First for me that is. Just returned home last night from the Southern Strings dulcimer festival in Hattiesburg, MS, over a thousand miles on that old bus we travel in. First time for me to visit Mississippi, even though I have lived in the South all my life. I guess I just don't get out much.
This festival is a great one. I had a wonderful time and felt right at home. Everyone very friendly and helpful. They even had a member of their club stationed at the campground helping everyone get parked and settled in. There were several campers there that were piloted by and entirely set up by elderly ladies. They really have my respect. My wife really marvelled at how they set up on Friday and then put everything away and beat us out of the campground on Sunday morning. Cathy said maybe I should have asked them to help me. I thought that was a smart alec thing to say.
Karen and Beth are the President and Vice Presidents of the club and kept everything running smoothly. They, of course, had their club members volunteering to help out and I didn't notice one wrench in the works. Bruce Ford, Denise Guillory, and Bob and Rose Taunton were some of the performer/instructors there this year. All good folks and great music.
I led a couple of bowed psaltery workshops and was shocked that the room was jam packed. I joked that it was standing room only, all the chairs were taken, and the next lady that came in found a spot and sat down on the floor. My first workshop I didn't concentrate on learning or playing a particular song, but more on technique. Most folks seem to need the most help with bowing and I hope my workshop helped. I rattled on for 45 minutes and that's not a lot of time for a workshop, but I think it went well. My second workshop concentrated on more advanced playing, harmonies, double bowing, etc.
The jams were fun. Mostly dulcimers, guitar, and bass. A few of us psaltery players, and one fiddle, sat together, we called ourselves the string section. One thing lacking was a slow jam geared more toward beginners and folks that just like to play slowly. Some jams can leave you feeling like you are in a race instead of participating with the group.
My favorite jam of the weekend was with friends at their hotel. Their hotel loaned us the use of a small conference room. Slow tunes and lots of beautiful old hymns. One of my favorites that they taught me is "Aragon Mill" an old Si Kahn tune. I even got out my old 1977 model Sam Carroll dulcimer and played it. Lots of fun and great memories.
I had some good friends in Mississippi before the festival and now that list has grown. There's not a lot going on this time of year and this festival would be a great addition to anyone's calendar.
If you have never been to a dulcimer or psaltery festival, look for one close to you and give it a try. If it's a dulcimer festival be prepared to play in the key of D :-)