Thursday, September 13, 2012

I climb the mountain to Bluegrass

I grew up in a household of diverse musical taste. Dad had a record collection of what I dubbed ‘um-pa-pa’ music. The lyrics were in Ukrainian and German—languages he didn’t even understand. Mom sang hymns as she cooked. Hymns were fine in church. I had three siblings—all much older, all male. My oldest brother belted out, “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble.” Country? Really? Please, no. I thought I heard my middle brother humming along to  Cheeseburger In Paradise. But I hoped I was wrong. Thankfully my youngest brother got it right. When he was fourteen and I was seven, he turned the radio to a rock station and told me to listen. Hoping to become as cool as him, I did. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Guess Who and Neil Young were my teachers.

In University, I attended the Winnipeg Folk Festival with a group of friends and became a folkie.

A few years later, I started dating a man who shared my taste in music. When we married we moved from Manitoba to British Columbia. That’s when my husband began mentioning musicians  I’d never heard of like Peter Rowan and Nanci Griffith. I listened and labelled them folk musicians.

One day my husband asked, “Would you like to cross the boarder to Tacoma, Washington for Wintergrass and listen to Bluegrass?”

“Wintergrass? Bluegrass?”

“You know. Musicians like Peter Rowan and Nanci Griffith.”

I packed my suitcase.

As we walked through the hotel, we saw groups of people singing and playing instruments. I recognized fiddles and guitars but I wasn’t sure what the other instruments were. “Where are the drums?” I wondered out loud.

“There’s no drums in Bluegrass,” my husband said. “Do you know who he is?” I followed his line of sight and saw a man playing a guitar. There wasn’t anything about him that made him special—that I could see. I shook my head. “That's Peter Rowan.”

“ Here? Now?” I sputtered. He wasn’t being clawed to death by eager fans. No one was hounding him for an autograph. “How can he just be standing there, playing his guitar? Don’t they know who is he?”

“Of course, they do. But that’s the thing about Bluegrass—anyone can play with anyone. The stars don’t act like stars. They just act like what they are—people.”

We found our room and my husband said, “You’re going to love this weekend. The opening act is Bill Monroe.”

“Who’s he?”

“Bill Monroe is the father of Bluegrass.”

We took the elevator down to the concert hall and I was lost in thought. The father of Bluegrass? This music sounds so ancient. He must be older than dirt.

We found seats and soon the master of ceremonies introduced the opening act. They took the stage—younger musician followed by older. Then judging by the howls and applause, I knew the fragile, wizened, old man who'd joined them was Bill Monroe. He looks like he should be in a wheelchair. I hope nothing happens to him on stage. To his credit,  Bill made it safely through the fist couple of songs. But then appeared to keel over—bending at the waist. Is he clutching his chest? The audience offered a collective moan.

A younger band member voiced our concerns, “Is Bill okay?”

The answer came from his older band mate. “Bill? Sure? He’s just getting down.”

That said, as if on clue, Bill’s hand flew across the strings. He proved right then, right there why this was his music. And I've attended Bluegrass festivals ever since.

Work in Progress
Have you heard excuses? I had a touch of flu this week. My left wrist hurt. I wanted to polish and submit some short stories. And... and... and... Um, yeah, well...
Word count:  30, 728 words

Next post:  CBC radio, Robin Spano--any questions (yup)


Anonymous said...

I have to say, while looking through hundreds of blogs daily, the theme of this blog is different (for all the proper reasons). If you do not mind me asking, what's the name of this theme or would it be a especially designed affair? It's significantly better compared to the themes I use for some of my blogs.

Author Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for your kind comments. I blog three times a week--each day has a theme. Mondays--who am I without a pen? Author Journey Thursday--reading, writing, submitting, networking. This post is a creative non-fiction piece I originally wrote in 2006 and recently polished (a lot). And Friday is reserved for guest posts.

laurie Buchanan said...

You've got my toes tappin' now! Great post, Leanne!

Author Leanne Dyck said...

Keep those happy feet tapping, Laurie. : )