Day 44: Interstate Tour 2018
Several years ago, I booked a tour through Pennsylvania and received an e-mail from a gentleman by the name of Jeffrey Hamilton, who wondered if I might consider adding a stop to the schedule. Always happy to accept invitations to play, I accepted and came out to perform a concert at Grace United UCC in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a fun show, so much so that we went ahead and planned on doing it again the following year. This became an annual thing and, bit by bit, things began to happen. People started playing mountain dulcimer and I began to teach workshops and private lessons before the concert. They started having multiple concerts and workshops each year with visiting artists like Butch Ross.
Mountain Dulcimer Players of Lancaster was formed and I watched with delight as their numbers grew year after year. Jeffrey and his wife, Robin Cain, began to play and, four years ago, they began the Dutchland Dulcimer Gathering, which, today, is held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Lancaster, right on the edge of a beautiful cornfield. This year’s teaching staff includes Dave Haas, Aubrey Atwater, Elwood Donnelly, Nina Zanetti, Butch Ross, Judy House and Rich Carty.
After setting up my vending table, I took the Mavic up for some shots and then came back inside as registration began to get jumping. Dulcimer festivals are a gas. They’re just ridiculous amounts of fun and the people are the finest you’ll find anywhere on this big blue marble. Though many of us are connected via social media, it’s always great to catch up in real time. It’s been widely said that a dulcimer festival is like a family reunion, only everyone gets along (well, technically, folks are more polite about it, anyway.)
I taught The Secrets of Chord Melody in the first session and used the Leonard Cohen tune “Hallelujah” to illustrate the process. In a nutshell: make sure the highest pitch in any chord is the melody note, use voice leading to keep lateral movements to a minimum and, this - do everything in service of the melody.
Since it dropped this morning, I demonstrated my work-in-progress arrangement of “The Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera.” It involves some sleight-of-hand due to the Bb major chord in the bridge, after the key modulates up a minor third (from D to F.)
Second session was my Disney Dulcimer class and it went in a direction that I didn’t foresee. First, I taught “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins, then “Yo Ho Yo Ho (A Pirates Life For Me)” from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. With some time left, I played through some of my older and newer Disney arrangements and then decided to figure out “The Bare Necessities” with the group. It was great! People were getting it, so we did a little “Old Yeller” and some “Ballad of Davey Crockett”. You can really only do that with a pretty sharp group of players. These guys were up for anything and I like that in a class. It gives you the freedom to push the envelope a little bit, just being careful to allow room for success.
Work without payoff is kind of a buzzkill, and you can take pride in the smaller achievements even as you’re furrowing your brow over the difficulty of whatever you’re currently working on.
The catered dinner was delicious and getting some more visits in was priceless. Before long, though, the third and final session of the evening was on and I taught “Da Slockit Light” to a smaller, yet very passionate group. Likewise very skilled, we did some on-the-fly arranging by having one half of the class play the tune and the other half played a variety of chord voicings as support, both strummed and flat-picked. By the time we were done 90 minutes later, we were all fairly blissed out by this somber Shetland piece.
A pretty rowdy jam kicked up in the vendor room and the energy shot through the roof. I ended up playing and dancing with Aubrey as Dave goosed the tempo higher and higher. For those who haven’t seen Aubrey Atwater, do a YouTube search and you’ll know what I’m talking about. That’s harder than it looks - trying to play a tune while moving your feet in rhythm (or something like it - I sure wasn’t clogging, more of a half-ass ten-step) and my hat’s always off to Aubrey for her sheer stamina. If they could bottle whatever she’s got, we could power cities.
As much as I wanted to jam all night, it needed to be an early bedtime in preparation for a crazy day tomorrow. Teach two workshops in the morning, depart at noon, drive 90 minutes back to Westminster, Maryland, perform at the Common Ground On The Hill Roots Music and Arts Festival at 3 pm (a 1 hour set - sweet!), then pack up and begin the trek to Evart, Michigan where I’m teaching a 3-Day Mountain Dulcimer Intensive and then teaching/performing/vending at the ODPC Funfest, in the same location, starting Monday. Didn’t want to do the whole 12 hours in one day, that’s just a drag, so I’ll break it roughly in half, stop at some Walmart Resort midway and top off groceries, then get there early enough on Sunday to set up, chill-out and visit with the folks who are already set up and camped.
Quite a few people have come up to me today and said, “how do you keep up this pace?”
My secret? I ghost early. It’s all about quality sleep.