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!

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