Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Saturday evening, after my mom and the girls had left the bluegrass festival, I stayed and hung out with friends for a while. Eventually, they all headed in different directions and I was alone. I was tired and chilly, but not quite ready to leave. I decided to head out to the campgrounds to find Carp Camp, the group of musicians who played at church last week. I thought I'd listen to them play a few songs and then go on home.

When I arrived at Carp Camp, I found it absolutely packed. There were at least 70 musicians crammed shoulder to shoulder under their open air tent and people standing all around the outside enjoying the music.

I have been to Carp Camp many times, but I had never seen so many people playing there at once - I counted 16 hammered dulcimers alone!
The musicians were laughing and joking and clearly enjoying themselves. To make things even more fun, many of them were wearing pirate hats, head scarves, or fake beards to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day!
Some of the people in the group have been playing together for decades. Others brought their instruments and joined in just for the night. The leader, who was sitting in the innermost circle, would call out the name of two or three songs and start them off.
Occasionally he'd shout for different sections to play alone - "Just the fiddles!" or "Dulcimers and mandolins!"
The music ranged from traditional Irish tunes to songs they'd written themselves, crazy fast songs that made you want to dance to slow, sweet waltzes. I was great fun to just stand and listen. I recorded bits of the music, but can't figure out how to link it to my blog....
One of the wonderful things about this collection of players is that they invited passing musicians to come and join them, even play a solo or teach them a new song. At one point, the group leader looked up and waved in a man standing near me. It was Pete Huttlinger, a wonderful guitar player who had been performing at the festival all week. They sat him on a platform in the middle, the place of honor and announced the next song. Pete groaned because it was a ridiculously fast piece, but he played with a grin on his face.
After a few songs, Pete gestured to his friend, who had been singing with him during the week. He introduced her as Mollie Weaver and announced that she would like to sing for us. He explained that the song as an aria and in Italian, but he thought we would enjoy it. The musicians politely set down their instruments. Mollie smiled, opened her mouth, and proceeded to sing the most gorgeous song. Everyone listened in complete awe, as her enormous voice filled the tent and the campgrounds far beyond. "Con te partiro" she sang, time to say goodbye. Her voice was rich and powerful and full of emotion. Mollie was sitting on a rotating stool and as she sang, she slowly turned in circles, aiming that magnificent voice at every person there. You could hear her in your bones. It was magical.
I have heard lots of unusual things at the bluegrass festival over the years - didgeridoos,  musical saws, Jimi Hendrix played on mandolin, yodelling - but this was the most unexpected. And the most beautiful. That voice singing that song in that place was something almost holy. It's something I will never forget.

I stood outside that tent in the cold for an hour and a half. If I hadn't had responsibilities the next day I could have stood there all night. I finally headed home, though, with my heart full of music and my bucket overflowing.

1 comment:

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