I live for those moments when old time musicians just happen to meet together with no particular plans. Yesterday afternoon at the mountain fair, between fiddle concerts, some of these folks gathered casually on the front porch of a wooden building - a replica of a western-style “general store” – seating themselves upon rocking chairs and bales of straw. This was another impromptu “jam session”, a venerable tradition in old-time music circles that, when respected, creates its own incredible magic. The elder musicians delight in coaching and coaxing the children. They’ll play as slow as the youngsters need them to play, leading when possible and, of course, following when unavoidable! For them, it’s all about keeping the tradition alive, and that means inspiring the young people and building their confidence.
The musicians seemed oblivious to the surprise late-summer downpour, which was plenty noisy, though I can’t say whether any of the old buildings had a tin roof. As the mules splashed in the mud just fifteen feet away from my chair, gnawing at the wood fence, a seven year old girl in a homemade dress called out “Swallowtail Jig” and started in with her fiddle. So much for listening to the rain. The older musicians quickly jumped in and the rousing Irish jig began to attract a crowd. Ear-to-ear smiles, clapping, and delight all around.
Now a pretty young lady from the crowd begins to dance, all by herself, moving with astonishing grace and poise, though perhaps just a little too … freely. Some of us aren’t sure whether she is to be trusted, but I for one am captivated by her skill and decide, for the moment, not to give it another thought. A few songs later comes another stranger from the crowd, a matronly woman from Guadalajara in a colorful Mexican costume. She asks the lead guitarist to accompany her while she sings a few lovely ballads in Spanish. One can tell that, back in the day, she had a voice worthy of Lola Beltran. Hey, maybe she is Lola Beltran! In honor of this stranger’s Mexican roots, the group launches into “Jesse’s Polka” and thereafter returns to its familiar hoedowns, waltzes, and other favorites.
So, what does this have to do with anything? I don’t know. It all put me in the mood of John O’Keefe’s outrageously pollyannish jingle:
A glass is good
And a lass is good
And a pipe to smoke in cold weather;
The world is good
And people are good
And we’re all good fellows together.
It’s easy to forget how much humanity is left when stripped of its crude ideologies. Indeed, there is an inverse relationship between the prospering of humanity and the burden of ideology, which is modernity's substitute for God. I think I share with my fellow contributors – and with most of this site’s devoted readers – a desire to make the world as safe for humanity, and as free from ideology, as is possible this side of the beatific vision.