Monday, May 13, 2013

Clayville Spring Festival -- tunes, tips ... and an unabashed sales pitch ... for the weekend

We're combining forces of the Prairieland Strings and the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music for this weekend's Clayville Spring Festival ... I'm hoping we can have three or four people playing and talking with visitors, both afternoons, Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19 ... but we can make do with one or two, and we welcome as many people who want to play with us. The more the merrier!

Plans now are for us to play somewhere around the Broadwell Tavern. I hope to have more details to share with you at the Prairieland Strings session from 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Atonement Lutheran Church in Springfield. That's right -- it's the third Thursday already! Doesn't feel like it, but it sure is. We can go over some fun- and easy-to-play tunes getting ready for the festival, but we don't have to do that much to get ready. Festivals are easy. Here are some more thoughts on playing festivals (click here or scroll down to Monday, May 6).

If you haven't been there before, Clayville has as nice a village festival as you'll find anywhere in central Illinois! Local church and youth organizations from Pleasant Plains will sell brats, burgers and soda, and it will feature "Demonstrations of Pioneer Craftsmanship and Skills," according to the blurb on Clayville's website, including blacksmithing, spinning, pottery, corn grinding, black powder shooting and tomahawk throwing, a Buck-Skinner Encampment, 1860's Baseball hosted by the Springfield Long Nines, Chris Camp ("The Whip Guy") and ... among other attractions ... us!

Festivals are our best way of getting new members. (Just ask us where and when we started playing the dulcimer. Odds are we'll mention a festival where we met some friendly people who enjoyed making music and welcomed us.) Some of us had a dry run for the Spring Festival last week, and it went perfectly.

On Tuesday of last week a couple of us from the Clayville "academy jams" played outside the barn as Clayville hosted a hundred volunteers from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

It went splendidly!

Two of us were newbies from the beginners' sessions in January and February, and I was there more to fill in chords and harmonies ... and to hand out our flier to interested ALPLM volunteers. For a bunch of beginners, we were absolutely fearless!

So we shared a music stand, and we played through the tunes we've learned at our first-Saturday-of-the-month Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music sessons. "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," "John Stinson's No. 2," "Skip to my Lou," "Bile 'em Cabbage Down" (with lots of repeats, harmonies and variations), "Farther Along," "Shall We Gather at the River," "Amazing Grace," "Rosin the Bow" (a.k.a. "Acres of Clams") and a really very cool version of "Old Joe Clark" by Sr. Margaret Mary on the Everything Dulcimer website that I hadn't seen before.

We tried other new songs, too (new to me, at least), like "Old Gray Liza," a medley by the Three Rivers Dulcimer Association of eastern Washington state combining "Old Joe Clark," "Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm" and "Little Liza Jane." When it turned out we were trying to play a tune from the Internet that was tabbed out in G (I forget what it was, maybe "Ode to Joy?"), we tuned down to DGD and played right through it. When I started playing the dulcimer back when Old Joe Clark was still Young Joe Clark, it was several years before I felt gutsy enough to retune my instrument.

And all the time we had ALPLM volunteers milling around and chatting with us before they went off on tours of the Broadwell Tavern. It all came down perfectly because we weren't aiming for perfection, we were just demonstrating what we're learning in our sessions and publicizing our beginners' jams at Clayville and the Prairieland jams at Atonement.

Which is what we'll do at the festival. It ain't a concert, folks. We're out to show how much fun it is to play a musical instrument. Call it outreach. Call it marketing. Call it anything but a high-pressure concert performance. And, most of all, call it as much fun you'll ever have playing a musical instrument.

In the meantime, at last week's meeting of the Prairieland Strings, we came up with a tentative list of tunes we're comfortable with. Again: The festival isn't a concert, and the tunes we identified aren't a hard-and-fast playlist. They are:

  • Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm
  • Coleman's March
  • Amazing Grace
  • Lee's Waltz
  • John Stinson's No. 2
  • Happy Land
  • June Apple
  • I'll Fly Away
  • Angelina Baker
  • Black Mountain Rag
  • Boil 'Em Cabbage
  • Mississippi Sawyer
  • Nutfactory Shuffle
  • Old Joe Clark
  • Whisky Before Breakfast
  • Wildwood Flower
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Rocky Top
Here's how festivals always work: We probably won't play all the songs on the list, and there are no doubt songs that aren't on the list that we will play. Last year we went out to Clayville with set lists, assigned intros and segues -- and we just sat in a circle under a shade three and played whatever we wanted to on the spur of the moment! And the festival-goers loved hearing a group of people having fun with music, whatever we played.

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