by Tom Bailey
I hope each and every one of you is doing well!
The twists and turns of life can bring the unexpected, but nothing as unexpected as the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to March, we were looking forward to jams, gigs and workshops that were on the horizon. We had just played some of our best COPs gigs in a long time and were coming up to some paid gigs with a new set list. This coming weekend was the workshop with Rosie Newton and Richie Stern and now everything has been put on hold. But all of that is minor compared to staying safe during times like this. Have you had a chance to play some music? There has been much discussion online about the power of music. The Today Show recently ended a broadcast with a touching series from the Internet that began with a bass player bowing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. After a couple bars, a cello joined in, then another. Soon a couple violins joined and then all the members of an orchestra from Denmark. WOW! Then a group from San Francisco started another symphony, then a symphony from Michigan started playing Simple Gifts. It ended with Andrew Lloyd Weber playing a piece from Les Miserable. The Today Show anchors were in tears. Music can overcome fear and concerns. And when there’s a discussion of good things to do while we are staying at home, one item always included is to play an instrument. Prior to realizing it would not be an acceptable practice, Fred came over and we played for a good hour and half plus, while keeping our distance. It sure made my working from home the next morning a lot better. There IS something healing about playing music.
To that end, there are a couple of us working on something. I am far from being a techie, but I took out a subscription to Zoom for the purpose of a having a platform for a group
of folks remotely playing together. On the first try, we had 5 or 6 players but the sound wasn’t synced. Greg and I took care of that part and now have to work out the sound levels. We should have something soon and then we will start getting folks together. No one has to have a Zoom subscription unless you want to use a phone or tablet. The Zoom app is free so there is no cost if you want to participate. Please let Greg or me know if you want to join in such an experiment. After the crisis, we can use this for jamming in bad weather, special practices or workshops, even Board meetings. If someone out there is a Zoom wizard, please help us out.
We are looking at new dates for the workshops that were planned. Richie and Rosie have asked about having their workshops and concert on June 28th. Details of their workshops were in the last newsletter. The Board will make a decision as we have to let them know soon, since they are rescheduling all their cancelled gigs. We still have Ben Proctor’s scheduled and we will most likely be rescheduling his ensemble workshop. We will most likely have to move the date for the picnic that was set for early May. Monroe County has cancelled all park activities through the end of April, refunding all payments. In mid-April the County will make a decision on May activities. At this time there are no other dates available until school starts. We will have to see if other folks cancel and some openings come up.
Most important thing is that we all follow the guidelines and we use common sense when we are out and about with essential activities. If you have a chance, pick up a phone and check in with your friends. A comforting voice on the other end of the phone can make a big difference in someone’s day.
Please take care of yourself and those close to you. When we get through this, we will have a real party.
Until then … Play Nice!
Have You Heard?
Submitted by Tom Bailey
Pete Seeger is a modest, unassuming, cheerful, and kind-natured man. He’s a good folk singer, if you can stand folk singing. And he’s such an excellent banjo player that you almost don’t wish you had a pair of wire cutters. P. J. O’Rourke
Mind you, I’ve always been musical … Mother used to sit me on her knee and I’d whisper, ‘Mummy, Mummy, sing me a lullaby do,’ and she’d say: ‘Certainly my angel, my wee bundle of happiness, hold my beer while I fetch me banjo.’ Les Dawson
What is the least often heard sentence in the English language? That would be: Say, isn’t that the banjo player’s Porsche parked outside? Jackson Browne
The first musical sound I ever heard was from a banjo. My father played, and I was an infant in a crib, and something just stayed with me from those early days. Roy Clark
“As one old gentleman put it, ” Son, I don’t care if you’re stark nekkid and wear a bone in your nose. If you kin fiddle, you’re all right with me. It’s the music we make that counts.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
Thinking of You
Submitted by B.J. Cunningham
The following inspiration quotes have been emailed to the FOG membership over the past month and are worth sharing again.
Singing in the shower is all fun and games until you get shampoo in your mouth, then it becomes a soap opera. Unknown
A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.
Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly two. Frederic Chopin
A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t. Tom Waits
We consider that any man who can fiddle all through one of those Virginia Reels without losing his grip may be depended upon in any musical emergency. Mark Twain
Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul. Plato, The Republic
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. Aldous Hu
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name
Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. Victor Hugo
One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. Bob Marley
Without music life would be a mistake. Friedrich Nietzsche
Quarantine Notes from Our Members
I have been sending inspirational and musical quotes periodically to FOG members. People need to know that others are thinking of them during these days of separation and isolation. To pass the time, I have been restringing some of my instruments that have not had much attention. I’m trying to practice some of the fiddle tunes on my mandolin. Walking my dog, reading, spring cleaning, puzzles, playing old LPs, FaceTiming and Zoom with family and friends have kept me occupied the past few weeks. B.J. Cunningham
I continue to learn and play Old Time Fiddle tunes, and performing for a nursing home and my retirement home. My main hobby is creating hour-long, PowerPoint presentations I call “Virtual Vacations”, which I deliver to friends, family, and Valley Manor residents, via Zoom, a conference app. The silver lining in this quarantine is that I have been able to bond, via Zoom, with a 9-year-old great-grandson and my 95-year-old brother, both in California, by presenting “Virtual Vacations” to them. Stay well and keep Old Time alive. Ray Ettington
Changes every day. What I thought was going to be inconvenient for a week or two has become a simple appreciation of just breathing. I have been taking walks, alone or on opposite sides of the street with my neighbor. I have been learning to play If I Only Had a Brain – my theme song – on my mandolin, and spending some time playing my concertina and octave mando. We are fortunate to have amazing friends, and I have learned to use Zoom to stay in touch. Today I got a call from a friend: “Are you home?” “Yep.” Look out your window. My friend was sitting in her car, in front of my house, and we talked by phone for an hour while seeing each other through the windows. My husband’s last day of work — last Friday — was the beginning of his retirement. A new normal for both of us to be home all the time. We have had a record number of calls from our adult children who are also sheltering in place: two locally, one in Old Forge and one in San Francisco, who with her husband is sheltering in place in their tiny house, which is parked in someone’s back yard. So, I am really thankful for the once too-crowded seven room house we live in! I would love to hear what others are doing with this gift of time, albeit time laden with anxiety. Stay well everyone and I’ll see you on the other side of this. Pat Fink
My music stand holds three possible set lists for a banjo singalong on May 18 at the Clearfield Library in Williamsville, if the libraries reopen by then. The stand also holds an iPad for taking online exercise classes using the Zoom app or livestreaming. I started as a group exercise instructor at the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA In January. I teach Silver Sneakers Classic and Drums Alive classes. The Y shut down on March 16. I had planned several Irish songs for Drums Alive on St. Patrick’s Day: Garry Owen, Irish Washerwoman, Swallowtail Jig, Star of the County Down, The Gentle Maiden, and Danny Boy. They will have to wait for half way to St. Patrick’s Day in September! On March 29 I drummed up a cure for cabin fever, a one hour set list for Drums Alive that included Don’t Worry Be Happy and Let It Be. The biggest challenge is to keep the iPad charged up enough for many hours of use every day. The silver lining is that the internet speed can handle many devices at the same time. Playing banjo and keeping the beat at FOG jams and gigs has been very useful for teaching exercise classes to the music! Stay healthy and keep on pickin’! Gene Golebiewski
I can’t wait to plunk away with people. That does include fiddles, guitars, mandolins, dulcimers (inducing those that get hammered), whistles, flutes, clarinets (occasionally) and how can I leave out the bass. Sometimes spoons, bones, drums. Stay safe, stay well, and let’s look forward to our next jam, ASAP! Banjo Bob Hyder
Between practicing new fiddle and Bluegrass tunes, I am painting watercolors. When not frustrated enough, I am struggling to learn the pedal steel guitar and American Sign Language. Ron Perry
Social distancing has dramatically changed our lives temporarily and we look forward to the time we can return to normalcy. However, as a silver-lining, it has reduced our “busyness” and for many of us has put large amounts of time at our disposal. For me, it has presented an opportunity to learn some new tunes and indulge in some hobbies and interests which have taken a back seat for a while. I have tackled some household projects which have been put off for months and in some cases, even years. I have finally gotten around to deleting many of those one thousand or so out-of-date emails in my inbox. My two daughters — one in New York and one in Rochester — my wife and I have connected more than ever by using Zoom and Skype on our phones. Many evenings we have found time to play card games remotely, something that we would previously do only when we were together on family vacations once or twice a year. I will continue to take classes at OSHER, a program at RIT for retired individuals, as I have done for the past few years. All classes will be given on-line during the spring quarter. As the weather warms, I look forward now and then on nice days to taking a lawn chair over to Ellison Park, finding a shady, secluded spot by the stream and reading for an entire afternoon with no feelings of guilt. Dick Pierce
It is frustrating having to stay home. But I don’t like to fritter time away so I get up around 6:00 to listen to and read the news for a couple hours, catch up on our church Bible study, and then practice. I still have COPS music on the stand, as my broken arm and I missed out on so much this year. There’s also mandolin orchestra music, some Irish music, and folk music on the stands. My guitar is less neglected these days, and I keep eyeing my banjo. But there is still physical therapy daily. One new skill is making face masks. Definitely not N95 quality but they look creative. We’ve also been sending out cards and making phone calls to check in with others. We “attend” weekly Zoom (another new skill) singarounds. We support online musicians who live-stream concerts. A challenge is getting outside hiking every day since the Y is closed and finding something worthy of posting on Facebook. Something calm, inspiring, or prompting a smile. And we always have music playing. We sure need it these days! Kathy Schwar
by Jamie Latty on March 16, 2020
We certainly live in strange times. This week was definitely up there as one of the strangest I can remember, and so I would like to start by saying that on behalf of everyone at Deering, our hearts and prayers go out to all of those affected, both directly and indirectly.
We understand that it is hard not to be concerned. I am sure many of you, like me are seriously beginning to question if this is the Twilight Zone. But it is going to be okay. Say it with me. It is going to be okay. We will absolutely get through this and if you are so inclined, playing your banjo can help.
As I watch the events unfold, I am reminded of how significant a role playing a musical instrument has been in my life. I have played an instrument of some kind since the age of 10. Without a doubt, having this outlet has helped me tremendously in simply being able to cope in difficult, sometimes unbearable times.
And I am not alone. In a survey from 2017 by data analytics firm YouGov revealed that “71 percent [of respondents] said they agreed that music had helped them through a difficult time in their lives.”
As the media reports doomsday on the hour, every hour, a few glimmers of musical hope have begun to emerge. Italy has been in the news this last few weeks after becoming the first European country to order a complete shutdown of the country. Stores, restaurants all closed and residents only allowed to leave their homes to get basic items and medical supplies.
It wasn’t long before videos began to emerge on social media of defiant Italians singing from their balconies. No people in shot. Only their somber voices serenading one another through song as the night rolled in.
Turns out, these videos are the coordinated result of Italy’s #flashmobsonoro, which is encouraging people to take to their windows and balconies and make music together. Just click on the #flashmobsonoro hashtag to see more amazing videos like this one.
And as the last few days have come, more videos have surfaced. Only now, they have energy. They have that famous Italian passion and most importantly, they have musical instruments. Like a quarantined neighborhood jam session. Not only are these players using their instruments for themselves, but they are entertaining the masses.
So, does music really help in bad times? I think we can all recount a time where a song or a musical memory bought us comfort. For sure, doctors and clinicians began to realize the healing power of music when observing the effects of travelling music groups who would frequently visit veterans during both world wars.
The idea has even evolved into something called Music Therapy which Goodtherapy.org describes as “a type of expressive arts therapy that uses music to improve and maintain the physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals … involves a broad range of activities, such as listening to music, singing, and playing a musical instrument.”
As musicians of all levels of experience and ability, we possess a unique ability to play and communicate through music. We possess something truly powerful that has the ability to not only help us through bad times, but others around us, too. The power of playing music, I believe, is a remarkable healer. So, let’s have some fun doing what we do and play some music! Play your banjo. Jam with fellow musician friends and neighbors from across the street. Let your music be heard by your non-musician neighbors, as they will surely enjoy the respite from the fear and the unknown and take solace in something “normal”. We have the power to uplift peoples’ minds and spirits.
Nobody really knows how this will all play out, but I urge you to turn off the TV, put down your phone and keep your banjo (or guitar, or mandolin or fiddle) close by and play it. Let your soul and your mind become invigorated, if only for a short time, and remember how important music is.
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Submitted by Bruce Holmquist
Click on the link for a printable PDF of a delightful, COVID-19-related parody of the Dylan classic You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere , with lyrics by Jan Krautheim.
by Susan Cady-White, Editor
I struggled a bit with the lead graphic for this month’s newsletter. April showers bring May flowers, right? It’s natural at this time of year to tightly grasp the least sign of spring,
the promise of milder weather. But weather is not top of mind at the moment; the COVID-19 virus pandemic is. And as I was surfing the ‘net, looking for a COVID-related graphic, I argued with myself that COVID-19 coverage is everywhere, all the time, and perhaps I should steer to a more uplifting image. But a newsletter, in addition to being a communication tool, is an historical account. A brief scan of the President’s Remarks from any past Fiddletter will often tell you if it was hot, cold, snowy or rainy because weather influences our daily lives. And right now, it’s virus-y out there.
Many thanks to those of you who took the time to tell us how you’re spending your time and how you’re feeling during the quarantine. At different moments in time over the past month, I have shared your frustration, gratitude, fear and enthusiasm for better times ahead.
Midnight on the Water, Over the Waterfall and Coleman’s March are on my music stand. Via Zoom fiddle lessons, I am learning my first strathspey, which is challenging my bowing skills. Remember Us this Way, from A Star is Born, is also on the stand for guitar playing and singing. My post-tonsillectomy, allergy-ridden, naturally alto voice is not a fan of the high notes, so time will tell if that song remains in the repertoire. I’ve partially written my first rap song, inspired by frustration with conferencing technology and Internet overload. I’ve enjoyed curating and sharing the best of the massive amount of coronavirus memes that continue to show up on Facebook. Numerous private messages from friends tell me the daily humor is anticipated and appreciated. Last week I logged into the Golden Link virtual sing-around, which is being held on Zoom. I didn’t participate but I enjoyed the singing of others. The biggest challenge is not being able to see my mother and my adult children. The silver lining is being able to help in small ways. Channeling Rosie the Riveter, my 86-year-old mother is sewing face masks. The family business, JN White, shifted gears and has added face shields to its product line.
Being restricted, one day blending into the next, the constant focus on safety and wellness, the news each day of significant illness and loss, is all stressful. Be kind to yourselves and take time for doing what you can that brings you joy. Be patient with others. The only way through this is through this and we will get there together. Be well, stay safe.