Angels of Music Descend Upon Kansas City
We are adults. Who da’ thought that we would love Music Camp. Isn’t that for kids? Tom and I had never been to a music festival. Someone said that there were 1600 musicians at the event. They were playing their instruments in the hallways, restrooms, next to the waste baskets, and in their rooms. Everyone was carrying at least one instrument.
Probably the highlight for both of us was the Gospel Session with Ken Whitely and Friends. Our own Millie Edwards (one of the Wild Women) was up on stage with The Sojourners and Linda McRae from Canada, The Birds of Chicago, and more.
Millie gripped the audience with her solos. The singing was heart challenging and left you in tears. Grammy Winners eat your heart out! These singers and their backup were the best that we have ever heard. How lucky we are that they came to town!
On Music Camp day, Tom went to guitar workshops, and I chose to attend Blind Boy Paxton’s “Blues and Ragtime Piano Styles.”
He challenged me to play twelfths and led us back 100 years, it seemed, to people like Willie the Lyon Smith, Luckey Roberts, Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. He was much older than his 26 years. “Practice what you love.” “Get the harmony before you get the melody.” “Play the piece very, very slowly. Fast will come soon.” He was a gentle and engaging person and hugged me before he left.
Later we listened to his concert broadcasted live on KKFI, the sort of radio free USA of Kansas City. It was stunning!
“Composition through Improvisation” sounded daunting to me, but I enrolled anyway. Radoslav Lorkovic, a Croation born classical pianist, asked me to sit at the piano with him. He helped me play a Jazz scale and with my left hand, a bass beat. He demonstrated many different ways to improvise on the piano. “Knowing the chords helps, but you can get by with a lot of strategies.” One of the most interesting things he said was, “When classical pianists are hired, I have to deconstruct their education so that they can play for American audiences.” It was a stellar experience.
Tom and I both attended a session by the Sojourners, “The Roots of Freedom Songs.” They explained that slaves who escaped before the Civil War traveled all the way to Canada, where they were welcomed. Most of the time was spent teaching us how to sing Freedom songs, “I shall not be moved.”
At the Artisan market, filled with friendly and knowledgeable people, Tom tried playing a guitar made from a cigar box. Please note here that everyone was so helpful and encouraging when it came to playing an instrument. It did not matter if you were a beginner of professional.
The mission of the Folk Alliance International is “to nurture, engage and empower the international folk music community-traditional and contemporary, amateur and professional-through education, advocacy and performance.”
I would say that “hit the nail on the head,” for us!