Dancing to a Found Harmonium

Perhaps it is a good sign that I welcomed summer with an all-day outdoor gig yesterday. I didn’t play all day; Big Road in Chelsea sponsored a stage for Make Music New York so I played a set with Big Road Blues, sat in with a few others, and ran sound for most of the day.

It was a beautiful day to play, across the street from the Chelsea Hotel, where construction workers stood on the scaffold to watch the beautiful Highland Divas and their harmonies. Believe it or not, an irate resident of a nearby apartment building came down to complain, asking us to turn the music down. Given that the audience was already struggling to hear the singers over the traffic and the construction, I didn’t pay her much mind. But apparently she or someone else then called the police, Who showed up and demanded to see our sound permit. Which, at first, we couldn’t find, but fortunately Alan remembered the name of the officer to whom he had spoken, and the sergeant was able to confirm it with the precinct.

I saw some old friends, including Melissa Tong who did a great Mississippi Hill country blues set with Bill Hammer (of Porkchop Willie). I jammed for a bit with Fuzzy Island, and sat in with Sasha Papernik on her lovely and original take on the Carter Family’s “Wildwood Flower.”

The day ended (for me) with a set by Irish musician and dancer Niall O’Leary, accompanied by some of his students and the reigning All-Ireland button accordion champion, Martin O’Connell. In the video below, they play for a bit and then Niall and his student get up to dance, while Martin plays a version of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s wonderful “Music For a Found Harmonium.” I love the tune but sadly had to admit that while I had worked some years ago to learn it, I cannot play it at speed. So perhaps this will inspire me to practice it again. (The B part is an extremely hard-to-remember series of Philip Glass-like chromatic arpeggios.) (Here’s a nice version on acoustic guitar, which sounds great despite the player’s admission that he doesn’t even necessarily know the correct notes for the B part. That makes me feel better.

(Video removed by request of the subject.)

I had been scheduled to do my own set, but I wasn’t feeling really given that I’ve played and practiced so little for the last year or so. But it was an inspiring day so hopefully I’ll be out playing more soon.

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