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Dilemma Solved by this Weekend's Event. It's Greenwood Furnace.

Posted by bj on Monday, July 14, 2008

Well, after hearing the Druckenmillers play this past weekend at Quiet Valley and speaking with both of them extensively (they will be teaching at Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering) as well as speaking with Norm, one of the wonderful Dulcimer players, who has attended GF in the past, I've decided that it's Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering for me. This is the one out in Central PA near State College.

It's funny the things that went into this decision. First, my teacher, Steve, who is running the "competing" event, Fireback Fiddle and Banjo Contest, suggested I ask if GF is a "jam all night into the wee hours" or a "nothing but crickets after sundown" event. According to Norm, it's the former. YAY!

Second, the Druckenmillers Old Time Music is incredible. Though not quite what I expected. Betty is a wonderful fiddler. Why is she not what I expected? She's extremely understated, compared to most of the male oldtimers I've heard, with a very sweet tone. She uses very little volume and almost no ornament in her play. Yet you can't help but hear that fiddle despite an "end of the evening" jam that featured around 15 instruments, with her being the only fiddle. Even if she doesn't stand out in volume nor in "fancy playing", her tone is so incredibly heart tugging and her delivery so simple and straightforward, that it will jump out at you despite the raucousness of what else is going on (including the female turkey serenade that seemed to accompany them wherever they went! That turkey literally followed them around the whole farm. It was amazing!)

Put simply, I think I would do well to learn from Betty. Especially since my regular teacher, Steve, goes exactly the opposite direction. Some different input here will make me a more well rounded player, and Betty's style seems much more attainable, though I'm sure getting there will be much, much harder than she makes it look. Then there are the other fine instructors who will be teaching at GF as well. I think I would benefit from the varied input and the total IMMERSION into old time. And that's the other thing Norm was very clear on. Even though this is called a "Folk Gathering", it is, without a doubt, an OLDTIME event.

The third thing is something Tom Druckenmiller said. He said I pay Steve money, and Steve will just have to get over it. He's got a point. Though in truth, the conflict was much more in my own head than in anything Steve said. Steve simply said it was my decision and I'd get something out of whichever event I decided to attend.

The fourth thing is the stories. You don't get a song from the Druckenmillers without the accompanying story that goes with it. I'm a crazy history fanatic. This was the topping on the cake, for sure.

The fifth thing is that now I feel I at least know a little bit some of the folks who will be out at GF.

One other piece of information I got was that if I want to be able to sleep I should camp in the campground instead of on the festival grounds. :)

Just a few comments about the Event at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm. This place is magical balm for the soul. The event was the same. In only one of the three venues were there mikes and electric, and that was off in the field away from the others both by sight and acoustically. As the musicians played in the barn the chickens were clucking softly in their own rhythm as they wandered among the listeners. The one room schoolhouse venue was acoustically wonderful and also free of any electrical amplification, and was much like music would have been heard way back when. The farm is a slice of the mid 1800's frozen in time. It was an incredibly beautiful day, and an incredibly appropriate setting for the old time music I heard. And I'm going to join as a member to support their preservation efforts.

I got to speak with other musicians, and even sang a few songs. And found out about a jam that's held the third Sunday of the month at noon at the Asbury NJ Grange Hall, which is only around a 20 minute drive from me, in Warren County NJ. Some of the folks I met go to that jam fairly regularly, so I'll know some folks there. And they said that my "beginner" status shouldn't stop me, and that though not everyone would be encouraging, that the majority of folks will be.

All in all, this was a fabulous day!

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