Saturday, August 10, 2013

Augusta: Festival Day and Concert Memories

Saving and savoring today:

Soft rain in the morning, cool on my skin. A squirrel in the treetops outside my window.

Bright tents filled with arts and crafts, the smell of barbecued chicken and the sound of music and dancing feet as I entered the Augusta Festival. The rain was gone, the sun was out and the festival was in full swing.

Talking to a young mother who lost her husband suddenly last year; it never gets better, she said, looking at her two little boys. Her heart in her eyes.

Storytelling in the children's activity tent. There was lots there for the kids to do--dried flower arrangements, making drums, glitter painting, face painting, making bracelets, and me, telling tales. We had fun with participation stories, surrounded by those making crafts but still listening to the stories.

Listening to the fine music of Gerry Milnes and Dave Bing, two of the state's best old-time musicians, who collect tunes from elderly musicians and also do extensive research on the music they play. Listening to them discuss their songs is like a crash course in West Virginia music history.

I also heard Michael and Carrie Kline, with their songs of the working man, songs of home and songs of hope, as I waited my turn onstage.

Meeting a lady who introduced herself as a Two Lane Livin' reader. It pleases me so much when people tell me that they read and enjoy my column.

Storytelling on the main stage as the sun continued to shine. I sang Railroad Boy and told one of my favorite stories, the one about the headless woman of Briar Creek. A good, appreciative crowd.

Dinner with friends in the cafeteria, Boston Creme Pie for dessert, which always reminds me of the one my oldest son once made from scratch for me as apology for talking back to me the day before.

Anticipation waiting for the evening concert to start, the end of the festival and the end of 5 weeks of the Augusta Heritage workshops. Talking to two men in front of me, I learned a lot about edible mushrooms. One was a vet who had been in Vietnam in 1961-1963. We talked of wine-making, gardens, mushroom hunting, edible wild foods. Then the show started.

Music, music and more music as some of Augusta's best musicians took the stage playing old-time music--and flatfoot dancers joining them onstage; what excitement they bring! Then the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers took the stage with astounding harmonies. After singing My Girl, the lead singer told the audience that if they had their significant other with them, to give him or her a kiss--and the Marine vet turned around and asked for a kiss. He got one too, :) At intermission he went out to his truck and brought in a Bradley mushroom for me, one they'd just gathered, so I could identify them myself. I used to know them but it's been 30 years since I hunted them.

And finally, Dr. Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys! Dr. Stanley is 86 but sang so beautifully. He needed reminding of lyrics here and there but his grandson Nathan (pictured to his right above) who now leads the band fed him lines as needed, and it didn't bother the audience one bit. This is Dr. Stanley's last tour, and it was a privilege to see him and hear him sing. His voice is haunting, memorable. No concert photos were allowed but you can see how the autograph table was mobbed afterwards.

Riding back to the dorms in the little golf cart shuttle through the soft night air, the music still ringing in my ears. We picked up a young woman looking for the dance pavilion along the way, and she told me she was from Turkey, had spent a year in Vienna, Austria, and there met her husband, who was from West Virginia, so now she lives here. Life twists and turns along the journey, endlessly fascinating.

Tomorrow I'll be homeward bound. I hate to see this week end, but I will be glad to see home again, filled with memories of music, faces and stories.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Rob Hunt said...

I really enjoy all your posts and look forward to each one. I love to learn about peoples lives your stories are fascinating. Thanks!

Steve Ferendo said...

My daughter goes to school at Davis and Elkins...I wish she had been there last week so I could have had an excuse to go down :(

Michelle said...

Life is full of twists and turns along the way. I enjoy hearing about your storytelling adventures!

Linda said...

Wow, Ralph Stanley is still singing! I saw him about six years ago and I was amazed then that he was still able to perform. I guess music keeps him young.

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