Saturday and Sunday’s Pre-Thanksgiving Musical Feast

JoeJoe rosins his bow.
JoeJoe rosins his bow.

Saturday mornings have begun with my three year old son, Joseph’s music class at Silver Music on Tiemann Place near Broadway since after Labor Day. Violin, cello, piano and dance are all mixed into the fifty minute class that Joseph eats up. His teachers aren’t thrown by his naming of old-time and bluegrass fiddlers in the midst of their gentle direction or his usage of the word “chuck”, which they call “down-stroke pizzicato.”

Since Kristin had dinner plans with friends Sunday night, I took in some live music Saturday night at the Orchard House Cafe where Hell’s Kitchen Country was playing. Gene Yellin (guitar), Mark Farrell (mandolin), Bill Christophersen (fiddle) and Allen Cohen (bass) delivered two hours of Louvin Brothers, Jimmy Martin, old-timey, original, sacred songs and more. I captured their entire first set and have posted many of the songs on YouTube. The house was packed. I mean packed. People could not get in the door. It was a euphoric night for old-time, country and bluegrass music fans in Manhattan. I should have taken video of all the folks staring in through the windows trying to hear the music.

Sunday mornings usually lead Joe and me down the steps to the playground in Morningside Park at 116th Street and Morningside Avenue. While we were there, I saw a woman slinging a soft-shell Deering banjo case. I inquired how she liked her Goodtime banjo. She said it wasn’t a Deering but a banjo she had bought at Retrofret in Brooklyn. I found out that she was carrying one of the banjos from Ray Alden’s collection. It was a poignant moment for me. I had to check my emotions to keep from tearing up. I met and picked with Ray on two occasions before he passed away in 2009. Not a lot of time, you’d think, but Ray enveloped me with his ebullient self and warm personality. When I had been living here for a couple of years, multiple friends from southwestern Virginia asked, “Do you know Ray Alden?” My new banjo friend in Morningside Park, who told me multiple times she was just a beginner and not worthy of such a banjo, showed it to me and let me capture some songs on video. A group of children and parents sat around to listen. The setup and tone were very fine. The banjo rested easily in my lap. The children listened as if there was nothing they would rather do. I felt better and less sad. I think it was Ray’s way of comforting me.

Sunday ended with a Manhattan Valley Ramblers rehearsal. After sitting in with Bill and me, Joe wandered off to his building blocks. Bill and I asked what he had made. I am not sure if I was surprised or not surprised when I found he had made a bluegrass band.

Happy Thanksgiving!