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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pickin' Porch 2011

For 12 years Mike and Connie Clemmer have hosted a weekly concert on their Pickin' Porch, behind their Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop in Townsend, Tennessee.

Located near the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park, this is one of my favorite places to play--the background is the rushing river behind the stage, the backdrop is the rich green leaves of the trees, sometimes there is cicada accompaniment, and last night some geese honked their appreciation for the duet that Mike and I played with the instruments that he built!  What better setting for traditional music can be found?

So here is a sampling from last night's concert:  hammered dulcimer (part of the Irish set), Soaring (my PBS Roadtrip Nation hit!), a fiddle tune duet with Mike and Boil Them "Eucalyptus" Down The International Mountain Dulcimer National Anthem (a duet for Appalachian dulcimer and "Australian Dulcimer"--> didjeridoo.)

The audience is a responsive and enthusiastic gathering of locals, people camping in the area and folks just passing through.

And there is a new surprise this year--Mike has added a roof over the Pickin' Porch (at this rate, pretty soon this will be a "soft-seater" venue!)  He says, "At least if it rains, YOU and your instruments won't get wet."   (After a week of steady rains and 40-50° days that IS comforting.)

So here are my recommendations:

If you are in the neighborhood, stop on any Saturday night of the season and savor the music in its perfect environment.

If you are not in the neighborhood, ask yourself "Why Not?" and then make plans to be!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blue Plate Special WDVX, Knoxville!

The Blue Plate Special served up a tasty menu today (a daily LIVE radio broadcast at WDVX, which is hosted in the Knoxville Visitor's Center.)
The Audience is filling the chairs.

I played here a few years ago and was delighted to have the opportunity to do so again!

There is a live studio audience as you can see from these photos: (taken from my vantage point on stage just before the show began to air.)
Daniel (Engineer) and Red Hickey
 (host) check the final details.

I was up first,
(See my set list below)
then Jerry Butler and the Blu-Jays (Bluegrass band) took the stage:

and Tony Furtado rounded out today's delectable selections.

Tony Furtado

The people who came to my workshops in Townsend heard the show and I was able to plug both and my workshop, show and jam in Chattanooga tomorrow!

And even more cool, the Visitors Center sports an umbrella collection (whether these are left behind, or offered for unprotected is still surprising and thoughtful!)  

Steve's setlist:

Simple Gifts (hammered dulcimer solo)

Barlow Knife (mountain dulcimer with noter & quill, then noter & pick)

80,000 Cage-Free Chickens (mountain dulcimer & vocal)

Fiddle Tune Set:  Flop-Eared Mule / Liberty / Soldier's Joy (hammered dulcimer solo)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Roots and Wings: Vivid Eco-Art!

I was so filled with joy to complete my Artist-in-Residency with Montrose Elementary students in Songwriting earlier this month.  (See this post for an earlier explanation...and then wait for more details to follow.)

BUT!  I was not the only artist to work with the students this year.

Michelle Stitzlein is a visual artist who designed and helped the students install a mural entitled "Roots and Wings"

Here is the detail of "Roots"

"and Wings"

The brilliance of the colors and the composition are so active and exciting--just like the songs I wrote with the 2nd Graders.

But now look more closely:  The material for this mosaic is all injection-molded bottle tops!  All in the original colors of their original fabrication.
The school has been collecting these bottle tops all year because it is estimated that they don't decompose back to their natural components for 500 years.  With Michelle's help, they have removed them from the refuse stream and assigned them a new, beautifying purpose.

AND, each child in the school was able to add at least one of the tops to the art.  And, they can remember which one they added!  "That's mine!" a student proudly says, pointing to a green one near the bottom.

"What's Your Story?" has been the school theme for the year.

This reminds me of the Felice Holman poem, "who am i" that I set to music, a line of which became the title for my 2007 recording.  (Listen and/or download here)

All of us have a piece of the puzzle and together they magnify and multiply beauty in the world!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Back for Baccalaureate

Capital Alumni beneath the gate
Capital University, Mees Hall Auditorium, was the site of the Baccalaureate Service for my daughter, Kaitlin's, Graduation in early May.
The "new" permanent thrust in front
of the stage in Mees Hall.

I was honored when Pastor Amy Oehlschlager invited me to play music for the prelude of the service.

I played both mountain and hammered dulcimers on the stage where I used to work when I was a student back in the 1980s.

"First Snow"

In those days, I was part of the Theater Production Staff and the Mees Hall Stage Crew.  I told those stories to Joe, the sophomore who is currently a member of the stage crew, commenting on all the improvements in the facility.

As one might expect, walking through campus several times brought several treasured memories to the surface.

These are now overlaid with Kaitlin's freshly minted memories as this place has become an important part of her growth.  When I attended, I never imagined having a child follow me in the places I walked, worried, studied, grew and played.

This wasn't my first visit since my commencement in 1981, but it was significant for marking a point in our family's history.

...And because I was without a pick to play my mountain dulcimer.

Throughout the tour I'd been wearing pants that have a "pick" pocket, in which I carry my flatpicks, in order to be ready to play at a moment's notice.

This day, however, I was dressed up and the picks with were still in my jeans!

What to do?  (They were actually only just a couple of blocks away at my sisters's house, but...)
Joe with the Joe Walsh Pick

Stagehand Joe had an excellent solution:

Pulling out his wallet, he produced a pick,
given to his Columbus radio DJ father by Joe Walsh.

That's the one I played the tunes with.  And then got him to hold for this photo.

Lesson:  Always remember to thank your stage crew, because they can help save your bacon at any time!

None of us gets through any challenges in our life alone.  We don't get here by our own effort, we can't survive our vulnerability by ourselves, we're always standing on the shoulders of those who went before, those who point the way, pave the path and give us nudges and fervent pushes along the road.  Sometimes they are calling to us from the future as well as pushing from the past.

We are all an Answer to Prayer.  (Kaitlin sang on this recording with me in 2005.)