Tuesday, 5:30 PM. I just received a call out of the blue from Jay Keller.
He said that he and Amy just woke up from their post Martinfest stupor, in Chicago, where I guess they will visit some friends or family before heading back to California.
Jay said he was emotionally drained, beyond anything he has experienced in many years.
It occurred to me that I can say the same, and that is the primary reason I have not picked up my own torch and continued with my Martinfest Journal of Adventure.
And I know I really should.
It is just, so many of us approached this Martinfest unsure how we would or could deal with the absence of Laura Voorhis, who has been such a lynchpin of this event from the very start.
I am sure I am not the only one who must have (had) some unconscious guilt going on about having a great Martinfest with Laura not there and after what she went through. Knowing she would have wanted us to have great Martinfests doesn’t change that.
And just as UMGF Administrator Doug Truxillo (dwtrux) put it, the true and full impact of Laura’s death didn’t take hold until he arrived at Martinfest. But none of us could have been prepared for one of our most-beloved members succumbing to a massive stroke in our midst, and dyeing shortly afterwards.
Those who knew Greg Kendig even a little bit can appreciate what a sad thing it is. Those who did not know him have their own comparisons to go by from those they have known and loved.
Another UMGF administrator, Ed Madonio, said how there were no words that could voice the impact of that, the grieving that has been going on. But he also praised the attendees for not turning the event into a three-day funeral, as it might easily have become. Greg, Laura, and all of our friends who went before them could not have possibly wanted such a thing.
And at the same time, the events of the past year have made every second of Martinfest so very precious, as many of those who have come to many, or even every Martinfest were forced to see how rare and special the event is, even if they have come to take it for granted on those years we can attend. And it became clear how the man or woman next to them, playing an instrument or raising their voice in song, or eating some snack or other, may not be there next year, or ever again.
That says more than enough of the whirling currents behind every word I have typed since Thursday morning.
I will start this episode, like the last one, at the end of Martinfest. Or at least what I consider the official end, when I went to bed sometime Sunday night (Monday morning.)
At the very end, sometime before dawn, after I could no long return to the room that held the final singalongs, I entered the main socializing room to find California Jay Kellor and Texas Mark Ulrich (mulirch) alone among the empty chairs and empty cups and bottles.
After some rambling conversation of music and prior Martinfests, Jay expressed his ardent need for us to sing a song with him.
It turns out to be a round, of an old German folksong. But he didn’t know what it was until Mark looked it up (and I was mighty impressed at X:xx AM that Mark could sight read it on the spot and both sing and then pick out the notes on his guitar.)
It was the first piece of music that affected Jay as a small child, who was taught it in school.
The lyrics are:
All things must parish under the sky
Music alone shall live, music alone shall live
Music alone shall live, never to die
It has always been the music that brought us to Martinfest in the first place and that which we shared in as we started building other bonds.
It allowed so many different types of people from different places and points of view to find common ground. It also allowed us to set aside our differences and enjoy other people who enjoy what may be the only thing that truly separates us from other species on this planet – music. The friendship-building humor and camaraderie developed over time, to the point that first-timers are welcomed into it and catch up in a hurry.
That last group of singers, in the smaller room across the hall, began as a Beatles singalong. This is significant. The Beatles singalong was retired some years ago, by its chief perpetrator Mike Buono (Mikey517) – one of the 17 Year Club, who has an encyclopedic memory for Beatles tunes. Back in the day the singalong would go to the weeest hours, with no song being repeated. And Mikey was always accompanied by Frank Krupit, who has a good memory for the guitar solos from most of those songs.
Others came and went, to sing, play along when they could, or just listen. But after a time it broke off into other songs by other songwriters, helped along with stalwarts like Rhys Ord, Jim Adams, Mike Thompson, Jack Rickenbach (Jackenbach,) Marian Chaprnka (MarianC) and husband Tony, and singers like Brenda Miller-Riley (MusicalBrenda) whose strength as Laura’s best friend was cherished, and whose joining in our family celebrations of our past, present, and future was some of the best medicine we could have had this weekend.
Prior to an intimate jam with old pals Maury Rutch and Rhys Ord of tunes we really can’t not play and call it a Martinfest, there was an event unique thus far in Martinfest history.
The admins and moderators asked us to join them in the main room for a champagne toast, to acknowledge the unique situation and express their gratitude that we had forged ahead and had a great Martinfest after all. It was here they made the statements mentioned above, and others too.
We laughed more than we cried, frankly, as people remembered our friends kindly. And after all that, I spoke up and reminded people that our very dear friend Paul Bonnici was very ill and had been hospitalized, and unable to attend Martinfest. For those who don’t know or remember, Paul was the night manager at the hotel where we spent most of our Martinfests, and who embraced us utterly, as we did him.
So, I stood up on a chair and asked for everyone to say “Hi Paul, we miss you. Get well soon!” And, Paul being a theater man, and I being a former one, I asked to practice it, but I was told by the throng they had it down and were ready to go. And the results were a unbridled gushing forth of heart-felt exuberance and best wishes. I sent it to Paul along with the story behind it, which he enjoyed. It was more of the best kind of medicine that had been going around Martinfest all weekend.
The toast interrupted a very fun mini-session, where visiting artist Wil Maring played bass as the Paul Ukena Trio tried to remember some of the tunes we expect to play at a gig we got while at Martinfest (August 26 at Jack Rickenbach’s place, in West Chester, PA.)
It was a shock to see how much studying I have to do to relearn all those intricate arrangements Paul came up with for those Ellington and Fats Waller tunes, etc. But it was also very cool to see how good it all sounded with an upright bass player who was such a quick study herself. We were also interrupted when Robert Bowlin came in to borrow Wil’s ears as he checked out a vintage Martin, perhaps with the hope of tracking one down for himself.
I know Paul and Wil and others returned to the swing tunes after the toast, but I had other fish to fry in terms of the sessions mentioned above.
I also tried to track down a particular guitar to check out, but didn’t until Monday, so I will save that for the epilogue post.
I had expected to use groceries for all the meals this year, out of economic necessity. But as we were coming back from the afternoon in the park, my guest, Tina, saw the Outback Steakhouse and really wanted to go. As it happened, many others were expected to go there, and we went back to hotel to freshen up and head out with them.
The waiting list at the Outback was backed out the door and around the block. So we soldiered on to the Texas Roadhouse, with Maury Rutch driving his wife Lori’s brand new car, as she sat in the back happily bonding with Tina, and the ever smiling Judy Atkins, who came along for the company and the food. Her husband Bruce (Lamplighter66) chose to remain back in his realm as Prince of Song Circles. I regret that my turns in the song circle rooms seemed to during his breaks from them. Maybe next year!
There were many other Martinfesters at the restaurant, and the atmosphere was downright giddy at times.
I felt that way at the Park that day, part of the day. It was a bit of a roller coaster. And at the very end, Rosemarie Ratvasky (BigMamaJ40) sang your heart-piercing song for Laura, and my own personal floodgates burst forth, after many prior leaks in the dyke showed that it was coming eventually.
The moment I arrived that morning I was expected out at the trees for the memorial service and before I could finish tuning my guitar the first song was underway. So with shaky hands I embarked on the introduction to the Beatles’ “In My Life” with Paul Ukena singing, and Frank Krupit providing the George Martin solo bits, which we used as both the introduction and the break.
Words were said, by Ed Madonio and Rhys Ord, and others. Although that was the end of the official memorial event, everyone stayed right there, to join us Old Guard in singing the songs chosen for some of our early losses from previous years. These included “Margaritaville,” “As Tears Go By,” “Edelweiss,” and “Ripple.”
The group photo, directed by Jay Keller (aka head of the Lollypop Guild) was as hilarious as ever, despite the swampy humidity, and there was an extra-large group of the Women of Martinfest photo, it seemed to me. And a good thing it was too.
The spontaneous announcement that there was to be a photo of the Green Dot newbies, not so much, as only three people answering that description were still on hand to pose. There were twenty-seven registered. I am truly sorry I got to meet so few of them this year.
I realize that the administrators decided Laura was irreplaceable, so there was nothing like an official opening night party. The Friday night reception idea didn’t quite fill the same niche, as many people went out to dinner instead. So I urge them to consider such a future event being billed specifically as a welcoming party for the Green Dots where people can make an effort to meet and greet them, when they are all in the same barrel, as it were.
After the 17 Year Club photo at the trees, Jay decided to place us on the concrete bridge that spans the creek – which has been particularly fast and high due to the rains of the previous days. And he took off his munchkin socks and stood in the middle of the stream, tripod sunk into the rocks.
Here is the result
Unfortunately John Hall (tippie53) missed these photos, as he had business to attend to elsewhere. But he was otherwise all over the place, singing songs, playing along, giving guitar checkups, probably installing a pickup or two, never seeming to be in a hurry, but never seeming to stop moving.
The open mike at the Park that day was exceptionally good. And I was happy to see my old friend Jim Fortmuller reprising a song he sang at the hotel, which he wrote for his sister after the death of her husband. I was also proud as punch to be able to accompany my friend “Tina” (Christine) on her official Martinfest debut, where she sang Carol King’s “It’s Too Late” after singing harmony on one of my own compositions.
I am pleased that I was able to sell nearly half the CDs I had delivered to the hotel from the manufacturer, and half of those sales happened at the Park that day. Unfortunately, we had left them at the hotel and scurried back there after the photos. So I had to miss the debut of a new song by Matt Carroll (D. Forty). I was surprised that he had not dived into the songwriter’s pool before now, given his prowess as a guitarist and a singer, and having worked professionally as the S in a CSNY tribute act. Here’s to hoping the bug has bite and we will be hearing more Matt Carroll songs this time next year.
Matt and brother Jeff (Cardinal2B) skedaddled early on Sunday. And thus began the exodus I always try to pretend isn’t happening. And since Monday was not an official Martinfest day this year, it started happening way earlier than I expected. It is like a parade that makes clear just how many people I didn’t get to pick with or sing with or even hang out with at a particular Maritnfest.
But as Mikey Buono put it long ago, “It’s OK. We don’t need to do that anymore. We’re family. Just seeing each other and having that hug is what it is really all about.”
Mike had to arrive later than usual this year, but made the most of his time, at the Sunday night singalongs, and on Sunday day at the Park, where he and Mark Stawlwick and Jim Celica were seen standing barefoot in the middle of the stream, until they talked me into joining them. The mercury was over 90 and probably over 95% humidity. So that water was nice and cold and some of those fellas just never came out, as various people joined them from time to time. After a while, I looked over to find Mike and Mark sitting in lawn chairs, still in the middle of creek! Every Martinfest one will see something new that no one had thought of before.
For some people it is the new Colorado Capo, which Matt Carroll helped invent. He had sent a prototype up here a year ago for me and some others to try out. And the branded first model was in tow this year, although I never got a chance to use it. It has a very successful design in terms of keeping things in tune, and is a U-shape capo with the screw at the back, and a gate-style piece that frets the strings, with a wild shallow plate that can be interchanged with other plates. Hard to describe on the fly. But keep your eyes peeled for it becoming available for sale!
Another last-day attendee was Scooter Ferguson (ScooterD35) who wouldn’t have missed the memorial service and 17 Year Club bonding for a pile of gold. I have only had to miss a day or two of Martinfest once in all seventeen years. But I do know what it is like when life outside Shangri La puts up those roadblocks.
Fran Kriston (custardsdad) is another 17 Year Club member I hardly got to hug before he had come and gone, back on the road to Maryland. Sorry, Fran, that I didn’t get a CD to you as requested. I’ll get your mailing address via PM.
Sunday morning started for me the usual way, having a mighty large (free) buffet breakfast at the hotel, and a chance to chat with people about what they have been up to during Martinfest and since the last one. And others gathered at the Park early enough to take part in the Worship Service of song and prayer, which led up to the memorial service at the trees.
And so another Martinfest is in the books. I am particularly grateful for my extended family for showing such a fine welcome to my friend Tina and her adorable companion Bella the wonder pooch. Being a city girl, Bella had a spectacular adventure and clearly loves you all.