Musical weekend

On Friday most of the family took a day trip to Lexington. We thought eight hours away would be too much for Peter, so Debbie stayed at home with him, but I drove with the other six kids to see our friends Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz peform at the University of Kentucky as part of the Appalachia in the Bluegrass noontime concert series.

We showed up about half an hour early, mostly because UK is in the middle of the city and I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to park or to find the building where the performance was being held. Not difficult at all, it turns out. Chris had brought along his banjo at Ginny and Tracy’s request; there was also an upright bass there, and they asked us if we’d help them out with a couple of songs at the end. What do you think our answer was?

The program lasted about an hour, very relaxed, with about 120 people crowded into a library room that seated one hundred. The little ones did just fine, about like they do at church. At the end Chris and I went up front to help Ginny with “Long Black Limousine.” Actually, only I was supposed to help with that one, but the fellow who was going to play guitar hadn’t shown up, so Chris provided guitar accompaniment so Tracy could fiddle. We hadn’t really rehearsed it, but when it came to the chorus Ginny gave Chris a glance that said (to him, anyway) that he was welcome to provide a harmony, and he let out with the awesome high harmony that Kari Sickenberger sang on Ginny’s CD; that earned him a look of delight, and a big hug at the end of the song. Chris then switched to banjo and we finished up with “Foggy Mountain Top.” A little bit of visiting afterwards, and then we had to head back home so Chris could get on with the afternoon milking.

Saturday we played at a benefit chili supper at the local lodge; shortly after we moved here our neighbor Leemon Goodin asked us to fill in at the last minute, and since then we’ve played whenever they’ve had such a get-together. This time the schedule was a bit crowded, with a Southern gospel group and a collection of bluegrass players featuring Frank Neat, a legendary banjo builder who lives just a few miles from here. Since Frank is the only local connection I know of to the greater bluegrass world, I wanted him to hear Chris on the fiddle, so I pushed him to join in when the bluegrass folks were playing. Perhaps nothing will come of it, but Chris has now done his part. (He also fiddled for the gospel group, who told me several times they wanted to kidnap him.)

Sunday we played at St. Mildred’s church in Somerset, for their annual community Thanksgiving dinner. Jerome took us along to this last year, but he had to be elsewhere on Sunday and so it was just me and Chris this time. The dinner is held in about the most challenging environment we’ve played in a long time, a former gym with really bad acoustics. Another gospel group also played, and they were good enough to stick around so we could use their sound system, which wasn’t great but much better than none at all. The main reason I like to (occasionally) play in such a situation is that it gives us some much-needed perspective. There are many, many reasons for us to play music aside from the one we like the best, namely having informed listeners give us their complete attention. This time it was most important that Sister Marty, the dinner organizer, be able to count on us to provide some of the music; she was grateful, and that was reason enough. We also got to play some songs we hadn’t done in awhile, we learned some things about doing our best in a stressful environment, we were reminded that not everyone starts out favorably disposed to our kind of music, we were reminded that it’s perfectly OK for people to ignore us, and we brought smiles to a number of faces. All in all it was a good experience. And they fed us a decent meal at the end.


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