Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lake Erie Folk Festival Seeks Funding

Any distraction from winter in Northeast Ohio is a worthy investment. The organizers behind the Blue Sky Folk Festival are seeking donations for a new event this upcoming February. The Lake Erie Folk Festival is slated for Feb. 27, 2016, at the Shore Cultural Centre in Euclid.

Almost three years ago, the same venue was the site of the Shore Folk Festival. This appears to be a relaunch of that same event. The nonprofit group North East Ohio Musical Heritage Association, formed in 2014, has set up an Indiegogo page to raise $5,000 to help fund the Lake Erie Folk Festival.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sinful Tunes and Documentaries

Originally published in 1977, Dena Epstein's seminal book, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War, provided definitive evidence that the banjo was first developed by African slaves, derived from similar instruments that are still played in countries like Gambia.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Push and Pull: The Struggle Is Real

There ever comes a time when the journey of learning a musical instrument reaches a plateau. These long improvement-less stretches start to feel like stagnation if linger they do too long. Upon one of these vast leveling off stages is where I find my fiddling today.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Master and Apprentice: Banjo Builder Workshop in Historic Peninsula, Ohio

The 191-year-old Peninsula, Ohio, provided the backdrop to a parade of pedestrians making their way from station to station across the bucolic village for Music on the Porches on Saturday.

Doug Unger (left) and Mark Ward playing tunes.
Inside the close confines of Bronson Church, founded in 1835, a master and apprentice presented a free workshop on the art of instrument building. That master being the renowned banjo builder and artist Doug Unger and his former apprentice Mark Ward.

Unger and Ward began the workshop by playing several old-time tunes, discussing their work and the music, and taking questions from the audience. Unger then invited the spectators to step up to the front to see the instruments.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Returning for a Farewell Reunion

Mining the depths of experience for a solution to my lack of banjo-related posts, I remembered my last hair cut. As it is nigh time for another, this was a couple months ago.

My barber, a short walk from my house, had closed his shop for his lunch break. Not wanting to give up and go home, I killed time at my local record store. I only had a $20, and my hair cut would take up most of that, so I wasn't expecting to purchase anything. Flipping through the "Folk/Misc." section, though, something changed my mind.

It is pointless to resist.
The cover was a wreck, held together with yellowed tape. But the sleeve had done its job, keeping the vinyl clean. For $2, I couldn't resist the lure of Mike Seeger, leaning against an old GMC truck parked inside the pitch black confines of a red barn, wearing jeans and a blue work shirt, above the words "The Second Annual Farewell Reunion" and featuring such old-time luminaries as the Highwoods, Roscoe Holcomb, Kilby Snow and of course the New Lost City Ramblers, among many others. It was a steal. My barber would have to deal with a smaller tip for coiffing my hair.

Just like my long pauses between posts here, actually listening to the album would take another couple weeks, as my record player is set up in the attic, and it's too hot to spend much time up there in the summer. At the end of August, while my son napped, I went up to bag and board some comic books and finally decided to put the needle to the Seeger album. I was not disappointed. I don't buy as much music as I used to, but it's still hard to beat the thrill of a good find.