Here it is---day three of Bluegrass Week at Augusta. Murphy is here teaching the intermediate banjo class and I'm here as staff musician. So far I've sat in with Chris Stuart and Janet Beazley's vocal class to sing the third part in a trio, played rhythm guitar for Murphy's class, helped out with some beginning fiddle instruction, and lead two slow jams on the porch of Halliehurst Mansion, a beautiful old house that at the heart of campus. (Others might say that the Icehouse pub is the heart of campus. I suppose it depends on your point of view.) I also went to the Monday night contra dance:
Years ago at this camp I fell in love with clogging and contra dancing. Walking down to the pavilion last night I was filled with a particular sense of excitement that I hadn't experienced since last time I was here, walking down to the first dance of the week. (In the above photo you can see our intrepid vocal instructors Chris and Janet waltzing---they're the couple closest to the band.)
Monday night Murphy and I went to the Randolph County Community Arts Center to see Tony Trischka present a show/talk/demonstration on the history of the banjo. He was amazing, as he always is. He ended with a John Hartford tune called "Foggy Mountain Landscape," which he described as having a difficulty level of "10". Now, when Tony Trischka rates a song's difficulty level as "10" you know that it's serious business.
In this case the tune featured the use of the Keith tuner on the second string. He also de-tuned the first string FREEHAND! And not only did he tune it down and then back up, but he tuned it down to three different notes, and then back up, stopping at all the same notes on the way up!! We were all pretty well flabbergasted.
Also at the Arts Center is a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution called New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music. Strangely, and completely coincidentally, this exhibit contains a larger-than-life cutout of my brother Chris Henry. So of course Murphy had to get her picture taken with it:
It is impossible to recount all the highlights here at Davis and Elkins College but I will add that today's afternoon concerts by Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, and by Janet Beazley and Chris Stuart were a pure pleasure to listen to. And as I write this I'm listening to a jam outside my building that includes Herschel Sizemore, the Gibson Brothers, and my former bandmate Tyler Grant, where they are playing "Rebecca," a popular tune written by Herschel himself. It doesn't get any better than this.