Archive for August, 2010

Why I Love Music Festivals

Posted by Brian on 28th August 2010 in General Music

I was at the Eaglewood Folk Festival today and as usual, I was checking out one of the workshops. This particular workshop was called “First Verse and Chorus” and the description in the programme read like this:

No talking, no introductions. Just the first verse and chorus (or first two verses) of any song you didn’t write. Audience is also in the rotation (there will be a mic setup in the audience). Sing-alongs encouraged.

There were at least ten performers on stage, representing at least three bands plus a couple of singer/songwriters. For the finale, someone in the audience requested “Momma Don’t Allow” – a fun, traditional, 16-bar blues tune. (You can see J.J. Cale’s version here.) One of the performers said “Let’s do it in E”, and off they went with an up-tempo, rollicking version of the song.

The lyrics go like this:

Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here
I don’t care what mama don’t allow I’ll play my guitar anyhow
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here

And continue, substituting “guitar playing” with “banjo picking”, “accordian playing”, etc as each performer leads a verse. The idea being that after each verse, the dis-allowed instrument would play a solo. I was thoroughly enjoying the obviously unrehearsed, but very well rendered performance when one of the performers sang, “Mama don’t allow no scat singing round here,” and I held my breath. (Scat singing is improvised singing using meaningless sounds.) What followed was one of those unforgettable musical moments that can only happen at a festival workshop: At least eight or nine vocalists simultaneously improvising so harmoniously that you couldn’t perform it better if you rehearsed for a thousand years. It was absolute magic! And if you weren’t there, then you missed it, because it will never happen again.