Articles About Glenn Weiser

("The Minstrel Boy," a collection of 85 traditional Celtic and American fiddle tunes and airs arranged for fingerstyle guitar,  is now out of print, but 60 of the arrangements have been reprinted in my books "Folk Songs for Solo Guitar," and "Celtic Guitar," available here.- GW.
Glen3a.jpg (21499 bytes)Making Arrangements
      By Timothy Cahill

In one way at least, Glenn Weiser is up there with the big boys. "Both Beethoven and Haydn arranged Celtic music for Scottish publishers," the Albany musician notes.
    Weiser isn't walking as close to the cliff of immodesty as it may seem. By evoking the names of master composers, he is not so much placing himself on their level as he is emphasizing a long tradition, that of adapting the traditional melodies of Ireland, Scottland and Wales for a new instrument. The largely self-taught guitarist and harmonica player has recently published the the first of a planned three-volume work arranging Celtic airs reels, jigs and hornpipes for guitar.
    The Minstrel Boy, published by Cherry Lane Music Company in Port Chester, is a collection of 85 traditional melodies and fiddle tunes that Weiser has translated into standard notation, for use by classical guitarists, and tablature, a Rennaissance-old method of writing useful for fingerpicking styles. The job required more than just listening to records and writing down the notes. For each tune, Weiser added bass lines that give the pieces a fresh character, sweeter and more spare than you would hear on the fiddle.
    In theoretical terms, adding this second, complementary part to the melody is called harmonizing, which is what Haydn and Beethoven did with European folk tunes. Ans while Weiser acknowledges that the masters wrote "with greater finesse than I ever could, he adds that thier arrangements of Celtic music weren't well recieved by people who knew the originals, because both departed so far from tradition. One observer compared Haydn's arrangements to a portrait that was well executed, but lacking sufficient resemblence.
    Weiser has been more mindful of the Celtic musical character, but was also strict about conforming to classical standards of harmony. He points to a row of 23 mostly second-hand boks high up on a sagging shelf. They are the books on harmony and counterpoint that he used to teach himself the rules followed (or established) by composers such as Bach or Mozart. Except for a few meetings with an instructor at Schenectady Community College after the work was nearly complete, Weiser's harmony training is totally self-directed.
    "Every time I got stuck on anything, I had to pull down every book on harmony I had and cross-reference everything," he recalled. Eventually I attained some level of proficiency."
    Ever on the look out for hubris, the 37-year old Weiser paused on that thought for a moment, then added seriously, "I would not want to say mastery. I'd say proficiency. Mozart at age10 could have come up with superior harmonies."
    The tunes in the book are those the arranger considers "the better known tunes, and some of the best," of the Celtic tradition. Two other volumes delve deeper into that tradition and include transcriptions of tunes that, in some cases, reach back to the time medival Irish kingdoms. The project has taken ten years to complete.
    The books are a passion more than a livelihood. Weiser makes some money playing harmonica in a local blues band, but most of his living comes from teaching stringed instruments, particularly those with fretboards, at his own Banjo and Guitar Studio. He has written articles for the quarterly folk journal Sing Out! and previously published a book for harmonica players.
    Weiser is a man who obviously loves to pick his guitar, and readily demonstrates a few of the tunes from The Minstrel Boy. He holds the neck of his guitar close to his ear, classical style, and a lovely, dense weave of of sound brightens the room. His fingers move deftly across the strings, running up and down the fetboard. Clearly, this is not music for beginners.
    "The pieces are neither rudimentary nor virtuosic," Weiser explains professorially. The man who remembers Jimi Hendrix playing at Woodstock then clarifies himself. "Some of the pieces are challenging," he says, "but none of the peices is a life's work."
                                                         -from Capitol magzine, November 1989

The Minstrel Boy-Reviews
Associated Press article about Glenn
"Metroland Magazine Article about Glenn


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