The Old Clarinet

It has been a long frustrating day, lengthened by too much work and a vendor providing substandard service. It was a day of record breaking heat, which for mid April wasn't unbearable. To decompress, I walked down beside the Connecticut River at lunch time. There were plenty of people to say hello to, and soon, I was back at my office, ready to face the second part of the day.

The commute home was mostly uneventful. I left the office late and there was little traffic. However, as I approached Wallingford, smoke covered the road and traffic slowed to a crawl. Off in the distance you could see firetrucks gathered to fight a brush fire. It has been hot and dry and there have been more fires than usual.

On my way home, I stopped at the Sam Ash music store in New Haven. Sometime ago, I had dropped my old clarinet off to have it fixed up. Some of the cork was coming off and a few pads were loose. I had gone to pick it up on Saturday, but found it wasn't completely repaired, so I left it, and they finished the job today.

After my frustration with a vendor earlier in the day, I was pleasantly surprised at the good customer service Sam Ash provided.

Kim was working late this evening and Fiona was staying with her grandparents, so I was home alone. I did ate, did some chores and checked out a few things online. Yet I was restless. So, I took out the old clarinet and gave it a test drive. It has been years since I played the clarinet and I never was all that good at it. My embouchure is all out of shape, and I barely remembered the fingering. But, I played a few scales, and picked out a tune by ear. Soon, my mouth was sore, and I knew better than to push things. So, I put away the old clarinet, contented to have reconnected with an old friend.

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The Harpeth Rising Quadrille at The Buttonwood Tree

Rebecca stood in front of an old brick wall covered by paintings made by animals from the Beardsley Zoo. She quietly plucked a few notes on the strings her banjo, as if trying to remember a long forgotten tune. Facing her were a couple dozen fans of the band Harpeth Rising who had come to The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, CT to hear them perform. They leaned forward waiting for the tune to emerge.

The melody emerged. It was then picked up by Maria on the cello. Chris added the rhythm and Jordana took up the melody as others moved to the counterpoint. It was almost as if Bach wrote bluegrass for the banjo.

The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival has interpreters signing the lyrics of songs in American Sign Language and I've often wondered what it is like for hearing impaired to experience the performance of musicians. The lyrics are but a part of the performance. Yet, with Harpeth Rising, I could see a beauty in the performance that those just listening often miss. It was as if Maria was dancing with her cello as she leaned into her music and her arm and bow moved perpendicular to the strings. The dance was mirrored by Jordana, Rebecca and Chris. The four of them, with their musical instrument partners were performing an intricate dance, something between a quadrille and a square dance, with the only caller being the smiles and glances they exchanged amongst themselves, as one followed another's lead.

I thought back to Falcon Ridge. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the weekend is Friday afternoon when the emerging artists perform on the Mainstage. Each performer is given ten minutes and those who get the most votes from the audience are invited back as part of the 'most wanted' for the following year.

This year, it seemed like many of the performers sounded the same; young female singer songwriters, who I noted in the bulletin as GFV, generic female vocalist. Perhaps that was unfair, because each of them had their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them had their idiosyncrasies which made them interesting and stand out.

Harpeth Rising launched into one of the songs written by Jordana's father, with tight vocal harmonies. I don't have a category that I can easily lump them into, but the way their voices worked together made me think of Red Molly, an "Americana/Roots Female Trio" that formed at Falcon Ridge that also has tight vocal harmonies.

Other than going to Falcon Ridge, and a few local venues, we rarely make it out to hear live music, but Harpeth Rising, like Red Molly, are two bands that are well worth the trip and we try to hear whenever they are in the area.

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Harpeth Rising, The Foresters, and Almost Famous

I realize that what kids are interested in often changes from their pre-teen years to their interests in high school, college, or their first careers. I also don't want to be one of those parents with all kinds of expectations on my pre-teen. Yet recent events have caused me to think of Fiona's Radio Show in terms of the movie Almost Famous.

IMDB describes the story line as:

William Miller is a 15 year old kid, hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with, and write about Stillwater, an up and coming rock band.

Well, last night we took Wesley over to the Bethany Dog Park, where Fiona ran into some members of the band, The Foresters. Fiona got invited over to their house where she listened to the band practice, and toasted marshmallows. It was a wonderful mix of childhood fun of playing with dogs and roasting marshmallows, and the up and coming young writer hanging out with members of an up and coming band.

No, I don't think any of the kids were claiming to be 'golden gods', and instead of panic calls from the young journalist's mother, Kim was texting with the parents of the band members.

Fiona got home late last night, but was up in time to watch the World Premier of The Legend of Korra this morning, and then head off to the birthday party of a classmate. If we have enough energy, Fiona will switch back to her young entertainment journalist mode this evening to go hear Harpeth Rising this evening at The Buttonwood Tree.

So, I read through the quotes from Almost Famous, and try to find some words of wisdom, either from the young journalist's mother, or his mentor, to end off the blog post with, but in the end, what really matters is having fun, creating things, while trying to make the world a little bit better. So, I hope that Fiona is having fun at the birthday party and that we'll have fun this evening, soaking up some of the creative energy of a really great band.

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RIP Eric Lowen

I remember the first time I met Eric Lowen. It must have been at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival back in 2005. He was getting around the muddy fields pretty well back then, just using a cane. But we all knew what was coming. He had told us, thousands of fans sitting on a hill in front of the Main Stage. Eric Lowen had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

Over the coming years, we watched as it progressed; the wheelchair, his difficulty playing the guitar, and then he stopped trying to make it through the mud. His long time songwriting partner, Dan Navarro still came to Falcon Ridge. He'd call up Eric on his cellphone and Eric would great his friends and fans from afar.

Eric confronted ALS the way any great music or great artist confronts a challenge and worked hard in the battle against ALS as exemplified in the video, Learning to Fall

Last night, Dan posted on his Facebook page,

At 5:13 pm Pacific time today, March 23, 2012, Eric Lowen peacefully ended his nine-year standoff with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease), surrounded by family and awash in love, gratitude and beautiful music. We all appreciate the support and well wishes that have come his way these many years, and will always hold dear the shining example he was, and still is, to us all.

I've written blog posts about family members who have passed on, and while Eric is not blood family, he's family in another sense. He is part of the family of people who love music, get together at places like Falcon Ridge, and work towards making the world a better place.

He's part of the family that sings with Dave Carter,

This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known
And should I stray in the dark night alone
Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden

Eric is now visiting Dave in the gentle arms of eden, and probably stopping off at the rock and roll heaven as well. The words of one of the most popular songs he and Dan wrote comes to mind,

Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream…

we belong to the light
We belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words
We've both fallen under…

We belong together

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Playing with Spotify

Recently, I've been doing more and more with Spotify, and I'm really liking it. It shares to Facebook and If you go to my timeline on Facebook, you can see a nice overview of what I've been listening to and get more details if you click on the Music tab. Yet some of the statistics are questionable. has some similar statistics. I don't have a strong opinion about one verses the other. However, Spotify also has a app, which provides some nice recommendations based on what I've been listening to. The recommendations seem pretty good, so I'm playing some recommendations.

There are other Spotify Apps, such as for connecting to Tunewiki, so you can sing along to the lyrics, or a mood radio to select music based on your mood. Now, mashing up and mood radio might be good, so I can have recommendations based on what I've liked when I've been in different moods.

The other thing I've been doing a lot is experimenting with playlists. For example, I've been helping promote Middnight on Main, a New Year's Eve Festival that will be happening in Middletown, CT on the 31st. So, I created a Middnight on Main Spotify Playlist of various performers that will be there.

I also created a playlist of the Falcon Ridge Most Wanted 2012 performers.

You can also check out what other friends on Facebook have been listening to or have put in their playlists. So far, I haven't found much of interest there yet. So, are you doing anything interesting with Spotify?

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