Three members of the BRC founder`s band teamed-up with a powerhouse dobro player (seated right in photo) to perform at the weekly community Farmer`s Market last weekend. While the patrons busily shopped for organically grown local produce, gluten-free baked goods, and free range meats and eggs, they were entertained by an eclectic array of genre-crossing music including traditional fiddle tunes, bouncy blues songs, and some rollicking vintage hard rock. Fifty percent of the tips were donated to the local Children`s Hospital.
A few days later, the BRC founder`s singing group the “G&F Quartet” was scheduled for its annual pre-Valentine`s Day songfest on the pediatric ward of the Children`s Hospital, but winter storm road conditions reduced the singers from 4 to only 2 voices.
Shortly into the gig, however, we discovered that the mother of a patient was a ready and capable harmony singer. The mom stepped-up per our invitation, and the G&F Duo was promptly upgraded to a Trio with her alto assistance. During the sing alongs, festive surgeon`s caps sewn by seamstress nurses were distributed to the kids. For a lark, the Trio boldly finished up the performance by experimenting with a famous children`s song from a Broadway musical/movie. This impromptu finale came off without a hitch, and the tune was added to the permanent G&F repertoire. Our guest vocalist was thanked for her gracious and timely participation in the proceedings.
This month a local art gallery hosted a juried exhibit entitled “Indulge” which studies the art of eating and the culture of food. How could a banjo be linked into this theme and win the approval of a discerning art instructor from a nearby campus who would be adjucating the entries? To meet this vexing challenge, the BRC founder fashioned an open back 5 stringer entitled “Country BBQ” hoping its sizzling mother of pearl flames would fire the imagination and approbation of the judge. Alas, no such luck.
The gallery staff, however, were charmed by the banjo and invited the builder to “showcase” the instrument in an anteroom at the “Indulge” opening reception. A teeming throng of patrons crowded the gala event and spilled over into the anteroom during the awards ceremony. While one potential banjo buyer paused briefly to observe the ceremonial distribution of ribbons and cash prizes, another patron quietly purchased the banjo and prepared to take it home. As a courtesy, the BRC builder demonstrated the musicality of the instrument for the new owner by playing a familiar Grammy-award winning 5 string theme on it.
He then offered a wink and the advice that in the event of an energy crisis, this was a dual purpose instrument which could also be used as firewood to barbecue a meal.
P.S. Best Wishes to all for a Happy Groundhog Day.
Affording some relief from bitter and unseasonably frigid weather inherited from gusting Arctic blasts, Missouri fans and Bluegrass musicians convened at a capital city hotel and its convention center last weekend to enjoy the annual Mid West convention of the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. While the main auditorium hosted a roster of regional bands punctuated by awards ceremonies, Bluegrass pickers converged in the hotel`s cavernous lobby where spontaneous jam sessions erupted like springtime flowerbeds heralding the long-awaited end of an icy winter.
Curious hotel guests lingered about to investigate the spirited and spontaneous music. With some wonderment, one puzzled onlooker inquired what was the “Society for the Prevention of Bluegrass Music…” all about? The jammers politely paused and courteously clarified that the Society`s goal was the “Preservation” and celebration of the Bluegrass music genre. The listener returned, “Kinda like the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans?” Smiles were exchanged.
In the face of inclement weather, folks from the Show-Me State devotedly invoke Mark Twain`s meteorological injunction, “If you don`t like the weather in Missouri, wait five minutes.” Twain lived much of his later years in Hartford, CT, and he is buried next to his wife in Elmira, NY. The actual quotation attributed to him is, ” If you don`t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” Twain was a professed banjophile.
A requisite five minute wait notwithstanding, promptly after Missouri`s all ready frosty weekend temperatures in the teens, the thermometer plummeted to below zero in the subsequent glacial and snowy days.
P.S. Check-out the “5 string BRC open back `Fleur-de-lis` banjo” on eBay Jan.14-21.
Some people are plagued to identify existential meaning in their mundane lives by asking themselves questions. Bluegrass musicians are plagued at jam sessions to identify the key in which the next tune will be played by asking themselves questions like: Is a capo needed? Did I remember to bring a capo? Does anyone have an extra capo to lend? What are the words of the group chorus of this number? As pickers re-tune their instruments (an endless tyranny of the banjo) and chat between songs, there is a background tide of noise through which the title, tempo, and key of the next number must be announced. To penetrate these subtle but competing distractions, the song leader will typically designate the key of the tune and append it with a monosyllabic word to reenforce that letter of the alphabet like a military call letter ( Alpha, Bravo, Charley, etc.). Hence, the Key of D major would be proclaimed as “D-dog.” Over the years, the BRC founder`s band has evolved its unique and fun-filled musical key identifying system:
A- artistically, or alternately, “the Canadian key of Aye?” More recently, aardvark.
G- gnu or sometimes, “The gnarled gnome gnashed its teeth at the gnat-covered gnu.”
B major- Beethoven, Brahms, or Bach (the choice is yours…)
B flat- Bartok (your choice again, but alternates like ` Bluegrass` are ok)
The keystone to successfully establishing the key signature of an upcoming tune in a jam session is by keeping your fellow musicians keenly keyed into to the key of the song by whatever system works for you and your picking`pals.
Above are cross streets signs that one might encounter on a wintry stroll only a block from the BRC workshop and its keepsake Vega Martin Banjo Info archives. The BRC wishes all its faithful readers the Very Best in 2018!
For the last ten years, the BRC founder`s band and singing group have enjoyed providing festive Holiday sing-alongs for patients at the Children`s Hospital and at the University Hospital`s psychiatric center. The G&F Singers performed this week in the pediatric ward playroom where familiar tunes like “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” were shared with patients and families. We always bring gifts of holiday-decorated surgeon`s caps sewn by our nurses for the kids and siblings.
The adult psychiatric in-patients were entertained last week in the center`s activity room. At the end of the performance, we sang “White Christmas” for them as they headed back to their ward. Gainor & Friends then paused for intermission and a group photo by the staff. When the children in-patients subsequently arrived for their songfest, our musicians welcomed them with a jazzy instrumental version of “Greensleeves.” The kids promptly joined us singing Yuletide standards including the ever favorite “Jingle Bell Rock.”
The G&F band members and singers are grateful for the privilege to entertain these special audiences at Holiday time over the last decade. The BRC founder thanks these skilled musicians and vocalists for their Seasonal spirit and year round generosity.