We’re in the final days of our sojourn here on Samish Island. The packing and crating went much smoother than I thought, so my anxiety levels have dropped considerably. I have actually had time to sit and read two books, and decided I had some time to catch up on writing.
As with the trip out here, we obtained a U-Box from U-Haul. It arrived last week, looking much, much smaller than we remembered and smaller than we thought we needed. There was a frantic week of packing things into boxes interrupted by a nephew’s wedding in Chicago. We were taking back quite a bit more than we brought out here. There were some of Laura’s mom’s things that we wanted back on the east coast and I seem to have accumulated several new musical instruments over the year.
Somehow it did all fit and we breathed a sigh of relief as we sealed the box and sent it on its way. We’ll be living out of suitcases for the next couple of weeks and I hope the remaining stuff we want to take home fits in our cars.
I wrapped up things with my musical friends. On Monday I attended my last practice session at the Littlefield Celtic Center. There was a lively young woman attending for the first time. She was playing guitar and flute. I told her she could be my replacement for the group. I’m really going to miss these sessions. I think these will be the hardest to replicate back home.
My closest friends, however, have been the Bring Your Own Instrument group that meets Wednesdays at Empire Ale. I’ve gotten to be good friends with the core group. Since it was my last time there this past Wednesday they made it a Bring Whatever night. I left one guitar unpacked to come home with me in the car and I brought my melodica. I had a great last session with them.
I think back to our first sabbatical away, to the year in Tucson, Arizona. I also made good friends out there and was heavily involved with music. This was before the days of social media, so I’ve lost track of those folks. I follow the Arizona Repertory Singers on Facebook, my choral group from those days, but it’s not the same. It was the individuals from that group that made the difference. I think that with Facebook and other communication venues I’ll stay in touch with my Washington friends better than I did with my Arizona friends. At least, I hope I will.
When I returned from Arizona I still had the glow of that musical experience and wanted to keep it going when I got home. Sounds kind of like this Washington trip. I searched for small choral ensembles, but never really found a replacement. I got involved with the Greenville Symphony Chorus, a disastrous experience with a short-lived group, then the Heritage Chamber Singers, and finally the Greenville Chorale and Herring Chamber Ensemble. These later groups have held musical high points and I have some very close friends in them, but I still hold ARS as a pinnacle. Perhaps the years have elevated it more than it deserves. As I look to continue my Washington music I’ll have to remember that I’m never going to find the same thing. It’s the people that make the difference.
…and speaking of people that made a difference…
Last night I learned of the passing of a long-time fixture in traditional music in Upstate South Carolina. “Mountain Man” Robert Perry died of a massive heart attack on Thursday.
Robert was a real as it gets. He lived on his farm in the backwoods of Pickens County in an old house that only recently got running water and electricity. There he built “Perryville”, an ersatz town with storefronts and displays. Robert would host a musicians circle at Perryville every Monday night. I had the privilege to join the circle several times when I didn’t have Chorale rehearsal.
It was at the Pickens Flea Market where I met Robert and his girlfriend, Sharron. Both were warm and welcoming. In addition to his Monday night sessions, Robert hosted a musicians circle on Wednesdays at the flea market. Eventually I joined in with that group, too, playing mostly banjo.
Robert celebrated his 78th birthday at his traditional birthday weekend bash this past June. I never got a chance to attend, but it was an all-weekend event featuring traditional mountain music up at Perryville, usually the fourth weekend in June or as close to his birthday on June 21 as you could get.
Recently while contemplating my music options for my return I thought about Robert. Weirdly, I was wondering about Robert’s health. I won’t call it a premonition, but it felt strange to have had those thoughts, then to get this news. Now I’m wondering what will happen with Robert’s music. I’m sure the musicians circle at the flea market will continue, but Perryville is another matter. There’s no telling what will happen with his estate and the wonderful town he constructed in the hills of Pickens County.
Regardless, I’m sure Robert is now playing his washtub bass surrounded by some of the best pickers and grinners to have ever lived, maybe with a harp or two thrown in to add variety. He will be missed.
- Perryville Pickin’ and Grinnin’
- Joining the Musicians Circle
- Pickin’ at Perryville
- Return to Perryville
- Acceptance at Perryville