners, though at times I close my eyes mid-song (the words are projected on my eyelids, of course), but in the band situation, I'm trying to connect with my band-mates (keeping one from speeding up and another from slowing down, for instance), so the audience has competition for my attention.

But, as someone upthread said, "Whatever works."

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 03:15 AM

I'd say "just play the bloody music" ... I go to gigs to listen to a performance not to watch it. If your strange facial and bodily tics are what comes naturally, that's fine. If they're affected, that's sad. The same goes for singers and players who get near a stage and suddenly believe they are stand up comics or all round light entertainers. In most cases they're not - and I can't remember ever going to a gig for the 'witty' between song repartee rather than the music it seems to exist to detract from...

Having said that, I got out of the wrong side of bed this morning.

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: frogprince
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 03:19 PM

I've come across several recent quotes from young "music fans" to the effect that they have no intention of sitting around watching anyone who does nothing except perform music. I was taken off guard a little more by a middle-aged woman newspaper columnist a couple of days ago. Britney Spears appeared on some award show or another, and the columnist mentioned nothing whatever except that Britney's dancing was lackluster.
Having said that, I think I've drifted at least a little from what
Wesley was really dealing with. Actually I think I've seen more close parallels to what he mentioned in preaching, rather than music. We're not pentacostal members, or in those circles; but every so often I encounter a preacher who really makes me wonder if he (or she) has chugged too many diet pills too fast.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: michaelr
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 07:13 PM

Last weekend at a Greek festival, the performing band's bouzouki player jumped off the stage (using a wireless setup), stood on a chair in the middle of the dancers and played there for several minutes while being circled by an adoring photographer. What a show-off! I find stuff like that embarrassing and cringeworthy.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: jimmyt
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 08:12 PM

But, Michael, how did the rest of the audience perceive the bouzouki player?


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 08:31 PM

I am only a Show Off when I start playing Flash stuff on Whistle !


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Sorcha
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 08:33 PM

I've thought about this since I first saw it...and I think it's somehow in the performer's Attitude. If the person has a kind of Fuck You, I'm Good attitude, the audience will notice.

I've been to several contests with both open and blind judging. In an Open Judge they can see and watch the performer. The Attitude seldom wins. In a Blind Judge, they can only hear the actual contestant. Even the back up is blocked and in that case I've seen Mr/Ms. Show Off win more than once because the Attitude just doesn't come thru the headphones.

Basically, the Attitude is, I'm one hell of a lot better than anybody else so if you don't like me, just PISS OFF. Comes across in body language, eye contact, physical responses to the audience, etc.

I even saw one fiddle contest contestant turn his back on the audience to fiddle with his instrument....thus, off mic. It was rather obvious that ALL he cared about was winning, NOT performing.

There is also a HUGE difference between a live performance and one for a recording studio. Some people just never get that. If you want to be a Hit for a live audience, you'd best care that they are there.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 08:45 PM

Classical violinist Nadia Salerno-Sonenberg puts a lot of body-English into her playing and grimaces a lot. I heard her say in an interview that someone had criticized her for this. Until then, she had not even been aware that she did it. In her next concert, she was careful not to sway back and forth or "lean into the notes" as she played, and she kept her facial expression calm and serene.

She listened to a tape of the concert afterwards, and she said her performance was dull and lifeless. In the papers the following morning, she read a review of her concert in which the reviewer said the same thing; that she had played blandly, without her usual fire.

She decided to drop the controls, play the way she had always played, and let it all hang out.

Everything back to normal!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 09:11 PM

Its different strokes for different folks !!


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: John Hardly
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM

Some songs just require that you put a little more effort into "selling" them. For instance, I think you need to close your eyes and grimace a bit to really get people to really feel "Kumbaya".

When I sing Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" I sometimes poke things into my eyes to make tears. It really seems to help convey the deep emotion of that classic.

Another thing I've done when, for instance, my eyes have become a bit too raw for further poking, is to do "Honey" as a dramatic, interpretive reading. I think that you, Wesley, could really pull this off too.

"...and Honey, I'm bein' good. Oh so good. Goody goody good. Oh Honey. The tree's getting really big, not a twig..."

You can come up with your own creative ad libs. I just know you can.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Sorcha
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 09:49 PM

Honey? is a 'Classic song'? Sorry, but pure D schmaltz to me. Different Strokes I guess! (smile....)


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: HuwG
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 10:30 PM

Best instance of this I have seen; a young band belting out one of their own numbers. The rhythm guitarist was leaning back, eyes closed and smiling beatifically as he thrashed away. Alas, one of the other musicians had accidentally pulled the lead out of his amp. All the gorgeous noise was coming from the lead guitarist, John "Fingers" ****, who was playing with all the expression of a man ironing a shirt.

By all means, get into the music, but do pay attention to what is going on around you. Otherwise, you miss vital chord changes, quiet sections to let the vocalists be heard, flying vegetables ...


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 11:09 PM

i've still got a dent in my forehead from 30 years ago
gigging on small stages with a singer
who couldn't resist excitedly swinging his mic stand over his head
as if it was a helicopter rotor...


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 12:07 AM

I pretty much agree with John Hardly, "Honey" works well as a dramatic reading. Additionally, I have found that Indian Sign gestures ( which many of us learned as scouts), can add great depth to the song--


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Giant Folk Eyeball (inactive)
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 02:58 AM

That "eye poking" thing was a joke, right?


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Grab
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 08:28 AM

When do you start looking like a fool?

When you're showing off, and you're not the one people came to see. At NEC last year, Mark Knopfler's rhythm guitarist was doing what presumably felt like him to be funky moving. In fact it looked painful. And it was even more painful since he was nothing but a distraction to the main attraction, who hardly moved the whole time. :-/

Re the "Fuck You, I'm Good attitude", if you don't have the confidence that you're worth listening to and you aren't enjoying playing, that's going to communicate to the audience who also won't get involved. That doesn't require dancing or running around or anything, but just demonstrating enthusiasm/enjoyment for what you're doing.

Re Britney Spears, I remember seeing her do "One more time" on the TV, years back, and I've never seen anyone with less stage presence than that. Sure, the dancing was slick and all, but it was utterly soul-less. And what more could the reviewer say, anyway? The girl can't sing, so the stage show is the only possible attraction.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 01:31 PM

Ive always enjoyed watching some fiddle players perform (ie. Liz Carroll, John Hartford) that is moving their head or body to the rhythm its almost like a dance. But Ican see your point on the piano player.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 01:55 PM

I gotta cut to the chase. I love all sorts of music, from folk to jazz to classical to rock-and-roll, so long as it has some appeal for me. What I have never bought into is the "performance art" that is so stagey and calculated that it overshadows the music entirely. Rock bands are most guilty of it - pyrotechnics and gyrations, not to mention outrageous costuming at the expense of whatever the music says. My favorite "visuals" are those where the performer(s)seems to be thoroughly enjoying the moment. That says two things to me. One, the musician is competent enough to be relaxed in the performance, making it seem rather effortless. Two, he or she is enjoying playing the music, deriving joy from the shared experience.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 02:16 PM

It's usually pretty obvious when a musician is really 'feeling' the music and just can't help moving and emoting to it,...(watch videos of Ray Charles!)....but, yeah...I've seen the others, and I have a trick. I just close my eyes, and if it still sounds good, I forgive them.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: michaelr
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:17 PM

JimmyT, I have no way of knowing how the bouzouki player was perceived by anyone but myself, now do I? And why would it be relevant?

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 06:25 PM

I'd have been a little disappointed if Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis had just stood there still and played. But some people make me want to throw up with their sincerity. It's a question of taste.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 06:50 PM

I agree with you, Greg. What I object to is the overblown fireworks, light displays, guitar-smashing and hyperactive stage behavior that overwhelms any music that might, coincidentally, be going on. It has spilled over into theater as well.

We used to walk out of a Broadway show or movie musical humming any number of tunes from it. Carousel, Oklahoma, Picnic, Fiddler on the Roof; composers like Rogers & Hammerstein and Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick gave us stories and songs that touched the emotions and "went home with you." Now, using Andrew Lloyd Webber for an example, when you get past the stage effects, costumes and pyrotechnics, it is rare to remember more than one song that resonates from any particular play. Yet, he is hugely popular with a lot of people. I confess to enjoying some of his work, with these reservations. Horses for courses, so to speak.

The comment about overly serious musical folk who seem to pontificate from the stage also resonates.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Gulliver
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 07:13 PM

Our lead singer always has a big smile when singing the songs, even slow or sad ones, and it adds a lot to the performance, while the rest of us can drift away and concentrate on the accompaniment.

Don


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Rowan
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 07:28 PM

Whether the 'performance' enhances or distracts from the 'music' seems, to me, to depend on the levels of engagement the musician has with the music, on one hand, and with the 'context' (audience, type of occasion, cultural location etc) on the other. Sometimes hamming it up is 'the go' and it works; if you mistake the situation it has all the appeal of a bottled fart. There seems to be some behaviours that are traditionally associated with some instruments ('the faraway look on the face of the melodeon player' gets a mention in SHirley Andrews' book on Oz colonial dancing "Take your partners") and other behaviours seem associated with some contexts; woe betide those who applaud at the end of the first movement in a symphony, for example.

When my daughters are watching music videos and comment on the music, like BillD, I suggest they listen with their eyes shut to test whether the appeal lies in what they hear or what they see. Or whether both senses are required for a full appreciation.

But most people seem to be able to tell, and approve, when the engagements are appropriate.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: John Hardly
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 10:06 PM

Here it looks like they're moving in enjoyment of, not production of the music.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: frogprince
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 10:33 PM

I think I can visualize John Hardly's tongue in his cheek when he talks about performing "Honey". I'm sure I could stomach that lyric more easily as a freely hammed (with wry) reading than I can as a song. I just got a flashback: I once heard a dj do the "lyric" of the theme from "A Fistful of Dollars" as a dramatic reading.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: frogprince
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 10:45 PM

Bobert, if you are curious, neither of the tests took long to come up on dialup.

I got right brain, 12, left brain, 9.
Then I got left brain 48%, right brain 46%

Now I'm about 86% confused.   

Does anyone actually know which way he turns his head when he answers a question? My wife wasn't here to tell me which I do or don't.
                         Dean


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: frogprince
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 10:50 PM

Now how th' hell did I get that post on this thread?...


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: harpmolly
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 02:04 PM

I guess I've got to come down squarely in the middle on this one...

On the one hand, I can't stand truly "affected" performances that are just so obviously a put-on. Two examples from the "Celtic Woman" show come to mind (and I know I've bitched about this before, so apologies). One--the fidder chick in her pretty sparkly dress bouncing around like a bobblehead doll when she's playing "The Butterfly" slower than even I could dance to. Her movements are SO exaggerated compared to what she is playing that it just makes me cringe. The other example really burns me up, which is having the "folk harper" on stage playing "Ave Maria" without flipping a single lever, which is not technically possible--clearly the pedal harp is in the orchestra playing and the girl onstage is playing sparkly arpeggios and smiling beatifically. As a harper myself, the obvious sham sort of offends me.

On the other hand, a bit of showmanship doesn't bother me when I really like and respect the performer. We've had a few amazing musicians play at Dusty Strings, and a few examples also come to mind: James Hill, ukulele madman, the biggest show-off ever--and yet as he plays his lightning licks he's grinning at the audience as if to say, "I sure hope you're having as much fun as I am!" He's clearly welcoming the audience to share his glee, rather than holding himself above them.

The other awesome example is another harpist, Park Stickney, who came to our Harp Symposium last year and will be back this year! For the concert we got him both a pedal and a lever harp, and at one point he was playing "Take Five" on the pedal harp with one hand and casually reached over, grabbed the lever harp with his free hand, tilted it to his other shoulder and started playing it at the same time (obviously a simplified accompaniment). Again, ridiculous showmanship, but there was no sense of "superiority"...he knew he was playing for a bunch of harpists who could appreciate and enjoy just how complicated it was, and it was like a gift he was giving us, rather than a stuffy self-important thing. He had that same gleeful expression as James Hill (if we ever get those two on stage together there may be some sort of rift in the space-time continuiniuiuinuum!)

Ack...I blather as usual. But there's my two bits.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: harpmolly
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 02:16 PM

To give you a taste of what I'm talking about:

Sexiest Ukulele Player Ever!

to be compared with:

Bobblehead Fiddler
(P.S. OK, yes, she starts playing faster eventually, but something about her still profoundly irritates me).

I'd post a link to the "Ave Maria" travesty, but no one deserves to be put through that...;)


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: Ebbie
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 02:33 PM

John Hardly, thanks for that YouTube link. What a wonderful performance.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 04:11 PM

Harpmolly,those two clips say it all, I know exactly what you mean.


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 05:15 PM

after being used to a number folk concerts in small venues (brought in by Rogue Folk the local Vancouver folk club), I attended a Natalie McMaster concert at a much bigger venue.. I love her fiddle playing, but I just thought the light show and the fog machine wasnt necessary, (although the fog probably did look like Cape Breton)
cheers


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: gnu
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 05:32 PM

You are only showing off when you can't back it up. Now, if you are talking about being just plain smug or arrogant or high falutin, well, that's different. No amount of talent can back that up. That is just "backed up."


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Subject: RE: Showmanship - or Showoff?
From: John Hardly
Date: 21 Sep 07 - 05:50 PM

Frogprince,

Me? Not totally serious?


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