Day trip to Morehead

On Monday Chris and I drove about three hours to Morehead, KY for a free concert, Women in Traditional Music. It was quite a gathering, featuring ten different women who have labored long in the field. We went mostly because Ginny Hawker was going to be there, but also for our first chance to see Hazel Dickens perform. Just about anyone who follows mountain music would put Hazel Dickens in the first row of the pantheon, for both her excellent songwriting and her powerful, straight from the heart singing.

There was a morning performance at a local school which we missed because we had errands to run in Lexington on the way. But we arrived around 1:30pm for what was billed as a 2pm workshop. They decided to do a song circle instead, with each artist talking a little bit and then performing a song. Probably the better choice; we heard some good singing and some entertaining stories about life as a woman in professional music.

The workshop ended at 3:30, and Chris and I went to fetch our instruments. When I had emailed Ginny to let her know we would be there, she asked if we would help her out on one of her songs at the evening concert; of course we said of course, and got to work studying her recording of it. A couple of days later she emailed again, asking if we would also be willing to provide backup for Hazel Dickens. It didn’t take me long to agree to that one, and so we spent the weekend beforehand working through the songs Hazel was likely to choose from. So after the workshop we went upstairs and first rehearsed Ginny’s song with her, then ran through some songs with Hazel.

The show itself went well. It was held in the Morehead Conference Center, a nice new facility with an auditorium that held a few hundred people. The format was for each of the ten artists to do two songs, except for Hazel Dickens who did three, and then led a last song with everyone on stage. It was a different sort of thing for us; wait backstage until about 2/3 through the show, come on for one song, come off until the last artist, come on for Hazel’s first song, come off again, come on for Hazel’s third song, stay for the finale. Fortunately there was no need to fuss with microphones or where to stand on stage, so it all proceeded smoothly.

During the workshop Hazel Dickens said that she is often asked what she did to get to where she was in the profession, and she replies that she didn’t really do anything except pursue the music as best she knew how; the rest just happened as it happened, and there was no overall career plan guiding her. I could relate to that. It’s way too early to guess how the “career” of the Ridgewood Boys will turn out. But since our gifts are modest enough, we decided early on not to make performing the center of our life, but instead to focus on doing as well as we could with the music within the limits of a life devoted to other things. And even so a number of good things have happened; we’ve met musicians we admire and gotten to be friends with some of them, we’ve performed at festivals, we’ve played at the Carter Fold, and now we’ve been onstage with a legendary mountain musician. None of it was planned. And we’re grateful for all of it.

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4 thoughts on “Day trip to Morehead

  1. What you’ve described reminds me of a phenomenon which our family calls “serendipity.” For us at this point, it’s rarely about performing ourselves (especially as only one of us still plays and instrument!), but more about little performances that we stumble onto in the city. But I’m often delighted at quality to be had “for a song,” so to speak, and without a master plan. Someone just tells you about something, you show up, and one thing leads to another. Sometimes you meet the artists. Sometimes you get to try out a spectacular instrument. Maybe one day it will include spontaneous performances. All this happens in the midst of a very normal life, and I suspect it never would happen if we didn’t leave a little margin.

    I’d like to have heard your concert. It sounds like such fun!

  2. It is a small world. Stumbled on your blog site on Monday of this week. Got back over to it today. Imagine my surprise to find you liking mountain music and heading 3 hours over to Morehead for things. Now I have to wonder just where you are, as I am guessing we must just about practically be neighbors somewhere in the central to southern of Kentucky.

  3. What a wonderful experience! Serendipity, indeed! The older 9 of our 22 grandchildren play together in what they call “The Country Cousins” — for old folks, festivals, etc., around our area of central FL (still rural!) and we have had some similar experiences. The older ones are growing into adulthood, and we see changes coming, but what a wonderful life it has been, having them play, mostly bluegrass/mountain/some Celtic and gospel, whenever we get together.

    At first, they were not happy when Grandmother insisted they carry their instruments to events (we grandparents do our part by toting the big bass!), but now they love the opportunity to break out a fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, or dobro, and of course bass, and bless someone.

    The oldest grandson, almost 17, and his family are (sadly for us) moving to northern Arkansas soon, and he will be irreplaceable. He is unusually naturally gifted with all these instruments — so we are hoping he and his brothers find some like-minded folks with music in their bones to fellowship with.

    As you said, the beauty of music is that it seems to be a natural part of a life devoted to other things, and occasionally the Lord brings opportunities to share it with others. Thanks for an uplifting post (been reading a long time, but only posted a long while back!)

    Bonnie in FL

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