Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine
*It’s September 1st as I’m writing this–nearly the end of a beautiful summer. My baby sister is spending her first night at college and I am off on a four day sailing trip with my best friend’s parents. We had some boat issues yesterday, so moored off Islesboro last night, and we survived the rolling waves today (barely), and are anchored off southwest Vinalhaven. Meg’s mom Beverly brought her iPad and a keyboard so I could blog a little on the trip since they are early to bed people and I’m a night owl. It’s 8:45 and I think I’m the only one on the boat who has been awake for the last half hour or so.*
A month ago, on August 1st, I saw four bands in the course of my day. I woke up relatively early (for “Summer Bree” standards anyhow) and remembered that Gardiner’s Johnson Hall was hosting one of their noontime concerts in the park. I had heard of the Gawler Family Band and decided to go check it out. I crossed the street from the park to visit my good friend Clare at her arts and crafts gallery, Monkitree, to say hi and see if I could take her boxer Bo as my date. Within moments of crossing the street to grab a spot in the park, little kids and elderly folks were coming up to us to get some Bo time. He is a local celebrity and one of the best dogs ever. A little girl came up to me as asked me if that was Bo and then proceeded to hug him and tell me over and over again how soft he is. There was a large group of residents from a local senior citizens’ home in attendance, and they wanted some Bo time, too. It was lovely to see how happy it made them to have some time with a great dog, and even a couple of residents wearing nametags to identify them as patients with Alzheimer’s told me stories about dogs they used to have. If I hadn’t heard a note of music, my day would already have been made.
The Gawler Family Band are three daughters and their mom and dad. Two of the daughters, Edith and Elsie, were there for our show, along with their mom, Ellen, and dad, John. They were a delight. This will give you a sense of their style. I can just picture the many years of family nights around a fireplace singing songs together these folks have had. They were at ease playing together, making sure everyone was given time in the spotlight to showcase their individual talents, and delivering beautiful harmonies.
I’d say the Gawler Family Band is firmly folk and bluegrass influenced, and I absolutely loved how they told stories about what the songs were about and who had written them. They played songs from an era that the elderly folks present seemed to know, and we were invited to sing along a number of times. They all had lovely voices, and played their instruments beautifully. I loved the traditional sound they produced with violin, banjo, cello, guitar, and harmonica. Ellen suggested that her husband do a recitation of a poem, too, which he graciously delivered in his heavy Maine accent with a big smile on his face. It was a real pleasure to spend an hour with the Gawler Family Band. Bo enjoyed it, too, and when I took him to say hi to the family after their set, John even played harmonica just for him. Check them out when they come to your town!