Jane Rothfield Workshop At The Bluegrass Halfway House

I know, it’s a long title, for a post long overdue. I don’t really have any excuses for my absence from here in the last few weeks, my writing flow fluctuates, and it doesn’t work for me trying to set up a schedule or regime. When I first started the blog, I had this goal of writing at least one or two posts every week, on specific days, but who was I trying to fool? Also, I tend to write out of inspiration, which is the biggest mistake anyone who writes can make, but here we finally are.

Let’s start with introductions: Jane Rothfield is a full-time musician (I talked about one of her bands’ concert here). She plays and teaches mostly old-time style fiddle and banjo, but this specific workshop had a mix of instruments. I took my guitar, and there was also a lesson for double-bass and, as mentioned above, banjo and fiddle.

The venue, The Bluegrass Halfway House, was not new to me; I had been there for the first time back in April, for the Boet ‘N Deure festival. It’s a place where music blooms as beautifully as the flowers who surround its grounds. Up in Dalerveen, two hours and a half away from my home, it has proven for the second time that it’s well worth the trip.

(You can take a peek at the place on this link.)

Most people, myself included, arrived at the workshop grounds on Friday afternoon. The workshop was only the next day, but dinner was included for Friday and, believe me, you would not want to miss Azer’s wonderful meals. I pointed out a few times back then, that I was never able to become hungry during the whole time I was there. First, because there was food at regular intervals, and second, because the food was so delicious that I stuffed myself each meal. Everytime I think of Dalerveen now, I think of Azer’s marvelous food – and he is a wonderful singer/player too! It would be worth it driving up there for a weekend of his cooking, trust me. But anyway, we were there – also – to learn more about our instruments and to learn to play with others (which isn’t as straightforward as you may think. There are unspoken but obvious rules when taking part in a jam and, if you learn them by observing the group’s dynamic, everyone will welcome you with an open heart.)

Now, I still can’t play guitar very well. I’m lazy, and I tend to look for the easiest way. I learn songs the way I can play them, rather than the way they should actually be played, which keeps me pretty much in the same spot. Of course, I’m evolving, but at a staggeringly slow pace. Yet, if people are patient enough to tell me which chords to play, and where to change them, I manage to keep up with the group.

This is exactly what happened that weekend. There weren’t many of us – the workshop was open to fifteen people – so there was enough time to be patient and to give everyone a little bit of the spotlight. We watched and took part in wonderful performances during the two jamming nights, both solo and as a group. Jane played a solo concert on Saturday night as well, and Jorri was invited, pretty much impromptu, to step in with his banjo on one of the songs – and he, too, played beautifully (click the Instagram post below to check a bit of the video).  It was fantastic, and by the end of the weekend, my heart was full.

Jane is also a great teacher. She taught us first to play as a group, but with no instruments, so that we could hear each other and keep up a tempo. And then she guided us to play with our instruments, and side by side. I felt included, I felt that I knew what I was doing within the jam, and that was an amazing feeling.

I came home from that weekend as if I had stepped out of a faraway land – in a metaphorical sense. I’m really looking forward to going back there next April, for yet another bluegrass festival.

Are you coming as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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