Tag Archives: harmony singing

Murphy Henry

Now that I’ve told you about content of the Harmony Singing DVD, let me tell you about the fun stuff! I picked Janet Beazley and Chris Stuart up at the airport on Saturday night about 7:45. I’d originally told them I’d meet them curbside, but of course by the time I’d made the almost two-hour trip (primed by a Starbucks Tall Americano and oatmeal cookie!) I needed the visit the “loo” as they say in Jolly Olde England. So I met them inside at baggage. I’d told them they could use our instruments, so all they had was two suitcases. (“And no merch!” as they both exclaimed.)

When we stepped outside the terminal, they were both stunned by the cold (22 degrees) which was made even colder by the brisk wind which was making the flags stand straight out. Yikes! We didn’t waste any time getting in the car and cranking up the heat.

I figured they would want to eat something so I told them they had three choices: eat junk food at the airport, eat fast food when we got to Winchester (about an hour’s drive), or wait till we got home and eat some of the food I had fixed. Bless their hearts, they opted to eat at home.

With Janet in the front seat, she and I talked all the way home, with Chris occasionally chiming in from somewhere in the back. She and I had met (and bonded) a few years ago at Mid-West Banjo Camp over a beer at a local tavern and the book Eat, Pray, Love. Deeply engrossed in conversation, we didn’t realize a huge summer thunderstorm had arisen and that we were due back on campus to perform real soon. The only thing to do was to make a dash for it through the pouring rain with lightning flashing all around and “thunder roaring, bursting in the clouds.” We arrived at our dorm drenched to the skin and looking liked drowned rats. We had just time to towel our hair day and change clothes before jumping on stage to sing Love Come Home as a duet. It sounded great. We’ve been buddies ever since.

Arriving back at the house, I warmed up bowls of a slow-cooker roast/stew I had concocted based on my friend Robyn’s recipe which included dumping in a bottle of beer and ¼ cup of brown sugar to the roast and adding onion, carrots, apple, apricots, prunes, and cranberries. By the time I’d added all that there was no room for the sweet potatoes! So it goes. They said it was yummy and I had to agree! (Could have used a tad more salt...)

Meanwhile Bill Evans was making his way to the house in his rental car. (He’d flown in earlier in the week to visit his sister in Richmond and to do a banjo workshop.) I called him and he said he’d be there at precisely 10:26. So of course, at 10:27 I called and told him he was late! He had a good excuse: he was almost in sight of the house when he found the road blocked and a “blue light special” (police cars) surrounding a truck which had run off the road and had “fetched up” with its front tires in the lake. The cops had rerouted him up the mountain which was taking longer than he had expected. I was aghast at the police cars because Chris and Janet and I had passed that same truck on our way in. (No police cars at the time.) I had laughed about it because there was a can of beer sitting by the truck and had said, laughingly, “Welcome to our hillbilly subdivision!” The truck looked abandoned and I certainly didn’t think anyone was in it. (And I hope to goodness I was right). But still, I realized as Bill was telling the story that we should have stopped to make sure.

Anyhow, Bill arrived safe and sound, and joined us in our evening meal and conversation. We batted around a few ideas for the DVD, talked about what time we’d like to start filming (11ish) and then....what do you think we four banjo pickers did? Did we rehearse? Did we break out four old fives and get down with some Earl? Some Ralph? Some Sonny Osborne (one of Bill’s favorites)? No, we did not. Sad to say, being the Baby Boomers that we are, we all went straight to bed. (Okay, Bill probably stayed up a while and did Facebook and email from his bedroom.) But, maybe, being Baby Boomers, we just realized that we had work to do tomorrow and that the RESPONSIBLE thing to do, was get a good night’s rest. I prefer to think of it that way!

And now, as my grandmother would say, “Mouse is run, my story’s done.” At least as much as I can tell now. Now it’s time to go record a few extra introductory clips for the DVD. When you get the DVD, you can check closely to see if you can tell which ones I added today! The clothes will be the same, the earrings and necklace with be the same, but the hair never turns out the same way twice!

Murphy Henry

Wow! What a weekend! On Monday evening, we finished recording our brand-new Harmony Singing DVD! (Not yet titled and not yet for sale!) Bill Evans, Janet Beazley, and Chris Stuart (all from California) joined Red and me in the studio to record a DVD that’s all about teaching folks to sing harmony. It was way too much fun, and we put down some amazing lessons.

And of course we did it totally by ear, the Murphy Method way, with no talk about theory or use of big phrases like “five chord,” “parallel thirds,” or “sing a B note.” In fact, I made Bill go back and re-do a clip in which he referred to an E chord as a “five chord.” That’s a no-no, Bill!

We chose six songs that are fairly easy to sing and are well-known, standard bluegrass numbers: Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Bury Me Beneath the Willow, All the Good Times Are Past and Gone, Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky, Amazing Grace, and Just Over in the Gloryland.

It is our firm belief that you learn to sing harmony by singing harmony! (Just as you learn to sing lead—which is the melody—by singing lead.) So, for every song, we sang the lead part and each harmony part separately (with guitar accompaniment) so you can hear that part clearly and practice singing along with us.

And here is beauty of our approach: We demonstrated the first song, Will the Circle, in three different keys so that no matter what your vocal range is, you can sing with us! So, Murphy sang lead in the key of A, Janet sang lead in the key of C, and Bill sang lead in the key of E. We also demonstrated and sang the harmony parts (tenor and baritone) for each key. We also did the second and third songs (Willow and All the Good Times) that way.

For the fourth song, Rough and Rocky, which is longer (verse and chorus in harmony all the way through), we used just one arrangement with Chris singing lead in G. And the last two numbers we performed as quartets so all you bass singers can get involved!

Since this DVD concentrates on singing, we kept the instrumentation minimal (usually Chris on guitar) so you could always hear the singing. Then, at the very end, we closed out with a rousing quartet of Over in the Gloryland with Bill and me both playing our banjos. We were cooking!

[Then there was that extra footage we shot with the strange rabbit, but I don’t want to say too much about that yet....]

I am so excited about this DVD! We’ve never done a singing DVD so this is a totally new venture for us. I started thinking about this (with some prodding from Bill!) after he and I did a harmony singing workshop with Janet at Mid-West Banjo Camp this past June. She was the workshop leader and she did an amazing job of teaching a class of 30 adults to sing three-part harmony to Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky. (All Bill and I had to do was sing what she told us to!) It was her ability to talk about bluegrass harmony singing in simple terms—and sing all three parts herself with ease (although not at the same time!)—that made me want to record this DVD and open up the sometimes mysterious world of harmony singing to everyone.

So, stay tuned for more info on the release date. (And the title!) We’re hoping to have the DVD out in a couple of months. And, believe me, you’ll be the first to know!

PS: And what did we do after our long days of recording? Sunday night we watched the PBS Masterpiece Classic Downton Abby (two blissful hours!) and Monday night we watched the screamingly funny (and extremely risqué) movie Hall Pass. (Not recommended for kids! Or grandkids! I might consider letting Dalton see it when he gets to be 21...or 30! Oh! I guess that would be Casey’s decision! Or, by that time, his! Hey, this grandmothering is harder than you think!)

PPS: And speaking of mothering, happy birthday to son Chris whose birthday is tomorrow, Feb. 15th!!! As Mr. Spock would say, Live long and prosper!