Sunday, October 21, 2012

Our collaborative experiment: Front Porch Folk

Draw a line on a piece of paper and it may or may not be something creative.  Add a lot of connecting lines and colors and it's more likely to turn into something special.  Of course, it all depends upon how it comes together.
Music is like that.  One voice - one instrument alone can be creative.  When a collection of voices and instruments come together just right - it's something very special.
For many, many years I've sung old songs that were most appreciated in nursing homes.  Through the years, I shared the music with friends who were marginally enthusiastic.  Who knew I just needed new friends!
About a year and a half ago, Front Porch Folk was born singing on Holly's front porch.  It started as a singalong time with Mary Beth and her grandchildren.  Then Deacon and Sue, Eve and Holly's parents joined in.  We began collecting fun instruments and more people came - each picking up something - little percussion instruments like an egg shaker, strum sticks, a washboard, dulcimer's, ukulele's....  Kathy joined and quickly fell in love with the upright bass.  Gail first came to sing and soon had her own strum stick and dulcimer.  Tasana - our only professional musician brought his kora and bellefon.  Then Ronda who pretends to be singing, found that she too can play an instrument or two.  We've had as many as 18 people on the porch - all together for our own pleasure - music therapy.
"Let's play at the nursing home" led to requests to play for other events.  We were all a little stunned when Holly booked us to play at Oil City's Jolly July 3rd. I can't name all the events we've done over the summer.  But I won't soon forget last night - the Hee Haw show at the Barrow Civic theatre.
I've never performed on a stage like that.  We were in the company of very talented local performers.  At the matinee my knee was shaking and in both songs I forgot the words - even with the words right in front of me.  That's like drawing and one of the lines just runs off the paper.  That's the great challenge of singing in a group.  Everyone needs to come together in just the right way.  We did ok with it, but I knew I had better to give.
The night performance was nearly sold out.  I'm happy to say I actually looked at the words on the page and sung them all.  So did the rest of the group!  With the spotlights on a stage like that, you can only see the first few rows so it's hard to know how you are connecting with the audience. When we sang a verse of "This little light of mine" and saw 30 or so people sprinkled around the audience waving cell phones, it was just like looking across the room at the nursing home and seeing people smiling and singing along.
I just love Front Porch Folk and the experiences we are sharing - from our pot luck dinner porch nights - to the nursing home - to events large and small.  I love the harmonies and layers of music.  I love how it feels to be in the company of these friends no matter where we are playing together.
With so many of us, you never know exactly who will be at a Front Porch Folk singing occasion.  I love that too.  Though I must admit that on certain songs I really miss the special things each person adds if they cannot make it.
Front Porch Folk is a collaborative, creative musical experiment.  Who knows where it will lead us and how long it will last.  I hope somehow it carries on as a tradition, passed on to many long after we are gone.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ogga Bogga Wogga - decision making

My freshman year in college I experienced dorm life with an amazing group of young women on the second floor of High Rise II at Slippery Rock University.  Toward the end of that year a group of us piled into one room, as we often did, and had a deep philosophical discussion about why we all handled situations so differently.
There were several women we noted were always happy, got along with everyone, never bowed to the porcelain god, and seemed always to be center of the funniest things we did.  They had created a non-sanctioned sorority, Ogga Bogga Wogga, that poked fun at the rights of passage of sanctioned sororities and fraternities.  The right of passage for new members included carrying a large bag of items everywhere you went and if a person asked about the bag, you had to pull all items out - explain their purpose - and wear some of them oddly.
We talked about our life experiences leading up to college life - religious, school and home.  The woman who were less wild and crazy - most able to deal with all - had not been raised under dictum.  They had been mentored in decision making.  They considered consequences, had both short and long term goals, and valued the advice of an elder network.  While the wildest of us felt we were breaking free, they felt free and confident.  They did not fear consequences, but rather measured them and based decisions upon leading toward desired outcomes - short term AND longterm.
Making good choices is the most important skill of all.  Why is it so hard for some of us to learn?

Monday, October 8, 2012

We all choose the path we walk.  Sometimes we simply choose not to walk at all because the fork in the road is too difficult a choice.  Choosing to do nothing is a choice too.
Sometimes we find ourselves right in the middle of a battlefield that we did not create.  It's the reason I have often thought I'd be quite content to live a hermit's life.  I don't like battlefields at all.  I struggle with understanding the the need for diplomacy, neutrality and advocacy.  Where do I need to be in any given situation?
Sooner or later we all find ourselves standing in the crossfire between people we care about.  When 2 parties have irreconcilable differences, and we are somehow involved with them, we are affected somehow - some way.  It can be a family dispute, divorce, friendship struggles - we are all suffer collateral damage.  We are forced into choices.
Earlier today as I thought about it, it seemed there were three choices.  A rational person does not want to be standing in the cross fire.  Walk behind the one firing line - the other firing line or head for the bunker.  But there are other choices.
I'm reminded that the most noble and the best for everyone is the path of diplomacy.  Encourage all parties to come to the table and reach an acceptable agreement.  Stop the war and stop it before shots are fired.  If shots have already been fired - look for avenues for a truce.  Stop the WAR!  No one wins a war.  Yes, someone comes out on top, but there is always damage that cannot be undone.
The other choice is neutrality - try to walk both sides of the firing line - pretend there is no war going on.  Read about Switzerland and the WWII legacy to understand where that leads.  The sharks will take advantage of you and you'll be holding things you never intended to hold leaving you as more of an accomplice than a neutral party.
So I'm thinkin' you gotta stand for something.  Take your time.  Look carefully.  Those who love war will keep on it.  They will care little about the collateral damage.  And typically they are defending a position they created for themselves.  It is a needless fight.