Monday, November 26, 2007

Breaking Up Thanksgiving

After the turkey and potatoes and cranberries on Thursday, the Fool and I go home and bake like mad things and on Friday, pack up a bunch of homemade cookies, pile into the car with sleeping bags, fiddle, guitar and dance shoes (and this year, two guys named Ed, a cello, an extra fiddle and a mandolin) and head north to Wisconsin for Breaking Up Thanksgiving with all our friends.
It's the Chicago community's contra dance weekend and every year, it more or less goes like this: Dance, get no sleep, play tunes, dance, play tunes, drink whiskey, get no sleep, eat a bagel, stop for coffee, go home.
This was the first time our grad student friend Ed came to Breaking Up Thanksgiving. We bought him to Pittsburgh a couple weekends back, and he said he had no idea traveling with us meant he "got mocked on the Internet." So to protect his identity, I'm going to give him a pseudonym. I shall call him Sam.
The second Ed was in case the first one wore out. Also, he needed a ride.
Here's the view from the stage Saturday night. The Fool and I play some Cosmic Otters sets, but we like to put together other bands for these weekends, which are all pickup bands and volunteer callers.
If we play more old-time tunes, we're the Cosmic Possums (as possums are more old-timey than otters.) So at Breaking Up Thanksgiving, we're usually the Cosmic Possums.

We played with Walter, a great banjo and fiddle player, who retuned his banjo in the middle of a set, changing keys and immediately raising the bar for clawhammer players everywhere.
And Sam and the Fool engaged in some exceedingly sweet twin fiddling, so beautiful. Here they are being serious musicians, checking their tuning or learning a tune at the last minute or changing their minds about what we all agreed we should play earlier.
We had a lot of conversations that went like this:
FOOL: OK, let's play "Harness the Marmot" in D, followed by, oh, wait, what's this tune? (fiddles a bit.)
SAM: Oh, oh, that's "My Auld Wooden Leg," you know, Michael Coleman recorded that in 1925.
FOOL: Yeah, right, that's it!
ME: What key is it in?
FOOL: Uh, G.
ME: Great. D and G. Got it.
SAM: Of course, "My Auld Wooden Leg" sounds a lot like "Paddy in the Bathtub," which is also a great tune.
ME: What key is that in?
SAM: E minor.
ME: OK. D and E minor.
FOOL: Wait, no, that's not "Paddy in the Bathtub;" you're playing "The Smelly Sea Captain," that tune in D minor.
ME: D and D minor? I don't think I like that....
SAM: No, no, G and D minor. We're not doing "Harness the Marmot" anymore.
ME: Oh, for the love of God....

Here Sam is mugging for the camera.

And on the way back, after failing to stop in front of the giant frog with doors for a picture, I pulled over for this group shot with Adina, Sam and the Fool. Someone honked as they posed.

And now we have broken up Thanksgiving, and we are heading for Christmas and I have a scarf to knit.


Kathy in KS said...

You guys sound like so much fun! I love love love fiddlin! I love that kind of music where you can't keep your foot from tapping. Not that you'd try of course. You should try to put up some sound bites or something. Can you do that? Maybe on you-tube. I'd love to be able to hear you.

meg said...

Actually, Kathy, the Cosmic Otters are on MySpace - we have a clip filmed at a dance in Kalamazoo, Mich. there. I'll get the Fool to put up a link.

LaurieM said...

Why do you calling breaking up Thanksgiving? And when did you eat the cookies? Sounds like you were having too much fun....

nectaryne said...

Am laughing over "The Smelly Sea Captain." My dad sings with the Ship's Company Chanteymen and often their pre-set conversations sound like that. Thanks for the smile!

meg said...

That's so cool that your dad sings chanteys - I took a class in that once and it was a lot of fun and tremendously interesting, but there's something a little goofy about a bunch of sopranos belting out "Haul on the Bowline."

nectaryne said...

And I just noticed that you were posing with Harmilda! My mother-in-law works in Harvard so we pass the cow often when we're down visiting.

Katie said...

The exchange between the Fool and "Sam" sounds a lot like some of the conversations at sessions, with tune names flying fast and furious, and the final set not having much to do with the original intention. The nice thing about being a bodhran player is that all I need to know is what type of tune they're playing, and I don't have to worry about what key they're in! :)