Actually, it’s hardly a lazy afternoon… In fact, I’m enjoying what feels like a miracle that I can take a moment to play a dulcimer and have fun improvising a bit with a tune, in the midst of all the folk school work. I’m pretty much obsessed with the Folk School of Chattanooga and all its potential (mixed with actual momentum, which makes it exciting). But still, like a meditation, it’s sweet to come back to the dulcimer once a day, and remind myself that if it weren’t for this trapezoidal magic plinko box, there’d be no folk school, no Chattanooga (for me, anyway), none of the friends I know and love… I know CDs are a bit passe at this point, but I’m forging ahead anyway. It’s time for a new shiny little CD to have my name on it, and with that in mind, I’m starting to consider all my favorite–really most favorite–tunes.
What a wonderful surprise in my mailbox a few days ago, right in the dead of winter, a cd reminder of a summer week spent in Gooik, Belgium. I’ve written on this blog before about working with Maarten Decombel, and what a pleasure it was to get to know his music. This recording is from the concert we gave inside Gooik’s giant church. My favorite track is still this one: “Dodecamedita”, a piece composed by Maarten himself. I love the main melody, the harmony that goes with, the interesting rhythm, the improvisation sections.
Maarten Decombel, bouzouki, and Christie Burns, hammered dulcimer, August 2009:
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.
Here’s a brand new Christmas song I made myself! With a little help from my new toy, the Boss RC-50. Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun.
I know, I know, the official twelve days don’t start ’til later, but I’m calling this MY twelve days of Christmas, because I will post twelve different Christmas songs between now and… um… when the wise men get here. I guess.
So that’s the goal. Creative people need projects and goals. Even goofy ones help!
Enjoy this post, celebrating MY first day of Christmas. Day two might come tomorrow, maybe the next day… And I’ll see which Christmas song inspires me then!
I Saw Three Ships
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!
What a gift, to be set up on a musical “blind date” like this. I’ve been paired with Maarten Decombel to perform at the Friday night concert in Gooik. Maarten and I hadn’t really met before yesterday, but we did exchange a few mp3s of some good tune candidates. This one, “Dodecamedita,” is one that he wrote and sent to me. It’s been my happy tune for several weeks now, as I’ve been looking forward to Belgium. Yesterday, Maarten and I treated ourselves to a full rehearsal day, and we put together arrangements for a full set of music. It’s so wonderful to meet and work with someone who has such compatible musical sensibility. Right from the very beginning, we were thinking very similarly about what to do with all these tunes, a very natural flow. I think it’s going to be a respectable performance on Friday, if not downright enjoyable!
Here’s Maarten and I practicing his tune, “Dodecamedita”– although it cuts off near the end, right in the middle of his improv section… camera malfunction.
Thanks to Jan and An for hosting our rehearsal in their paradise of a garden!