Absolute Class

One of the highlights of the summer time for at least part of our family is a week of Irish Music immersion in the form of an intensive camp with classes everyday and sessions and concerts and ceilis in the evenings.  This year we decided to try a change of scenery and headed south to Warren Wilson College, home of the Swannanoa Gathering.

The nice thing about the class schedule at Swannanoa is that we can take classes in multiple subjects.  I took whistle with Kathleen Conneely and flute classes with Kevin Crawford. Jack got to have Martin Hayes as his advanced fiddle teacher and Angelina Carberry for mandolin.  It was, as usual, exhausting, but – also as usual- we had so much fun.  The Irish have a sweet way of saying something is of quality.  “Absolute class”.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard that expression during Celtic Week.  Funny thing is, that pretty much sums up our experience at this camp.  Classy from every perspective.  Much of the food is grown at the campus farm and was generally delicious.  Every morning between classes, we were treated to coffee and muffins.  This is key during a week of very little sleep.

A highlight of the week was thursday night’s Old Farmer’s Ball, held on campus at the pavillion.  Dancers come from all over the local Asheville area and the band is made up of the instructors for the week.  Think Ceili Band Dream Team.  It was amazing…. Thank you to my son Jack who is not only a fabulous musician, but also a really great photographer.

In the evenings there were sessions to be had all over the place.  Often instructors were to be found playing right along with the more advanced students.  They love the music as much as we do which is why they travel so far to teach at these camps.

I could go on an on about the fun at “band camp”.  But I find that it really defies description to anyone who wasn’t there or who isn’t into the Irish Music.  For Jack and me it’s a shot in the arm musically, providing us with tunes and techniques to work on for the next year, until next time.  I think we will probably go back to Swannanoa again after the experience we had there.  We missed being in lovely Elkins, WV, home of the Augusta Heritage Center‘s Irish Week and we missed all of the friends we have made there.  But the pace at Swannanoa is a little less harried (even with the different class offerings).  There was much more digging into the history and tradition surrounding the music and a little less peacocking during sessions.  It was nice.

Once home, I had the opportunity to finish up a kayak course I began before camp.  I am a newcomer to this sport and have still more to learn but already I am hooked.  It is a wonderful way to see nature.  Last weekend Tony and I went to Cowan Lake to visit the American Lotus which grow there.  Below are some photos of these spectacular plants.

As I get more into the sport of kayaking, I am going to need to learn to “roll”, which means get myself back upright when I tip over.  It is not lost on me that I spent all of Irish Music camp trying to get a handle on rolls on the flute, only to come home and realize that I’ll be working on rolls in this realm as well.  Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me to roll with the punches or something.  Hmmm.

Anyway, I have a brand new watercolor set (Jack calls it the mac-daddy of all watercolor sets) and I am having fun drawing the forms from these lotus plants.  I’ll try to post some in the coming days.  But for now, I’m putting this blasted computer aside for a few and going to go practice some tunes.