I may be posting a bit more about music and other things for a while. It is hunting season here in New England, so my hiking has been limited to suburban trails. They are pretty of course. They may not really be post-worthy, however. I do stay away from many of the wilder places during this time, particularly during the week. Some hunter has taken time off from work on a weekday to head on out to do their thing. They shouldn't have to worry about me or I about them. The season will end soon enough, and the winter climbs can begin.
Also, I am swamped at work. The holidays are here. The church is down both an intern/assistant minister and a church administrator. It is just me right now. There is so very much to do. Among the things to do, though, is plan for holiday music. The Liturgical Folk Band has been busy playing for our experimental "Second Sunday" services. In fact, as we tweak the format in other ways, I would say the band has been a point of stability for us. That hasn't always been the case in the past, so it is nice.
I have written about folk music in the church before, so my plan here was to keep it brief and leave you with some links at the end. I failed.
I just want to comment for a moment on the folk element of the term. Folk Music is what folks do. In an often-professionalized world we have grown accustomed to leaving to professionals things that have for the vast majority of human existence been something that is done by amateurs. Music is only one example of this. Even in the genre we are discussing, a "folksinger" is more often than not somebody we pay. We go see them in cozy concert halls, or we buy their music. The performance is (hopefully) of a monetizable quality.
Interestingly enough, many professional musicians are trying to leave the term "folk" to the amateurs. Some performers of original works now lean toward "singer-songwriter" for what they do. Performers of actual folk tend toward the terms "Old Time" or "World Music" to describe what they do. That is nice of them. They at least recognize that part of their job is to popularize works that others can replicate at home. That is, they are empowering people to keep on doing folk-art.
I bring this up because being just OK at something doesn't mean we cannot enjoy doing it. It doesn't mean we cannot share it either. If we just relied on professional athletes, there wouldn't be pickup basketball. If we just relied on professional artists, then we wouldn't have the rich world of creativity that we need for our culture to thrive. When you see videos of us playing, I want you to understand that we know how good--or not good--we are. The point is that everyone has a place to create.
So...what do you do if you would like to take your place as one of the folk in folk music? All you have to do is find an instrument and make some noise.
If you want a little more direction, here are some thoughts....
Start with What You Used to Play! This should be obvious but somehow it isn't always. There are no rules for what an actual folk musician can play. Yes, the acoustic guitar is ubiquitous among the professionals. However, that has to do with what is marketable. You aren't shooting for a recording contract. You don't care what "the Man" thinks about your music! Did you play clarinet and you still have it? That works. The trick is just to find ways to be creative with it when you are playing with others. That takes time, but it should be fun time.
Start with What might be fun! What instrument did you always think sounded cool? That is a good place to start. Think about what sort of sound you think you could make. What sound would you like to make?
Pick Something You Will Stick To! For some people that will an instrument that is easy to get going on but hard to get good on, like the ukulele or the autoharp. For others it may be something that is hard to get started on but you get progressively better over time. You have to want to practice. However, remember that in amateur folk music practice isn't so much practice as "jamming-with-yourself". You should enjoy it. Remember to measure success not by how proficient you are but by how much fun you are having.
Pick Something Different! OK, say you want to play with people and this is your big goal. If this is the case then I want to say something that might be considered controversial in some quarters. Pick an instrument that other people don't play. Over the last half-century, the go-to instrument has been guitar. Whay has this been the case? Take a look at my previous suggestions. People frequently play guitar as a kid. Parents like the idea and pay for lessons. It replicates the sound of a ton of great music performed by professional musicians and released to a breathless public. Finally, with a few quick chords, you can play along to almost anything.
However, because of this, if you want to get your pals together to jam you will have no shortage of three-chord guitar warriors keeping the beat. Most of them will be thinking about how much cooler they would sound with a little variety.
This is where you come in. How about something that sounds different? I play guitar but when I get together to play with people nobody has ever asked me to play it. The reason is there are already plenty of guitars in the lineup. Instead, they ask if I could play some other instrument.
Here are the ones I play: Voice, Mandolin, Ukulele, Tenor Banjo, Bones.
Here are some I always wish somebody else would play: Bass, Autoharp, 5-String Banjo, Drums, Whistles, Fiddle
Anyway, knock yourself out. There is a learning curve to these instruments just like guitar. Also, as you learn, you will be noticeable. Still, you shouldn't worry about mistakes. My experience is that all the guitar players are just happy you are there.
OK, that is it. My music update plus some stuff. Enjoy the vids. Here is the link to the "Music and Arts" section which--as I mentioned--should be growing over the winter.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.