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Banjo Camp North

Posted by vt picker on Monday, May 26, 2008

Each year camp starts off in high gear with a faculty concert, a "Banjo Extravaganza," held at the Lexington Heritage Museum. Camp instructors strut their stuff on a tune or two, anything from Bach to Boggs, usually in impromptu ensembles. Kelly (wife/bass) and I did "Bully of the Town" with Phil Zimmerman and Dave Reiner helping out on mandolin and fiddle. Look ma, no rehearsal! (no trainwrecks either strangely enough) We also backed Campmeister Mike Holmes' rendition of the civil war tune "Two Little Boys". Again, no casualties.

As a longtime three finger dude, I'm always excited to hear what our buddy Bill Evans will come up with, and of course, I'd be willing to sit and watch Alan Munde and Bill Keith brush their teeth. But then Mac Benford will amble out and pluck the most charming old time piece you ever heard. You come away amazed at how much can be done on a 5-string. The evening ends with everyone on stage for a spirited (and noisy) "I'll Fly Away" plus an encore, then we pack up and head for our Groton weekend retreat.

Traditionally, a baker's dozen of us gather in town Friday morning at Ken's American Cafe for a hearty breakfast (registration isn't until noon). Once again Eric Weissberg proved he has the best memory in the history of banjo playing, regaling us with tales of what he ate for lunch on historic session dates forty years ago. Priceless.

The Friday/ Saturday format is basically classes during the day, a faculty concert after dinner, an hour and a half of guided jamming then free-form jamming 'till whenever with more classes through the afternoon on Sunday.

There are generally 6 to 8 classes happening simultaneously, each rated novice through advanced. Each student decides for him/her self where to be throughout the day. Some classes are conducted by a single instructor, some by a roundtable of three of four.

I'm sure each participant comes away with their own personal list of highlights. Here are just a few of mine;
1. Teaching with Janet Davis. She's a sweetheart.
2. Watching Bill Evans and Alan Munde conduct a class together- nobody does it better.
3. Hanging with Casey Henry; we hadn't met her before- she's a sport and the sound she gets from that signature Kel Kroyden is the real deal. Come on back Casey!
4. Teaching with Alan Munde- I was listening wistfully to this guy when I was barely a teenager (that was a long time ago)- working with him was such a treat.
5. Rapping with Bill Keith- about anything from banjo pickups to teepee construction. I hope the students at BCN realize how lucky we are to have such legends among us.
6. Jamming with Kelly, my old buddy Mike Kropp and new buddy/ old time fiddler extraordinaire Alan Kaufman 'till 4am Sunday Morning. We were way down in the groove.


Check the Banjo Hangout for lots of other opinions and a broader view. I think most pickers come away buzzed by the experience- Kelly and I look forward to it every spring and plan to return as long as they'll have us!

Regards,
Bruce and Kelly

7 comments on “Banjo Camp North”

brawny1 Says:
Monday, May 26, 2008 @4:18:43 PM

Bruce and Kelly, You guys were great and my wife and I came away with such a great feeling of community after the weekend. Every one of the instructors made us feel like we belonged at camp. Too bad it is only 3 days long! Brian and Ham GLass

vt picker Says:
Monday, May 26, 2008 @4:41:13 PM

Brian, this camp really has great camaraderie; it's one of the things that makes it special. It's really cool to see folks year after year; how they're playing better etc. k+b

jpoulette Says:
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 @4:34:35 AM

Hey guys - it was a great time, always a humbling experience to be in the company of such musicians. I expecially appreciated Alan Munde's taking a request to play "I'll Fly Away" - and Bill Evans spending time on the mechanics of a proper pull-off. You can always-always learn something watching these guys play just about anything. I missed the 'Roll-Logic' class because I was playing everything I knew with that young guy with the Stelling (if he reads this - email me man!!). Definitely will be back next year - cya!!

caseyhenry Says:
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 @8:03:30 AM

I too had a great time meeting all sorts of interesting folks and getting to play some really fun music. I'll definitely be back again next year. I'm soon to be the proud owner of one of Will Fielding's (fretless!!) banjos, and if nothing more than that had come out of the weekend, it would be well worth it. And can I just say I love Alan Munde, and I love Bill Evans and I'm so glad for camps where we get to cross paths.

jpoulette Says:
Monday, June 16, 2008 @1:52:57 AM

Bruce - congrats on the "Tab of the Month" in BHO. A little over my head (no wait, a lot over my head) but some of the moves in the tab are fun to dwell over. I'm looking forward to listening to the mp3.

By the way - great photo too by photo-Kelly I assume. Who's the guy with the banjo? j/k !

vt picker Says:
Monday, June 16, 2008 @4:50:35 AM

thanks Jim.  Not over your head though...

we'll talk today   (2am? up all night or just waking?)

k+b

jpoulette Says:
Monday, June 16, 2008 @6:06:57 AM

And you guys up at 4:50 AM?????? Flattery will get you no where!!

I'm guessing the server is on the west coast!

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