Tag Archives: augusta

(Casey's students, Ben and Kasey, who are also regular Tip Jar Jammers, recently attended the Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Week in Elkins, W.Va. I asked Ben to write a little about their experience. So, heeeeeeeere's Ben!)

Hey Murphy,

Told ya I'd write a blog on our Augusta experience and I didn't want to let you down so here goes.

First off I need to touch on what got us to attending Augusta. Last year after Casey's return from Augusta she had mentioned that it might be a good fit for my Kasey. Especially since there are more young people there versus our local jams. That got things started. So over the course of the winter I did some research and read up on it to try to get some understanding about this event. Since Kasey definitely wouldn't do this by herself that meant I needed to be going. So I thought it would be best for me to take the bass course and her to do the banjo stuff. This would allow her to start to separate herself from me a little. What you have to understand is that it's a little nerve racking especially since we both have been under the wings of our banjo and bass bosses. (Murphy and Casey) When things go wrong they're always there to bail us out and mostly in a kind way! Unless you're me and you play Fireball Mail when you're not supposed to! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Our regular Tuesday Tip Jar Jam was canceled this week so I could go up to Elkins, West Virginia, and give a talk about my book, Pretty Good For A Girl. I also played in a concert that night with another band of "Merry Chicas" that included Casey, Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Tammy Rogers, Sharon Gilchrist, and Mary Burdette. "My, my, my" as the song goes! I was accompanied on my trip by my friend and "personal assistant," Kathy Holliday, who is the Best Book Seller Ever and a great road-tripping buddy. We talked all the way up, and all the way back. And on the way back we also Ate Chocolate and Drank Cokes! Yippee!

The book talk went great. IMHO, it's finally shaping up now since I've given it a number of times. I've finally figured out that I do better sitting down with "my banjo on my knee" and just talking. When I run out of things to say or feel like I'm "yammering," I punctuate the talk with a song. This time, Casey joined me on stage so we had the full force of two banjos! As one of our songs, I got the audience to sing along with us on "Worried Gal," in the women's key of C and asked them to pay attention to how difficult it was to actually remember to sing the word "gal" instead of "man," which is the more conventional way to sing this (and the way the Carter Family sang it).

After being immersed in a book talk and an all-female band, I'm feeling my feminist oats! I was so proud that Laurie Lewis called me a "firebrand." High praise, indeed! ...continue reading

Murphy and Casey appeared at the after-lunch roundup during Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, July 29, 2014. "Lonesome Road Blues" was the first tune ever recorded by a woman playing Scruggs-style banjo. That woman as Roni Stoneman.

Tuesday evening during Bluegrass Week all the female instructors played a set at the evening concert. What a fun show! Here is "Banjo Pickin' Girl". Murphy and Casey Henry (banjos), Kathy Kallick (guitar), Mary Burdette (bass), Laurie Lewis and Tammy Rogers (fiddles), Sharon Gilchrist (mandolin).

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Well, here I am, once again teaching banjo during Bluegrass Week at Augusta Heritage in Elkins, West Viriginia. As you know, Casey is also here and we are sharing a room in one of the college dorms. Here is a picture of my side of the room. Along with a picture of our food stash.

Murphy and Casey's room at Augusta

Murphy and Casey's room at Augusta

I have a wonderful intermediate banjo class of seven students, all adults. Six men, one woman. The first day we also had 17-year-old Jake in with us, but when we found out he had learned from tab (and could actually play!) we kicked him out! In truth, he was way too advanced for us so I sent him up to Tony Trischka’s class. (Along with a note that he was a tab reader!)

Slight digression: At the staff meeting Sunday night, the instructors were told that the college would Xerox a certain amount of tablature for the teachers, ten pages per student. Tony immediately asked if he could have my tab allowance! Naturally, I said yes, but I made him kiss my ring first!

On Monday night Tony did a History of the Banjo presentation, solo, at the Elkins Art Center where I was startled to see a lifesized poster of my son Chris playing his mandolin! It was positioned facing the

Murphy and Casey's food stash.

Murphy and Casey's food stash.

audience so while I was watching Tony, Chris was watching me! Slightly surreal! Tony was gracious enough to ask me what he should start his show with, so I suggested his original tune “New York Chimes” (a wordplay on New York Times) which I love. The whole show was wonderful, including Tony’s story about calling Pete Seeger on the phone to ask a question about how to play “Coal Creek March” and talking to Pete while he was in the bathtub! The mind boggles....

But you might be wanting to know what we are doing in class. Monday we began working on improvising! We started with “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” (of course), playing the entire tune with forward and backward rolls. This then became our “lousy level” (Casey’s term from John Hartford) to which we could then return when the other stuff we added (pulloff, slide, tag, etc) became too difficult. Or if we just forgot what we were doing! Tuesday we put on the capo at the second fret, to play in A, and did the same thing with “Bury Me Beneath The Willow,” adding a rather difficult C lick (the double square roll). Today it was back to BRCH, only this time we were doing it in the key of C—without a capo. When we finished with that, I sensed brain fatigue so we filled out the rest of the class time by picking. Each student suggested a song so we did:

Washed in the Blood
Little Maggie
I Saw the Light
Old Joe Clark
Lonesome Road Blues
Circle

There were a few trains wrecks along the way, but all in all I think we done good! Everyone in the class is very brave and jumps right in and does the best they can. And we are getting plenty of practice vamping!

After class every afternoon me and my fiddle (or, if you prefer, my fiddle and I) have been joining the throng of students on the giant wrap-around porch of Halliehurst Mansion for Casey’s Slow Jam. Casey came up with the brilliant idea of jamming each day in a specific key, so no time is lost fooling around with capos. Monday it was G, Tuesday it was A, and today, Wednesday, will be C. Which my class is now well-acquainted with (to use more bluegrass grammar!). Casey and I are both looking forward to the Key of C which is where we are more comfortable singing, G and A being too low. Although we were getting some nice duet harmony yesterday on “Amazing Grace” and “Mountain Dew.”

As I wind down this blog, it is pouring rain outside, so I am skipping the after lunch concert in favor of a small nap. I’m pretty sure I will drift off with the sounds of today’s lesson in my mind. “There’s a well-beaten path on that old mountain side....” In the Key of C, of course!

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

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:

Augusta's Dance Pavillion

Augusta's Dance Pavillion

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.

Tony Trischka at the Randolph County Center for the Arts

Tony Trischka at the Randolph County Community Arts Center

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:

Murphy Henry posing with Chris Henry cutout.

Murphy Henry posing with Chris Henry cutout.

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.

This just in--Murphy will be teaching the intermediate banjo class at the Augusta Heritage workshops next week (August 26-31) in Elkins, WV. The original instructor, Charlie Cushman, had to cancel at the last minute, so Murphy is stepping up to the plate. It has been YEARS since Murphy has taught here, and there are STILL SPOTS AVAILABLE if you are a spur-of-the-moment type person. Call 304.637.1209 for more info.