Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pictures from Winfield, Part Three

While at Winfield, it's hard to keep track of the days.

Well, one has to at least be sufficiently in kronos to recognize whether the concert they want to hear is the current day, or will occur in the next two days. One thing that helps is the fact that there is a daily newsletter, which lists the concerts scheduled for that day.

The point being, it's sometimes hard to remember — especially in retrospect — whether something happened on Thursday or Friday. When, in part one, I mentioned that Thursday was a full day, I was actually thinking about Friday.

I had made myself a promise before going to Winfield: since Elsie was not coming, and I might feel lonely, I would seek friends to join at the concerts. That was the reason I had hoped to coordinate schedules with Nancy C—. As it turned out, I did see all but a handful of concerts on my own, but I survived without overwhelming loneliness.

I also decided, once I got to Winfield, that I would take things easy. I was not going to push myself to see every single concert every single day. It was a way to embrace chairos.

So: Friday, September 17th. I woke up around 7 am, took my time for shower and breakfast, drank a cuppa java with Joe, felt leisurely. Walked up to the fairgrounds a bit after ten, and caught most of the Flatpicking Workshop (as much of a workshop as Thursday's Fingerstyle), which featured Dan Crary, Tony McManus, and James Nash (of The Waybacks). Was feeling hungry, so I bought a burger on the midway. Just as I sat down, I noticed Sarah running back and forth with food. I tried to catch her eye, but missed.

The place I was eating was one of several picnic tables, set under a circus-sized tent. It's common to be joined by strangers; I was making it a discipline to introduce myself and try to strike up conversations. You know, the standard stuff - where you from, how long have you been coming, who do you like. For an introvert like me, it's good practice. This particular time, I was joined by a nice couple from Illinois; the husband is an attorney, and the wife is an artist (see her work at Like me, they are fans of Small Potatoes, so that gave us something to talk about. The husband also won a place in my heart by praising secretaries.

After lunch, I went to Stage I to catch a bit of Pete Wernick's Live Five - which is a unique, and enjoyable, cross of bluegrass and jazz. The only traditional bluegrass instrument in the group is of vibes, clarinet, drums, and bass. The jazz they play is closer to swing than modern, and it's plenty peppy. Bill Ponterelli, on clarinet, deserves special mention; he's got some serious chops. I was sitting up in the 2nd or 3rd tier of the grand stands, where there is good shade. But, in spite of the shade and the peppy bluegrass/jazz, I started nodding off. When I tipped forward, and felt my acrophobia kick in, I knew it was time to go back to camp.

I napped for about half an hour. I went to the camp's shelter, and sat for a bit, to wake up. Rhonda S— joined me, and we had a very pleasant conversation. I had a chance to tell her how much I admired her steadfast pursuit of her dream (to be a concert promoter); she allowed as how she has, sometimes, come on a bit too strong.

I hung out. I wandered down to where Nancy C— was camping, to see if she (or someone else) wanted to join me for some concerts. I wandered the perimeter of the Pecan Grove, to see how the camps were decorated. I went back to the Grenola Camp, and hung out some more.

John McCutcheon was scheduled to perform at 6:30 on Stage I. I've become a fan of John's, partly through Sarah's influence. He's a popular performer at Winfield, and it's best to get to the designated stage a bit early. So, I went a bit after 6:00. Marley's Ghost was still performing. They're a fun band, and also quite popular; in fact, I had forgotten how much fun they were. One thing that was very cool is that while the stage crew was setting up for McCutcheon, one of the members of Marley' Ghost (Ed Littlefield, Jr) came out and played bagpipes for several minutes. He didn't need no stinking mike.

As the stage crew was setting up, I had a chance to scan the crowd. John and Sarah were sitting in the next section over, and about one level up. They were sitting next to Bill E— and Gail (friend of Bill). There was room next to Gail. I could have gone up and joined them. But, I had a feeling it would be too uncomfortable.

McCutcheon took the stage, and quickly had the crowd singing along. That's one of his talents, like Pete Seeger (whom he claims as mentor). No one wanted him to leave, and he did offer one encore. Sarah and John left as the crew was setting up for the next group, Pat Flynn, John Cowan, et al (Pat and John were in the group New Grass Revival). John made his way sideways down the steps, considerably hampered by crippling arthritis. What was odd is that they went down the steps right next to me.

Well, I had it in mind to more or less camp out there at Stage I for most of the evening - at least through Hot Club of Cowtown, who were scheduled to perform at 10:30. And I was certainly no lonelier after their departure than before, so I stayed put.

Flynn, et al, had played a couple of numbers when I noticed Sarah coming back up the steps. I was sitting right there on the aisle, and she was coming up the steps near where I was sitting. When she got just a couple of steps away from me, I invited her to join me. Well, what would you have done? It was a dream come true.

I told her my sedate plan of camping out at Stage I. After she shared what music she'd like to hear, I quickly revised my plans. I walked over to Stage II to hear a bit of the Waybacks. They started off OK, but then the lead guitarist (Mr. Nash) got into this meandering rock-style solo. We kinda looked at each other and said, "Well, that's enough of that."

So, we went back to Stage I to hear Tom Chapin and friends. Tom is known to lovers of children's records, and is also known as Harry Chapin's brother. In the future, he may become known as the father of The Chapin Sisters — whose harmonies are exquisite.

We'd been there about 45 minutes, when it Sarah admitted she was running out of steam. We agreed to walk over to Bill E&mash;'s camp site, to sing with him and his friends for a bit. It turned out that Bill wasn't there. Sarah had stowed her Martin guitar there; she pulled it out, and we started singing. We took turns naming songs that we had done together just a few years ago. I went first, with a sweet light number.

Sarah went next, and played a song that had been "ours" when we felt strongly romantic. I was, frankly, a little surprised she chose it. I don't think she was sending a message. Could be wrong. But, we had both behaved appropriately for our situation so far that evening. By appropriate, I mean that we had absolutely no physical contact, and did not mention how much we missed our relationship.

Well, I think we played for about 15-20 minutes when Bill and Gail returned. Then, Tom joined us. It became another song circle. People loved hearing us singing together, as they always have. Indeed — when our voices twine together, it's magic; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For both of us, song comes from the heart's altar; it is how we connect with our individual understandings of the divine. This common experience of the divine element of music is one of the things that drew us together.

You get Sarah singing, and her battery gets recharged. Same for me. We sang and played until 2:30 Saturday morning.

I walked her back to her camp, and we said goodnight. We did not even hug.

Next: Saturday and Sunday — Stay Tuned!

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