2:00 to 4:00pm.
Curt arrived a while ago from Seattle and is upstairs watching Ice Age movie. Mica is sleeping, and Theo is reading with Melina. Curt is visiting for tomorrow’s very first “Open” Guitar Circle, to be held at Haig’s studio a few blocks from home. Eleven people will be attending, plus Curt and myself. Two have previous experience in this work (Sotirios and Brock). It is an important stage for me, because I’ve been looking forward for this to happen in Vancouver for many years. But just now was the right time to put it together. I had previously asked some people if they would be interested, but then it happened very fast: got the place, asked Curt if he was available, send the letter out, people signed-in.
Today the very first Open Guitar Circle took place in Vancouver, from 1:10 to 3:30pm. Twelve guitarists where present, including Curt Golden who led the guitar work. The workshop was held at a local design studio, a loft-space kindly provided by a colleague that also participated.
Attendees were all full-time Vancouver residents from different cultural backgrounds (people originally from Vancouver, Toronto, and other Canadian cities, three Argentineans, two Colombians). Guitar level ranging from almost no experience to semi-professional. With previous GC experience: Curt, Sotirios, and Pablo. Three were women, one being a Mother of two and 6-month pregnant.
Space preparation began at 11:00am.
Participants began to arrive shortly after 12:00, Sotirios and I helped with guitar tuning. Then we all moved into the room where the Circle was setup.
After a short introduction (addressing being aware of our bodies), Curt instructed the group to begin by choosing a note, then playing it when ready, then moving to other notes of our choice. He walked the group through the process of Circulating. Notes of C Major were presented to each player. The group achieved honourably going up and down 3 octaves in C major with their assigned notes. To the right; left; skipping one player, and changing direction with no warning. We completed the first part of the meeting playing notes at unison, 3 times.
Break. Adjusting guitar tuning.
Exercises of listening to each other for the second half of the meeting. Playing unison. Circulating, being aware of our volume, and matching our playing with all the players. Then different thraking exercises, playing power chords in 3, 4, 5, 7, which the group achieved and grooved out.
It was a very good meeting, much information available. There is interest to keep this work going.
Curt mentioned later that one of the participants had brought a can of beer into the Circle. Looking backwards to the event, I noticed that during the first part of the meeting, it was this participant that had more trouble to be “in tone” with the group (not matching volume, or tempo of other players during Circulation). He succeeded very well later on, and we became a group. It will be necessary for future workshops to inform participants that alcohol and drug use is not compatible with this work.
I also noticed there were moments of Silence in the second half of the meeting, while we were playing Circulations, and Thraking.
For me personally, always learning something new.
From Curt’s online journal:
“Sunday October 18, 2009 – Vancouver Open Circle
Managed to sleep in just a little. Once up, I hung out with the boys for a while. About 10am Pablo and I headed out for a little sight seeing and some breakfast. As best I can work out the math, it has been more than 7 years since I’ve been up here. How did that happen?
At 11am we went to the studio space where the Circle would take place; a combination graphic design office, artist loft and recording studio in an industrial neighborhood along the port. Very workable space. Our host, a friend of Pablo’s, is a jazz guitarist of long standing. NST is new to him, and he has borrowed a funky acoustic guitar for the day. Sotirios arrived, and they began arranging the room we would use, moving furniture out and setting up chairs. I practiced.
A few of the attendees began drifting in. Pablo and Sotirios were in charge of working out the tuning issues. Plenty of extra strings on hand. As 1pm approached, Pablo began to look a little nervous that people would not show. He needn’t have been concerned; at 1pm there was a deluge. All but one or two of those who had signed up were there. The circle would be 11, plus me on my feet. Tuning continued for some time. One nylon string guitar needed to be tuned down to A, and then capoed at the 3rd fret in order to accommodate NST. By 1:30 we were able to begin in earnest.
It was a pretty straightforward beginner’s circle. We began by bringing some attention and awareness to the body and then moved on to a graduated series of circulation exercises. Largely noise and chaos at the beginning. The presence of a can of beer that accompanied one of the players was a first. But after an hour of work together, a good sense of group began to emerge.
We took a short break. In the second half we worked with more rhythmic exercises, culminating in a bit of thrakkishness. I noticed a very discernable change in the group as soon as this combination of counting and visceral music was introduced. Given what I had seen at the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised at how far we were able to take this. At about 3:30, I sensed that we were where we were going to be able to get, and drew the circle to a close with a circulation. A lot of energy in the room.
After restoring the space, back to Pablo’s place to pick up my overnight bag and wish the family farewell. Uneventful drive back to Seattle, other than a slightly slow border crossing. Stopped off for supper at the local pub, where I ran into Andy and Crystal. Then home to a rather miffed cat.”
Additional notes by Pablo Mandel:
Registrar: Pablo Mandel
Instructor: Curt Golden