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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travel Plans Interrupted...by Destiny

So here's the story:  

Last Thursday, after highway traffic delays, I arrived at the Denver airport last week and check in to learn that my plane was delayed by 20 minutes.  

Plenty of time!  

I saunter over to gate A39 and take a seat to catch up on some work.  

"Steve?!" 


I hear my name called by an old friend who sits down to catch up.  He celebrates serendipity and says that he's been meaning to call and schedule a music lesson for over a month.  He ends up booking a music lesson for the following week.  


We finish our conversation and I realize that his plane (from THIS gate) is going to a different California city than I am, so I go check the schedule board. 


Standing there, I realize that I am not only at the *wrong gate*, I'm in the *wrong terminal*!!  
I should be at C39.  I laugh at myself and haul my butt and my gear to the correct gate, in the correct terminal, in plenty of time for the flight.

When he arrives for the lesson tonight, I tell him the story and he laughs:  


"I'm sorry my destiny interrupted your travel plans!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kitty Puss

A few years ago I learned the tune Kitty Puss from my friend, Don Pedi and I love to play it on my Clemmer Dulcimer.

Mike builds his instruments with 5 strings, and I've adapted the tuning so the lowest bass string is an octave lower D.  The tuning (from bass to melody string) is D D' A d d.




This video is from Brian Bianchi, a fellow I met at the Ozark Folk Center in MountainView, Arkansas  when I taught there for mountain dulcimer week in August of 2009.  We met up again at a Celtic session in downtown Memphis this past summer and had a grand time swapping tunes.

(Brian also sent me the video of "Tie Me Kangaroo, Down, Sport" in which I play didjeridoo which is included in another post in this blog).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Visiting the new Dusty Strings Dulcimer Factory

When I left my parish ministry position in 1997 and we moved to Fort Collins, Jim Brandt gave a parting blessing to me:  

"I hope you can find a way to focus on your music in the next chapter of your life."

Music had been a key organizing tool throughout my call as a parish pastor in a multi-cultural, innercity setting in Kansas City.  But it kept nagging at me, pulling my pants-leg and whispering to get more of my attention.

When we came to Fort Collins, my spouse and traded roles and I became the primary parent for our elementary and pre-school children.  Because I needed to make some income in a flexible occupation, and because I was finally free to focus on music, I dedicated my time to throwing every musical line (no pun intended) into the water and then reeling in whatever bit.  Among other things, I began teaching private lessons on guitar and the "weird" instruments.

Dusty Strings D-260 B (in back)
In Feb 1984 I built my first hammered dulcimer from a Hughes Dulcimer kit, and in the following years I rebuilt it 6 times.  I'm grateful for the kit because without it, I might never have starting playing, thinking that I was not worth having a nice insrument.   But I had such a hard time trying to advance in my playing because I could hardly keep the thing in playing condition!  

Thanks to farewell gifts from colleagues and friends in Kansas City, I was able to order my first "built-by-somebody-else" dulcimer the day we moved into our house in Fort Collins.  

My dulci-mentor, Esther Kreek, had provided both the spark and the avenue of acquiring the instrument.  

I was helping her to set up for what she told me was her 4th gig of the day and she said, "well, I guess I better tune this one string that always goes out of tune when I move the instrument."  I was dumb-founded...tune, yes, but ONE string?  Mine always went completely out of tune if I looked at it, turned away...or tuned it!

I had to know about this instrument!  She was a Dusty Strings dealer and told me she could help me by ordering an instrument for me.

When I did some examination into this tuning-stable instrument, I discovered that the vertical treble bridge construction also appealed to me, so I called her and placed my order.

It took a few months for it to arrive and I was surprised to know that they were building it...just for ME.  I'd never had anything made for me that I hadn't built myself!

The daily and weekly waiting and watching for the brown truck to bring me the instrument (one of their finishers had broken her hand and that slowed the completion process down) turned up in the song I wrote with Jim Pierce:  (6-String) Mail Order Bride.  Listen Here.

It finally arrived on the big brown truck....and it was IN TUNE!

Ray & Sue Mooers in the entry to the new office
I've had wonderful adventures with this instrument and eventually became a dealer to help provide others with the joy I've had in making music with these skillfully and reliably produced instruments.

I had visited their store on Fremont St. in Seattle back in 2000 while on tour with Russ Hopkins as Blind Monks.  Sue and Ray Mooers gave me a great tour.  

The door of the retail store & music school
This time, so much had changed!  

Connie and I started at the old store, which has MORE space for instruments, and is also home to the music school that the Mooers had envisioned for so many years. 

They've purchased a new warehouse, construction/office facility south of the river and a few minutes away which is serving them wonderfully.

Sue and Ray gave us an in-depth tour of the harp and hammered dulcimer production facility: we saw the cache of beautiful woods, the milling room, computer-aided machine that keeps production humming, the assembly and sanding rooms, the paint booths and as we turned the corner from the stringing room into the tune-up room there stands Mike, an employee who is also a local sculptor, who is hammering away on a new instrument, stopping to tweak tuning every now and then, but just caressing these new instruments to find their voices.  That's not all he does, Sue assures me, but playing dulcimers all day might not be a bad job, huh?

Ray and I compared notes from building our first instruments and there, in the showroom is #1..."You win the crude-est instrument contest!" I conceded as we all laughed. 

Also on display is this historical "piano harp" which reminds me of the square grand piano that I grew up taking piano lessons on in my home in Pemberville, Ohio. 
Piano Harp by A&W H. Kenzies, Nov 11, 1890


If you are in the area, be sure to stop in and see the place where all these beautiful, sweet-sounding instruments are made.  

They'll be glad to see you, and you'll be glad you came.





Friday, September 3, 2010

A Sample of a Dulcimer Festival

Mark Webb just posted this finely-edited video which portrays the spirit of a dulcimer festival wonderfully!



Enjoy!  Sign up for next year:  July 17-22, 2011!

(Addendum, please note that Gary Sager was unintentionally left off of the list of instructors.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Private Lessons in Memphis and tramping through history

Crossing the river from Arkansas on I-55
Coming back to Memphis!

I have been so blessed by recent, regular opportunities to be in Memphis the past few years:  the Memphis Dulcimer Festival, the Folk Alliance, House Concerts and workshops, and this time, hosts Lee Cagle and Betty Dawson (who are a talented musical duo known as Butterfly Gap) decided to offer two days of private mountain and hammered dulcimer and guitar lessons to area students.

The Dawson B&B & Lesson Studio
This was an innovative idea for my touring schedule and one that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Playing a harmonic (In February's House Concert)

After lessons on Monday, we went to  McGuinness Pub and, after enjoying the fish and chips, enjoyed the first set of Planet Reel in a rolicking Irish Session-type listening gig.        
I arose on Tuesday and drove north of Memphis to some historical (at least for my Dad's side of the family) territory.  I've long known that my Dad's mother was born in Roellen, Tennessee and that she lived a portion of her life in Dyersburg, but I had never thought to look on a map to see where these places were.  I just assumed that they were in eastern Tennessee.  

This past February, just before coming to Memphis for the House Concert and workshops, I did what I hadn't done and was tickled to see that, unlike my expectations, these two locations from my ancestry (Maybe that's why I've had this "genetic" kind of connection with western Tennessee.)

In any case, I drove north, through Atoka County, home of Isaac Hayes  (I hear those high voices trill in my memory: “Shaft”) and am nearly bowled over as I cross not just one, but both the South and North forks of the Forked Deer River.  "Forked Deer" is the name of a traditional fiddle tune that my students learned and played for the Spring Recital this past May!

Dyersburg Historical Museum Parking Lot view
The Dyersburg Historical Museum was closed over the lunch hour, so I drove the few miles east until I saw what, to me, is a familiar sight:
Roellen, TN Watertower

The town watertower, painted sky blue, rises up in front of me, directly in front of my car as it travels toward town.  The road then bends northeast and in no time I'm out the other side of the town.

The resemblance to my hometown of Pemberville, Ohio, especially in this green, fertile time of the year, with humidity thickening the hot air, and the air heavy with the rich scents of hydrangeas, mimosa, corn and bean crops, almost causes me to time travel back to my younger days.

I have little time, so I follow the compass point south to Collierville and today's lessons, before Ilace and I go to Celtic Crossing, where the Guiness-based Irish Stew is scrumptious!

We are eating on the patio when Barry Bianchi recognizes me (I wrote about this meeting here).

The ensuing music session was memorable for the fun and the music, but not least because it was populated with (3) three (count'em) hammered dulcimers!

Ilace wrote to let me know weeks later that the evening was still being remembered fondly among the players.

With fondness, appreciation for creative connections and the chance to turn over some personal historical connections is how I remember and treasure this Memphis landing!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Here's what it looks like on a Driving Tour!

I don't know how or where he found it, but my friend, Gary, sent me this video.

As I watched, it reminded me of so many of my driving tours to play music, or to take the family on vacation...

And, it starts in PEMBERVILLE, OHIO, my home town!

The travelers are taking photos once every 15 secs throughout the entire trip (I think a little editing of photos did go on, but the stop action feel is amazing!)

Take a few minutes to watch it, I think you'll enjoy it!



Ohio to Minnesota Time Lapse from Dave Lucius on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good Timber

While visiting Victoria, British Columbia for the first time, my wife and I heeded the advice of friends and toured the British Columbia Museum.  We noted a poster for the live performance of "Good Timber", musical settings of logging poetry of Robert Swanson.  We went back and purchased tickets to the evening's show.

Wow!  This talented cast (The Other Guys Theatre Company)  each took turns with the stringed instruments (guitars, fiddle, autoharp, bass guitar and mandolin) before handing them to each other for the next go-'round; percussion was played on the tools of the era, files on an axe blade or on its handle, a pipe wrench, a bowed crosscut saw...) and a harmonica rounded out the instrumental accompaniment.

Each one of the 6-person cast has a unique and rich voice, but their harmonic blend was tight and the voicing and instrumentation was quite varied from the high soprano to the basso profundo.

A Multi-media presentation of period video and still photographs was the backdrop for the costumed performers.

The run at the British Columbia Museum in downtown Victoria, BC opened on June 2 and will continue through August 28th, Monday-Saturday nights @ 8 pm.

If you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity, walk, run, drive, take the ferry and soak up the rich reflections of a vital industry, carried out by hard-working people who took pride in their labor, even as they made fun of it; lamenting tragic losses, being surprised by disreputable ladies who use their savvy in the service of hope, the "frozen logger" a song that my friend Gary Puckett introduced me to;

The company has released an excellent recording of all of the music in this show.  Below is a sampling of the tunes as a work in progress last year.

Friday, July 9, 2010

FLORA, NOT FAUNA

When I was in Eastwood High School Mr. Derr was our jolly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic Biology teacher.  

A huge, imposing man, he loved his subjects and that energy was infectious.  This was a time when the curriculum favored 9 week “mini-courses” and I took all of his but one in a year.  

I have vivid memories of Anatomy and Physiology ("Don't do anything inappropriate and gross with your probes!" Mr. Derr thundered) and Comparative Anatomy (when we began dissecting the dogfish shark we discovered it was pregnant. His gleeful giddiness at getting an 8-for-1 deal on this shark nearly overpowered the strong saltwater fish smell.  Almost.)   

And Taxidermy, for which I stuffed a quail, two starlings and a muskrat, all provided by classmates to this non-hunter/trapper's hands.

But the class I studiously avoided was Botany.  Plants just couldn’t hold my interest then.

My sister, Amy Jo, has fond memories of taking that class from Mr. Deer and told me she kept her sketch books for many years before they were lost to a plumbing leak.

Today, I’m thinking of Mr Derr and my internal shift because on this tour, I am blessed to observe several wild animals:  

—a couple of turtles that are migrating across the roads of southern Missouri beneath the morning sun;  (Steinbeck's chapter on the turtle crossing the road)

—a fox that is so captivated by a morsel in the middle of the road that its concentration nearly forces my car to help it join the prey in the hereafter as I near downtown Firth, Nebraska;

—3 black bears that Connie and I see in Tennessee, 

—the numerous road-killed deer that I drive past along I-80 in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. 

This time, however I am captivated by the Flora.  

When I drove across the country, from Maryland (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas) to Colorado in April, I was taken with the colors purple and lavender.  (""...Listen, God love everything you love---and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.






You saying God vain? I ast.
Naw, she say, Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.  ----Alice Walker quote from “the color purple”.)  
(My sister later informs me that these are the colors of Spring.)
Today, the corn in southern Missouri is way taller than our annual adage in Pemberville, Ohio: "knee-high by the 4th of July", more like Oklahoma's O, What a Beautiful Morning! song "...the corn is as high as an elephant's eye."


This time, the brilliant yellows, oranges and golds from the roadside lilies line my route in Missouri. 

Pink mimosa trees, 


Blue hydrangea bushes


 and 
magenta crepe myrtle in Tennessee ;



The gold and brilliant oranges of lillies in North Carolina;



Light blue cornflower lines the northern highway route in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. 

The earth is brimming with joyous color in celebration of its fecundity and the heavy ripeness of the season.  The colors are alive with sound!

I see,
I hear,
and I notice.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Swapping Tunes with Don Pedi on Grapevine Road

After such a grand visit with Don and Jean Pedi a couple of years ago, when I dog-sat their 13-week-old pups for a couple of days and tasted Jean's delicious lavender custard with the freshly-picked blackberries that I plucked from the end of the seasonal run, I've been waiting for my chance to bring my wife, Connie, back to visit with them.  (I think she and Jean are cut from the same cloth.)

This year, with Connie's sabbatical from the Lutheran Campus Ministry, she was able to join me for the verdant drive from Nashville to Marshall, NC.  We surprised a big black bear who lumbered across the hillside highway climbing up from the French Broad River to a higher elevation in front of us.  Neither of us had seen a black bear, "in bearson" before!  
(We both agree the other is a lucky charm for us to see such a sight.)

Don and Jean are such gracious hosts and Cindy and Zolly, the 2-year old pups, are just as insistent on the need to play and be scratched behind the ears, but have more weight and height now to get their desires met!  
A run into Asheville to do errands confirms that Connie and Jean could be sisters--we HAVE to stop and shop at the Goodwill store.

Back at the house, we help welcome the new refrigerator and taste the first meal from their now-remodeled kitchen.  Anyone who has done or survived projects like these knows how LONG it can take until things are back to "close to normal" after living out of boxes stashes in strange places for so long.  

Don and I go down to visit Junior, whose house rests at the foot of the mountain.  The sweet smell of newly mown hay is powerful in the air and new crops are in the neighbors' fields as the end of the tobacco subsidies causes shifts and adjustments in their planting plans.

After the sun goes down, Don and I have a nice time swapping tunes, one of which is "Kitty Puss" which he taught me on my last visit, and which we played together to finish my set at the Colorado Dulcimer Festival this past February in Fort Collins.

He mentions another "crooked tune" the kind which we both enjoy, but then says, "let's not do that one, its a mess!"

He joins me on "Black Tail Weasel and the Ground Squirrel Clan" before we pronounce it a good night.

(You can see me demonstrate this tune here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hacAGwyuck)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dan Evans, the Olney Dulcimer Player at Kentucky Music Week

Week-long festivals like Kentucky Music Week can be like family reunions for both students and instructors who get to be reunited to swap music and share stories of our musical adventures during the past year.

This year, I was privileged to share a room with Dan Evans, from Olney, England ("about as far away from any of the English coasts as one can get!") who introduced himself to the other teachers as the "Olney Dulcimer Player" in attendance this week.  (Go ahead, say it out loud...)

After I read his article in Dulcimer Players' News in the Spring Issue I was eager to meet another accomplished player who prefers DAA tuning (and finds no need for extra frets--including the 6-1/2 fret--to play the music of his choosing.  Definitely a soul brother!)

Dry British humor is only one of the many characteristics I enjoyed in getting acquainted with Dan.  His fingerpicking style is facile and dextrous in a way that is still melodic and beautiful.  Although his stage set was hampered by some sound reinforcement hiccups, his playing then, and when we swapped some tunes privately, was very beautiful.

As a teacher, Dan has a keen desire to help his students grasp the skills and concepts and the commitment to accompany them as they gain skills and confidence.  His photographic eye is adept and adroit, finding and framing his shots in interesting and revealing ways.

Only after we parted at the end of the week and I was looking through my collection of Masters of the Mountain Dulcimer, Volume 2, did I realize that Dan and I both have recorded tracks on that collection!

(Dan offers his own reflections on Kentucky Music Week here)

Full-House, House Concert

(Note:  my posts from my Summer Tours will be in thematic, rather than chronological order)

Daryl and Michele Davis in Johnstown, Ohio, hosted a full-house House Concert on June 26.  This was their first house concert and was a great success! (www.concertsinyourhome.com provides a free pdf booklet with tips on hosting these kinds of events.)




House concerts are an intimate way to help people get close to the music and music-maker.  

We sang together, laughed, pondered, closed our eyes and were transported to other times and places, touched some sadness and wistfully remembered slow, Sunday summer afternoons...And concluded with the youngest member of the audience dancing enthusiastically while we sang Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."

Daryl and Michele invited family, friends, church members, co-workers and neighbors, and people came from my list also (including a friend from my pre-school Sunday School class in Pemberville, Ohio!)  



For the first time at this concert I used the Portable Light System that I purchased from Concerts In Your Home (it is hanging from the speaker stand on the left).




Here is the lighting of my set-up without the flash.




House Concert hosts often provide refreshments for their guests, and to my surprise, the Davis's ordered a brightly-decorated, multi-flavor cake!

Contact me [seulberg (at) steveeulberg.com] if you'd like to schedule a special one-of-a-kind musical experience!




Friday, July 2, 2010

Didjeridoo in the Ozarks!

On my 30 Dulcimer-Filled Years Tour this June (2010) in Memphis, Ilace Mears, Carolyn Mason and I head over to Celtic Crossings for dinner and an Irish Session. 

While Ilace and I sit outside chatting, up hurries a man with a familiar face.  We recognize each other but at first don't place the connection.  
Then he puts the pieces together:  "You play didjeridoo, don't you?!"  
(This is not the usual question I am asked, to tell the truth).
"Yes, I do."  
"I saw you play it at the Ozark Folk Center last summer during the Mountain Dulcimer Week,"  he explains. 
"And I have video, too!"

After dinner Ilace and I join the session and have a grand time playing dulcimers with the guitar/mandolin and other hammered dulcimer player, sitting in a tight circle, after the fashion of Irish sessions.

Barry Bianchi promises to forward the video and today it has arrived!  



I've invited Judy Klinkhammer, Margaret and Jerry Wright to join me and because my didj is "tuned" to Eb, Margaret has to re-tune (she is a REAL dulcimer player and can do that!).  Jerry chooses Rolf Harris's "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" to sing and play while I provide accompaniment on what I jokingly call the "Australian Dulcimer".

Special thanks to my tutor, Paul Taylor (http://paultaylor.ws) originally from Australia, who now lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Streetmosphere in the Rocky Mountain Collegian!

Local event firm brings global art to Old Town Here is an article in the Rocky Mountain Collegian (the Colorado State University campus newspaper, about Streetmosphere.  The author Hannah, interviewed me for the article.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kicking off the First Leg of the Summer Tours


SATURDAY
Up early to leave at 6 am.  Unseasonably cold, windy and rainy all through Colorado today.  I stop for gas at Tomahawk, just east of Denver and the north wind is chilly.

At a pit stop in Limon, I have to dig my fleece out of my luggage and turn the car's temperature control to heat!

This tour begins and ends with long driving legs.  Today will be 10 hours long.

An audiobook by Kitty Kelly, The Last Star (about Elizabeth Taylor) plays on my tape player.  It is interesting to focus a bit on the famous life of someone whose life and loves has been on everyone’s lips throughout my rearing but about whom I’ve paid little attention.  

But the story ends abruptly.  Kind of like the author ran our of advance money and the publisher demanded a completed product, rather than reaching an appropriate end to the story!

The rain continues to spit as I drive across the long state of Kansas, but at times the clouds spread apart to reveal some blue sky.  The temperature is heating up as I travel east.

I arrive at Jim and Pam’s in Kansas City, thankfully, without incident.  Once again the moisture-rich atmosphere of this river town has produced a verdant and lush appearance of lawns and gardens.  They tell me about the deluge they’ve had, but which has passed over and moved east by now.  It is good to catch up with friends over a delicious meal, share music and stories.

SUNDAY

Today's shorter trip (4.5 hrs) means a nice leisurely breakfast with conversation before I cross Missouri to Hillsboro, southeast of St. Louis.  The granite bluffs greet me along I-70 and the rich, full-leafed trees provide shade from the bright sunlight as I travel and winding rural route the last hour of the trip.

My destination  Bev & Roy Robbins, Jennie & Justin

Friday, June 11, 2010

Puzzles & Card Games: All the Details

I just learned this morning that my ride from Atlanta to Cullowhee for the Western Carolina Dulcimer Week next month has had to cancel, so one of those lynchpin connections has come loose!

As a solo artist, getting to and from the gigs, especially when they are in vastly different parts of this big country of ours, can be an invigorating (or frustrating) puzzle.

The variables for how one experiences these shifts and turns include (but are not limited to):

•the amount of sleep one has had the night before...

•how close in time one is to the change in plans...

•the number of unexpected changes that have happened recently (you know, things fall apart in threes, or something like that)...

•how expensive the change will be...

•how many options one can imagine...


Always lurking somewhere in the shadows are the questions:

"Should I really be doing this?"

"Who do I think I am to be traveling this way?"

"Is this trip/gig worth it?"

"When do I decide to bag it?"


Long after I did so poorly in my Algebra classes in 8th Grade, Mrs. Kuhlman told me I should have looked at the "problems" as puzzles.  This perspective actually might have helped me because I do like to solve puzzles.

At the time, however, I just thought that the urban-based questions were ridiculous and far outside my small-town experience of life.

(For example:  "You have a ticket for the train that will come in 3 hours.  How far can you go on the bus while you wait for the train?"  My answer:  Didn't your mama teach you anything?  You DON'T take a bus trip while waiting for the train!  Just sit still and read a book!)


The problem with puzzles, as a metaphor, is that they are a bit static for situations like these.  Card games, where everything shifts from hand to hand, requiring adaptability, imagination, adventure (and a sense of humor!) actually describe my current challenge more accurately.

The other day I was talking to some young friends of mine (a duo) who are embarking on this traveling musician path for their career and I asked, "do you like to do puzzles?"

One immediately answered:  "Yes!  I love to do puzzles!"

The other replied, just as quickly: "No!  I love contests!"

It is clear which one will have a better time with negotiating all the details and fitting the puzzle pieces together.

But the challenge of winning the hand or the game will also require the skills of the other one.  Because sooner or later the puzzle will come apart, or the pieces will no longer fit or will go missing.

As a child I recall the fun we had sometimes as a family, sitting around a card table on the cold dark nights of winter break, fitting puzzle pieces together to reveal large intricate scenes.

But I also recall the joy and laughter of the card games that we love to have with our children and friends when we gather these days.

So, I think that today (having had good sleep, and there is still some time until the event),  I'll lean toward the card game analogy and focus on the fun...while still doing the methodical turning over of every puzzle piece to re-weave my transportation web.


Hey there:  Anybody going from Atlanta to Cullowhee, North Carolina July 18th and then back again on the 24th?  I can use a ride.


[And if you want to hear and support some fun acoustic music visit Erin and Amber Rogers' Scenic Roots website.]

Monday, June 7, 2010

Streetmosphere: 30 Dulcimer-Filled Years Summer Music Begins at Home

Diary of a new gig in a unique venue:  
My Own Town!

March 2010:  A call goes out recruiting local artists to audition for an Inaugural Program that will pay musicians, actors, jugglers and more to perform on Old Town street corners throughout the summer.

April 6:  I am the last on the schedule to audition at Bas Bleu Theatre for this evening's session; double-booking of the venue means we have to sit quietly backstage until the Reader's Theater performance is completed.  Then I play both kinds of dulcimers and coax the auditioners to sing along with me to "Celebrate Life!"

mid-May:  Notified that I've been chosen as one of 57 acts for performance this summer.  Dates that are compatible with my summer touring schedule are agreed to.  Contracts are signed.  Add to my gig calendar and Facebook notifications.

May 26:  Answer questions for a bio form that will be posted on the BeetStreet.org website.

May 27:  Film an email Invitation, edit, render send to the Beet Street Office.  When it is posted make links from my calendar and Facebook pages.        
                                                               
June 1:  I open this summer's Noontime Notes Concert Series at Old Town Square and once again discover the excitement that bubbles through the crowd when I offer the invitation to come downtown for live entertainment on weekends throughout this summer.

Friday, June 4:  Send a final email blast to my local list to remind them about Streetmosphere and let everyone know that I'll be on one corner, rather than packing up and moving around (like I previously thought)

3:30 pm call at the Warehouse on Linden Street to check in (in order to be paid!) and to connect with the volunteer (Chris) who will pull the wagon with all the Streetmosphere Gear to our corner at Olive and College (in front of Mugs).  Bryan the juggler is warming up and other volunteers and Brenna from OpenStage arrives.  The excitement is building.
                       
I park in the city lot along Remington and schlep my gear to the destination corner.  The shade is perfect, the temperature  and breeze are gentle.                                                              

Chris works at HuHot (right next door) and, as he expects, is familiar with many of the people who walk by or hang around to listen.                                                                                                  

4- 8 pm is my shift.  The goal:  (8) 20 minute sets with a 10 minute break between each.    The alarms on my cell phone ring for the first time and I learn that I can't count!  I keep playing 30-minute sets instead of 20-minute ones.  And, since I'm not used to using the alarms, I keep wondering where that ringing sound is coming from?!

We are at the southern entrance of Old Town and at the 4 pm beginning, people are still a bit unsure about what is going on.  Folks take seats in the Mugs' outdoor seating, or on the benches beneath the shade along College Avenue to listen.  Tourists walk through, pulling their luggage as they prepare to check in at the Armstrong Hotel.  The diesel thrum of trucks and busses on the street provide a much more vigorous competition than capuccino machines that I'm used to at coffeehouse gigs.  But when the light changes, they move away.

Some pedestrians are nervous when Chris tries to hand them a schedule for the summer's events.  Another volunteer wonders if they think we are promoting "Dulcimer Church"  (Not a bad idea, I think!)   
A little girl starts dancing when she hears the music and brings her parents over to better see and hear.  When she asks I let her try the hammers.  Another young couple with little children is visiting from Minnesota, scouting the area as they plan to move to Fort Collins next year.  Another young family is drawn to the instrument because Dad is a drummer who just has to get his hands on the hammers to try this.  The infant, hanging in a front pack on his Mama's chest is smiling, kicking and waving his hands to the music!  One of my son's Poudre High School teachers stops by and commends my son (a 2010 grad) to me.  People passing in cars with windows down smile and nod their heads as they wave.  

When the music stops people applaud and ask "what IS that instrument?"  A trio of my-aged men stop to listen.  People with flourescent-dyed hair walk by and grin.  When people leave their tables at Mugs, others scramble from their bench to take the coveted seats.  Dogs' leashes are tied and untied, bicycles parked and re-ridden, people stop and tap their toes, nod their heads and smile.  Some hang back to observe, others walk right up and ask questions.  The bride, whose wedding I'll play for next week, and her mother come by and sit down to listen.  A Coloradoan photographer shoots from several angles and is drawn to the disarray of my many hammers as they lay in preparation for their turn to jump on the strings.

I've set a goal not to repeat ANY tunes during my shift, and when we begin to pack up 4 hours later--I am successful!  A couple arrives and sadly says, "Oh no, are you done already?  We've been looking all over for you."  I still have more tunes and play them a vigorous finish of Snowbow at Sky. 

"When will you be playing again?" they ask.  Since I'm on tour in June and July I give them my August schedule and they promise:  "We'll be back and we'll bring the kids!"

Now is the zen-like experience of packing up and returning this corner to its usual use and myself to home for some supper.  That is a very satisfying finish for a musician's gig, since often when it is over I'm not anywhere near home!  

This was a great start to an exciting summer of music at home and on the road.  Thanks BeetStreet, thanks Chippers (the sponsor of my corner), thanks Fort Collins!

(Photos by Scott, another Beet Street volunteer)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Soup and Song Concert Review

Here is a very pleasant surprise (and a new experience!)

I have sent recordings and sought out reviews since I began working as a musician.  I have received unsolicited and solicited reviews of performances from venue owners, festival organizers and fellow musicians.

But this is the first time I've had a house concert reviewed by a member of the audience!  Mary and her husband joyously sang along with the songs, and told me about traveling cross-country with "a piece of it all" as their accompanying soundtrack in the past year.  I am humbled and deeply enjoy hearing how music that I am a part of has helped to accompany or enrich someone's life.  But I'm even more moved by the words she shares in her blog about my recent concert in Laurel, Maryland.

http://morahmary.blogspot.com/2010/05/do-small-things.html

It turns out that she had written about my first concert in Soup and Songs' house concert series a couple of years ago:

http://morahmary.blogspot.com/2008/07/saturdays-time-out.html

That reflection included references to books by a third-grade teacher...which has sent me shopping to get and read his books.

Music inspires a writer who links me to a reflective teacher who writes, whose stories I want to know (and probably will share!)  These are the re-weavings of the tattered fringes in our broken world that I both treasure and celebrate!

(And I am certainly gonna ask my Kindergarten-teaching sister if she knows about these books, too.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photos from Soup & Song House Concert

These photos were taken by Charlie Bernhardt, who with his wife, Marilyn, hosts Soup and Song Houseconcerts in their townhome in Laurel, Maryland.  
From Top to Bottom:  Chopsticks Fingerstyle on Charlie's beautiful 12-string guitar.

Girl from Ipanema on Charlie's Ginger Mountain Dulcimer (purchased by his wife and mother for his 25th Anniversary as Cantor of his synagogue.)
A Ship May be Safe (and I feel safe, surrounded by all these wonderful instruments!)
Simple Gifts, by Elder Joseph Brackett, always dances so nicely on the hammered dulcimer!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Destination: Home! (Finale to the 30-Dulcimer-Filled Years Spring Tour)

TUESDAY, APRIL 27th

Up before my alarm at 6 am.  Take my last compartment of daily vitamins, shower, gather up my remaining belongings and leave.  The singing and chirping birds sound so familiar and I realize…these are the same birds as we heard in the pre-dawn in our years in Kansas City!

Driving on the Cimarron Turnpike, then Kansas Turnpike—the familiar return from Winfield.  I talk with Karen Deal at the Walnut Valley office and Jim Pierce as I relive those memories.  

Stop for a chance to journal at the rest stop on I-135 just south of Lindsborg.  The steady west wind is a bit brisk and my fingers begin to get stiff from the chill.  Messages left for my college friend, Meck.  I decide to stop on Kansas Wesleyan Campus and drop in.  He is grading papers but sets them aside as we go to lunch at our second choice:  the student center.

Today I'm listening to Vince Papele’s book, “Invincible.”  Quite a powerful and compelling story.  The drive west does begin to get tiring and long.  My stops have broken it up nicely, but now I am feeling the pressure to finish the final tricky logistical steps with the precision of a finely-tuned Swiss watch.

At the start of this trip, I flew to the Baltimore airport and picked up the rental car that would carry me across the country.  A shuttle ride from Greenride took me from the Harmony Transfer Center to the Denver airport to begin the trip. 

After I left, my wife picked up my car from the Harmony center, so it wouldn’t sit there for 2 weeks.  Now I need to fill up the gas tank before arriving at the rental car drop off, then drop the rental car at Dollar (which has just been purchased by Hertz, while I’ve been on this trip), and catch the Dollar shuttle to the airport terminal, in order to catch the Green Ride Shuttle back to Fort Collins. 

This all works as planned.  I schlep all my gear and instruments into the terminal for a bathroom break, then schlep back out to Island 3 by Door 505 to sit and wait with a white-haired woman who is also waiting for Green Ride.

The shuttle arrives only a few minutes after the expected time, we load up and head north as the sky grows darker.  The woman beside me started her travels in Tampa. The couple in front of us are the winners, however.  They began their travels 24 hours ago—in Cairo, Egypt!

David Schnaufer and Butch Baldassari’s recording and Dan Fogelberg on my iPod accompany the final leg of the trip.  Two spots of road construction slow our progress, but we are finally delivered back to our destination.  

As we turn in, I can see the silhouette of my wife with our little black dachshund on his leash waiting patiently beside the silhouette of a man with his poodle-terrier on a leash.  It is good to be home, and great to be warmly welcomed!

Living on Tulsa Time! (30-Dulcimer-Filled Years Spring Tour)

I arrived in Tulsa after a 5 hour drive from Mountain View, Arkansas that took me through a variety of climate changes!  The tornado-spawning storms that are native to Spring in this part of the world had me keeping a "weather eye" to the sky as I drove westward.  
Dennis Moran gave me "old fashioned" hand-written directions with the warning that my Garmin was going to try and send me on a big loop south of the city to try and stay on the 4-lane roads.  Sure enough, my Australian "guide" tried to get me to do just that...and I was very glad to exited the orange barrel express and drive outside of a construction zone!

I am so fortunate to have these opportunities to move across this big beautiful country of ours!  The driving gives me plenty of reflection and gratitude time, and in this posture of thankfulness I am delighted to find so much for which to be gratefully surprised.  Once again I am surprised by the beauty of a place that has existed in my awareness only as name, a tag-line in a song that I like.  This is my first time in Tulsa and Dennis and his wife Rosie are great tour guides as we drive through the city, in which he was raised, and I am the recipient of a native's hometown tour.

The oak trees are so abundant and verdant!  I am reminded of their deep green and cooling shade at Oaks Indian Center, where we took the kids from Fountain of Hope, my Kansas City church, on the final adventure of the Summer Youth Program in the early 1990s.  The shade was definitely needed in the dog days of summer back then, and will be needed soon here.  
My biggest surprise was the beauty of the fully-bloomed azaleas that were shouting to the world in brilliant colors of joy.  Dennis and I went to Woodward Park on Monday (in the cold spring rain!) to drink in some more of their beauty.

  Drinking warm Jasmine tea at the Chinese buffet was the perfect coda to the chilly trek through the park.  I learn that April is a busy month for weddings at this park in Tulsa and the upcoming Azalea Festival (next weekend) will draw thousands of people to this park and others.  We even see a bright red azalea hedge that rings a house a few blocks south of Dennis and Rosies!  

If one is selling a house in Tulsa, this is definitely the time of year to put it on the market!

Afternoon Mini-Concert at Ozark Folk Center (30-Dulcimer-Filled Years Spring Tour)

THURSDAY, APRIL 22nd

After a day of teaching mountain dulcimer classes my mini-concert set began at 4:05 pm in the indoor theater.

Playing both hammered and mountain dulcimers, I gave the audience of students, their families and the Folk Center visitors a hammered dulcimer taste of Colorado Dutch Hop with the Windsor Special, then O Virgineeia, Ferret Frolic and Soaring on the mountain dulcimer.  I always love to sing with Judy Klinkhammer's rich alto voice (she harmonized with me for Down in the Valley.)

Rick Thum (hammered dulcimer)  and I always have a grand time playing together and he agreed to join me for a medley of John Stinson's No. 2/Hangman's Reel. 

Carl Adkins (Artistic Director of the Folk Center) sat in on guitar and Margaret Wright (co-host of the Palestine Old-Time and Dulcimer Festival) tore up the bass.  Of course, mid-way through Rick yawned broadly at how "slow" we were going (a playful jab at mountain dulcimer tempos) so we put it in warp drive to take it on home.

(Thanks to Ilace Mears for these photos to help celebrate this musical fun!)

"Folk Music Scared me!" (30-Dulcimer-Filled Years Spring Tour)

After observing the live music scene in Toronto, and hearing the witness of my Canadian colleagues, I love telling people "'folk' is not a 4-letter word in Canada!"

But for others it still is.  My friend, Dan Anderson-Little, put together a house concert at the marvelous home of some friends in the St. Louis area.  Dan and Linda's children, who were born while we were colleagues in Kansas City, are my godchildren and I always treasure the opportunity to visit and catch up with them, kick a soccer ball or shoot hoops, or let them kick my butt in some video games.

On this visit, however, they all came to the concert.  Daniel (the eldest) brought his high school sweetheart, Jacob rode with me to the venue and we had a great conversation about possible career paths for one who is very logical and loves to debate.  (any guesses?)  Leah also had a friend come.

The concert was attended by a nice variety of people who responded to Dan's list, the neighbors of the home-owners who hosted the concert, and from my St. Louis area contacts from both the church dulcimer worlds.  The venue is a marvelous home in Overland, Missouri, that was the retreat for some St. Louis luminaries at the turn of the 20th century, situated close to a lake.  Of course, I was so focused on getting set up and tuned up for the concert that I neglected to take any photos until is was all over!


(Not pictured is a 3-rank Hammond Organ that is off-camera to the Left--the host is an avid and accomplished organist!)

The concert was engaging and the audience enthusiastic, as I have experienced throughout this tour, but the defining moment of the night came when Dan and I were recapping the evening.

"As we were driving home, I asked Daniel's girlfriend what she thought of the concert, " Dan related.

"When Daniel first told me it was going to be a folk music concert, I was nervous and a bit scared, "  she admitted.  "But this was fun!"

And so it is!  Folk music (the music of the people) sounds scary to people, until they actually hear it!  Let's get busy folks, we've got a lot of music to share with a lot of people and there is always more music than time!

Concert and Workshop at Robin Run Village, Indianapolis


Thanks to Tull Glazener, I was able to give a full-house concert to the residents of Robin Run Village on the north side of Indianapolis.  This is also the location for his mountain dulcimer club to meet regularly, so after the concert and some schmoozing time, I led 14 members of the club in an Ensemble-Playing workshop using the Welsh hymn, Ard Hy Nos (All Through the Night).

Then, once they were warmed up we played the Finale to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony!  In just a short time the group of varied experience and comfort levels were able to play both pieces in 4-part harmony learning and utilizing some different playing skills (like dynamics, plucking single strings, staccato articulations, and "playing" rests by damping the strings.)

Thanks to my host, Susan McNeely for taking these photos from the concert.

Morning Prayer (30-Dulcimer-Filled Years Spring Tour)

MONDAY, APRIL 19

The Karanja/Olson I-Group invited me to help plan and lead worship for Morning Prayer at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, my alma mater.  Apparently the seminary is abundantly equipped with students named "Sarah."  (Each one would greet me with, "Hi, I'm Sarah Number 88" or whatever number they chose.)  One joined me picking a mean guitar and the other on piano to help lead the congregation in singing.

The service music was chosen from several of my compositions and was performed acoustically.  Because of construction back-up on the major north-south freeway, I confounded my Australian GPS lady who kept urging me to turn to get back on the freeway as I wove my way on surface streets, angling my way through what became very familiar roads to the campus.

Following the worship service, with "I'll Fly Away" still echoing through the sanctuary, I led a conversation about composing for worship in general and demonstrations on both kinds of dulcimers for the Convocation hour.