Monday, July 28, 2014

Swannanoa Gathering 2014

The very first day of Swannanoa Gathering, the work-exchange folks were asked to introduce ourselves and tell everyone our favorite place. My response was Yellowstone National Park because of the amazing, beautiful geological structures and wildlife but for Haley, Dylan, and I, our favorite place to "be" is Swannanoa. It is an exhausting week of music and friends. From the family reunion atmosphere of the very first day's registration/sign-in to the sad goodbye's on Friday night and Saturday morning, we have a blast seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

This year's Swannanoa Gathering was especially fun for the Haley and Dylan due to the large number of kids their ages. Haley had a lot of young people in her fiddle classes who had friends and siblings in other classes which led to a dinner table full of friends at every meal and a gaggle of kids at the evening events. Dylan also had friends to hang out with so I rarely saw him during the week except at meals when he'd check in before joining his buddies, when we happened to see him at a session, or during the dances when he was either on stage with the band or out on the dance floor. He mostly kept in touch with me through text messages.

Every day was full for both the kids. Haley began the day playing melody for Donal Clancy's guitar class then took the final half of Advanced Scottish fiddling with Brian McNeil. Her afternoon was taken up by Advanced Irish fiddling with Liz Carroll then either swimming with friends, practicing, or sometimes a potluck workshop. Dylan slept in the 1st period of the day (he had really long nights) then took two guitar classes and a banjo class. He spent his afternoons hanging out with friends. After dinner every night there were either concerts or dances followed by sessions until one was too exhausted to keep their eyes open. Haley played until after 12:30pm and even made it until 3am one night. I think 2am was the earliest Dylan turned in.

Haley playing with the instructors for the ceili dance.

Dylan adding his guitar skills to another ceili band.

Haley watching Eiligh while her parents performed in the instructor concert.

Haley says the "magic" at Swannanoa happens after midnight. The very first night Haley was playing in an "all fiddle" session with three of the fiddle instructors. They were harmonizing, varying tunes, and taking turns playing. It was definitely magic. Another "magical" moment for Haley was playing with Liz Carroll in a session.

It often seems like Haley is surrounded by male fiddlers so getting a chance to share tunes with a talented lady fiddler is a highlight for her. Dylan's camp highlight was a performance with his guitar "idol," John Doyle, during the student showcase.

Our days before and after Swannanoa were pretty fun, too! We travelled to Bristol, TN where we were entertained by our friend Tom and his wife, Connie. Tom showed us around Bristol and invited Haley and Dylan to join his band for a gig. He and Connie own a small cafe in town with delicious home-made food called Memory Lane Cafe so we had lunch there one afternoon and they took us for a picnic and private session at a local dam with a park.

Lunch at Memory Lane Cafe in Bristol, TN (Check it out if you are in the area…the pimiento cheese burger is awesome!)

Bristol, TN at night.
Haley and Dylan joined Sigean for a gig.
Picnic and session at the dam.

The water and fog coming in after the dam was opened.

After Swannanoa we went to Chuckey, TN. Our friend, Mary, runs the Quaker Knob School, a small music school for the local children. She invited us to stay with her so Haley and Dylan could give masterclasses to a few of her students. The 24 hours we spend there involved a session, lots of kids, and music.

On our way home we stopped in Elk Creek, VA to visit Haley's fiddling friend, Kitty, and her mom, Noel. They have an absolutely beautiful house on the top of a mountain with the most amazing view. The drive was a little scary…think Ireland…one lane dirt road up a mountain with drops on one side. Ugh!

We only had about 15 hours there but the kids filled the time. We had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant then Noel drove us around to see the area. We saw a lot of deer and farm critters. Once back at the house, the kids picked berries, saw the chickens, sheep, and jammed together sharing tunes back and forth. The girls baked and iced a cake for dessert before bed.

Berry Picking.

Fiddle jam.

Cake baking.
It was a great trip but we were glad to get home…if only for a little while. We are off to the next adventure!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Keeping the Love Alive

Haley is often afforded opportunities that help keep her love for Irish music alive and well. This week she had a concert to attend which featured a couple of her favorite Irish musicians, Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely. Kevin and Cillian have been playing together for years. They have a wonderful rapport with each other and with any audience along with their amazing talents on their instruments of choice. They played in a house concert at the home of friends who often host such concerts.

There is really no better way to experience Irish music than a house concert. You are up close and personal with the musicians hearing their instruments acoustically and interacting with them. We hung around after the concert because Haley was hoping to play a few tunes with the guys and she wasn't disappointed. She kept us out until after midnight playing tunes and listening to songs sung by others who had stayed.

The last few months Haley has had more opportunities than ever before to work on her Irish music with kids closer to her own age. Previously, she'd do a once a month kids' group session or practice once or twice in a year to do a trio in competition but since January, her trio has practiced more often, performed together in a number of gigs, and worked with other young Irish musicians from our area to raise money to go to Ireland by doing a number of concerts.

We are always on the look-out for opportunities for her to meet and play with other young musicians interested in Irish music. So a few weeks ago when I received a message from a woman who runs a CCE branch and Irish music school in Illinois asking if Haley and her friend, Livia, would be interested in joining some of her under 12 kids in a grupai ceoil and a ceili group in competition in Ireland, I consulted Haley who was very excited to give it a try. They sent her recordings and videos of the music which she learned. Then yesterday the teacher and three of her girls flew here to get to know our girls and arrange/practice the music.

Our visitors arrived about 10am, unpacked instruments, and got straight to work. They worked altogether and other times broke off into small groups of girls playing the same instrument. They worked off and on all day long and between practice "sessions" played games, ran around outside, ate meals, and played with our chickens. The girls hit it off immediately and you'd never know they only really just met (Haley had a workshop with two of the girls, Sophia and Lexia at the North American CCE convention in April but didn't have much chance to get to know them). They sounded like girls who have known each other and played together forever. Each gave her best to learn the arrangement and contribute to the group.

They had an after dinner practice session then the girls put away their instruments for the evening and played outside until dark then inside until called for bed. We piled two big air mattresses in the living room with the couches made into beds for them to all sleep in the same room. One little girl fell asleep  early when she laid for a minute on a mattress. The others went to sleep at various times throughout the night.

We all woke early. Livia was the first awake so she helped me make blueberry muffins with fresh blueberries from our garden. The girls ate then dressed and took out their instruments for another practice session before they had to leave to head back to the airport at 10am.

It was a whirlwind visit but amazingly fun! The girls made new friends and have their music ready for competition next month. We are looking forward to it!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Graduate

 I am now the mother of a high school graduate. Wasn't the picture below taken just yesterday?

Now look at them….

We celebrated by inviting family and friends to a Southern pig roast on Saturday. The weather was perfect. Daddy used his home-made pig cooker for the first time and his barbecue was delicious! Newt and his friends played volleyball in the yard. We are fortunate for the wonderful young men and women Newt has for friends.

Newt will be heading to West Virginia University next month. He is planning to study nursing. I will miss him so much. A few weeks ago I took him down for his college orientation and sat in the rooms listening to people talk, fluctuating between being excited for him and all the opportunities he will have and wanting to cry thinking how much I will miss not seeing him every day.

I am happy to call myself his mom.