Tag Archives: Happy New Year

Murphy Henry

And what did I do this New Year’s Eve? I went square dancing! And so did Murphy Method students Susan and Bill Morrison. I thought you might like to see a picture of us in our square dance attire! Don’t you love Susan’s scarf? Don’t you love my Chicos blouse? (Thank you sister Claire for that gift certificate!) Don’t you love Bill’s western shirt and string tie? We were styling!

Murphy Henry with Bill and Susan Morrison

Murphy Henry with Bill and Susan Morrison

Susan and Bill started learning to square dance back in September, going to the same class that I attend. I had originally planned on helping out as an “angel” in the class, which is a more experienced dancer who dances with the new students. But then I decided to learn to dance the boy’s part, so I became a student again myself! Now I can dance the girl’s or boy’s part and will never have to be without a partner again. (I hate sitting out dances!) I have a badge that says “Man” for when I dance the boy’s part. I definitely take a lot of ribbing, but it’s all in fun.

The New Year’s Eve dance was open to students (who didn’t even have to pay to get in) and I encouraged Susan and Bill to come. I told them I would make sure that they had “angels” to help them through the first two dances, and I that I would personally dance with Bill. We had a ball! They both did very well and, since they stayed for the whole dance and the Big Breakfast afterwards, I think I can safely say they had a good time.

Janet, Murphy, and Nick

Janet, Murphy, and Nick

Bluegrass content: And after the dance, as you can see, I brought out the banjo and Janet Moore (another MM student and angel for when I’m dancing the boy’s part) and Nick Copozio (the president of the Rivermont Ramblers square dance club) brought out their guitars and we played a few tunes while the folks were eating. What did we play? Lonesome Road Blues, You Are My Sunshine, This Land Is Your Land, my square dance song Save Me A Square on the Floor, and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. And then, as Nick says, we left them asking for more rather than asking us to stop playing! We also made $13 in tips! I gave Janet one of the dollars so she could frame the first money she made playing music, and we donated the rest back to the club.

We resume square dance lessons this week as well as banjo lessons. I’m looking forward to both!

Casey Henry

Happy New Year everyone!! I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and are now ready to get back to the grindstone. To start your 2011 off right, here's a story about giving yourself some well-deserved credit.

When John came to me for lessons he could already play. He’d been playing for years and had lots of banjo knowledge in his head. What he didn’t have was easy access to this store of information. It was rusty and buried under other things. My job was simply to help him take it out and dust it off so he could use it again.

Recently we’ve been working on Man of Constant Sorrow. He really likes the song and had learned the break off of the Murphy Method’s Ralph Stanley Style Banjo DVD. There are two breaks to the song on the disc. The first version is in they key of G. The second version is in the key of F (capoed three and played out of D position) because that’s where Dan Tyminski sings it on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

At the end of the lesson on the DVD I play the break along with Murphy, who sings and plays the guitar. During the singing I do some rolling backup which is not explained in the lesson. John focused right in on that and wanted to know what I was doing.  I honestly had no idea what I had done and didn’t have the DVD handy to look at, so I sang it through a few times and figured out a little backup pattern that made sense. John picked it up quickly and by the end of the hour we were able to put it with the guitar and singing.

The next week we were playing the break in different keys (with the capo) and he was moving smoothly from the lead into the backup and into the lead again. We played it quite a few times through and he made the comment, “That’s not so hard.”

I couldn’t let that remark slip by. I said, “No, actually it IS hard. But you’re a pretty good banjo player.” This sentiment is fairly common among students. As soon as they’ve accomplished something, they immediately discount it by calling it “easy,” blithely forgetting the hours of practice it took them to get to that point. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Give yourself the credit you deserve! You’ve put in lots of hard work to get to where you are in your playing and nowhere along the way has it been “easy”!