Monday, July 20, 2015

'Ring, Ring the Banjo' (Stephen Foster, 1851) - part two

We arrived a week before the festival officially began. Tony, our next-door neighbour, came even earlier. 

Jams, scheduled and spontaneous, start before noon and continue ’til late. Sometimes I fall asleep to a musical lullaby. 

‘Get you ready,
There’s a meetin' here tonight.
Come along,
There’s a meetin' here tonight’.

(Traditional Southern Spiritual) 

Evening shows are held in front of the little grandstand. Country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, traditional.

Although primarily for the enchanting dulcimer - an instrument dating from at least the Middle Ages - there are instruments of all kinds.

Mel holds a hurdy gurdy. You can hear one on his website:

Where goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and cows are exhibited at county fairs, jams jam and music classes overflow ('Surviving a jam session'; 'Learn to play the Blues!'; 'How bowing affects jigs'; 'Instant music with harmonica').

I pose (some girlfriends from my irresponsible past would doubtless say appropriately) in front of the swine barn.

In the dairy barn, piano awaits player.

As much as the music, it’s people, faces, stories: 'I worked two jobs for forty years. I ain't working no more'.

And food. For the second year running, Don & Jode take me to the Evart Moose Lodge for Friday night ‘fish fry’, beer and DJ. As well, they’ve been stuffing me with my favourite, never-in-Toronto, fare, including steaks and homemade strawberry shortcake.

However, there are also seductive stalls, some staffed by local service groups. Barbecued chicken dinner $8. Not a salad in sight, well, hardly.

Evart's high school football team sells sundaes - two monstrous scoops of ice-cream, strawberries or fudge - for $3.50. The team needs funds to improve on last season’s two and seven record (main competitor, the Aggies from population 345 Beale City).

Meanwhile, the music goes on and on … until this morning.

Generous hosts Don & Jode (who’ve been playing dulcimers and giving dance lessons, while I idly wander) stand beside my suddenly, very flat former home. Old trailers and luxury RVs and the 'primitives' are on the move, some along more summer roads to the next festival.

It has been a wonderful fortnight in rural Michigan, so different from the heart of my sprawling city.

‘I shall wander many a mile, 
And bethink me all the while 
Of merry times that we have had together 
With my banjo on my knee’. 

‘With My Banjo on My Knee’ (S.J. Charles, 1859)