This weekend I went to the Chattanooga Dulcimer Fest.
Shelley from Chicago spent the night here, then we drove eleven hours on Thursday. When we arrived, we got her checked into the hotel, found our mutual friend Dave, and finally got some dinner around 8 or 9, then got me over to Rick Davis’ house.
On Friday, after registering and putting in my lunch order, I played on the front steps in lieu of a first class, which was a nice way to get started.
My second class was Dan Landrum’s Rudiments II — the third time I’ve taken it, I think. It’s interesting each time, although I still haven’t done much work on these things on my own.
Lunch was provided on site — in the vendor area — by a local restaurant; I had a roast beef and cheddar sandwich. It might have been nice to have tables, but at least there were chairs and plenty of space. And people playing music while we ate.
Stephen Humphries’ class on playing tunes in different genres and styles was fun to listen to, and I learned a tiny little blues riff, but the topic was so broad that it was more introduction and demonstration and not so much practical.
Then Christie Burns taught us a cool tune that has both B and Bb, C and C#, and F and F#. I think it might have been Swedish. Yes. It was a polska. Right now I only remember bits, but I have the sheet music.
Classes didn’t end until 5:30, which made dinner a little tight, with the concert at 8. We were still at the restaurant at 8:15, I think. Being rather tired, I just went back to the Davis’s and relaxed and went to bed early.
My Saturday began with Mark Wade’s class “Playing Nicely With Others,” which was a handful of nice little rounds. Nothing I have a burning desire to perform or record, but a wonderful way to begin the day, just exactly playing nicely with others — and a nice idea for dulcimer clubs to include in their sessions.
I especially liked the way he taught the tunes. He let the music-readers sight-read, which gave the ear-players something to listen to, then did a call and response / echo for each phrase to be sure we all got it. That’s a nice way to balance the needs and preferences of music-readers and ear-players.
Then I sat in on Kendra Ward’s class on licks — arranging / improvisation ideas. Her approach is like Rick Thum’s — more replacing phrases with something similar, and not so much ornamentation.
This time I brought a sandwich instead of buying one, and after Rick played a set, I played a little at Dan’s invitation.
My favorite class of the weekend came next — Christie Burns taught a polyrhythmic African song. The foundation or ground of the piece had a bit in three for the left hand and a bit in a swung four for the right hand, which is a nice challenge and fun to play, and it is also just really lovely. Then there are some other bits that can be sung or played over the ground. I really really like this piece. Christie said she’d record it and post it on her blog soon.
I was supposed to go to Stephen Humphries’ class on rudiments next, but I just wasn’t in the mood. So I returned downstairs to the vendor area and there was a jam class going on. I borrowed a guitar from a vendor and played thunky amateur chords and had fun and hopefully didn’t annoy anyone too much.
Another dinner, and this time I went to the concert, and enjoyed it rather much. It was diverse, with each performer just doing two pieces, and various combinations of folks and styles. I think that’s a great idea for a festival — usually I’m so tired and hopped up from the festival day that I don’t have the attention and mood for an extended set from one performer.
I went to the Irish jam afterwards for just a few tunes without even getting out my dulcimer. I was tired — and I didn’t know any of the tunes.
On Sunday, there were little lectures or something going on in the morning; I got there at the tail end, in time to catch a group for lunch and get over to the aquarium for the jamming outside there.
There was some nice jamming here and there for a while. Then some non-dulcimer players started rattling off tunes amongst themselves and the circle of dulcimers around them was empty and silent. After a bit Shelley, Dave, Kitty, and I ran around the corner with our dulcimers and played by ourselves.
And that was the Chattanooga Dulcimer Fest. But wait! There’s more!
The four of us stopped at Ben and Jerry’s, then back to Christie’s and Rick’s houses where we hung out chatting with the English folks, Christine and her husband Peter, then went out to the Tremont Tavern to listen to the Irish session and eat dinner. No one but Rick took a dulcimer, but I got to play one or two pieces that Rick didn’t know.
On Monday, we all traipsed about Chattanooga — Christie, Rick and Brandy, Christine and Peter, Shelley, and I. (Dave left after a late breakfast at Niedlov’s Bakery). We looked around the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, visited Horsin’ Around, a carousel animal carving school, visited a book store, rode the downtown carousel, ate a late lunch and more ice cream (Clumpie’s is much better than Ben and Jerry’s, and they have coconut almond chip, and better prices, too), meandered back to the neighborhood, then went out to the place where the Old Time session was. Shelley and Christine and I had our dulcimers, and Christie played fiddle. That was fun.
Tuesday morning we eventually got up and dressed and said good-byes, and Shelley and I headed home — arriving in time to see daughter before she went to bed. The next day Shelley went on to her home in Chicago.
Next — some thoughts and stories and such about other things that happened while I was there.