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First Place Banjo in the Fiddle Banjo Duet Contest

Monday, April 30, 2018 @2:45:42 PM

I had the distinct pleasure of teaming up with Gathel Runnels to compete in the Fiddle/Banjo duet contest at the Florida State Fiddlers Association's Third Annual Jamboree.  Gathel and I were both looking for someone to play with.  Gathel is better known as a bluegrass multi-instrumentalist than an old-time fiddler, but was ready to compete as a fiddler.  By the time we both confirmed our mutual interest in competing, we only had about an hour before the contest.  Gathel's fiddling has a lyrical, winding quality, reliant on inventive long bows more than the driving short bow dance fiddling that I am more used to.  We tried a version of Grubb Springs in A minor, but it was unfamiliar to me and I didn't think it could do it justice.  Gathel took no offense, and offered Julie Ann Johnson in D, which was easier for me, and Waynesboro in G.  We played each tune a couple of times through, than switched to the other, and a few more times were done.  Each time, I tried to hear more clearly Gathel's rendition and tendencies: Oh, there is a surprising slide up to the d note on Waynesboro...I can get that on the b string, let's try that again,...how about a little octave shift for the b part of Julie Anne Johnson, starting at the 9th fret of the second string and the 10th fret of the first string...yes, that seems possible, let's see how it works the next time around. Soon the contest had started and each duet took their turn.  Their was a lot to admire in the individual and the combo playing, and a lot of love expressed between the duets.  And then we were up, and of into Waynesboro and then Julie Ann, and nothing outrageously terrible occurred, and after a few more contestants, the contest was over.  The third and second place winners were announced, and didn't include what I consider a strong performance from some friends of mine, so I thought we hadn't placed.  I was mentally saying my "Oh well, we had fun, better luck next time" when I heard our names called as the first place winners.  It was an unexpected outcome.  I felt lucky and grateful to be in that moment, amongst so many Florida music friends on a beautifully cool April day in Brooksville.

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