Did you know that the banjo actually originated in West Africa? It first arrived on North American shores on the slave ships in the 1800's. That's what banjo plucker extraordinaire, Jayme Stone told us last night at the concert in Harvey Hall.
The show was a remarkable event, and not least of all was the combination of instruments: percussion (including calabash--a huge gourd), stand-up bass (played by a suitably tall, moustachioed fellow), banjo (like you've never heard before) and kora (wondrous to behold and to hear). Remarkable were the acoustics in this backwoods former church, Harvey Hall, that has been converted into a summer concert venue. Remarkable was the presence of a musician from Mali, Mansa Sissoko. Remarkable that the audience did not stone the Mali musician for speaking in French only: this is Albert County where, until very recently, Francophones feared to tread, such was the English-Acadian mistrust and hatred of each other. But a young faction of Acadians had actually ventured in from the city to experience this concert and they added a wonderfully exuberant groove to the whole shindig. By encore time they were up at the front of the stage dancing their hearts out. (I was standing up on a bench at the side of the room movin' and groovin' myself.)
It was a full house. The concerts are always packed with people of all ages, though there seems to be a preponderance of grey-haired individuals. It was fun to watch the older gents in their check shirts bobbing in time with the music. I always wonder, though, about those people at rousing concerts who sit absolutely motionless. I used to be a dancer and just cannot stay still for the life of me. The woman next to me was one of those stock-stillists. But when the band invited the audience to clap along, she gamely joined in. And then I realized why she, and probably others like her, do not groove to the music. They have no rhythm! I mean, she could not stay on the beat to clap her hands. It was as if a whole new concept was presented to her every time it came around to go clap-clap. It was a revelation to me (in spite of my experience of trying to teach an adult beginners' jazz dance class at one point in my past life).
Another appealing aspect of the summer concerts at Harvey Hall are the treats available at intermission. Homebaked brownies, matrimonial squares, Nanaimo bars, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies, etc. etc. I always grab the biggest brownie I can find. Payment is by contribution on the honour system.
After intermission, things were a bit warm (all that sugar) so the side door was opened. Did I mention that the hall is located in the middle of a marsh? As the wind died down, the mosquitoes stirred up a breeze of their own as they rushed in through the open door. Soon the woman who couldn't clap in time to the beat of the music was joined by other audience members clapping and slapping in weird syncopated times, as they did battle with the voracious mosquitoes (all that sugar).
As my mother would say, a good time was had by all.
Including the mosquitoes.
Harvey Hall (image courtesy of the Hall's hosts, Isaac & Blewitt website)