September-October 2000 Musings:
Autumnal Rituals and Stalking the Wild Tubaphone
I'm so far behind this has turned into a two-month musing. The months kind of meld together in my mind anyway. Fall transitions. September was a home-based month, a scattering of gigs, but mostly time to catch up on office work and start getting the cordwood stacked in the woodshed. That's a chore I love, every year I look forward to it, and stretch it out to make it last. Each day throw a little wood into the shed after I've stacked what's left from the afternoon before, and eventually the pile in the driveway is down to nothing and the woodshed is full. I love the neat little "chunk" as each piece falls into place, and the feeling of orderly abundance when it's all stacked. The overflow from the shed gets stacked at the front edge of the doorway, to block the snow that slides off the roof from drifting in front of the door. Is it the physical activity or the tradition that makes these autumnal rituals so grounding and so satisfying? Probably some of both.
In October, the fall touring season began. I moved into it slowly, starting with a weekend tour in upstate New York. Back home to western Massachusetts for the next few days, then the next weekend I stretched a bit further west into Michigan. And tomorrow I'll make the leap to the west coast, as I fly out for my annual fall Pacific Northwest tour.
I've been enjoying the concerts, settling into doing some solo shows and some fun concerts with Bob Franke as well. We've got a couple of longer round-robin tours scheduled for later this fall and winter, that I am looking forward to. Michigan was beautiful, still quite a bit of color on the trees, and some gloriously sunny and warm Indian summer days. That weather has made it east to New England now, and I am delighting in it.
Michigan held a surprise bonus for me. Over the close to two years I've been playing borrowed banjos, I've haunted instrument shops and bugged banjo players, playing anything I can get my hands on and asking non-stop questions, seeking my ideal banjo. Looking at a map on my way to Grand Rapids, I realized that my route took me right by Lansing, home of Elderly Instruments. A phone call from a rest area got me directions to their shop, and soon afterwards I was in a large room with banjos lining one entire wall.
As I went back and forth trying each of the multitude of old-timey open-backed banjos, I kept finding myself taking the same used Bart Reiter banjo off the wall. It's amazing to me this process of choosing an instrument, each time I go through it I am mystified. There are so many fine instruments around these days, but occasionally something magical happens. The hands know, the body knows - there's a joy that ripples through me playing that rare perfect match. So yes, that Bart Reiter tubaphone banjo came along to Ashfield, and it is bringing me great pleasure. Especially playing my current favorite, "Julianne Johnson," a tune I learned from my friend Leela Grace, who's been visiting from Missouri. It's been lovely having her around - her banjo playing is a wonderful inspiration to me, her harmonies gorgeous - the house has resounded with music.
Well, that's it for now. Tomorrow morning first thing I'll tuck my instruments and myself into the car, and head off for the airport and Seattle. Hope to see you out there somewhere!