In February 2011 I traveled to Lexington VA, to the campus of Washington and Lee University, to attend a play written by James Leva entitled A KINDLY VISITATION: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO TOMMY JARRELL.
I see that it might be scheduled again on 30 October, in Purcellville, VA:
Franklin Park Center for the Performing Arts (540) 338 7973 "A Kindly Visitation"
I strongly recommend attending.
Leva, and Riley Baugus, and Stephan Wade, and Danny Knicely recreated their trips to see Tommy, their efforts to imbibe his music and integrate his stories into their understanding of Jarrell’s (and Fred Cockerham’s) world and its music. They told stories, recounted jokes, played tunes, contrasted styles, traded tunes all from a script inventively conceived by James Leva. Leva and Baugus and Knicely juggled fiddle parts, with Leva quarterpacking the fiddle part of the program.
Baugus and Wade double teamed on banjo, and were joined by Leva in raising their voices to put these tunes out, spiritedly pushed the program along, punctuating it with some great snatches of tunes from Jarrell’s repertoire. Leva does a good job fiddling and singing traditional tunes. No one bends over a banjo neck or brings as much kinetic energy to a banjo tune as does Stephan Wade. And Riley’s voice is just so full of Appalachia, so very strong and true, replicating the tone and timing of old time singing. Knicely used a fiddle, a mandolin and a guitar to great effect – his guitar work is impressive and energetic – and he and Wade danced a bit of flatfoot, too. All the while, some great photos of Jarrell and his clan dominated the backstage area.
This was a great piece of work. It told, in an artful way, how much of an impact Jarrell had on scores of young musicians – and added color and life to the narratives that people like Ray Alden and Hank Sapoznik produced to try and capture the intellectual adventure of piecing together musical traditions through field work.
It would be wonderful to have this thing packaged and available as a DVD, or a YouTube resource, or even just to have the sound track and the stories on a CD, but then again there’s something to be said for the ephemeral moment, the short-lived musical event that makes a strong and durable memory.
Everything can now be saved and filed and copied and backed-up and bookmarked and entombed in electrons in a manner that places it within quick reach.
In some ways it is sweet to have this evening as a musical moment that was shared with a small audience in a wonderful setting and is now a memory.
(But I’d still buy a DVD in a flash…)
If it ever comes around again, grab the chance to see it. I hope that October date is a real one. I’d make the trip to see it again without any hesitation.