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Plans, Thoughts, & Progress

Posted by harwilli55 on Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boy has this past month been a great learning period.  On  the9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th of September, I camped at the Rockbridge Old Time Music & Dance Festival in Buena Vista, VA.  It was a great time getting to see old faces, hear new tunes, take a good workshop, dance my feet off, and got some rails to trails bike riding in as well.  I love this little festival. It is small enough to recognize faces, get to know people new to me, learn some fun tunes, jam along with great musicians without feeling overwhelmed by the size.  I went tune trolling a lot....with my handy h4n zoom, plus I enticed a couple of friends I was camping with to record for me too. It was pretty darn cool to have someone else's ears attuned to finding stuff to record.

Since I am working so many hours during the week, my practice time has become extremely limited.  And I go through extreme fiddle, my Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings have become 5 hour practice sessions ...whoa !! One of the  things I really like about having my time to that I get to choose what I play.  I love jams.....and playing what everyone else calls, but the jams go through cycles where tunes I love move to the background as new tunes are added.  So, those morning sessions become time to revisit old friends for a while, until I am satiated, then I am ready to move to working on new stuff.

I have decided this winter will be the time to concentrate on less on tune acquistion, and more on bowing. I have enough tunes under my fingers that I am very comfortable with and plan to use them to explore developing bowings, phrasings, variations, and hopefully arrangment. The other thing I want to develop over the winter, is comfort playing in other keys, than the major 4 used in OT.  So, I will include scale practice in the keys of Bb, F, and some Modal stuff as well.

I am finding that while my starting tunes at a jam is rather limited and really is ,but when I am sitting close by competent fiddlers, I am matching note for note, phrase for phrase with much more confidence. It is strange though, that when I am at home in my own place, I can start tunes fine. I suppose in public, I tend to get tense, so my muscles loose their ability to smoothly start. 

One of the OT monthly jams, that used to be small, is now growing.  It has been amazing to watch it happen.  When it was held in the basement of a church, that is a bit secluded. There was no audience and the participation was tiny.  We share the church with the local Bluegrass people, they would jam in other rooms, we had our room.  There were always more grassers than OT'ers.  One of the members of the OT group, worked at the Nature Center in a local park.  She asked if we would play there. She did a bunch of advertising through the local radio and newspaper.  We had a really sizable crowd to play for.  This was early spring.  Since then, we have continued to play at the Nature Center and are getting lots of on-lookers, but also people who now know when we will be there , are showing up with their lawn chairs. When the weather is good, we get to play on a large deck outside, which is wonderful.  The biggest plus, is that musicians who have never attemtped to play OT, are beginning to bring their instruments to play with us, making our circle grow !!!

In the Irish part of my musical journey, our used to be little session has grown also.  We are now 18 core members, with others popping in once in a while. Interested musicians are starting to show up every month.  We were invited and made a successful session at a Arts Festival, which has bought us another gig at a local Pubs 10th anniversary celebration in October.  There is the possibility that all of this public playing will allow us to  add a new session in that area at another venue. FUN FUN FUN.

So, that is another area, I need to concetrate on this winter too.  Learning tunes by ear and retaining them. Ohhh...where is my youth when nothing was I am joyfull to be in a situation where I am overwhelmed with learning, rather than stagnant and bored by my own limitations.

Today's OT jam is a weekly soujourn in playing with a striking ensemble of pretty darn incredible musicians.  The pace is always fast, the sound full, and the fellowship wonderful.  A lot of the core members of this jam, went to Clifftop and brought back tons of new tunes, which we have been learning at a pace of about 5 per week.  In just this month alone, we have added almost 20 tunes to the repertoire.  Rather, they have. I, however, use that time to work on them by ear each week.

Oh, I thought I would add the Jams and Sessions that I attend here in Richmond. It has been wonderful to become a part of such a rich environment.

Up until last month when the coffee shop closed its doors, we had a twice monthly Saturday afternoon 4 hour jam/session at Java Jodies Cafe. Jam members are faithfully looking for a new venue to recreate this jam.

Weekly on Sunday afternoon, there is the OT jam at Cary St Cafe. Led by Tripp & Jenny, it is a fast -paced full throated jam in a small bar on stage.  Not for the faint of heart, but incredibly warm, supportive, and accepting of any skill level. From 2-5 pm each Sunday, there are usually about 15-20 musicians playing.

2nd & 4th Wednesdays 8pm -11pm is the Rosie O'Connolly's Irish Session.  This session has gone through its ups & downs, but seems to be currently on an up trend.

3rd Tuesdays 7-10 pm Janhke Road Baptist Church holds a OT/Bluegrass jam that is well attended.

2nd Tuesdays 7-10 pm Rock Creek Park  OT Jam.  This is the one that is growing by leaps & bounds.

3rd Wednesdays  Legends Brewery OT 7pm-10pm Jam led by Mark Campbell. This is a great place to learn Appalachian fiddling and get it in your

2nd Saturdays Longstreets Deli Irish Session 5:30-7:30 pm. This session is growing and expanding.  Plus, we have some great members who often open their houses for after session jamming into the late hours.

FredFest generally is held once a month and features stringed music of all sorts, with friends who have played together for 40 years.

1st Sat  7  till the trolls go home....private house Old Time jam hosted by a local luthier and his wife.

Quarterly, we gather together for a weekend at the James River State Park to play music through the weekend.  Lots of fun, great OT music, and beautiful scenery.

4th of July, Ron hosts an bash at his beautiful farm with weekend camping, incredible pot-luck dinners, and tons of musicians.

There are other's who host occasional house jams as well, primarily OT.  Then we have the TADAMS OBeX twice a year, which is an open band experience playing for contra-dances.  Usually the stage is crowded with 30 plus musicians to play for the dancers....a quite fun event held both in Richmond & Norfolk with folks traveling from & to both.

Yes, I am rich.....who needs money :-D


5 comments on “Plans, Thoughts, & Progress”

bj Says:
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @5:20:08 PM

Rich indeedy! Geez, you make me think of relocating!

harwilli55 Says:
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @5:38:53 PM

Indeed, would find a ready-made OT rich environment. The folks are warm, friendly, and engaging...interested and invested. You would fit in easily.
However, it seems that you surely have made quite an impact in your town and are keeping the flame therefore you are an important part of the tradition there :-) Perhaps one day, you will visit our humble town and experience for yourself its delightful OT scene.

TopCat Says:
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @8:48:35 AM

What a great blog. Your descriptions really make it all come alive to the reader. One day I am going to get back over to visit your part of the world and take in all the great music!

harwilli55 Says:
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @4:37:06 PM

Thank you TopCat, I do like to write about my learning seems to help make more concrete my thoughts and feelings I have been experiencing during a certain period of time.

When you decide to cross the pond and visit....make Richmond Virginia a stop ....we'll certainly do our best to fete you.

eerohero Says:
Sunday, October 3, 2010 @10:24:08 AM

Harlan, great readings, Im sure envious about your environments and so many Jam opportunities around for all levels of players, grassers are harder to deal with.

Being Rich in your Mind and Soul, yes, you`re certainly one of them !
I will sure visit your part of the Country at next spring, can hardly wait !
Ive been playing Bluegrass so long time, and now Im ready for Old Time

Grassers requires a Black Belt in Fiddle, before you`re able to Jam with them, I got slowly tired of that. The Reason, I played BG so long time , was the singing opportunities, yet for now, I discovered that I may play BG songs at OT jams as well, and having a real good time.

You lived in Richmond, VA, right ? I would like to meet Larry Sparks ones again, learn some of his Guitar masterwork

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