In which John Joe Badger takes a walk in the forest, only to find a tiny door, from behind which drifts a delightful and strange music.
And lo!! It is a tiny shrew, playing the relatively obscure Northumbrian Pipes. She is a lovely wee thing, very shy, and so John Joe, being shy himself, merely listens for a time outside her tiny door, then moves on, allowing her to go on playing in peace.
What have you found in the forest lately? Are you really listening properly?
Since the beginning of the era in which we found ourselves in a state of lockdown and isolation, a few of us faithful session-goers loosely affiliated with the Riley School of Irish Music community have gathered weekly on zoom to have a few tunes, check in with one another and have a bit o’ craic (i.e. chats, jokes, catching up, sharing stories – a crucial part of a good session.) As with all things coming at us on the mycelial network ad infinitum these days, zoom is an imperfect way to connect musically. But we take what we can get.
Somehow, I have managed to find myself as moderator each week for these online gatherings. I attempt to keep proceedings least awkward as they can be, making sure those who have something to say or play get a chance to do so. It’s a good job for one with long internal antennae and I do the job gladly week to week so that our beautiful community will be there when this whole pandemic eases and we can be together properly once more.
I jokingly call it the Dog and Pony Show because sometimes it feels that way. But at the heart of it all, it’s a sincere offering to my musical mates. It’s just hard to be social.
There are a lot of people out on the interwebs putting together online shows and bits of shows to put together with bits of other shows to keep the music and the communities surrounding it all alive. It can be frustrating sometimes to be sure (such as when the neighborhood lawn mower starts when the recording begins! *kevin*) but the gifts in return are wonderful. I do my small part with our little session here in town (and we sometimes have old friends in from Ireland which has been lovely!!) The professionals continue to do their best to keep us tapped into the tradition properly along the way as well. And we must support them.
Go donate to Tune Supply if you love traditional Irish music, or any place your favorite artists and musicians might be hanging out online doing their work. Reach out to them, buy some gift cards or a painting or a song or tune, an essay or a poem. Artists are still working, making the world a more magical place.
It’s what we do.
Join us at the Riley School for session each Saturday from 4-6 pm EST (message me for the link), or consider taking a class from one of our esteemed instructors sometime! Hope to see you there.
In the meantime, here is this week’s Twist of Hemp illustration featuring John Joe Badger, and some new friends from the dog and pony show. It’s week 33.
It is summer. And with summer comes the heat of the season, and if we are lucky, perhaps the occasional cone of ice cream. This summer brings with it all kinds of new stressors beyond heat and humidity, and decisions much weightier than merely what flavor to choose at the scoop shop. We all know this.
John Joe Badger is taking a few moments away from all of the weightiness and is treating himself to some ice cream. Though it is a small thing indeed, he has decided to put his few dollars down behind the big ideas of a good company. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
I might not be as bold and loud with proclamations and performative (read social media postings for some) as Ben and Jerry’s, but rest assured, I am doing the quiet work over here. And hopefully, also continuing to make my art which has always felt like the boldest thing I can do in this world.
What’s your favorite flavor? And what are you doing to treat yourself kindly in between and amidst the very important work which needs doing? We must be in this for the long game, yes? Yes. Let us know.
ps. John Joe (and I) love mint chocolate chip and black raspberry chip generally, locally speaking. In the Ben and Jerry’s realm, Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Therapy. Yum!!!!!
In this brave new world of zooming here and there and everywhere, we are confronted with the giants among us, musically and culturally speaking. We have opportunities to hear from them about their musical journeys and to learn from them in classes in the online sphere.
These opportunities can have a badger feeling rather small sometimes, but take heart John Joe! We must all start somewhere, yes?
It is also for ‘cute’, and maybe ‘cuddly’ (to look at maybe).
To John Joe Badger (and to me, his ‘c’reatrix) “C” stands especially for ‘community’, which is at the heart of this music. So many of the early days are spent in the woodshed, alone, learning our way around a new instrument. But in the end, the tunes are meant to bring us all together. The goal is to elevate a simple tune into a momentary, never-to-be-repeated magical thing that reminds us that we are all in this life collectively, come what may.
And what a May has come.
This week’s illustration (while, of course remembering that “C” does, indeed, stand for ‘cookie’) is dedicated to two other “C”‘s. Caitlin Warbelow and Chris Ranney, the brains and brilliance behind an amazing project called Tune Supply and who put together a concert featuring 45 artists from around the world this past weekend in celebration of Mother’s Day.
In the comments of the video from this virtual concert are a variety of links to support individual artists involved in this heartwarming project. Or one can just go here to donate to the project as a whole and the artists ‘c’ollectively, in ‘c’ommunity.
Give it all a listen. It’s wonderful. It’s hopeful.
Also in the interest of ‘c’ommunity, but a bit more close to home, I personally have been leading/moderating an online version of a session each week with the folks from the Riley School of Irish Music. It’s not sleek, and it’s imperfect, but we take turns leading tunes or sets of tunes and we play one musician at a time, knowing that somewhere in the world, our mates are playing along with us. We can see them, but not hear them as we play, and we all go unmuted then to chat in between sets. Mostly, we catch up with each other, just make sure we are all playing a bit week to week, and not spending too much time staring into the abyss of a global pandemic. While not an ideal situation, it beats a blank. And let’s face it, few people are in an ideal situation these days.
The same goes for monthly Urban Sketchers virtual outings, both locally here in Cincinnati, and all around the world. (pssst! There is one here this Saturday!! Come join us for a zoom throw-down!) It’s not about the drawings so much as it is about the ‘c’ommunity that can come together again eventually to draw as a group. For now we do our drawings from an online prompt on a mutual theme, then we “throw down” our drawings all together via a zoom call (noon this saturday). Not sleek, not perfect, but it keeps us ‘c’onnected.
These adjustments may need to be in place in some form for some time to be sure. But in the meantime, I am thankful for the virtual world to keep things at least ‘c’onnected. Send me a comment or a message if you are looking to join a virtual session or sketch group and I hope we can connect.
In which John Joe Badger takes to the spring time forest in search of a snack. He discovers woodland based culinary treasures so fleeting this time of year. It is difficult to gather with loved ones just now and so, we take to the quiet end of the woodlands to gather food, and otherwise stick close to home in our hut or possibly out in the woodshed when it’s time for practicing music.
The tune in this little film was newly composed just for John Joe himself by Andrew Finn Magill. John Joe and I are deeply grateful for this beautiful gift.
Occasionally, between tunes over in the woodshed and foraging for food in the forest, a day must be taken to clear the decks about the hut a bit. To sweep the dust from the floors, the winter’s grime from the windows, and send the spiders back outside where they belong. It is a time to craft piles of books, clothes and maybe ideas that could use a bit of shifting. Until we can be with our friends once again to play a merry tune, John Joe Badger mindfully considers what might be worth keeping, and what perhaps can be let go.
I think this is something perhaps many are doing, yes? And it’s not all about stuff either.
How has this slowing down changed your view on things in general? What will you keep from this time when it is just a memory? Being a badger, John Joe likes his solitude, and the slowness of this isolation; the pace of things and the nature of the day to day in general. But he does look forward to meeting his musical mates one day again soon.
These are hard days indeed. Even the most solitary creatures miss their dearest friends more than words can say. Each day a new ‘cup of disappointment’ is served on large and small scale. No one is spared. And so, like many, John Joe Badger must occasionally recalibrate and reset. He makes his lists, some to get him through a day, this day, the now day. And other lists for the hopeful some day. Which will come.
He ponders what will stay and what will go when this strange era has passed. He seems already to have it fair figured out. Music, tea, plenty of rest, always. Then eventually, in a better time, tunes with friends once more.