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Thread: In praise of Allan Alexander

  1. #1
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Thumbs up In praise of Allan Alexander

    I donít see Allan mentioned too much on the Cafť, though I do see his books in the Classifieds every now and then. But last night as I was working through a tune in his Celtic mandolin book it hit me how much of a blessing his books have been to me.

    When I started the mandolin I had never heard of OíCarolan (who has become my favorite composer), and Iíd not heard of any of the music that now makes up my repertoire on the mandolin. There was all this wonderful, ancient music out there waiting to be discovered, and Iíve made those discoveries in the pages of Allanís books. Sure, there are other methods, and other ways to learn some of this old music, but I would have likely never known about it if not for his books.

    Just felt like giving a little credit where it is due. If you like the road less traveled, check out his books.
    ...

  2. #2

    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    I second that feeling. His arrangements are beautiful and always interesting and often make me sound like a much better player than I am. Some of the pieces are quite easy and some are more challenging (though most are first position) and they all come with accompaniment CDs which makes playing a lot more fun. Through his music, I've discovered Renaissance, Medieval, Celtic, and Balkan music that I would not have explored otherwise and I'd say 1/2 of the music I play is from his books.

    Laurie

  3. #3
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    I have also frequently recommended his books. Great stuff and very approachable even for beginners.

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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  4. #4

    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    I've used Allan's transcritions and scores -- for playing solo mandolins for diners. They are quite handy (used the tab, mostly).

    I still love to play mostly O'Carolan tunes on my hammered dulcimer, occasionally -- especially around Christmas when I'll break out some carols. Having drawn the limit on instruments at harp--the HD is a viable alterantive, particularly for this repertoire.

  5. #5
    Peace. Love. Mandolin. Gelsenbury's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    The books are put together with so much love and care that it's impossible not to like them. I join in the praise of Allan Alexander!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    What/who in the devil are y'all talking about?! How 'bout some links for the uninitiated?

  7. #7
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Link. Allan often has ads in the classifieds in December for the holidays.

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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  8. #8
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Hello everyone,

    I was sitting here playing out of one of Allan's books (Medieval Music for Mandolin) just now, with the computer on, when I noticed this thread. I have three of his books and intend to buy quite a few more. Also, having emailed with him a few times, he seems me to be an especially nice person. The book of Allan's that I like best so far is Traditional Dances from Spain and South America. I have played all the way through it and continue to go back to it daily. I find myself whistling these tunes as I am going about my daily routine. That, I think is high praise of these tunes. They stick in one's head and pop out at unexpected times. I was playing some of them for visiting friends last night and they were delighted with them. I strongly recommend his books!

    Best wishes,

    Bob

  9. #9
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Good stuff. If you have a music reading guitar friend his arrangements are really nice.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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  10. #10
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Nice fellow too-- I knew him when he lived here in upstate NY.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Quote Originally Posted by JEStanek View Post
    Link. Allan often has ads in the classifieds in December for the holidays.

    Jamie
    Thanks Jamie! I'll definitely check out some of his stuff...

  12. #12
    Registered User Jim Roberts's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    My nephew (Berklee School of Music...yep, I am proud of him!) and I are working on his "Renaissance Faires" for both mandolin and guitar. Really cool stuff from a really nice musician and fellow bicycle hound. The mandolin courses are simple but when you mix in the guitar accompaniment, timing is everything! It is really, really lovely music.

  13. #13
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    My two favorites are the Celtic Mandolin book and Airs of the Scottish Renaissance. I like to find a couple tunes in the same key and run them together, making my own variations here and there. This stuff is the closest I'll likely ever get to playing "classical" music, but I actually prefer it to much of that genre anyway. And to most of the folks listening, it all sounds the same anyway.

    Side note: My ten-year-old son is on his first year of the mandolin and is already playing O'Carolan tunes fairly well. He lays down a mean Fanny Power!
    ...

  14. #14
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    His books are great for sight reading practice. Very accessible and immediate rewards.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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  15. #15

    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Reviving this older thread about Allan Alexander & his booksÖglad that Caleb started it in 2011.

    First, except for a thank you, Iíve delayed posting anything because Iím a beginner with lots to learn & have been using the wonderful MC to lurk íní learn from yíall (so smart and helpful and witty you are!)
    & Again, thank you so much (and yes, Scott, if you happen to see this, ítis well done and I donate to the MC to keep my gratefulness sincere, although via a different email thatís linked to my PayPal).

    Hoping to add something here that might be of interest to someone, particularly novices like me.

    Allanís books have helped me improve quite a bit (& I donít know him personally & have nothing to personally gain & he doesnít know Iím posting this, at least at this point in time).
    His books have been around awhile & Iím a johnny-come-lately, I know.
    But I havenít seen them mentioned lately & they might be useful to others.
    Although there are a number of references in the MC, & Allan often has an ad for a specific book in the Mandolin Accessories, I didnít discover his books here (probably because the threads tend to be older) but via youtube serendipity.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1klIcr0d5E
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XDrMaTK3NE

    I completely agree with all the old posts above, so be sure to read what what our helpful members have said first if you havenít already started at the OP.

    In general, as Caleb said, Allanís books can be a different path for learning the mandolin.
    Everyone has different taste in music, so this is just my personal experience, but his books have provided me with much joyful playing, listening, learning. These are ancestral melody books, not for learning bluegrass or chords (although if the mandolin is your first string instrument, as it is for me, well, it's going to be awhile before I'm good enough to play bluegrass anywayÖ)
    Sometimes people think they only like certain types of music, but when they hear or try something different, they get hookedÖthatís what happened to me with Allanís books. (By the way, thereís a new book about music and personal taste coming out this month (April 2019) that I plan to read ó Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste by Nolan Gasser ó maybe it will help explain some of these preference mysteries?)

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  17. #16
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Cool to see this old thread. I’m still using AA’s books and enjoying the tunes in them. One day I was playing some old O’Carolan piece and my little daughter said, “Daddy, that’s castle music.” That’s the best way I’ve ever heard the old music described.
    ...

  18. #17

    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    I've been pondering getting an Allan Alexander book but there are just so many to choose from and a lot seem fairly similar especially considering I'd like one of his guitar books as well. Is there a particular especially good Medieval or Renaissance book of his I should start with (for mandolin and/or guitar)?

  19. #18

    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    Particularly for Seter, but maybe others as well...
    The first book/CD sets I purchased (and love) were: Mandolin Music for Medieval Faires, Mandolin Music for Renaissance Faires, and Celtic Music for Mandolin. They all have highly addictive pieces.
    I have since purchased several others, which I also love.

    The older Celtic Music for Mandolin book has many pieces by OíCarolan (whom I didnít know about before, but now love, like Caleb and catmandu2). The one (personal) issue I have with the CD of this particular book is that, unlike the other CDs, the mandolin parts are not performed by Allan or Aleksandra but by another mandolinist who perpetually tremolos, and, although she does it perfectly, itís way too much for my taste. I much prefer the unadorned and lucid styles of Allan and Aleksandra, and fortunately one of them plays the featured mandolin part on all the other CDs/book sets (they are both superb interpreters and their CDs are wonderful just to listen to for pleasure). And the O'Carolan arrangements in the Celtic book are well worth having and stand the test of time, as Caleb points out.

    These 3 books do not have accompanying guitar part inserts that can be purchased for a small additional fee, but some of the others do, like Mandolin Music for the Medieval Minstrel, which is also excellent for medieval. Five Centuries of Music for Mandolin has the most variety, and Balkan Music for Mandolin is wonderful for its unique rhythms (both with guitar parts available). Airs of the Scottish Renaissance for Mandolin is another great one for a particular style of renaissance music (no guitar part, though).

    I'm unable to recommend guitar books by Allan, but since guitar is his main instrument, I'm sure they are superb. Obviously I love all of the mandolin books/CDs I've purchased, and Allan's guitar playing on them is impeccable.

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  21. #19

    Default Re: In praise of Allan Alexander

    I had been playing O'Carolan on guitar for a while, when one day I walked into Gryphon and heard a lady playing one of his songs on a harp. Otherworldly. I play one O'Carolan song on mandolin, and boy does your technique have to be perfect. Makes me glad I have my old Gibson A 1.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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