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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lagniappe Dulcimer Fete

NOTE: I was having trouble uploading pictures to this post. Kept getting a Google server error notice. I'll try to put pictures up later today. Sorry, I know that a post without pictures is like Cheerios without milk - dry, but still edible. :(

What a weekend I had! Thursday afternoon I left Randy and traveled with Pat and Ron & Ruth Phinney to Port Allen, Louisiana to attend my very first dulcimer festival! Port Allen is just across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge and takes less than four hours to get there. I was very excited. Several of the women in my dulcimer groups had gone last year and said it was a blast. Ruth went last year so Pat & I picked her brain about what to expect.

Friday morning dawned rainy & cold – YUCK! Much of the festival workshops were scheduled for outdoors so we weren't sure what to expect when we arrived. Workshops started at 8:30 and continued throughout the day until 4:30, with a one hour break for lunch. Unfortunately, the first couple of workshops I wanted to attend were scheduled for outdoors (of course!) and the organizers were scrambling to find indoor space. I must admit, I was a little cranky at first 'cause I really thought there should have a been a “what if” plan, so the scrambling wouldn't have been necessary. But, “this had never happened to us before” - isn't that what they always say? Anyway, after a bit of doing, indoor space was found and we settled in for our workshop.

Most of the workshops I attended were led by Don Pedi. Now, being new to this dulcimer world, I knew nothing about any of the instructors, I was just picking the workshops by their titles. Boy, did I get lucky!! Don was a fantastic leader and the joy and passion he has for mountain music was evident for the first time he opened his mouth. He shared the history of the music, his own experiences and his knowledge. I loved it! We learned lots of new songs, some new techniques and honed other skills. What a gift Don has and I am grateful to have been able to take advantage of his experience.

The last workshop I attended was for Sacred Harp Music. No, it has nothing to do with harps! It is an accapella form of singing that is all about the music and the poetry (words) of the songs. It is four part harmony and is so pure. It is called “sacred harp” because the books most used by these groups is called “The Sacred Harp.”: The term “sacred harp” refers to the human voice, which is the musical instrument you were born with. When groups sing together, it is never considered a performance – it is an appreciation of the music and it is a spiritual experience. The style of singing is called “shape note singing because the four distinct shapes used in the musical notations which aid in sight reading. All of this information can be found at the Sacred Harp website, During our workshop, we learned four songs in just one hour. It was a amazing. There is something about singing without instruments that enables you to hear more clearly what you are singing about. Again, it was getting back to the tradition and roots of American music. I will definitely be looking into this for future festivals.

The best thing about the festival, of course, was the music. Everywhere you went, you saw large groups, small groups, and individuals just making music. Some of the “jam sessions” were scheduled while others just popped up throughout the venue. Somebody would start playing and then others would join in. There were mountain (lap) dulcimers like I play and guitars, fiddles, hammered dulcimers, bowed dulcimers, bowed psaltrys, banjos; gosh, if it had strings, it was being played. There was even a workshop for harmonica players! The talent and skills levels were all over the spectrum and each person was comfortable because it was about the music. What fun.

I did end up buying a new dulcimer. I have been wanting one and hoped to find a good deal. Well, I did. I was able to buy a used dulcimer, complete with case & strap, that is well made by one of the premier dulcimer makers. I had one of the fellows with whom I play on Thursdays check it out to be sure that it was a good buy. He gave me the okay and told me how to negotiate for it. I'm happy to say that I was able to get the price down some and am very happy with my purchase. I'll have a picture of it tomorrow to share with you.

Instructors of the workshops entertained us with concerts on Friday & Saturday nights. Gosh, the talent and skill they possess. We had a blast listening to them. After sitting in their workshops, it was pure fun to watch them in action. On Saturday night, the dulcimer orchestra performed. These folks had gotten to the festival early and paid an additional fee to participate in this event. It was very cool.

We left Sunday morning for home. As much fun as I had, I was ready to be home. I missed Randy and I missed my bed! There's just nothing like sleeping in your bed. I mean, that's one of the best things about full-time RVing – you're always at home! :) We rolled into the park a little after 2pm. Ron did a great job of chauffeuring us around. Poor guy – he was stuck with three “wives” for a weekend. He was great.

I'll post more pictures later. Ron took a bunch and I'll get them from him. Now, it's back to reality and the routine of retirement. Such a tough life! ;) Hey, I did laundry this morning at 5am. So, it's not all fun and games.

Until the next time . . .

1 comment:

  1. I run a "google blog search" for "sacred harp" every day, and your post came up. If I get a chance to do what you're doing, I'm going to hit as many Sacred Harp conventions as I can, two day weekend singings with potluck dinners and evening socials. What a great life! If you find yourself in Minnesota at the end of September, spend a couple of days with us.

    cheers! fasolamatt