I was asked to play three sets of music at this initial festival on the grounds of the Henry Homestead in Belfast, PA. Henry, and his kin, were early gun manufacturers during the Revolutionary war and have a very curious history in these parts. The old homestead is now a historic site and the folks in the society want to increase its visibility.

They hired me as a kids’ performer and the local bluegrass band Nightbirds Callin’ to exchange sets: me at 11, 1 and 3 and the band at 12 and 2. It was a good combination.

My first set was a little rough, but with a young girl and her grandmother, I was able to connect to the general gathering rather easily. Funny how that works. I was able to mix adult and kids’ stuff and hold my own. My voice and guitar was a little shaky, though. Out of practice.

The bluegrass band did a nice of some folk/rock tunes and traditional songs. I was glad I was able to use their sound.

I set up for the second set and things were definitely in better shape. It was nice that the band provided for a few more folks in the audience. Again, I had the opportunity to use my repertoire to cross between adult and kids’ stuff.

The band did their second set while I gathered myself in my car. The third set featured the daughter of my good friend Harley and his grandson in the audience. (“His first Dave Fry concert”) I had some gas left in the tank and was cruising when, during I Like Peanut Butter the sprinkles started, followed by a drenching storm. I got through two verses and packed it in. As everyone scrambled to pack up the equipment, I sold a few CD’s, got my stuff into my car (windows open) and headed out of the park in a veritable sheet of rain. I remarked later that it was nature’s way of telling you that you’ve played enough. It was good for my voice, as well.

It was a good, low-pressure way to get back on the horse and flex my musical muscles. And, I got paid! The society hopes to expand this into a larger festival next year. Yes.

Not much in the way of “real” gigs this season, and, I guess, that’s okay. I had two farmers’ markets this weekend, one in CT on Friday and one nearby in Hellertown on Sunday. I needed the time in between.

I hit the road at 10 am on Friday, thinking that traffic on a holiday weekend might be tough. Not the case, for the most part, and got to Madison in time to set up under the big old tree on the Madison Green. A good day but some lingering Canadian smog in the air. This gig is a long one – three hours – so I spend the first part aiming at the foot traffic between booths, and then turn around and face the green and the families that have brought blankets and socialize on the open lawn. This session usually involved a lot of close-up work with kids. Time does move along, but my voice was suffering today, which affects my concentration on the lyrics. It’s all connected. The drive home was quick (three hours) and mindless with good tunes on the deck.

 

Sunday’s Saucon Valley Market was quite a bit easier, with a mere two hour set and a ten minute drive. I was much more cognizant of the words and my guitar playing a bit more competent. (I need to change strings this week, though). It’s nice to have some familiar (and not so familiar faces) stop by and check in. Lots of dogs, and not so many kids today. I treated myself to Rita’s afterward. A good day.

A few tips and a couple of small checks. Beats workin’.

This turned out to be a pretty good session tonight with Russ Rentler. We have a scattered past but enough to make it interesting. Russ is no slouch as a performer, instrumentalist and storyteller. He did a great job holding down his side of the stage. I could stay out of the way, for the most part, and ask questions, steer the conversations and encourage reaction from the audience. Quite a few folks showed up, especially friends of Russ’s. Russ played hammered dulcimer, octave mandolin, guitar and mouth harps.

I added Roseville Fair, Branching Out, Giant and July, all of which Russ added some fine back up. Actually sounded quite professional. I should not have been surprised but it was.

Russ had a great grip on his storytelling, several times looking at me and asking if it was okay to tell a story. That’s the beauty of DNO. Always a great night.

Tuesday was the kick-off of Channel 39’s Summer Series of kids and family shows in the studio of the TV station. I had the option of dates, so I picked the opener. A good choice with some stormy weather in the forcast.

The show was supposedly sold out, though that was a stretch. Still, there was a decent crowd of moms, kids and one dad, all stretched out on the carpets in front of me. Some familiar faces (the moms) and away we go.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these shows, so I was going on muscle memory, which seemed to work today. I Like Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, We Gave Names,  Giants, Rhythm instruments (Splish Splash), Scarves (Jelly in the Dish).

The progression was pretty good in terms of interactions, with a nice culmination with the scarves dancing.

It was particularly nice that one dad showed up with his son, and the dad really got involved and dragged his reluctant son along, to the point where both were having a great time being son and dad. The kids dancing, almost right off the bat. Moms laughing. The ladies from the station sat in at the end and caught the general frivolity.

It was a particularly good gig, and I got paid more than I expected (!!!!). Home by 12:15.

I do several sets at this Northside Bethlehem day care center every summer and it’s always a challenge to be able to play for three distinct age groups, one after another. Puts my brain in overdrive.

I started downstairs in the toddler room for about 15 kids, including some two-year old’s. These kids really don’t know how to sing along to anything but Old MacDonald, but we had a good time. One girl kept on saying too loud, even when I simply strummed the guitar. Perhaps ‘too intense’ would be a better phrase. I caught myself thinkin’ that this was pretty hard and I worked up a sweat in the first set.

I headed upstairs for the preschool kids, and things were easier and the kids more receptive to singing along, although the ‘call and response’ songs took some work. I brought out the scarves and the rhythm instruments and we rollicked and rolled. I did Baby Shark for the first time in a long time.

The last group was the older kids, and, surprisingly, they jumped on board right away, perhaps since I had been there before. No ‘attitudes’ to speak of, and that was novel for this age group. The special wrinkle today was a signer for a young deaf girl. So I had an interpreter right next to me the whole show. We had a great time, again with the scarves and instruments.

The interpreter invited the girl to put here hands on my guitar when I played I Like Peanut Butter and she lit up. A powerful moment, and when I did ‘the big ending’ she yelled out with every one else. A perfect capture of the moment. Sometimes things just work out.

Three sets in a row kind of wore me out, but a good ‘worn out’.

I have a date later today, my first with Lorrie, and that really has me verklempt.

Having lost two gigs to the Great Canadian Smoke Out this week, it was good to have my annual folk service at Christ Lutheran in Hellertown to get me back on track. I’m asked to help kick off their summer musical series with a family-themed service. Usually, there are only a few kids in attendance (which led me to tailor my material to more adult songs), but today was an anomaly , with kids and parents coming from the day-care in house at the church. I went back out to my car and brought in my bag of scarves, just in case.

The sermon’s theme was reaching out to unexpected people in the community (tax collectors, etc.). So I picked several songs that would emphasize that. I started with A Place in the Choir and then, for the opening anthem, John Gorka’s Branching Out. As folks sang, I supplied the hand motions. With the words on the screen above me, the congregation did fine.

The youth pastor had introduced himself to me before hand and during his presentation used several quotes from my Lessons From Pete. That was gratifying. He sang a song on Uke and paraded the kids around the venue. Nice job.

After the sermon, I brought out John’s Good Noise and invited the kids and their parents to come up and dance with the scarves. It was quite the sight, and made for a wonderful spectacle for the rest of the congregation. We did Get Together as a closing hymn and I finished with the Carter Family’s Gospel Ship as folks recessed.

Folks came up to me afterwards and thanked me. It seems that this one is getting more popular with the general congregation, and I find this wooden room a delight to play in, and I’m comfortable enough to be able to toss in my usual asides to keep things loose.

It was a good gig, and I took advantage of the pot luck afterwards.

I headed up to Madison Green for my first farmers’ market of the year. A four hour drive that wasn’t too bad for a Friday and got there with a half hour to spare – time to meditate and then set up. It was a gorgeous day, with temps in the low 70’s and a mild breeze. I started out facing the market traffic and played my adult stuff, and, I must say, I was playing well for so early in the season. There were few tips, of course, but I got to chat with a fellow guitarist who was into Guilds. Always nice to sway guitar talk.

About an hour in, I noticed a few families setting up blankets behind me, so I did a 180 and faced the open Green for the rest of the gig. Kids, parents, grandparents started to gather and eventually we had a good connection – puppets, scarves, shakers spread out in front of me. I’m giving out my kids’ CD these days to the parents (hopefully they still have CD players). With about a half hour left, I asked the kids to gather the flotsam in front of me and put things back in the bags. I played a few more tunes and packed up my car for the ride home.

Daughter Rosalie was supposed to meet me for dinner, but she forgot. That gave me a head start back to Bethlehem and I could get back by 9:30.

I got some nice tips from the vendors who appreciate what I do for the market, especially the work with the kids and families: a nice bag of bagels, some craft cheese and a bag of greens and some scallions. Only about $35 in tips.

I was armed with a variety of CD’s for the trip and had a great time being able to take in full CDs, a rare treat these days. I always question myself about doing this three-hour gig with eight hours of travel, but I always enjoy getting out of town and having some time to ruminate on the road.

Thursday was the wrap up assembly for my Big Plans residency at Wm Penn ES. I got there early to work the core group on our songs and was reminded of the lack of focus these kids have, and how that’s not a big problem – they are kids. It was fun to see them relish performing on this stage in the middle of the school (open air format), and they took turns rolling around on the carpeted stage. I felt pretty good that they would handle the songs well.

The space filled up with K – 5th grades with the teachers along the sides in folding chairs. I’ve played here many times and I like the space and its unique layout. Full house!

I started with I Like Peanut Butter, the Tutti Tah and we were rolling! Even the older kids were engaged. I followed with The Cat Came Back which I prefaced with my pandemic discussions about the song having racist origins, something I promised my Black teaching artists that I would do. I have done the song at this school for years and it was requested by some of the tenured teachers who remembered it. It worked well, with the kids picking up on the chorus, getting the teachers to sing it and getting the kids to respond to the teachers chorus. This works great!

I Can Be – final assembly: Kayden, Karla, Skylar, Zahari, Jacen, Amerveer and Xavier.

I brought up the core group (who were sitting on the side of the stage) to do our Down By the Bay verses and it worked pretty well, in spite of being fairly vanilla in the writing. Still, they took well to the spotlight. I followed with Giants with two of the core group kids playing thunder tubes. It was then time to premier the Big Plans song I Can Be. Aaron, my liaison at the school, projected the words on the screen behind me so that it would be easier for the audience to sing along. It worked well, and the core group did fine, with all the clever nuances and movements that bring some charm to the song. I’ve used this chorus at Fountain Hill, linked with a Bruce Cockburn lick on the guitar. (I was glad to have that chorus and lick in my repertoire, considering the shorter residency). It came off well, short and sweet.

I finished with All Around the Kitchen which never fails to get every one up and dancing. I introduced the water sprinkler, the car dealership (forgot the name…) and then brought up kids to demonstrate their own moves. It always works to see the kids come up with moves and names. Then, I always ask a teacher to come up, with several of her fellow teachers (she gets to pick ’em). This particular teacher had already expressed that she wanted to come up, so she was ready. She did The Gritty and her friends did The Charleston, Around the World, showing some quick thinking and ingenuity. The place rocked. A great way to bring everyone together at the end.

I packed up my gear and headed off. The shy East Indian boy waved to me as I drove off among all the parents picking up their kids, and it was a nice payoff for the work I had done, on the micro and macro levels. Now, I await the check from Doug. I’m not even sure what I’m getting paid.

Second visit and time to get down to work on our Big Plans song.

I refreshed our version of Down By The Bay, and the kids had some good recall of the words, motions and reactions, but, as we went through the song, I realized how scattered these kids are. (pandemic?) A mix of too quiet, too bouncy, too unfocused, while still doing some good work. So it goes with a after-school program, I guess.

Since we have to come up with some verses on several jobs suggested last week, we picked up on truck driver, teacher and actor. Again, what once was a fairly productive process, the focus and verbal responses were all over the place. This puts it in my hands to come up with more of the content and rhymes. The kids get caught up in the rhymes and less on creating sentences and story arc. This was a tough session, and not as much play as last week.

  1. A cup of coffee and I head for my semi-truck.

Fill up with soccer balls at the warehouse, just to make a buck

I could do this forever cause I’m a lifer,

I think that I’ll be a truck driver.

 

  1. I have a classroom at Wm Penn with girls and boys,

Math Spanish, Reading, ; there’s so much noise.

Summertime you’ll see me down the shore; I’m a beacher.

I think that I’ll be a teacher (Sit Down!)

 

  1. At our talent show, I’m going to do my act.

A very dramatic scene, and that’s a fact.

When I grow up, I’ll read the script on the page,

I’ll think that I’ll be an actor on the stage. (Take a bow)

After our sweat shop session, I loosened things up with my scarf routine, and it was a great way to finish out the day. I’m glad we’re in the central library area, carpeted and nice open space. And, we are the people left in the building.

We covered our faces with the scarves and then came up with facial emotions. We then explore “writing” with the scarves, letters, names, etc. It’s a great swirl of colors. I then do Jelly in the Dish, with the kids launching their scarves at the end of the verse, and then trade scarves with each other. Controlled chaos with a visual payoff that is quite psychedelic, frankly.

I was pretty spent after today’s session. One more session next week and then an assembly. We’ll never be ready for the assembly and I’ll have to carry the load, but I can do that.

 

An interesting gig was offered to me recently; a one-day camp for diabetes-1 kids and families at Cedar Crest College on Sunday: CampConnecT1D. The pay scale was quite lucrative and I figured I could do it well. The theme was health and mental welfare through music. Right up my alley. There were about 15 kids with their parents. The local radio station B101 was there, as well.

I was asked to do two hours but negotiated for an hour and a half, considering our collective attention span. I followed Dr. David Holland’s presentation, spotlighting how the arts can affect emotions, which fit in nicely later on in my show.

Rain stick for Tropical Vacation

I was set up under a big balloon arch, with pillows for the kids and chairs for the adults/parents. A few blow-up guitars, mikes, keyboards were scattered about, and, as I started with I Like Peanut Butter, I encouraged the kids to take a lead on the props. They did and instantly came out of their shells. I followed with Tutti Tah, encouraging the adults to participate. We were on our way. Tropical Vacation, Down By the Bay, Giants, Branching Out, We Gave Names to the Animals (with shakers) and more.

As we headed into the home stretch, I broke out the scarves and we explore emotions, with Dr. Holland coming up and demonstrating being vexed, one of the more curious emotions brought up by the kids. We then did some scarf-art with the alphabet and followed with Jelly in the Dish, with kids (and, eventually parents, nurses and staff joining in) dancing, tossing scarves in the air, and sharing them with each other. I’ve been doing this exercise quite often recently with great effect as a closer.

I took time at the end to reflect on what the kids, and then the adults, liked about the show. This is a great was for folks to vocalize and establish a vocabulary on the arts experience. This was wonderful, as well.

Pizza and hoagies followed and I got to talk with some of the nurses and Dr. Holland about the session. They loved it. I picked up the check (with a 10% tip) and drove back home feeling fairly righteous about the event and my part in it. And I got paid well.

Ann, Cleveland, Dave, Danielle

A small audience for tonight’s Dave’s Night Out with poets Danielle Notaro, Ann Michael and Cleveland Wall. I looked forward to doing this format with my friends and with a spotlight on poetry instead of music. It was different and quite enjoyable. I

I started out with Rosie is a Friend of Mine which quite ironically features the words, “She’s like poetry that doesn’t rhyme.” A bit of whimsy to open up the evening. We did a round robin of the women’s poetry, and they are all professional readers as well as excellent poets.

Ann and Cleveland

Dave And Danielle

In the middle, I asked Cleveland about her work with “embodiment” in poetry, or how to intentionally incorporate (literally) physicality to the process of performing poetry. Great discussion. I did John Gorka’s Branching Out as a nice example of poetry in song, and it stirred up some poets from the ladies. (In the spirit of the evening, I didn’t do any instrumental breaks in the songs.)

I asked all of us why we do what we do, in my case, making albums and in their cases, chapbooks and live readings. Again, this format works well and we did some deep-digging on the creative process. I know the audience and my friends appreciated the session. “Make something out of nothing” was my response.

In my happy place

I finished up with Green Green Rocky Road (to clear the pallet, so to speak) and played it well. It was a good choice, especially with the verse “hooka tooka, soda cracker, does your mama chew tobacco”.

I then I realized that this was a good opportunity to employ my ‘reflection’ exercise, and asked the audience members, and then the poets to reflect on what they liked about the session. It was great to get the audience to come up with their thoughts and made for good way to wrap up the evening.

Wm. Penn ES

Big Plans – day one. We gathered after school in the library with six kids, a small but mighty group of four boys and two girls. We did I Like Peanut Butter to loosen up. And then we worked on Down By The Bay to work on some rhyming and creative thinking skills. The kids caught on and we added some interesting layers to the verses with sound effects and motions.

 

Did you ever see a fox chewing stinky sox (P. U.!) Down by the bay (And then….)

Did you ever see a horse slamming the doors (4 count – clap)  (And then…)

Did you ever see a panda peeling bamboo in Atlanta (peeling with teeth) (and then…)

Did you ever see an owl doing the macarena with a fowl (one girl leads the macarena). Yeah!

Nice session with great engagement. We’ll be able to do this one at the assembly in a few weeks.

Big Plans is the topic to get kids to think about what they want to be when they grow up, and be able to ask questions of adults on what they do. I handed out my Playground CD in order to inform them as to what I do. It’s a shame that only one kid has a CD player at home. I spent some time looking at the cover and hoping they would ask some questions. I gave them ‘homework’ for them to come back with questions for me. Good luck.

I asked the kids for ideas as to what they want to be and we came up with: a truck driver, teacher, famous singer, fire fighter and soldier. One loquacious boy offered that his dad drives truck so he was able to come up with some good material (soccer balls to a NJ stadium), sleeper cabs, coffee, waffle house, and more. A good start for next week.

We did the Tutti Tah, Super Star and broke open the bag of instruments, got up and danced, explored the space and finished with reflection on what we did during the session: danced, spilt water, CD, Down by the Bay, I Like Peanut Butter, jobs, and had fun. They did a good job on recollecting and I asked them to share some of what we did when they got home.

It was a very good opening session and the kids were engaged, and I picked up clues as the various learning styles of the kids. (One girl was very soft-spoken but a great dancer…) Another is a particularly young boy, but eager to play along.

A section of the outside wall had collapsed on Monday. The school moved some classes into other parts of the building. Sheesh.

 

Early Childhood Learning Center

Having retired RockRoots in the last month or so, I’m down to occasional solo shows. I don’t miss the long drives into deepest, darkest New Jersey.  (Actually, I got a lot of thinking done…) This one came from a PTA mom who wondered if I was still playing for kids (??!!). You bet.

From the PTA lady, “The kids loved it so much and the teachers said it was awesome!” nice.

I love playing for preschoolers – their energy, their glee and their curiosity. It’s a treat to see the teachers have some fun, too. That’s a big part of my fee. I was paid well for this one, and I was glad that got what I asked  – what I deserve.

After dealing the the traffic cop, the front office folks, I was guided to my workplace for the morning – a carpeted library!! Oh, yeah, my kinda space.

My liaison was a great help. She scouted down some water, supplied an extension chord (and plugged it in!), and made me welcome. Nice to not play in an echo chamber like the gym – what I had pictured in my mind. She also asked for three short sets, roughly 20 minutes – I fought for 25. I’ve not done something like this small scope but figured out 4 songs to do. It was fun to do as a sprint.

Here’s my thought process as I play my set. Perhaps it’s TMI, but it’s place where I exercise my creative juices so that I can claim to be an Artist.

Each session had about 75 kids apiece, enough that I was glad I had my small amp and mike setup. I introduced my guitar and we counted the strings, listened to the bass E and the high E. I talked about the wood, and that it was born in Nazareth. Why is called a flat pick?

I started with I Like Peanut Butter, complete with clapping, hand-motions and a freeze, stuff that breaks down the doors with little kids and teachers. I then introduced my Superstar response, again with gettin’ up and moving. Also, a nice pat on the back for their cooperation. We did the Tutti Tah, which really demolishes all sense of decorum. I wasn’t sure what to follow that with, but I figured I should play guitar again, and settled on Down By The Bay. A simple call and response, rhyming, rhyming and rhyming. Lots of spontaneous rhymes which the teachers often grin. As I was playing, I notice I had a short time left and made the song short. Time flies.

I had prepared for the big ending: Jelly in the Dish. I use scarves for this one, and had gotten in a new stash of them so that I could have one for everyone. We used them all. I immediately say, “Let’s hide!” and all put our scarves over our heads. This really centers and quiets the crowd. We then played with unveiling a variety of faces (they get to chose, but I always add “your teacher””). Again, modeling emotions.

I get the kids to spell the alphabet with scarf movement, A, O, Z, and their choices. Then we do the first letter of their name (ownership).  I really love how the room is morphing into a sea of  swirling colors. Psychedelic.

Now it’s time to dance. Jelly in the Dish is a great tune, once a jump-rope rhyme, now transposed to my kitchen. I love playing funky music on my Martin, and the kids get to dance in their own safe and creative space. At the end of the chorus, I say “Jelly in the Dishhhhhhh…..” and ask the kids to toss the scarves in the air, something they usually do on their own, but this creates a controlled splash of color in space. I then ask the kids to trade scarves with a neighbor, and that’s a great social device. (I am so manipulative)

I surrendered to the chaos by having the kids come up and put the scarves back in the bag. The kids get to “break the plane” to enter my performance space. A good choice in the moment. Connection.

I get the kids to sit down and make my final comments: first of all, share something we did with your parents at home, and then asked they liked, getting them to reflect on what just happened, and arming the kids a vocabulary to vocalize. (One kid said she like the microphone.) I then ask some of the teachers what stood out to them: rhyming, movement, coffee, Martin guitar, fun. It’s always informative, and often humorous. It’s also good to acknowledge their input and the kids get to hear adults converse in the room. Community.

I packed up my small gear and wheeled out my stuff to the front of the school, still running on adrenalin. (It does catch up to me later in the next day or so.) I’ll be sending out my kids’ CDs to the music teacher, in spite of the fact that few teachers have players in their classroom. One teacher had primed the kids before hand with my I Like Peanut Butter CD. Always amazing at the life and longevity of my music. That feels good.

There ya go. I was busy.

 

Greg Buragino and I have been attempting to recreate the epic Amy’s Jam from down in Boyertown several years ago, to little success at an Emmaus coffee shop, Greg’s patio and a ski resort in Macungie. Though we’ve become a circle of good, steady friends, our outreach has been spotty. After striking out at Bear Mountain, we decided to move the jam to Godfrey’s. Tonight was the first stab. It was pretty good.

Several familiar faces showed up, plus some new folks, including a Cajun trio and a couple visiting from Baton Rouge. It was a good mix of tunes and entertaining banter. It bodes well for future sessions. Several folks commented that Godfrey’s is the perfect place for it, especially for my friend Rich who got to play (and not haul) a real piano.

I started off with Roseville Fair, and as it came around again, St. James Infirmary, both fairly easy chord changes with a wrinkle or two to make things interesting. Hotel California was a new one for me, several jazz standards, a couple of banjo/fiddle tunes and, as the 9 pm hour rolled around, I finished with I Heard It Through the Grapevine (and got the lyrics right this time…). Not everybody was playing along so I figured I lean on the Cajun trio to finish it out, since they traveled the furthest. A good move.

I realized that, after many years trying to establish this jam elsewhere, Godfrey’s is the right place for it, and the players feel that, too.

 

Sean, Fionna Hennessey are the backbone of Blackwater, the Lehigh Valley’s longest running Celtic Band, and the three of us did a DNO six years ago. Seems not so long to me. The topic last time and for tonight was Family Traditional Music, since we have a brother and sister. I remember sitting between them last time, getting lost in the familial harmonies.

Tonight I came in and found Sean and Fionna all set up, with a gargantuan pedal board set up in front of Sean, center stage. Cool. Sean does a lot of solo gigs where he has to fill several hours of Celtic music so this setup gives him a band – lots of tools (toys?) to play with. Sean also has a large Ipad with lyrics set up near the floor, with a foot switch device to scroll songs and lyrics. Last time I called him on it and he said he had stroke several years ago and can’t recall lyrics any more. I don’t blame him, especially with these long ballads. It is quite a set up.

I got a sound check in with “Part of the Union” and cooled my heels until 7 pm. I planned on starting with Don’t Call Me Early, and I had a very Sean moment: I had the Union beginning in my head, and. for the life of me, couldn’t remember the Don’t Call Me beginning. (I think I’m still functioning at lower level with my recovery). I shifted into We Are Welcome instead and I was back on my feet. Still….

It was a particularly good crowd for a DNO, in spite of being only 6 days removed from St. Paddy’s Day. We set off and Sean is well-versed in chatting with the crowd, opining on Celtic matters and introducing songs. A well-oiled machine so we had no problem with the show. The mix of Sean’s strong vocal and guitar, Fionna’s harmony and flute made for a very fat sound, with the sustain of the flute supporting the chord chops.

I chimed in with Roseville Fair and Giant. Towards the end, Fionna said that what seems to be her staring lovingly at Sean was simply trying to read Sean’s lips to anticipate his getting the words right. Chuckle.

A good night of music, and, as always, intellectually stimulating. Just what the doctor ordered.

 

As I found out on Friday, Sláinte is pronounce “slan – cha”, which means “to your health” as in a toast to one’s friends. I was glad to pick up a gig at Arts Quest on St. Paddy’s Day and it paid well. I decided to call up my friend Kris Kehr and see if we could work up a couple of sets of Celtic music, with him on bass and guitar. He, of course, said, “hell, yes!”

I was ambivalent about the gig, mostly because I was a week out from another serious operation, and my physical ability to pull it off. I have years of material though, and, with some rehearsal, I felt I could do it. Besides, both Kris and I need the money. I came close to cancelling, and I’m glad I didn’t.

I prepared a list of songs I’ve been doing in bars for years, a couple of knock-off Irish standards and several mandolin medleys. (There was a time when I had three gigs on a St. Paddy’s Day.) I also picked out some Americana songs that would fit the ballad style for the occasion. Kris and I did one Facetime session on songs and another on mandolin tunes.

Kris put in a lot of time researching the songs and I sent him links to my renditions I did during my productive pandemic You Tube work (My library paid off). Several of these tunes have some difficult chord changes, often foreign to the average American ear, so we dug deep. The session pointed out, quite strongly, that my mandolin chops have deteriorated considerably over the past few years, due to age and less frequent gigs. And Kris had to figure out these subtle chord changes. I was worried about my fingers.

Strong songs: Don’t Call Me Early, Roseville Fair, Ireland, Drinking Whiskey Before Breakfast, Giant and Giants. The more obscure tunes went well: Ballad of Ned Kelly, Part of the Union, Skewbald, Wild Rover and All for Me Grog. I threw in a capella: Rambling Rover and The Irish Ballad, and they always do well. The mandolin stuff was shaky, by my standards, but we stumbled through them.

We were the opening act in Commons area, now known as Pallet and Pour, with a large bar, tables and chairs, food vendor, and it included an open space extending up to the second floor. I wasn’t expecting a large crowd and I was becoming confident that we could pull it off. Thankfully, the sound man had the PA settings from our gig a couple of months ago, so we were ready and comfortable on stage. Praise be to the competent sound guy! We led off with some of my more recent tunes and away we went!

I planned on mixing Irish songs, some mandolin tunes and an occasional a capella bar song and throw in a few folk songs as well. The mix made for an interesting and, hopefully, entertaining show. There were folks who caught a portion of our sets before they moved upstairs to the two other venues supplying music, as well as Celtic vendors in the floor above us. We were the warm-up act, somewhat posers for an Irish music festival, and I was fine with that.

As I found out later, Arts Quest was charging $33 tickets for the event, and that precluded some of my friends from entering. I also acknowledge that the price made it possible for us to get our profession-grade pay scale. It certainly limited the attendance for our set down in the “free” area. Still, it was nice to be included in the festival’s programming.

One interesting moment came late in our second set, where I opened up my somewhat racy bar-only repertoire with songs like The Dogs’ Meeting (“arse hole”), and Cuckoo’s Nest (a not so-thinly-veiled seduction ballad). A small camera crew trickled down to video some of my set during Cuckoo’s Nest (“at the bottom of the belly lies the cuckoo’s nest”) Oh, no! I extended the instrumental, left out the culminating verse, and finished with the after story, including, “every night he claps his hands on her cuckoo’s nest.” Such is my legacy in the world of folk music.

I was glad to have Kris in support, and have the chance to make some money in my home town, and play music with my friend. Sláinte!

Valley Forge Middle School

Valley Forge Middle School

I’m a little leery of RockRoots gigs these days, concerned with recent health issues and impending operation next week. But a single gig seemed to be something I can handle. It was no problem and quite enjoyable.

We were booked for a mid-morning assembly for 300 6th graders at Valley Forge Middle School in Wayne, PA, a mere hour’s drive from home. I got there with an hour to spare and the custodian brought down a cart and it was an easy load in. We were all set and ready to go at 10:30.

I was told by the gentleman checking IDs at the front that VFMS had quite a few music students in the building, and, as it proved during the show, the audience was quite hip to exploring our music and history with us. Music in the schools makes a big, big difference!

Sixth graders are a great age to play for, especially in the middle school range, and these kids (and teachers) were glad to be there. The show went smoothly, the lads playing well and my conversations/patter with the audience was loose and fun. The kids were cool, and started to get up and dance as we went along. Teachers were smiling (I mentioned that sixth grade teachers were so much looser that eight grade teachers…). And, by the end, the auditorium was jumping. The PTA mom was quite happy with the show. And I was glad that the band nailed it again. Such pros.

I got back home a little after noon with some Chinese takeout in hand, and only a little the worse for the wear.  A good day on the road.

I was lucky to pick up an Easton Public Market’s Acoustic Kitchen on Saturday (having to cancel one in early March). It’s a good gig for me, especially since the PA is provided, if (big IF) I can find parking near the venue. I was able to load in the back and find a space out on Northampton Street.

I invited my good friend and fellow radio programmer Steve Capwell to join me for the session, and Steve is a pleasure to play with. Armed with a small array of harmonica’s, Steve is completely at ease with me tossing songs, keys, etc. at him. He’s free to play along on tunes he’s comfortable with (usually Blues). I also like that he is at home with playing to the room acoustically, no mikes and that really fits the situation since folks are there to eat, socialize and catch some music if they want to. We’re there for atmosphere, folks.

I like to mix it up with the families, kids and parents and I had many nice interactions with some of the younger folks. It kind of takes them by surprise, actually. And there are folks who actually come to hang out and hear the music. A nice, friendly situation that gives me the opportunity to work my “magic.”

Steve made the evening move quickly, and we had a good time. At the end, I got my check, and the manager loved what we did. And, I got an artisan pizza (basil, cheese, spinach and bacon) for the road. A good gig, indeed. Thanks, Steve.

This was an unique opportunity to have Cindy’s voice heard, especially since the GD book has been released. I had shortcomings (as pointed out by Cindy) in the book, especially with the omission of photos of Rosalie Sorrels. This was a small way to atone for that.

I planned on adding some songs from some of the folks we were to talk about. I worked up Rock Salt and Nails (Utah Phillips, covered by Rosalie), Roseville Fair (Bill Staines), How Legends are Made (John Gorka), Louise (Paul Siebel). I had a few others in mind but circumstances made me change to these songs.

The chat was open and interesting, talking about the early days about the club. It was particularly nice to see Cindy smiling, and, at the end, Cindy said there was so much more to talk about. Indeed, and I hope we have the opportunity to do this again.

 

Some video: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.notaro.12/videos/1293294011531368

 

I love these family birthday parties. A family who frequents my Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market visits asked me if I’d do a birthday party for their son Nithin’ 5th. Tucked away in a housing development in Center Valley, I pulled up in the driveway with loads of cars parked on the street. The party was jumping with kids in the basement and adults chowing down in the kitchen. I was set up in the ‘great’ room with a chair and nice rug, couch and a few chairs.

I made the point, as I started out, that parents should respect the community nature of the event and not talk among themselves in the back. They didn’t, and I’m glad I made the point up front. I took it from there and rolled through I Like Peanut Butte, The Tutti Tah, I Wanna Be a Dog, etc. I broke out the bag of instruments, the scarves and the room became a vision of color, movement and laughter. It lifted my soul.

I was particularly moved by the diversity of folks with lots of blended families, Indian-Americans and the like, young families and grandparents, etc. I also took time to thank the three young girls who could have dropped out of the festivities for being “too old” to join in. I complimented their involvement and how that was important for them to model for the younger kids.

One mother said it was the best birthday party ever, even if it was for kids. And there was Cake!