I think about playing fiddle all the time and how much fun it is to literally fill the house with music. Forrest and I on fiddle, Rube on piano, Dad on guitar. And if you’re really lucky, you might catch me or Rube or Dad singing softly, maybe some cello.
We look at each other, we smile, laugh, goof off, make up harmonies and crazy variations. We ask, “How does it go again?” and dive head first into our favourite tunes while the rest of us jump in a beat or two down the line.
I always remember the block party we had ages and ages ago, when we still had the brick around the fireplace and Kita-girl was the only dog. All the neighbours came. Everyone brought food, we cleared out the kitchen pulled up some stools and chairs into a circle and began to play.
No one worried. No one stopped. No one studied. It just became a part of the room, part of the celebration of good fun and tunes and neighbours and food. And I think this is what’s missing on other occasions.
Somehow, we always get pulled into playing for family and yet never find time to play as a family. Our relatives are wonderful people, but it’s always a weird compromise between practice and performance.
There’s worry (Got to catch the ferry).
There’s stopping (We ask ourselves: is this tune appropriate for the occasion?) –And, they say: “Nobody move! The Riesco’s are playing now!” 🙂
There’s studying (What’s the time? Can you remember the harmony? Wow, that’s amazing you can play without music –but what if there was music, what would it look like on paper?).
We live a ferry ride away. Coming to Van is a big undertaking. Coming with instruments, setting the time aside to practice a set is a serious commitment. And like it or not whenever one branch of the family tree crosses the water to intertwine with the other, we are each of us out of our element, we do not really know one another. We live different lives and see each other maybe twice a year.
Christmas 2015, Mom made turkey dinner and had the whole family over. As many as could make it were invited to share Christmas Day with us. And I for one was relieved. Finally, we would be on home turf, yeah, we’d have to play host. But this was our house, our town, our rules and our comfort zone. No more feeling like the hicks from hicks-ville in with the city-slickers for the evening of awkward conversations about the latest video games, fashions and funerals at odds with the best snow-shoe expedition, farm fresh eggs and ferry traffic analysis, because that’s the only time anything close to a traffic jam hits this town, thank goodness! 🙂
Playing was fun, still slightly awkward with everyone listening so hard you could imagine their eardrums busting with the strain, but fun. My uncle got offended when I said quietly how much fun Forrest and I had last year just jamming with Dad before dinner for hours. And my Grandpa asked how all this would look on paper…
The point was almost completely missed.
It’s not what it looks like on paper! It’s about what it sounds and feels like. Does it make you want to dance? Does it make you smile? Does it make you cry? Do we dance and smile?
It’s not that it was not fun playing this year. It’s who you play with, how comfortable you are, being able to have that bridge of understanding between each other as musicians and listeners.
So next time, just relax, enjoy it and let us do the same. Listen with your whole body, with your heart and not just your head.
Maybe we can do it again some time, as a family and have a real old fashioned kitchen party where nothing’s written down and everyone’s having a good time in the kitchen 🙂
And here’s the inspiration behind this post that’s been brewing for a while. Like Mr. Newman says, “Music doesn’t get much happier than this!” Nuala Kennedy, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas 🙂