Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fly Me to the Moon! and I Survived Galax 2007

Well, the last month or more has been an absolute (good) blur but I've finally lit for a day or two with some friends in Bristol Tennessee and this morning seems like a good time for reflection. Suffice it to say that the last few weeks have been incredible and have really gotten me thinking about settling down once again, you know taking some of my things out of boxes for the first time in six years!

So I'm just back from a terrific week at the old fiddlers convention in Galax VA, and while there still ARE some old fiddlers there, it's really a misnomer for a gathering of fine musicians whose tastes span many genres and whose endurance is surely unsurpassed in this world. I don't even want to know what the heat index read those 8 days I spent in Galax but it was clear off my own scale. Still, the company of kindred spirits and the melodic sounds that wafted through the sweet mountain nights of Galax are not to be underrated in my presence!

While one might think that an old time music enthusiast such as myself would surely immerse herself in the very depths of mountain old time at a place like Galax instead I found myself camped next to a pink flamingo and other "camp" items and right across from an encampment known as Swingtown - home of the Starlight Lounge. The disco ball there, illuminated by a proper spotlight was, well, unprecedented in my old time fiddlers contest experience, but you never do know what you might find at these conventions. Suffice it to say that through the kind and kindred spirits of Swingtown I rediscovered a long-lost passion for old time jazz music. These boys were keen to play day and night, and though I have never had the jazz chops (and sadly probably never will) I sure have appreciative ears for the sounds of jazz and western swing music, and both were to be found in abundance for many listening ears.
Sometime during the course of the week Jeff Jenkins, surely one of the finest jazz guitarists I've ever heard, convinced me that I should give a go at jazz singing and came up with the idea of "Fly Me to the Moon," so one of those nights around the (wholly imagined and unnecessary under the circumstances) proverbial jazz campfire I lent my voice to the song to the accompaniment of fine and tasteful jazz guitarists, a doghouse bass, a couple of mandolins and even a tenor was a magical time for me and though I cringe a little bit to hear the recording I made of that moment in my life, I'll admit to mostly being thrilled to be a part of that warm scene for just an instant of my life. Thanks guys for your encouragement - and for all the wonderful hours of sweet jazz.

If I had been a 3000% better guitarist I could have taken good advantage of the willing teaching spirit that pervaded the doins' at Swingtown; but I had to settle for a lesson with Jeff Jenkins who makes his living teaching jazz guitar (thanks Jeff); if you're around Knoxville Tennessee and want to master the guitar, he's the guy to call! During this lesson he had my fingers trying to do things that aren't humanly possible unless you have no bones in your fingers. I gave it my best but fell flat on my face. How do some people manage to make things seem so easy!

If you like old time music or sort of modern bluegrass music or swing music or even just a gathering of friendly folks in a really hot place then you owe it to yourself to go to Galax for that great fiddlers convention. You won't be sorry! There's something there for everyone. There was even a really good singing jam (mostly kind of old time mountain songs and brother duets) the fire fueled mostly by one Tom Mindte, a recent discovery for me, but I'll not soon forget his wonderful mandolin playing and strong voice....a real keeper. That particular jam was special to many on Friday and Saturday nights when none other than Ronnie Stoneman graced the jam with her bright new smile and a banjer. Good stuff and all the folks gathered around that big tarp were lit up by her hilarious stories and southern charm. I reckon she was having as big a time there as ever she had on Hee Haw!

Probably I could go on for several more pages about all the things I did and saw at Galax but you really just need to experience it for yourself. It combined all the things I love about people, music and camping (and I really love all those things) -- short and long conversations, moments of inspiration, beautiful sounds, seeing kids joining together to pick, passionate about the music I love (hope for the future), meaningful moments among friends, glints of discovery, the sparkle of a disco ball and the lights it threw in interesting patterns all around the folks and earth as we escaped to a world of sweet jazz sounds...what a magical week in Galax as we joined forces to beat the heat and rise above physical discomfort to share the music we love with friends and strangers alike.

Leaving, the feeling of joy at sharing and loss at parting, and still the hope for next year to come when more memories are made and the past is relived and expanded upon.


At 4:43 am, Blogger texino said...

How high is the moon?

At 11:10 am, Blogger greenspan21 said...

Thanks for the great post re Galax. Sounds fun.

And it sounds to me that if you liked Galax, you'll love the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho. There's a significant and perhaps similar Swingtown there too along with great old-timey and Texas-style fiddling.

I'm in the middle of making a documentary abt Weiser. Check out the site at Join the e-mail list.

Gotta get ta Galax one o'these years! Thanks, again.




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