Author: Campbell, Bruce

Holiday Bluegrass Mashup

‘Tis the season for all the things we love about the holidays. Bundling up against the cold (albeit a California cold), dark by 5PM, pretty lights, fragrant trees festooned with ornaments, and best of all, warm times with friends, (new and old) and family, and music!

Holiday music has some of the very best melodies ever, and the ones that have stood up over the years seem to be ones that everyone can sing. As a bluegrass musician, many of the motifs are familiar – simple minor and pentatonic scales, and of course we’ve all been singing them all our lives.

So, it’s not surprising that bluegrass and holiday music go together perfectly! This last weekend, I attended a holiday party (I think the host called it Yule Be Singing?), and it was a great time. The soiree began with a delicious hot dinner, and old friends said hello over their meals, and many new friendships were struck up. It was very inclusive – you didn’t have to be a musician to feel like a part of this, for which I was grateful.

After dinner, a thick sheaf of pages was handed to everyone – in two versions. For the pickers, the sheets included chord charts, and for the more casual singers, just lyric sheets. So we sang. And sang, and sang. There were about 20 people there, and to me, the mixture of voices was wonderful. There were lots of laughs at wrong notes, or phrasing confusion, and it just added to the fun. We were so cozy in that nice house, singing with full bellies.

Once we exhausted the list of carols, (and it took a while), it was mashup time. There were members of several bluegrass and old timey bands there, but no band was fully represented, so we just mixed and matched (or mashed, as the case might be). The results were great – everyone seemed to be relishing being just a little bit out of their comfort zones, and I was a participant, and a spectator, to some really fun music. Anytime I see friends’ band play, I wonder what it’d be like to play with them, so I got a chance to do just that, on a variety of instruments – really enjoyable.

Every year, these winter get-togethers provide a really nice wrap up to a year of bluegrass. We started the year in this mode, then the 48-hour jam signaled the start to the season, then the weather warms up and the year’s events unfold, and each one is a story unto itself. Gradually, then, summer gives way to autumn, the tents and RVs are put in storage, and the action moves indoors. The celebration of music and life that sent singing and music into the sunny skies (and the starry night skies, too), now raise the roofs and steam up the windows.

The cold holiday season is all about sharing warmth with friends and family, and I love how the season embraces music and draws everyone into that circle. Everyone is a musician in December, pure and simple.

Posted:  12/14/2011

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