"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Grand Woodbine Opry

Perhaps you've heard of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. It was the live radio show and stage where many of the biggest bluegrass and country musicians of the 20th century got their start and played for decades. Names you might know are Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley and comedian Minnie Pearl.  The Woodbine Opry is not a radio show, but is an open stage for local bluegrass and old time gospel musicians to share their talent and the joy of live traditional acoustic music. They put on a high quality show every Friday and Saturday (amplified country) nights to a close to full house in a community center auditorium. They also have a home made cake raffle at the intermission.

The man below was acting as the master of ceremonies some of the time, but responsibilities seemed to be shared all around.  As you can see, the musicians and most of the audience were older folks. There were two younger musicians, a woman fiddle player and a young man banjo player. It was touching to think of this rich community carrying on its musical tradition so effectively, but with almost no generation carrying it into the future.  It reminded me a little of contra dancing in some parts of the country. 

Here you'll see, from left to right, musicians playing fiddle, guitar, dobro, mandolin, and two banjos.  There were multiple artists of almost every instrument, plus singers.  

The young man playing the banjo was a regular prodigy. I got a good video of him playing an unbelievable piece, with all kinds of hot and flashy moves.  Sometimes young banjo players get into the technique and speed of the playing, but lose their sense of rhythm and cooperation with the rest of the musicians, but not this kid.  The only thing he was lacking was a sense of presence. He didn't know what to do with himself when people clapped. If we have a faster internet connection at our next stop I'll upload it on Youtube and post a link here.

I was thrilled to be there. Back in another lifetime I was married to a bluegrass musician wannabe, and played the banjo, autoharp, dulcimer and banjo-uke myself. (I was just a rank beginner but enjoyed myself anyway.) We used to make the circuit of bluegrass festivals and parking lot pickin' parties. I loved hearing the old songs again and being with other enthusiasts.  The musicians ranged from pretty good to superb, as would be the case in any community. But the feelings were pure and the audience was loving it all.  If you're ever passing through Georgia on 95, I hope you'll stop by and see them. Oh, and admission is free!

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