Our community summer art show this year challenged the artists with the theme `Eclipse` to celebrate the complete solar eclipse anticipated on August 21st which will be fully visualized in the mid Missouri area. Both the BRC founder and his wife successfully entered works into the seasonal exhibit. At the gala opening reception, a “Solar Moon” banjo was hung by the main entrance, and patrons initially breezed by it.
In the next room, attendees showed more interest in a “Moonshot” painting by the BRC founder`s wife (standing far right).
As the evening went on, however, some guests were slowly drawn back to study the `mixed media` banjo. The reception hostess soon reported that a polite `fight` emerged when two potential customers simultaneously wanted to purchase the 5-stringer.
This unexpected conumdrum was mediated when the BRC founder offered the option that he had just finished a `Golden Eagle` banjo which was for sale in his workshop, and this alternative resolved the cordial contention to everyone`s satisfaction.
The 71st Ojai Music Festival was again an eclectic summer adventure this year. This was our third visit to the Californian cultural institution which featured classical, world, and experimental performances for faithful and enrapt audiences. A unique daybreak concert featured a one-woman opera in several Polynesian languages, through which a spectacular singer traced her mixed Asian heritage. She was a multi-instrumentalist who skillfully played passages on a banjo-like Taiwanese moon lute while singing haunting melodies with a `high lonesome sound` reminiscent of Ozark mountain music. It was a cross-cultural experience for the attendees from Missouri.
During a lull in the concert schedule, the BRC founder`s wife toured an open house at a glass artist`s studio to find the sculptor quietly sitting in the corner playing a dobro. They chatted, and he graciously invited her and her Bluegrass husband to a bimonthly jam session with his pickin` pals. The California musicians were graciously receptive to the Show-Me State guests. Instruments, music, and fellowship were generously shared.
The jam session culminated in a performance at the Oak View community center where the BRC founder was invited to play a vintage Gibson Model A mandolin with a patent date of 1909 on the pearloid pick guard.
The out-of-town twosome then returned to the outdoor Festival to enjoy a stunning rendition of Igor Stravinski`s “Rite of Spring”. When asked how he felt after hearing the chamber orchestra`s uplifting performance, the BRC founder quipped, Oh, high!”
The Missouri couple are now making reservations for next year`s Festival in this friendly town that gently greets you with “Oh, hi” upon arrival. If you have an open calendar next June, consider putting Ojai on it. This yearly event is an open-air and sunny Fest filled with innovative musical diversity, so plan on keeping hydrated with some bottles of H2Ojai.
The BRC founder has been a long time fan of the slightly dark and urbane humor of cartoons in `The New Yorker` magazine. Upon returning home recently from an annual trek to NYC to see some Broadway plays, he discovered a mirthful banjo joke in the June issue of the aforementioned magazine. Although 5-string humor is sometimes tiresome, this cartoon earns a laugh- and maybe your chuckle, too.
A year ago, however, when the BRC founder retired from hand surgery at the university hospital, the faculty gave him a unique banjo/hand statuette in gratitude for 37 years on the staff as an educator. He also received an even larger statuette featuring a guitar from the resident physicians in training. Both gracious gifts reside in his music room surrounded by 5-stringers and guitars. Lucky guy.
A few days after the NYC trip, a university mathematician brought a banjo that he built to the BRC for inspection and advice.
Although a non musician, he had constructed the instrument of richly-figured Missouri walnut and designed a scooped fretboard for his brother who plays old timey style music.
The peg head and fingerboard scoop both have a burled walnut veneer, and the 5-stringer has that fat pocky intonation that clawhammer enthusiasts cherish.
It was a remarkably ambitious and successful project which he built carefully by the numbers. Very nicely calculated job, Professor.
Six years ago last month, our workshop tentatively uploaded its Banjo Rehabilitation Center website on line, and curious visitors began to slowly log-on and browse its pages. Our initial mission was to restore old banjos and sell these entry level instruments to fledgeling pickers at bargain basement prices on eBay. In the last couple of years, however, the BRC founder has been transitioning his acquired skills to building original banjos constructed from all brand new parts with elaborate mother of pearl themes. Using standardized parts (180 plus in an open back banjo…) allows for more predictability in tone, resonance, and playability of the instrument. Three of these banjos have been exhibited in art shows. These BRC designer 5-stringers are a joyful enterprise and sold very inexpensively on eBay. Hence, we continue our strong tradition of a deficit fiscal budget.
The cherry pots are fashioned by our mandolinist Ron (right), whose fees are met with a donation by the BRC banjo builder to the Children`s Hospital for each item received. Clifford, our old-time fiddler and a master woodcrafter (left), admires a pot under construction by Ron in the latter`s spectacular woodshop. Both musicians are members of our Hall of Fame.
The BRC website has now accrued three-quarters of a million hits. We have been blessed with a faithful readership and national and international correspondents who query our Vega Martin Banjo Banjo Info mailbox. To commemorate the 750K visitor milestone, the BRC founder has fashioned a unique and seafaring “Dueling Dolphins” 5-stringer. Look for the “open back Dueling Dolphins 5 string BRC banjo” on eBay May 7-14.
Thanks to all you good folks for your patronage! Be reassured that we steadfastly remain, in the most literal sense, a truly non profit organization.
Last weekend, the BRC founder`s band again entertained the patrons who thronged to the annual Roast-a-Doc fundraiser for the Children`s Hospital. The atmosphere was so festive among the hundreds of boisterous patrons, that the band members could barely hear their instruments or harmony singing voices. One musician loudly queried the band,, “Wasn`t this gala supposed to a be a silent auction?”Another band member responded, “How can we stay together in this din? ” A bemused picker quipped, “Philosophically speaking, you Kant get there from here.” Entertaining the children was, as always, a joy for us.
After the gig, the band went to a nearby Mexican restaurant for our yearly family dinner together.
Thanks to all these musicians for their generous donation of time and musical talent to the Children`s Hospital.
P.S. Check out the open back BRC 5 string “Golden Eagle” banjo on eBay April 20-27.