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Archive for May 12th, 2004

Our Two-Concert Weekend

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

I took a while to get my photos ready, but finally I am ready to tell of the two-concert weekend we just finished. It was a wonderful time.

Friday we went to the Folk Society of Midland. The concert was at the library, in a wonderful auditorium built by the Dow family. Midland is a one-company town (Dow Chemical and associated companies) and the company makes sure this fairly small city is a pleasant place to work, so they can attract good talent to their employment rolls. I was amazed at the art museum next to the library. Lansing does not have an art museum, and we are the capitol city of the state, but Midland, a much smaller city, has a lovely one by the looks of it. Very impressive.

We were greeted by our Friend Carol, to whom I’d sent an email notice about the concert just a few days earlier. We only see Carol once or twice a year so that was a real treat. Then we went into the auditorium, and our friends Kathy and Jerry were there (they are the two original members of their band, Hoolie, which now has four members). It was great to see them, as well. They had a lot of instruments and microphones to set up so we left them alone and waited our turn.

Our sound check was uneventful, and we got to use a wonderful studio microphone between us that was strong enough to pick up both voices without leaning into the mike. Very nice.

Then, just as we were ready to go on, I found that the low-E string on my bass was not in tune. I turned the peg to try and tune it properly, and then it snapped. The string went limp and there was nothing I could do, because they were calling our names to perform.

It’s a good thing I don’t use that string very often (I have a five-stringed bass and I tend to use the four higher strings). The main reason I like it there, is that I sort of navigate my other strings by having that one there in place, where I rest between notes. So I was able to play all our tunes just fine, but I did not play as fancy as I might have… I played it a little more carefully so that I would not grab the wrong string by mistake!

Since we just have such a good time together on stage, and we really have some nice numbers, the concert went well. I think the audience did not realize I was missing one of my five strings.

We had a lovely time in Midland. Everyone was so welcoming! We loved it.

The first two photos are Brian and I doing our best to Moon/June/Spoon on stage in Midland. Third photo is Hoolie.

On Saturday, Brian and I both worked in the morning and early afternoon. I actually got up really early to take my friend Tony to the airport, so I didn’t get much sleep. I took a small nap after work and Brian bought strings for the bass when he was at work that day. When he got home he started to change the string, and then he realized that the problem was the tuning mechanism, not the string itself. He tried to fix it and he was almost successful, but in the end we just pulled the string off the bass entirely. At least that way I could rest my fingers on the fretboard below where the string normally would go. The night before I had a floppy string under my fingers and it was not a solid place to rest.

The good news was that once we got on stage at Banjorama, I did very well with the new string set up. It was probably the largest crowd we have ever sung to, a full house at a large church hall in Davison, 15 minutes east of Flint. I heard they had 350 tickets and they all sold.

The crowd at Banjorama was so welcoming, it was delightful. Even though the crowd was really big and we could not see many of the people because of the lighting, we could really feel that they were right with us. There was a different feel to this crowd, because they were sitting at tables and eating a meal, having some beer or a coke, and so it was more like a party than the formal concert the night before. They were quiet and paid attention, so it was not like a restaurant, but it was more like dinner theatre perhaps.

We did some of Brian’s instrumental numbers, with him playing banjo ukulele. We did “Singing in the Bathtub” which went over very well. That song is special for us, because we whistle one whole verse in harmony and I think it sounds just great. Let’s face it, most of us know that song from Tweety Bird, and so whistling goes right along with that idea.

I also sang “Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love” and “Tiptoe through the Tulips.” I’m telling you, when I sing Tulips the world wakes up. It has a long and beautiful introduction that apparently nobody has ever heard before (probably because Tiny Tim never sang it), which sets up the mood that the sun is setting and things are quiet in the garden. Then the main part of the song comes along (but I sing the words that were originally written, not the ones that our esteemed Mr. Tim, may he rest in peace, typically sang). And the minute I sing the chorus, the world wakes up! They loved it, and I loved singing it. What a high it was to sing for those lovely folks!

The other bands that night were The Cats and The Fiddler… a threesome of children who are pretty amazing musicians/vocalists (all elementary-aged kids), Mal Cooper and friends, and the Flint Banjo Club. We went on after the kids, so we didn’t hear them nearly as much as we would have liked.

Mal Cooper played a whole list of tunes that were favorites from my childhood. My mother would have really loved this concert. Then there was an intermission, followed by a long and wonderful set of 14 songs by the Flint Banjo Club.

Now, if all you know about banjo is bluegrass, you don’t know what this sounded like. It was more dixieland or old-timey. The folks were playing four-stringed banjos, either plectrum banjos or tenor banjos. Their set included: I’m Looking Over a Four Leafed Clover, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Georgia on My Mind, Beer Barrel Polka, Bill Bailey, and When I Lost You. Sing-along heaven! I made sure to get CDs from the banjo club and Mal Cooper… and the night before we traded CDs with Hoolie. I’m set for music for a good long while, I think!

Final photos are the Flint Banjo Club (all 30-plus banjos, and a tuba, piano, trumpet, bass, drums, and trombone), and Mal Cooper and friends (guitar, banjo, tuba). The photos just did not turn out very well, but you can at least see the vastness of that banjo band!