Stringalong – Changing the world one weekend at a time

November 2, 2012

Long, long ago back in 1998 my fiddle teacher suggested I go to the “Stringalong” at Camp Edwards where he was teaching a workshop and I could experience another side of music. My life has never been the same. I was new to music in 1998 having just started to learn the fiddle in 1996. I played “Book 1”, held my fiddle in “a war pose” (his words not mine), and couldn’t play anything without the music sitting in front of me. Memorize a piece –  impossible, learn by ear – not even in the realm of possibilities.

Stringalongs, started and maintained by Ann and Will Schmid from the UW Milwaukee Folk Center, were a whole new ballgame. These were family events although most attendees were like me, adult learners, musician wannabees. There was no written music at the workshops, everything was taught by ear. People sat around in the evenings and late into the night “jamming”. If you didn’t know the music, you played quietly in the background hoping to catch a few notes each time they went through the tune. If that wasn’t working you could sing along or sit back and just enjoy the strands wafting in air and hope by osmosis it would all sink in. Believe it or not, it does sink in. The tunes sink deep into your soul and although you don’t know the name or the key, you can hum the melody years later.

I met a whole new set of friends at the Stringalongs at Camp Edwards. When you eatfamily style and sleep in cabins with 12 strangers, and dance with whomever is standing alone, you bond and bond fast. I would be lying if I said I could remember all the names. I can’t. But I remember the faces and the stories and their words of encouragement.

That’s me in the blue shirt and black vest.

Stringalongs were set up in such a way that professional musicians would come in and teach a work shop or two for the weekend each one meeting 3 times between Saturday morning and Sunday at noon. As an attendee you could select up to three different workshops to attend or you could hang out and walk the trails or jam on the porch with your new best friend. Between Friday evening and Sunday at noon you also got to listen to a short concert by each of the presenters. There were people who never attended a workshop, they just came to hear the “professionals” play. I don’t know how Ann did it but she brought in big names – Pat Donohue, Mike Dowling, Joel Mabus, Pigs Eye Landing, Bill Staines, Second Opinion, Crystal Ploughman, Ken Kolodner, Randy Sabien.

A lot has changed since 1998. My life has changed. Music and my experiences at the Stringalongs introduced me to life long friends and gave me the confidence to not only join a band but to start NorthWoods Strings a non-profit organization to provide string instrument instruction to children in Hayward. Stringalongs let me see the world as it ought to be even if only for a weekend. They reminded me that any thing is possible. That although our world may rapidly change somethings stay the same – you can’t make music with someone and argue at the same time, that joy comes from peace deep within, that dreams are not foolish unless you forget to follow them.

Beginning tonight at Camp Edwards, the Stringalongs come to an end. For one last weekend the world will stop turning if only for two days. With any luck the first snow fall will come and the outside world will mirror what’s happening on the inside. I wish that I would be there but the outside world has different plans for me. In my own way,I suppose that I will be there. My heart will be there. Tonight I will think of my friends and the memories we made. On Sunday when the final songs are sung, I will be singing along  and I will imagine the notes floating all the way to East Troy and mingling with the voices there.

To Ann Schmid who dreamed up this wonderful experience and made it happen:

Ann Schmid

There are those in the world who never dream, those who dream but think them foolish, and those who dream and turn those dreams into reality. You, my friend, are obviously in that final group and the world is a better place because of it. Have a wonderful weekend. I will be thinking of you all and wishing with all my heart that I was there.

 

 

Dayle Quigley
Author: Pig and Toad Best Friends Forever
Exec. Director: NorthWoods Strings


A Winter Weekend in Door County

February 3, 2011

By Dayle Quigley

This past weekend saw me traveling once again to check out music in small town Wisconsin. This weekend however I picked more of a geographic area than a specific small town. Since Door County is more a “road trip” then a casual night out, a friend and I coordinated our schedules, picked a weekend and then hoped to find live music in the area. In turns out that finding live music in Door County was easy, even at this time of year.

For a place to stay, we picked a random resort off the internet. It was very nice. The truth is we could have had our pick of spots. Door County in the winter is significantly quieter than in the summer. Since we were not arriving in  Door County, more specifically Egg Harbor until late on Friday, and leaving again on Sunday, our one chance for finding live music was on Saturday. We had two choices – Mojo Perry at the Door County Community Auditorium or Dow Jones at the Stone Harbor Pub and Restaurant. We went for Mojo Perry. In all honesty, I had never heard of Mojo Perry but the write up was good and it was listed as being an acoustic concert. I just couldn’t find enough about the Dow Jones band on the internet. Since both acts are touted as “rock”, I went for the one where I thought I might be able to hear in the morning. Okay, I’m showing my age but it’s true and I grew up on John Denver, James Taylor and Billy Joel. I’m not really a heavy metal kind of gal.

We started out on Saturday evening at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek. We picked this particularly restaurant not because of the menu but because it is a music venue a couple of times a month. We unfortunately happened to be there on an off weekend but I wanted to get a feel for the place anyway. The Inn as been in existence since the late 1800s. That says something in itself especially for someone who likes a place with history. On nights that music is scheduled, dinner is served at 6 with a set meal and price. The dining area is then cleared out so that the stage can be set up and seats arranged. I should have asked how many members can be in the audience but I didn’t. My guess would be about a hundred. No matter what, it would be a wonderful place to hear a concert. I was bummed that we were not going to be there a couple of days later when John McCutcheon was playing. I should remark that the food was wonderful: a wide selection, more than reasonable portions without feeling like you were in an all you can eat buffet line, and tastefully seasoned. It was a great way to start the evening.

We then headed down the road to the Door County Community Auditorium and the Mojo Perry concert. This concert was one of their Coffee House Concert performances. Instead of the concert being within the auditorium proper (which seats over 700), this gig was in the foyer of the building where a fire was burning (okay it was gas but it did look nice), and tables of four were set up. The lights were turned down and candles lit the area. The audience was small with only about 24 in attendance. Most of the audience was in their 50s and sadly I saw only one couple sitting within a foot of each other. Instead, they sat separately with their arms crossed. I have to admit that it wasn’t looking good from the start. Not an easy crowd to play to; especially when you are a “psychedelic” guitar player. We did stay for the entire performance if for no other reason than in hopes that there would be a moment of breathtaking genius. There were a couple of songs that were inspiring, that had substance behind them, but overall it was somewhat repetitive. Mr Perry has been dabbling in the use of electronic looping – you play a riff, it’s recorded and then plays itself over and over again as you lay down new tracks on top. It’s an interesting concept but not necessarily new. I saw a fiddle player use the idea at the ASTA convention 2 years ago in the alternative styles competition. The problem is once you have seen someone like Leo Kottke or Mike Dowling in concert and you realize that it is not multiple tracks on their CDs but one amazing person playing like three musicians at once on a single instrument, it is hard to be impressed by the use of electronics that give you the same effect. Perhaps I went into this concert with the wrong attitude. I was kind of praying for an “Eric Clapton Unplugged” type of performance. It just didn’t really measure up.

Here is my take

1. Door County – very healthy when it comes to live music even during the “down” season.

2. White Gull Inn – if headed into town, I would definitely check this spot out for entertainment. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to be there on the right day.

3. Mojo Perry – not my cup of tea.