Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fiddle Camp...

Back in February when Haley noticed a website announcing Kevin Burke teaching at Swannanoa Gathering, I was picturing the Suzuki camps we have attended in years past with lots of young people in attendance.

The first day was a bit rough and hot...not enough signs telling us where to go, having to unpack our belongings in the heat, and a very long orientation which wouldn't have been so difficult for Haley except that she was dying to see Kevin Burke and his flight was delayed so he wasn't there yet.

Getting lost had its good points. We found a great swing for down times and learned our way around really well. I didn't schedule Haley for the first class period so she had time to play and practice her classical music in the morning. We found a lovely little spot under an arbor with privacy for the most part except for the occassional passerby. The camp was big...a lot of people and performers/teachers (famous in the Celtic music world) for every instrument. I think there were 7 fiddle teachers.

Haley had a fiddle technique class in the late morning that was a little below her level so she was bored. I had signed her up for that one thinking there would be more children in it. She made some more "adult" friends who sat with us at meals.

She absolutely loved her class with Kevin Burke. It was 2.5 hours with a half hour break in the middle. She waited for that class all day. Monday he taught them 2 songs...Kathy (Haley's fiddle teacher) had said he doesn't usually like to teach songs in his camp classes but thought he would because Haley was there. After class he gave Haley a book with the music for the songs on his CD that she loves and autographed it for her. Some of the other performers saw the article about her winning the Fleadh while performing in Philadelphia prior to the camp because the daughter of the banjo teacher said she had seen the article. She and Haley made friends and spent a lot of time together. Shaunagh was almost 12 years old and was wonderful with Haley.

There were no kids near Haley's age in any of her classes. All the kids near her age were in the children's program which was basically baby sitting while parents took classes. There were a few teens in her classes. It didn't bother Haley any. She talked with her adult friends and a number of them asked for her autograph saying she'll be famous someday and they can say they knew her when... She played in a slow jam session Monday afternoon and caused the usual stir. The guys leading that jam session asked her to start a couple tunes...saying "Only people wearing pink shoes can play this one." They kept watching her play and she happened to know all but one of the songs they played in the hour. Kevin lead the slow jam session Tuesday and we also attended on Wednesday because Haley's friend, Shanaugh's, mom was leading the session so Haley sat with Shanaugh and played.

There were great concerts given by half the teachers Monday night and the other half Wedneday. Both lasted from 7:30 until 10:30. Haley slept off and on through the second half on Monday night but woke completely up to see Kevin perform last. Wednesday night, she spent the first half of the concert seated with me. Right before intermission, they called up the scholarship winners. Haley and 6 "kids" in their late teens and early 20s (the scholarship was available to people under 23yo). Everyone awwwed when Haley went up with the others onto the stage. The guy announcing asked that they hold applause until the end of him reading the names and giving them certificates but when Haley was called up second to last everyone clapped and cheered anyway.

After the concert, Haley was determined to join Shanaugh at a late night session. She hadn't wanted to before last night because she was so tired. We found Shanaugh. Haley ate a hotdog with them...she hadn't liked dinner, then we all went over to an area to play a few tunes. There were tents set up all over for people to jam in (I think 5 tents) but we went to a place with a rock wall and steps to sit on. Haley, Kathleen, Shaunagh, and two concertina players (one of them Grainne who is also a wonderful harpist) began playing. Some of the other teachers joined them (a button accordian player and a bagpipe player) and people began to crowd around including a number of the other teachers who were not playing but just socializing. A large crowd gathered and people began taking photos and video on cell phones...of Haley. One guy who we'd eaten with at a meal, said that Haley was the star of Swannanoa Gathering. I think everyone at camp heard her play or heard about her playing.

Around 12:30 it began to sprinkle and since we weren't under a tent, Haley put her fiddle away and we decided to go (not even realizing how late it was until we got back to the room at almost 1am!!). As we were leaving Kevin Crawford from Lunasa and Martin Hayes stopped us to talk about Haley. Besides Kevin B., Martin Hayes was probably my favorite performer. Martin said that Haley was "the most astonishing young fiddle player (he's) even seen!"

Tuesday and Thursday nights there were dances. It was wonderful seeing the performers playing together as a ceili band. They seemed to enjoy each other's company which was nice to see. I always marvel at the friendliness of people in the Celtic music world. Haley did a duet with Shaunagh for the student showcase Friday night. It took some time for them to decide on a tune set because they had different tune repertoires but they did a good job together especially given that they only had 2 days to work on it together.

I enjoyed my time shuffling Haley to classes and reading outside her classes. It was really nice to have the time with nothing to do since my life at home is so scheduled. I didn't expect the reaction Haley's playing received. I expected there to be more kids. I always expect to go somewhere and find another child like Haley who enjoys playing music like she does. I actually wish for that to happen. All in all it was a great week.

Haley is really looking forward to seeing Shaunagh in Ireland when we go for the Fleadh next month. Tonight the kids are doing a fundraising concert for the trip. So many people have stepped forward to help us raise money. I am so grateful to them all and don't even have the words to express my appreciation. It is just amazing to me and another example of the wonderful people in the Irish music world.