When I first started playing dulcimer in 1985, I had a fleeting idea of who Jean Ritchie was. Since then, of course, the cat's been let out of the bag and I've been looking forward to seeing her in the flesh ever since. She's 83 years old now and doesn't make that many public appearances, which is why I was immensely stoked to hear that Nancy Barker had booked her for Kentucky Music Weekend. Nancy and Jean go back a-ways, so I was hoping for an introduction at some point during the event and that happened on Saturday just after Jean presented a workshop on folk ballads. Her clear, pure voice seems unchanged by time and she sang a capella on that hot afternoon, instantly transporting us back to the simpler days of Kentucky summers.
Her husband George is a respected photographer and videographer; Nancy knew that I'd enjoy talking shop with him and she was right. Once she had introduced me to the two of them, George and I had a blast talking about the cameras that we like to use and which editing software worked best for us. After awhile, while on the subject, I asked if he would take a picture of Jean and I and he happily obliged, using my Sony VX-2000. Jean was very accomodating, even as her husband guided us this way and that way into better light. He began snapping some shots, but kept saying that the lighting wasn't quite right. In a candid moment, Jean suggested that we tilt our faces up towards the high roof of the ampitheater's backstage area, which resulted in this very whimsical shot. I like this photo for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that it's not posed - we were actually in action, gesturing and looking up at the lights. We're not looking at the camera and I like the fact that we're looking up; a gaze towards Heaven. Jean was incredibly sweet and simply glowing with positive energy. When Nancy told her that I played dulcimer, she asked why I wasn't out there with them on-stage during the ballad workshop. How do you reply to that? I didn't. I sort of smiled and blushed. It's not often that you meet a living legend, especially one that is so gracious, down-to-earth and very, very real. I have to tell you, it was superb treat and a blessing meeting Jean Ritchie.
I just got in from the airport and have so much to share about the weekend, suffice it to say that a blast was had by all and there'll be more pictures and stories to share. The highlight of the whole thing, however, was meeting Jean, as I've always hoped. Talk about a dream come true!