I’m thrilled to be invited back to teach hammered dulcimer at MuziekMozaiek’s music camp in Gooik this August. It’ll be my fourth time in Belgium, and every time I go back, I do a little bit more, connect with more musicians, see more of the country, (try a few more beers) etc. Last summer, there were several young musicians walking around in Gooik with this funny glow all around them, and these were people who had recently participated in “Flanders Ethno”– a music week for people ages 16-30 where musicians from all over the world bring one traditional tune to teach to the whole group, and they all form this international folk orchestra, performing the music from the countries represented by all the participants. Apparently last year’s Flanders Ethno was a transcendent experience for these musicians, and so this year I’m heading over to Belgium early in August to check it out. And I’m bringing two of the best musicians I know, John Boulware and Lon Eldridge. These two fellas are also instructors at the Folk School of Chattanooga, so I’m pleased to consider this trip something of a “Folk School Teacher Training” excursion. There’s no telling how our musical worlds are going to be opened up by this experience, and what tremendous value this will have as we continue to teach our students here in Tennessee. We’ve set up this Kickstarter page to try to raise some funds that will help us as we travel. We already have our plane tickets sorted out, so now we’re just looking to raise some cash so we can afford to see and do a few cool things while we’re in Belgium, such as the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels.
If this is something you think you could get behind, please let me assure you that no amount of support is too small.
Been listening to recordings of Clyde Davenport playing the tune “Five Miles to Town”, working really hard to copy his phrases on my fiddle. There’s no question I’m still much more at home on the hammered dulcimer… So after putting in a few hours on that tune last night and some today too, it was fun to sit at the ol’ dulcimer and see how it laid out for those two hammers. It’s a crooked little fella, innocently peeking out from behind the corner every time that Bminor rolls around.
Here, I really paid no mind at all to tempo, just tried a few different things. Didn’t care at all about the low D being out of tune, or “rich”, as they might say. I was just diggin’ on the tune, figuring out different places for little accents and pulses… Might be one to take to the studio on the next trip… Monday!
**Your support of my CD recording project is greatly appreciated! Pre-ordering instructions below.**
It was Matt Evans who first made me stop and smell the poetry in the old familiar “Wildwood Flower”. This girl weaving roses, lilies, iris, and oleander into her hair, desperate to make herself feel beautiful again after being left by her lover. Thinking about that, I started to consider what the song (usually very happy and upbeat) would sound like if the musical setting matched the mood of the words. A late night session with Matt Richardson yielded this new chord progression, a tweak in the rhythmic phrasing, and some sweet harmonies. Then fast-forward to the start of this summer, where I’ve been spending more and more time with my new friends, Brian and Kara Miscio, playing music at their house on Sunday afternoons. I finally make a move to begin recording a CD (yes, old fashioned, I know) at Charles Allison’s Spanner Sound studio, and the Miscios are right there, ready for action. We recorded this just last week, mixed it this morning, and now here it is, the very first finished track of the forthcoming “Christie Burns” album.
I’m sending this out into the world as a representative of the whole project along with a request for your patronage. It’s been nearly five years since my last recording (“Hear to Play” with Butch Ross), and although I know CDs are becoming a thing of the past, I’m finally ready to make one of my own. And it’s one of the most exciting things my artistic self has gotten to do in a long time. It’s true, I’m involved with more music now than ever before, playing fiddle in informal social gathering settings several times a week, playing dulcimer (or piano or guitar, or whatever) at churches all over Chattanooga, occasionally getting the opportunity to play in a quiet living room session with one or two of the many amazing musicians in this city, teaching dulcimer workshops at festivals all over, teaching lessons on a daily basis here at the Folk School of Chattanooga. This is all great stuff, but none of it has really prepared me for the kind of work that goes on in a recording studio. Over the past month of working with Charles at Spanner Sound, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of the skill set a musician must have if she wants to truly express herself through recorded sound. Though the studio sessions are challenging (like any learning experience would be, and I’m oh so thankful for challenge), the results make me feel like I’m ready for this work. By the end of this summer I hope to have a finished product, ready to be shipped out, downloaded, passed around among friends, and sold wherever I perform. So far so good: the creativity is flowing, ideas and visions are coalescing into actual music you can hear and enjoy, I’m working in a truly professional studio complete with expert recording engineer, the other musicians are all ready to contribute their parts, and somehow there’s just enough time in my schedule right now to be working on this. The only thing lacking is funds–hence the call for support.
I’m asking you, my friends, family, fans, students, teachers, partners in music and dance, random lovers of all things dulcimer, folks who get a kick out of it when someone shines a new light on old music… If you think this is something you can get behind, your $15 advance purchase of a CD will help get the project finished on time. You can send it to:
524 East 18th St.
Chattanooga, TN 37408
or if you want to send money though Paypal, use this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just make sure to send your mailing address so I can send a copy of the new CD when it’s ready.
Thank you for the friendship and encouragement that has gotten me this far! I’m excited to bring my music to life in this way, and excited that my personal community can be part of it too.
More progress on the RC-50, and still loving it. This was my first time trying a whole song in live performance mode. I mean, tonight my only audience was a sleeping Simba, but still I played it as though it were a performance. Up ’til now it’s just been playing with loops and not giving much more than a single thought towards arrangement or structure.
More fun with the Boss RC-50. Still learning how the darn thing works… Haven’t figured out starts or endings yet, but anyway, it’s loads of fun!
Well here’s me skipping a month of blogging, all for starting a folk music school…building local connections stronger, deeper, and more intricately woven than before. It’s been an amazing month since returning from Belgium. For one thing, I hit the ground running with the promotion of the Mountain Music Folk School fall schedule. I’ve been the mad music messenger of Chattanooga, riding around everywhere with my posters and schedules to hand out. Matt’s been right there with me, and so has our business consultant, Mike Harrell. We’re a few more meetings away from having a completed business plan, but we couldn’t wait for that– we decided to jump on this wave of momentum and kick off our first “semester” of group classes. We’re throwing ourselves into this with all our energy, all just to find out the answer to this question: Will the people of Chattanooga support a folk music school, student by student, class by class? It would be too soon to speak now, but let’s just say, so far so good.
I’ve decided that my current job title should be “Community Gatherer”, as I’ve been pulling together first all the teachers to teach our classes and workshops, and now the really fun part of pulling in all the people who might be willing to sign up for a class–or at least sign up on our mailing list. All the lists are growing and growing. Since Casey’s article hit the Times Free Press last Monday, the phone’s been ringing steadily, and all our “gathering” efforts are starting to materialize with real human beings actually stepping up to say, “why yes, I would like to learn to play the banjo!”… and so forth. But also in all our gathering this month, we’ve managed to pull some amazing musicians into our folk school orbit. If our mission is to help these people live musically fulfilling lives, share their knowledge and talent, and help them help others get on board with playing an instrument, heck yeah! We’ll take it! It’s been SO worthwhile so far. I love knowing that a few dozen Chattanoogans (and Chickamaugans, and Ringgolddiggers, and Hixsonians, and RedBankistanis, etc.) are going to spend one hour a week for the next 8 weeks in the presence of patient and passionate musicians like these….
Lon Eldridge. Biologically, he’s 23 years old. Spiritually, he’s 108. When this guy plays and sings, it makes you wonder what kind of soul-swapping took place to stuff the weathered old bluesman into Lon’s body. Lon’s teaching some classes with us this fall, and he’s been such a good sport, coming out with us to all of our wild promotional stunts, like the gig we did at Riverbend last June. Here’s a video clip from that:
Obuobi Ashong. I call him the African gypsy, because he’s been wandering the planet following his musical whims. It is so nice to spend time with someone who cares about nothing more than to play music… and you gotta love the permanent smile look. I think it’s quite the fashion statement. Obuobi will teach a guitar class with us this fall, specifically on this style he plays called “palmwine” music or “highlife.”
Thank you, Chattanooga, for bringing my musical path to a point of intersection with these and other musicians. I’m not taking this for granted!
There’s some pretty incredible stuff going on with the folk music scene in Belgium. I was just teaching at a week-long festival in Gooik, a small village that gets completely overrun with folk musicians… All day long there are classes for all the different instruments: fiddle, bagpipe, accordion, guitar, hammered dulcimer (that’s me!), percussion, hurdy gurdy. And then at night, after the evening concert, everyone fills the dance hall and dances into the morning. On the last night of the festival, the youth take over, and keep it going literally until breakfast. I loved how the kids mimicked their teachers, as the two boys in this clip are playing the role of ensemble leader, just like the ensemble class they had been in all week. I also love how these young musicians are thinking about arrangement and changes in energy to keep the dancing going. The melodies are simple and fun, but how much fun is determined by the group. I think it’s safe to say they’re generating an ample amount of fun here!
Truly one of my favorite places in the world, the Corner House in Cork City. And here are some fine fiddlers (one of them is my friend Edel, who I miss terribly!!) with rising star Brian Hanlon.
Well, I promised my friend Doursean that I’d post some “Angeline the Baker” action on my blog tonight, but when I sat down to the dulcimer, all it wanted to play was “Patty on the Turnpike,” a tune I learned this past weekend in Shepherdstown, WV. And by “learned” I also mean “taught”– I was co-teaching a class with Ken Kolodner on old time fiddle tunes, and this was one that he picked out for the class. Usually when tunes are played extra slow for teaching purposes, there’s a little voice inside my head that says, “C’mon! Hurry it up!” But with this tune, we played it all slow like this for three straight days, and that little voice in my head just said, “Ahhhh.”
I loved it most when I played it on my parents’ Yamaha piano in Cinnaminson… but didn’t have any kind of recording device with me to capture the moment. Still, it’s nice on the dulcimer, although it sounds awfully lonely without my whole big bunch of students playing along. Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful weekend at the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Fest! And especially to Ken, thanks for the tune!
Patty on the Turnpike, Sarah Armstrong’s version (from Hill Country Tunes), recorded on 18th St., March 2009:
….was a fantastic day. Magical, I might even say, as it brought a reunion of sorts. Let me try to explain. When I moved to Chattanooga and met Joseph Decosimo, he had to correct me, and remind me that we had actually met once before–in Cork. Well, that’s no surprise, I guess, since I had gotten into playing some old time music there, and he showed up at a session I was at. Ok, so around the same time, I had taken a trip to England for the big old time music festival in Gainsborough, put on by the Friends of American Old Time Music and Dance. There I met Nick Stillman, an incredible fiddle and banjo player, an American guy in his 20s out in the UK and Ireland doing the same thing I was doing… living for/with/through music entirely. Nice move, Nick. Ok, so here’s the fun part. I can remember the details of this part (since I wasn’t there), but Joseph and Nick also met each other, in Galway where Nick was busking. So the three of us all had this kind of pre-introduction to one another—and we all got to spend an evening together earlier this month, now six years since we all first met each other.
Nick is back in the U.S. now, (now just to get him to move to Chattanooga… hmmm.) and he was on tour with the Flat Iron Stringband. So was my good friend, Amanda Kowalski, until she got called out on assignment in China. So although the band showed up without my Amanda, I was still majorly glad to have them around. If I had some way of making time stop, I’d’ve done it that night after their gig. There was music happening in the house like I’d never quite heard there before. Fiddlers, banjoists, guitarists, and a bassist at the absolute top of their game. All this makes me feel like I’m alive in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Not a single generation too soon or too late. Just right.