Tag Archives: Hermeto Pascoal

Like a River – Flowing

(give the video til  30 seconds in…..)

Laundry hangs on the line, drying best it can in this humidity before we hit the road again.  On my desk are half written lists of to-do and to-remember along with the fragments of last week’s fun in various states of unpacking, unfurling into readying and re-packing.  My mind and heart are full to brimming with a collection of new tunes I can carry with me into the next journey which is to Maine.  A yearly homecoming of sorts, much like many of my trips tend to be.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Last week we leapt into the mists of yet another magical “Celtic Week” at the Swannanoa Gathering in beautiful North Carolina.  Much like the story of Brigadoon, we picked up right where we had left off the year before greeting old friends as family, getting to know new friends as well, as if nary a day has passed, let alone an entire calendar year.  Irish music does not follow the rules of linear time.  The only line it truly follows is that of tradition. The river of music flows along over top of that tradition, above and below it, side-stepping occasionally into other musical paths, (this IS a living tradition after all.)  Eventually though, it always comes home once again to the thing itself.   We came to the week with no agenda except to improve our playing a bit by spending time with masters of the craft.

The flute sisters are off to class Day 1. Many thanks to Kate McFadden for this capture.

“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”  ~Socrates

Somehow I have carved my way into classes and sessions loosely labeled “advanced”, and yet I come to this week with my mind fully open to learn new things, to be -always – the beginner.  There is no place at Swannanoa for ego or agenda.

Our musical “rock stars” who tour the world with their gifts come to camp not only to ply their musical wares….

I don’t yet read music from the written page, but I purchased Gerry O’Connor’s gorgeous compilation “Rose in the Gap”. It was so lovely to meet him!
Two of the worlds top teachers in the Irish flute tradition, Nuala Kennedy and Kevin Crawford. I am deeply grateful for their tutelage and friendship over the years. (Kevin has a new album out with Colin Farrell and Patrick Doocey called Music and Mischief. Nuala’s latest project is called the Snowflake trio. Both albums are gems!!!!)

…..but to have a laugh and a tune as well, to bask in the amazing community that is the Swannanoa Gathering.  It is so readily apparent how hard they work all week, but it is also clear that this week is as special to them as it is to us.

Thanks for the new tunes this week Kevin!!

As the space which holds this special time, Warren Wilson College does not disappoint.  It is nestled in the mountains near Asheville North Carolina, with views and vistas at every turn and even in some of the classroom spaces which remind us of what is possible if we but relax into it all.

Originally crafted as a gift for my dear friends Ellen and David in honor of their Swannanoa Wedding.
Occasionally difficult to stay focused with this view out the windows, but we managed.
We are surrounded by words of wisdom, reminding us we are but water in the river of this tradition.

The week was one of metaphor and depth.  We talked of honoring those who have come before us in this music by looking back often to older playing which may have gone out of vogue for a time.  We must never forget those who have come before us.

Sometimes we wandered through cathedrals of bamboo and dove into the depths of the river Swannanoa for a bit of wild swimming.  This returned many things back to center, especially our core temperatures.  It was a warm and steamy time.

The Bamboo Cathedral, managed and utilized by the WWC farmers.
Flutes are ancient, once made of even our own bones, or perhaps the bones of the bamboo plant. We bow low to honor the old ways when we can.

There were concerts and a bit of dancing.  There were classes filled with new tunes, but not too many.  Just enough.  There were moments of goosebumps up our arms and spines as we felt things bump against the root of all things.  Music and art making are conduits to this great source.

A few of us have been attending this week of music for many years and we opt for dinner and a bevvie or two out in town one evening each year.  I was thrilled to see a bit of our musical shenanigans have made their way into that other world….. viva la flutilla!!!!

resistance is flutile stickers in the wild at Native Kitchen in Swannanoa and Black Mountain Ciderworks.

Soon, we had crested mid-week into late-week, then late-week into last night.  The mists of time descended upon us that final night as if to tell us it’s time to go back…..

Many years, this thrust back into what some might call “the real world” is painful and we find ourselves pining and weepy.  This year was different.  This is not to say that I don’t miss my flute family.  I really do.  Instead, I think it is clearer than ever that the real world, at least for those of us willing to live in it on a daily basis, is that of art making and the sharing of a tune or a story.  The real world is that quintessential Irish humor and side-eyed self deprecation which puts everyone at ease and the belly laughs that come along  with this “craic”.  We live in difficult, trying and combative times.  Perhaps we can learn from the Irish tradition and its history that even in the most dire of times and conditions, there is always room for a tune.

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse

Thanks again to the staff and everyone who makes this gathering possible.  til next year!!!

if you are new to the reading of this blog, I have other posts about other years.  Just type Swannanoa into the search bar.