The André Watts of the banjo!


Callum’s preview of the March 22, 2014 MasterWorks concert, featuring Béla Fleck (don’t miss the March 21 concert as well!) It was a school night, so he didn’t have much time to revise his notes for continuity.

My dad and I went to the Canton Symphony rehearsal on Wednesday night. First, I got to see, in real life, not through pictures, the outside of the Zimmermann Symphony Center, and it looks awesome. I wonder what it felt like for Mr. Zimmermann to see it for the first time. To see his name up there on a building dedicated to him would be awesome. I bet he felt great, and he deserves it. The building is amazing. I was hoping the words would light up when it got dark that night, but they didn’t yet. The building is really beautiful. I can’t wait until the inside is finished, because then we can see what it looks like on the inside, which will be awesome.

Note from Dad:
Here are some recent construction photos of the interior (mostly), and artist renderings of the completed project.

Béla Fleck didn’t rehearse on Wednesday night. The orchestra rehearsed Franck’s Symphony in D minor. There was a different concertmaster this time. He is probably just filling in. The Franck was really awesome. I love the theme which seems to get repeated a thousand times. There was a lot of pizzicato in the second movement, which is the first movement they rehearsed. In this second movement, Franck was able to make the symphony only in three movements by combining the slow movement and the scherzo together, making it one movement instead of the usual two. There was a part where no one was playing except for the bass clarinet, and he or she held onto a note for a couple seconds. It sounded really cool. At first I thought it was a bassoon, but it was the bass clarinet. Mr. Zimmermann said that the orchestra members need to drink more coffee because he was trying to get them to play a part the way Franck wrote it, which is agitato, which means agitated, just the way a lot of people get after drinking coffee or espresso. The contrary motion in the first movement comes back in the third movement. This piece is awesome. I also got to hear a bit of the surprise, but I’m not telling you what it is.

Then we went to the rehearsal on Thursday night and Béla Fleck was there. It was so awesome. There was a big screen, and Mr. Fleck was shown up there while he is playing, plus different sections of the orchestra. He wrote the piece that was being played, his banjo concerto. It’s awesome. He has fingerpicks, or picks that you somehow attach to your fingers, which must feel weird at first. It’s amazing how when he plays, he makes it look so easy when it really isn’t. This is a really cool piece. The banjo really does stand out from the orchestra because it’s definitely not every day that we hear a banjo with an orchestra, but I really like the combination. Some of this piece is very dissonant and minor. The beginning of the first movement reminds me a lot of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Gates to Infinity music. Another part of it sounds like a march.

Mr. Fleck really gets into the music. I wonder what mode some of this is in. It almost sounds like a mode Debussy would use, but in a different style. He keeps changing the style he plays his banjo in. Sometimes he plays it like a guitar, and other times he switches to a classic, more known style of banjo playing. His playing is amazing. The banjo isn’t usually my favorite instrument. It’s okay, but the way Mr. Fleck plays it is awesome, and I love it. Some of the piece sounds very contemporary, but other times it doesn’t at all. There are some really complicated rhythms in this piece. Sometimes it seems like the banjo is against the orchestra, or vice versa, or even orchestra against orchestra. I bet it’s really hard for everyone to play. The piece changes time signatures so much, and it’s really obvious when it does. Since it’s changing literally all the time, then that makes it more difficult. But the orchestra sounds amazing as always, and of course so does Mr. Fleck.

Having the big screen at the back of the stage is awesome, and I love the zoom on the cameras they have built into the hall now. They have such great quality from such a distance away. You can see Mr. Fleck’s hands so well on the screen. The cameras zoom in on his hands, with such great quality, and you can see as if you were literally that close to the banjo, watching his hands. It will be so awesome in the concert. This piece uses a lot of bells, and whenever the percussionist started playing, the cameras made an awesome side angle zoom so you could see him play in detail. I thought about calling him a “bellist” as a joke.

Like I said before, Mr. Fleck sometimes plays his banjo almost as if it were a guitar (at least that’s what it sounds like to me). I love guitar, and now my nine year old sister Maggie is learning guitar, which is awesome, but more about that later. Anyway, all of the sudden, the music got really jazzy and had a kind of swing to it. I like that. There are about three parts in the piece that sound so much like Gershwin, it had to be on purpose. One of them is the slurred clarinet parts, like in Rhapsody in Blue. The orchestra is doing great. Mr. Fleck plays so fast, as fast as André Watts on the piano. I can’t get over how awesome he is on the banjo. I think he’s the André Watts of the banjo, which is saying something. There was a theme that I swear I have heard many times before. My dad told me it was just written by Mr. Fleck to sound like a familiar style, but I swear I have heard it many times before, I just can’t remember where.

Remember how I said something about my sister learning guitar? Well here are the details. Maggie is now taking guitar with my piano teacher, Matt Riddle, who also is a great guitar teacher. Maggie has a nice pink guitar she got for Christmas. She loves it. She is doing very well already. I think she has a talent for it if she keeps it up and works hard. Maybe my dad will post some pictures sometime of her at her lesson. But my dad, mom, and I thought she would love the banjo, and seeing Béla Fleck play would inspire her, as much as the banjo can inspire a most-likely soon to be great guitarist. She is doing great, and I can’t wait to see what she becomes. Anyway, I hope everybody can come to this concert on Saturday, (and the one on Friday night, too!) because it will be so awesome. And I also can’t wait for everyone to hear the surprise!

Note from Dad:
Maggie took some notes at rehearsal as well, and they’re below (most of them at least), but here’s a picture of her first lesson with Matt, by Callum’s request: 😉


Maggie’s notes:
The new Zimmermann Symphony Center is amazing. It looks really cool. Béla Fleck wrote this piece, and the beginning sounds sort of spooky and calming at the same time. Part of it reminds me of the headless horseman. We just read that in school today, but I also remember seeing the Canton Symphony play it. The beginning also reminds me of Narnia – the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Béla Fleck is a really amazing banjo player. He can play really fast without missing a note. The flutes also sound great and really pretty, and they sound good with the banjo. Callum told me he thinks the white part of the banjo is sort of like a drum, so when someone plucks the strings, the sound bounces off the white part almost like a drum to make that banjo sound. The banjo doesn’t have a hole like the guitar does for the vibrations to come out. Instead it has the part that’s like a drum.

The person playing the bells played the same rhythm over and over in a pattern. Mr. Fleck played a little lower and then a little bit higher with the same tune each time. This piece sounds like a hard piece to play. There is a little bit of jazz in it. It’s amazing how Mr. Fleck can pluck the strings that fast without missing a single note in the piece. He has these things on his fingers to help him pluck the notes. He is an amazing banjo player. I’m really glad I got to see him play.

Share this post:

2 Responses to “The André Watts of the banjo!”

Leave a Reply