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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sweet Home Alabama!

Sunset over Lake Guntersville and a tasty Catfish Dinner !

This week I caught a wave that I'll ride for awhile:

Guntersville, Alabama a peninsula in the middle of Lake Guntersville, is the setting for the mid-week festival where I had my Alabama teaching and performing debut this week (Sept 24-29).

It was a deep pleasure to reunite with colleagues and friends, Heidi Muller, Bill Collins, Anne Lough and Butch Ross to share musical knowledge, build and develop skills with all levels of mountain dulcimer players and laugh and laugh alot!

Jean Ann Moon is the presenter of this most-excellently-organized event (Melodies & Musings).  Jean Ann has returned to her hometown after a career that took her around the world and using her love of choral music is creating many trio arrangements for dulcimers to play together.

Early morning view west from our host's home.
After a great catfish dinner at Top O' the River, and a short night of sleep, I was up early on Wednesday to meditate at the edge of Lake Guntersville, and then head over to welcome my Intermediate class with the Dulcimer Pledge.

Wednesday evening we had a very fun jam session at the festival hotel with some fresh tunes offered by Heidi and Butch...eagerly picked up by what turned out to be some people who were brand new to jamming with other people!

Anne Lough singing The Blackest Crow
Thursday night everyone was treated to some very delightful ensemble music at the Open Stage and such a tasty presentation of the music of Appalachia by Anne Lough on mountain and hammered dulcimer and autoharp.  (Anne will be one of the Colorado Dulcimer Festival's headlining teacher/performers next February!)

The final faculty concert on Friday night featured the rest of us teachers and we prepared a surprise performance of the traditional tune, Spotted Pony over the signature Lynyrd Skynyrd lick and chords from Sweet Home Alabama.

You don't even have to guess that it was a hit!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Winfield Photos

Guitar on Friday morning, Stage 3.
Here are some photos from my stage performances at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas this past September.  These took place after the torrential Thursday rains had ceased and things were getting back to normal.
Thanks to Ilace Mears of Missouri for the pix from Stage 3 and to Bradford Rush of Ohio for the pix from Stage 2.

Hammered Dulcimer on Stage 3 (Nick Blanton
compact carbon-fiber model dulcimer)

McSpadden mountain dulcimer on Stage 2 on Saturday.

My daughter, Kaitlin, flew in from Berkeley, CA to sing with me on Stage 2 on Saturday afternoon! (Huss & Dalton Guitar)
Showing the brand new turkey feather quill (my pick) that I stripped and fashioned for that day's performance on my Ben Seymour Galax dulcimer on Stage 3.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stage 3 Annex at Winfield

It was not exactly the auspicious first performance I had envisioned giving at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield.

It was better!

Because of the deluge that was raining down upon us (an act that preceded me on Stage 3 had the audience sitting on the stage behind them because it was dry!....which put me in mind of scenes from Pete Seeger's Hootenany black and white TV show)....I decided to do my first set of the day in the horse barn just south of Stage 3, which became dubbed "The Stage 3 Annex" by Seth Bates, the Emcee for the afternoon sets.

This let the audience be dry, it also let the sound people not be touching electrified equipment while the rain and mist blew through, around and upon their attempting-to-be-sheltered equipment.

The rain on the tin roof above provided some challenge over which I had to work to be heard, but the hardy folks who gathered to hear music had an experience that is not unlike rainy day porch pickin' all across this great nation of ours (and I'm quite certain, in several other great nations on the planet!)

The inclemency of the weather also provided an opportunity that I eagerly snapped up:

The chance to jam with some of my colleagues and friends, who are themselves prize-winner and very fine dulcimer players!

Nathaniel Samsel (from Georgia, a recent winner of the Colorado Dulcimer Festival's Mountain Dulcimer Contest) is in the middle; Jeff Hames (a National Mountain Dulcimer Champion from Mississippi is on the far right) and Irma Reeder (not pictured, but playing guitar on my right from New Mexico, also a Colorado Dulcimer Festival Mountain Dulcimer winner) joined me for a very fun impromtu jam session as a part of my afternoon set.
That's why it turned out even better than I had imagined.  Every day I get to share music with other folks, in ways that prompt us all to bring our best, focused attention and listening ears that help us hone our chops, is a GOOD DAY!

Thanks to Jeff Lilley for this photo to help keep this good memory fresh!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Steve Eulberg at North Bay Children's Center

Steve Eulberg:  North Bay Children’ CenterDate: 8/2/12
Host: Aidan Nelson

Essence Story by Aidan Nelson

As Steve Eulberg and I walked into the North Bay Children’s Center in Novato, the kids were already eager. Peeking behind chairs and cabinets, they were very intrigued as to who we were and what we were doing there. When they were told that Steve would be playing music for them, their eyes widened with enthusiasm. As we set up for the performance kids continued to peek and smile and giggle. They were anxious to hear some music.

He began with a fill in the blank song, “I Celebrate Life By…” where the children would yell out how they celebrated life. Once he heard a good idea he would do an impromptu verse including their proposal.


                  “Sleeping on the couch eating pizza!”

After just the first song, the kids were already enthralled by his music. The energy with which he performed and the connectivity he created with the audience were astounding. He kept the listeners involved and active for the entire time, and with a group of young children, that’s something special. Frequently children, after some time, get bored or anxious to leave. However, this was not the case at North Bay Children’s Center. These kids were into it.

Towards the end of his set he would call for the children to do certain actions or jump up and down and dance. They did this with such immense enthusiasm that the ground almost shook.

When his show was over everyone was left with new energy and excitement. The show was an apparent success. I even heard one boy say, “Ah! That was so fun!”

And it was. It was so fun.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bread & Roses Gig Review

I have done a few gigs for Bread and Roses while in Northern California the past 2 years.  Here is a review from a show in San Rafael this past August.  This was truly a highlight of that tour!

Steve Eulberg at Country Villa
Date: 8/7/2012
Host: Dick Miner

Essence Story by Dick Miner:

Steve Eulberg is a singer-song writer, musician, and educator.  His show at Country Villa Health Care Center drew upon all of these talents.  He walked into the room and immediately captured everyone’s attention as he unpacked his guitar, the mountain dulcimer, and the most mysterious of all, the hammered dulcimer.

Steve began the show with a couple of Appalachian folk songs, “Flop Eared Mule” and “Golden Slippers”.  These instrumentals were played on the hammered dulcimer and Steve took the opportunity between songs to explain the history of the instrument as well as demonstrating how it is played.

After a few more instrumentals, he switched to guitar and played and sang some of his own compositions.  “A Ship May Be Safe” is one of such songs.  It is quite lovely and Steve got the audience involved by having them sing along with the chorus.

In the final third of the show, he played the mountain dulcimer and again sang some of his own tunes.  “Elk In The Meadow” and “You Get A Line And I’ll Get A Pole, Honey” were good illustrations of the use of the instrument in a Bluegrass, or as Steve calls it, “folkgrass” setting.

To end the show, Steve played a beautiful version of “Amazing Grace”.  Eyes were closed, bodies swayed, and the audience sang along.  It was a very emotional conclusion to the performance.  As he was putting his instruments away, there was a request for one more on the hammered dulcimer.  Steve treated everyone to the beautiful Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts” to conclude his performance.

Steve, being an educator and historian, provides depth and insight with each song.  His stories both entertained and informed.  His own compositions (such as “Elk In The Meadow”) are beautiful and invite the audience to share his experiences.  Steve treated the people at Country Villa to a wonderful experience of lovely original and traditional music played with unusual instruments.  All appreciated this very unique performance.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

After the Land Rush....

After the Land Rush and many of the the campsites are claimed, or re-claimed from a year of vacancy (which is what we CHOOSE to believe happens in OUR Pecan Grove)....everyone settles in to finding the neighbors that weren't uncovered in the Land Rush Line-Up or who are beginning to arrive as we re-create this annual, magical, acoustical Brigadoon.

The afternoon I arrived the heat was pretty oppressive, but by the weekend, Kansas was whipping up some good storms (on the outside edge of the seasonal hurricanes which usually have a strong impact there.)

Jim is watching the weather map, but having sailor Jeff with his nautical knots (there's an unlikely alliteration!) we feel secure in the battening of our hatches.

So when the winds blow strong and bring in the storm clouds from the north, scudding by at a furious rate of speed, our proud Scottish flag unfurls and the walls of our  carpeted "living room" keep us relatively warm and dry.

But how quickly it becomes hoodie weather!

But we are adaptable and this year we opened our own e-Library for quiet perusing of books, magazines or the editing of lyrics or chords on the songs that are shared between different i-devices.

Guess which one is reading an actual book (with paper pages?)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Land Rush is what begins "Winfield"....

Walnut Valley Festival 2003 (ariel view from the South)
The Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield officially opens on the Wednesday of the 3rd full weekend in September with Pre-Festival Workshops.

The interior gates are staffed and volunteers are checking armbands beginning Thursday for entrance to the festival grounds.

But as long-time festival goers know, the REAL festival begins the week BEFORE the festival opens with the LAND RUSH.


These are the two years that I participated in the Land Rush with my pals Jim and Jeff (in 2009); Jim and Juel (in 2010).  In the 2010 video, the front of Jim's white pickup is visible on the left side of this view as the campers are heading (in assigned numerical order) into the Walnut Grove (or West Campground.)  My van was parked under the streetlight just to the right of this view during the massive thunderstorms the night before.

The hard-core participants have gotten in line for this Land-Rush more than a week before this, at the end of August.

Once in line, the greetings to neighbors, the seeking out of old friends, and the picking of new and old tunes and story swaps begin....and continue throughout the festival.

I was able to arrive this year on the afternoon of Land Rush after leaving my home in Fort Collins at 3:18 am.   (more to come....)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Playing Didjeridoo!

Here's what I got to do this past July:

I played didjeridoo for the Australasian Choir, which performed twice at the GALA International Choralfest in Denver on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, under the direction of Dr. Kathleen McGuire.

Dr. McGuire was the conductor of the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins when I was commissioned to create and arrange a suite of songs (Beginnings).

This work was debuted at their Millenial Concert in 2000 at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins.

It was recorded and we also performed it at the GALA International Choralfest in San Jose, California later that summer.

An interesting requirement of this commission was that it needed to be arranged for SATB Chorus, with accompaniment by didjeridoo and both kinds of dulcimer!

My friend and didjeridoo teacher, Paul Taylor, was the didjeridoo player for those performances and the recording.  After those performances I started on my quest to learn to play this marvelous and mysterious instrument.

This chorus was a gathering of singers from Australia, New Zealand, ex-pats from those countries in the USA, France and Canada.  I accompanied them on an indigenous lullabye, Inanay and on My Island Home.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our Prayer is in the Practice of Our Trade

When I served as pastor of an innercity church in Kansas City (1985-1997), I was working as a worker-priest, a semi-skilled laborer, building patios and decks throughout the metropolitan area.  This was a good fit for the pastor tending to a congregation of poor and working-poor congregants.  

This also led to me being appointed by the Bishop of the then-called Kansas-Missouri Synod (now Central States Synod) of the ELCA to be his representative to the Religion and Labor Council of Kansas City.  

This organization brought together union business reps and inter-faith religious leaders on a monthly basis for a round-table dialogue, the first of its kind in a regular, organized fashion.  

Eventually I became one of the Moderators for the dialogue and was asked on many occasions to provide music for the dialogue, for local unions, prayer breakfasts, the state-wide Religion and Labor Dialogue that we planned and led in Columbia, Missouri, and AFL-CIO gatherings.

I suppose it was similar to the experience of many church organists/composers (like Bach, for example):  when there is a choir or an occasion, one's creativity is always at work ruminating on how to respond with a song.  This is especially the case when the published hymnals do not provide hymns or songs that directly relate to the labors of daily work.

In the Wisdom of Sirach (an Inter-testamental Biblical book) chapter 38, verses 24-34 I read verses that stopped me in my tracks and sent me to my pen and paper.  

The result is this song (also arranged as a 4-part hymn) entitled:  Our Prayer is in the Practice of Our Trade.

Here is the Chorus:

We all rely on the work of our hands
without the city is a barren land.
Though we are not sought out 
and our voice is often banned
Though we have low status
in the public eye:

But we maintain the fabric of the world
and our prayer is in the practice of our trade.
But we maintain the fabric of the world
and our prayer is in the practice of our trade.

You can hear it and the Congregational Edition of this song can be downloaded for free here.
The Complete Package (Accompaniment, Bb Trumpet, Guitar, SATB arrangement) edition is available as a download here.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How to Prepare for Booking Conferences

When one is a self-booking musician, finding one's audience is the top priority (after mastering the craft of music creation and performance, of course).  [NOTE:  An important preparation resource is available via the link below.]

The next challenge is finding the places where one's music will be a good fit with the audience that will be receptive.  The other challenge is being paid a just, living wage for practicing one's art or craft.  This post will focus on the first of these challenges.

The two best resources that I can recommend are the Folk Alliance International, and the musicians union (American Federation of Musicians)

I've been a member of the Folk Alliance for almost as long as I've been a member of the Musicians Union (Local 1000 AFM.)

Booking conferences are one avenue that I've found very helpful.

The Folk Alliance sponsors a massive annual gathering in February which is chock-full of showcase opportunities (both official and private "guerilla" ones.)
It is also features many panels and workshops and informal ways to connect and interact with colleagues, venue owners and festival booking agents, artist representatives and radio DJs who report to the FolkDJ list.

Next year's conference is in Toronto, Canada.  (2013).  In addition, there are many, more accessible regional gatherings across the US and Canada, which take place at different times throughout the year.

Southwest Regional (SWERFA)  Sept 27-30, 2012, Austin, TX

Far-West Regional (FAR-WEST)  Oct 18-21, 2012, Irvine, CA

Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM)Oct 11-14, 2012, St. Louis, MO

Southeast Regional (SERFA)  May 16-19, 2013, Montreat, NC

Northeast Regional (NERFA )  Nov 8-11, 2012 Kerhonkson, NY

These kinds of events are an investment in one's career, and are not like slot machines where you put in money and eventually win a prize.  They ARE a way to meet people and develop the relationships which can guide, support and further your career.

To use an Olympic analogy, when preparing for them think Long-Distance Race, rather than Sprint.

Here is the most thorough and very helpful list (First Time) of preparations that I've ever seen for:

1)  making the best use of the conference,
2)  not being overwhelmed by the conference,
3)  coming home from the conference energized and ready to take the next necessary steps

As I read it through today it reminds of me all the ways
I've benefited from the past conferences I've attended,
and I can trace bookings and career-advancing opportunities
from them, but even more,
I am finding myself sifting through memories
and faces
and stories
and conversations
that enrich my own artistry,
but even more importantly,
tie me up in a web of relationships
which is the community of musicians
who wrestle with our art,
who wrestle with our lives,
crafting songs and music
that we then pour from our hearts to our listeners.

And being fully present for these conferences helps me refresh, renew and connect in order to find the audience that will most welcome and receive my gifts.