I got an e-mail from Jean Ritchie yesterday. It's not completely out of the blue, though it was a lovely surprise. I met Jean and her husband, photographer George Pickow, while shooting video of Kentucky Music Weekend last summer. For those who aren't familiar with the dulcimer world, Jean was responsible for introducing so many to the instrument back in the 60's and she remains the grand dame of mountain dulcimer, though she would modestly deny such a glorious title today. I had always wanted to meet Jean since the early days of my courtship with the dulcimer and Nancy Barker, the founder of Kentucky Music Week and its satellite events, promised to introduce us, mentioning also that Jean's husband George was quite an accomplished photographer.
True to her word, Nancy introduced us and Jean was quite charming, cutting up as George took a photo of us looking up at some backstage lights, but we didn't talk about much: that conversation was had with George. We talked video for quite some time.
Nancy has turned to me for assistance in archiving on video the ongoing history of Kentucky Music Week, Kentucky Music Weekend and the Winter Dulcimer Weekend, not a small feat by any means. As it turns out, not a lot of video has been taken in the past, which is a real shame, considering the stellar talent list that has been involved over the years. Once in a lifetime moments, performers who are no longer with us and a steady chronicle of events going on 32 years in 2007; that's a lot of history. George Pickow has quite a lot of that history on video, since Jean has been a part of many a Kentucky Music Weekend. He offered to send me a DVD to see if it could be useful and when it arrived in the mail, the images were incredible.
Jean and George will be in Mt. Dora next month for the Mt. Dora Dulcimer and Autoharp Festival, so I dropped a line to George, thanking him again for the DVD and inquiring further about his assistance with producing a retrospective of KMW. When I saw the response in my e-mailbox, I began reading and then noticed, with some surprise, that it wasn't George at all, but Jean writing to me. Apparently, they have an arrangement - Jean doesn't drive and George doesn't type!
It's not every day that you receive an e-mail from a legend, and Jean might cringe at that sort of praise as the country girl from Viper, Kentucky has remained simple at heart for the whole of her career. But there's no denying her place and influence within the folk music scene and outside of it as well, from her own music to the preservation and presentation of old folk tunes both European and American in origin, it can be said without exaggeration that Jean is indeed what you call a national treasure, even an international treasure.
Which makes it even cooler to note that I once had a late breakfast in a Denny's with her somewhere in Louisville, Kentucky at a long table filled with musicians. (after getting lost in a car with Butch Ross and Christie Burns.) I have a great life.
Stephen Seifert started up a live call-in internet radio show last week which is turning into one of the coolest things for dulcimer enthusiasts on the web. The show is currently scheduled for every Monday at 9 pm ET and runs for about ninety minutes with Steve appearing on a video screen while playing music, interviewing special guests and talking with listeners. Luthier and music theorist Jerry Rockwell was the interviewee for the premiere program while Everything Dulcimer creator Bruce W. Ford was the spotlight guest last night. Steve played "Swing Low Sweet Chariot/He's Got The Whole World In His Hand" from Dulcimerica: Volume 1, which prompted some early morning sales today, always a nice thing to see upon awakening.
Not only that - but Sweetwater Folk has included a track from the new album (available here) on their latest playlist as well. I haven't started the big push with this CD yet, though it's been available at shows since August. Some remixes here and there have shored it up production-wise and it's been submitted for a review in the spring issue of Dulcimer Players News. According to staffer Neal Walters, the magazine will be including a CD with each issue featuring tracks from albums covered in print. Wow. Talk about distribution!
Behind The Barn
What else is going on? I've been talking to some prospective players for Mohave as we gear up for festival season, though I'll be spending a large amount of time on the road this year. Bud Ford of the Dulcimer Shop and organizer of the Manitou Music Festival wants Mohave to play the 25th anniversary show in Colorado, so we're hoping everything works out. Many other solo dates have been confirmed and they can be found below in this calendar, which will update with new gigs as they come in:
There's other news, but I've been sitting here for far too long already and there's rehearsal to be had. My dulcimer group gets together tonight and there's at least one tune that I need to get under my fingers. There always is.