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Bluff Country Gathering

Posted by lg on Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Bluff Country Gathering is the weekend before Memorial Day every year.  It's a music weekend about traditional American music, dance and singing styles.    Held in Lanesboro, Minnesota, which is a lovely historic town on the Root River.  And to top it all off, they feed us a wonderful gourmet lunch every day.  Good food, good music, good company - how can you go wrong?

For us, the fun starts with the drive up.  The fast route is up 90 through LaCrosse, but it's much more fun to take smaller roads.  This year we took Wisconsin 14 out of Janesville and picked up 18 to Dodgeville, then north on 23 to 14 again.  That allowed us to stop at Tower Hill State Park to stretch our legs and check out the tower where they manufactured lead shot in the mid 19th century.   Poor economic times caused the shot tower to close in 1860.

The weekend starts Thursday evening with a potluck supper followed by a staff concert.   On staff this year: Tom, Brad, & Alice, Mac & Jenny Traynham, Lynn "Chirps" Smith, Dave Rice, Stephanie Coleman, Steve Rosen,  and Dot Kent.  The staff concert is relatively short.  Everyone does 2 pieces and talks about the focus of their workshops.   Then we adjourn to catch up on news and play tunes. 

Everything happens at the Sons of Norway hall and the Community Center.  They are both on the edge of the town park, where you can camp if you're a hardy soul.  Given that the weather is sometimes very cold and damp, we prefer to stay at one of the many great B&B's in Lanesboro.

Workshops start at 9 a.m., and I was up both days for banjo class at 9.  Mac Traynham taught the beginner workshop and lead us through a very simple tune so we could focus on basic technique.  Steve Rosen taught intermediate banjo and seemed to deal effortlessly with the varied levels of experience.

Fiddle workshops - oh yeah - various levels with Chirps, Brad, and Stephanie.   Chirps also taught mandolin workshops.  Harmonica workshops with Dave Rice this year.  Singing with Alice Gerrard and also with Mac & Jenny Traynham.   Guitar with Steve, Alice, and Jenny. Dot Kent led clogging and calling workshops.  I've learned to take a break during the day so that I don't get overloaded with information.   Picking which workshops to attend is always an interesting exercise.

My favorite workshops are the repertoire workshops.  There you just listen to people present their music and tell you about it.  

Some very good musicians attend this event as students and it's a real joy to meet and play with everyone.

There is a Friday night concert that is always good.  Highlights?  Music so good you have to dance and glorious vocal harmonies.   Tim Foss showed up on stage with his hair tied back and wearing a vintage tie.  He looked great!  Alas, by the time I was able to get a picture, the tie was already loosened.

I headed to the Sons of Norway after the concert where most of the staff was gathered to jam.  It was so fine.  I listened and did some clogging.

Saturday night is the community dance, with the staff playing in various configurations and Dot Kent calling this year.  Dot

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