Thursday, July 29, 2010

At Augusta

I've found there is a little free time in the mornings to check in online while I'm at Augusta Heritage so I thought I'd share a bit about the workshops.

As some of you know, I am at the Augusta Heritage Irish Week Workshops at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, WV. There are many different classes offered from dancing to stone masonry and stone carving and calligraphy, tin whistle, fiddle, harp, bodhran, guitar, tenor banjo, Irish songs and performance, concertina, and much more. The teachers are from many places--Canada, Ireland, England, and all over the US. Their resumes are impressive, and most have international reputations. I am amazed to find myself in such company.

My teacher for Irish songs and performance is Robbie O'Connell and I am learning a lot this week--about singing and preparing songs for performance, about Irish history and singing, about the songs themselves. One aspect of these workshops that is invaluable it that we can record almost anything we hear, with the exception of the evening concerts. In class, I am recording almost the entire time because Robbie says so many things in the course of singing a song or instructing us that I will miss something very good if I turn off the recorder.

My granddaughter Cassidy is taking guitar. Although Irish music isn't her choice of music, she is learning a lot from her excellent instructor, Dáithí Sproule.

In the evenings there is a singing circle in a location with perfect acoustics. Anyone can come and sing whatever they like, and we can record whatever interests us. Needless to say, my recorder is on almost all evening as one great song after another is shared around the circle. I will have many ideas for new songs to add to my repertoire at the end of the week.

I had a surprise yesterday. Each afternoon after  lunch the instructors give a concert with a theme. Yesterday's theme was Songs, so it was a performance by the instructors who sing, where the other concerts had been both instrumental music and singing. I was enjoying listening when the MC, Jim Flanagan, approached me and asked me if I'd like to sing something for the audience. I was astounded to be asked, but of course I wanted to sing. I sang the Jean Ritchie ballad, West Virginia Mine Disaster, one of my favorites. I am still amazed at being asked to perform.

Granddaughter Cassidy  has been singing each evening as well, and many people have commented on her beautiful voice. Her song choices are country or alternative rock, I suppose you'd call it, well suited to her voice. Last night she sang a Johnny Cash song and another country song a cappella. She usually accompanies herself on guitar.

A family group from Mingo county, WV joined the circle last night. Their harmonies on old ballads and gospel songs was haunting, riveting. I hope to hear them again tonight, and to get to know more about this unique group. If I can find anything about them online, I will share it because I know many readers here will be as entranced by their singing as I was. The family recently moved to Davis, WV, not too far from Elkins.

This week has been a lot of late nights and early mornings. Five or six hours of sleep is about the average but I don't want to miss anything. I will have photos and more to share later as this week of singing and music continues.


DGranna said...

I'm thinking that "Cherish the Ladies" is set to perform. Is this the week they will be at Augusta? I could listen to their CDs over and over. Would love to hear them "live".

Anonymous said...

This sounds wonderful. Is it a yearly event? If so, let me know when it comes around again. I don't see storytelling in your list.--Jane D.

Janie B said...

That sounds like so much fun! I'm sure I would love to attend something like that. I've always been fascinated with Ireland, even though I've never been there.

nance said...

Can't wait to hear more . . . songs, music or commentary!

Granny Sue said...

I'm not sure of Cherish the Ladies' performance schedule, DGranna, but with three of them here, we've had a daily dose and sometimes double dose of them because there are afternoon and evening performances. What bliss!

Jane, this is an annual event and has been running since about 1976, I think. There are different weeks to choose from: old-time, country and swing, cajun, blues...might be others. The instructors are world class, literally, and all week there are music jams, singing circles, concerts, and evenings in the Ice House pub. Very fun!

Granny Sue said...

JanieB, I bet you'd love it. It's a great vacation--learning, mountains, great people, plenty of down time if you want it. And music everywhere.

Nance, I've taken a lot of pictures and recorded a lot of music. Last night I finally figured out the video thingy on my camera and taped some of the antics in the Ice House. Amazing time! I hope I can get some of it uploaded here, but we'll see. It might require new techie skills for me to do that.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Sounds like you were having a great time.
Congratulations on the song request. I know it must have been like a dream come true!

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