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The stuff in between

Just back from the Orillia Folk Society - BaDAS/S DIY Music Weekend, a gathering of the clan.

A few new faces each year, several folks I see regularly, but many who I only see at this annual event.  Many song circles, a few workshops (led by DIY participants, hence the moniker), tons of community, and perhaps a tasty adult beverage or two.  A wide variety of tastes, experiences and abilities, from the three full-time pros (Don, Ray Dillard and myself), to music lovers who will take any opportunity to learn something new, to "weekend warriors", to folks who just want to jam and have fun, to a small handful who just want to sit back and listen and soak it all in.

I learned and observed much this weekend.  First of all, that 2011 kicked the crap out of a lot of people -- more accidents, illnesses, deaths, etc., than I've heard reported any other year.  Second, that these people kicked back, and are moving forward in grace and joy.  So -- a toast to the end of 2011 for all of us, and a toast to 2012 swinging us all to the opposite side of the pendulum of life (OK, maybe we should wait until my liver recovers...).

The other great thing about seeing people every year is noticing the good stuff that's changed.  There were three young guys who joined us for the first time last year, and had such a good time hanging out with all us old farts that they actually came back.  :-)  All three of them have been a part of the Mariposa Songwriters Club, a group of young'uns under the mentorship of Aaron Howes, who has obviously been doing a fantastic job with this group.  They've grown so much in the past year (I'm talking musically, they're in their 20s and past the growth-spurt stage!), gained confidence and skills and... tremendous musicality.

Last year, guitarist Chris Thompson already had the technique and the drive and the creativity, but this year, the musicality and confidence had bloomed beautifully.  While still employing the zippy effects and percussive techniques, his new compositions were filled with much more lyricism and harmonic movement than flashy technical tricks.  There's a new maturity there, much more than a year's worth.  Aaron Mangoff, whose voice and songwriting had impressed everyone last year as well, has gained a new poise as well as confidence in his guitar playing.  He and Tyler Knight were venturing much more into trying out lead parts in the jams and song circles -- and did so with such taste and sensitivity, they put some of the older-and-should-know-better folks to shame.  Tyler has completely exploded into and embraced his musicality -- I was blown away by his accompaniments, but also by his songs (last year, he played mostly covers), which dug incredibly deep and pulled out some gorgeous gems.

All three have such a great sense of musicality, sensitivity (same thing, really, I'm just repeating it for those who might forget such notions), respect (ditto) poise and confidence.  They're at an age where it would be easy to get stuck in the testosterone-y it's-all-about-what-I-can-do-to-impress-people mode, but they're so very obviously All About the MUSIC.  They're going to go places, I'm sure.  I love these guys, search them out and you'll love them too!!!

I should also mention that Tyler's creative passions are also in the realm of videographer -- he owns District Media & Design here in Orillia, and has put together some terrific videos for local musicians.  This guy oozes creativity.  :-)  In fact, he put together a five-minute down-and-dirty video of The Brights playing with our friend Ray Dillard "backstage" at DIY: The Brights with Ray Dillard.  Browse around his YouTube site, because there are a number of video projects he's done available there.  Don's going to hire him to do some songs from his upcoming solo album, too.

But back to DIY.

The other people who blew me away were Noreen Sullivan and Mary Bennet (no websites, sorry).  More examples of musicality at its finest!  They're more in the doing-it-for-fun-but-won't-pass-up-a-gig-if-asked category, but their duo work is simply beautiful, and certainly of professional-if-they-felt-like-it quality.  Their voices blend so nicely, and they've worked out some lovely arrangements.  But even when you take them out of their "comfort zone" of working together, the harmonies and accompaniments they ad libbed over people's songs in the circles were just as tasteful and simply-beautifully-perfect.

Another guy to impress me -- well, he'd already impressed me, and I see him on a regular basis, but it was good to be reminded -- was Roy Hickling.  His songwriting just gets better and better.  Yes, he is a friend and a client, but no, he didn't pay me to say this -- and I won't be invoicing him for it, either.  ;-)

What all of these people I mentioned understand and embrace is that music is not the notes -- it's the stuff in between the notes.  Yes, I go on about this ad nauseam, but that's because not everyone is listening yet.  :-)  These people are wonderful examples of how amazing it is when the Music is there, in between all the other stuff.

My very favourite compliment -- and self-conscious, oh-please-don't-let-me-cry-now moment -- of the weekend was when Mary H. and Peter K. were talking with Ray about the workshop he was going to give on musical tension and release.  Mary's eyes shone and she said "oh, that's what Alyssa's so natural at!"  Peter jumped in and started talking about how it's so nice to play with me or just to listen to me accompanying others, because I know where to place the notes and when to stay out of the way.  And then I turned red and tried not to cry as they waxed poetic over my sensitivity.  Sure it's nice to get compliments about my technical proficiency, and be reminded I don't suck, but... THOSE are the types of compliments I ADORE.  The ones that have nothing to do with the number of notes I play, but how I play them.  Because the Music is not the notes.  The Music is the heart in between the notes.  The Music is what makes Mary's eyes light up, what touches Peter, what makes complete strangers go away from a concert and feel they've been part of something.

And this is what I saw, heard and felt in all the people who made an impression on me this weekend.  The stuff between the notes.  The heart, the soul, the spirit, the Music.  Notes can be learned.  Music has to be nurtured.  And once you can let go of the notes and put in the spirit, you'll be touching people you don't even know of, and you will make them feel they've been part of something.  Whether you pursue it professionally or simply for the sheer joy of it, you will be A Musician.

All-in-all, a great musical weekend.  Do check out everyone's websites I mentioned -- and search around for those without links, because other people have posted videos and bios of them.  These people are Musicians.

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