Monday, November 09, 2015

Let the music in tonight

It was the night I learned what it meant for the moon to be in "perigee" - the point at which it's closest to the Earth in its rotation and thus incredibly bright and big.  That night it was both full and in perigee, reminding me of the huge bright moon in Moonstruck when Cher's grandfather is out walking his dogs and tells them to guarda la bella luna.

I was out in the woods by the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, at a party in a big log cabin that one of my friends was allowed to use.  It was a crisp fall night with a cloudless sky.  Outside the cabin there was a roaring bonfire, and inside there was a big group of bluegrass musicians drinking bourbon and playing music.  The picking circle expanded and contracted as people joined in and then left to get a drink or hang by the fire or go for a walk in the woods.

Dog were allowed, so I had Max and Floyd with me.  When I joined the circle with my banjo, my dogs would get in the middle of the circle and lie on the floor listening to the music.  Or sometimes I would put my banjo down and stand in the circle singing - stuff like Angel Band and Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Driftin' Too Far From the Shore.  I was always a better singer than a banjo player, so it was nice to be able to contribute to the music in multiple ways.

It was a period in my life when I was playing bluegrass a lot, and was friends with a big group of people who did the same.  Playing music was a huge part of my social life.

And man, I loved it so much.  It's such an amazing way to interact with people - it's fun and creative and collaborative and beautiful.

But then I got married and left Atlanta and stopped playing with any regularity.  Every once in a while I would take it out and practice some old tunes that I knew, but I wasn't consistent with it.

On Saturday night I was hanging out at home and saw that the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou was on HBO. I've always loved that movie and loved the soundtrack, so I watched it.  At the end, as the credits are rolling, Angel Band plays.  Which reminded me of singing that song at that party when the moon was in perigee.  Which made me want to play.

So I got out the banjo and tuned it by ear, because the battery in my electric tuner had been dead for years.  I couldn't find my picks, so I just played with my bare fingers.  I sang Angel Band and I Am Weary and I'll Fly Away.  I found my notebook of sheet music and tabs and practiced different picking rolls and banjo breaks.

It was so much fun, and made me so happy.

The next day, I bought new finger picks and a battery for my tuner.  I bought a new book of music for old bluegrass standards.  I cut my nails, because they were too long to fret effectively.  I practiced and played some more.

The tips of the fingers on my left hand are tender and sore today.  But it's a good pain.

No comments:

Post a Comment