Even though I’m just as horrified as the next pussycat at the assault on my sensibilities every time I peek at the news headlines these days, I’m putting my worries aside for a moment to address perhaps the one thing that’s more important than the current political disaster, and that is the next generation of human beings.
Don’t you just love babies? They smell so good (when they’ve got a clean diaper on), and we dress them so adorably because, well, because we can get away with it for a few years. And even though they can’t walk or talk yet, they look around with big eyes that are taking in everything in the world and soaking it all up.
A few weeks ago my husband and I took a quick – and I mean waaaay too quick – trip up to Astoria to visit our brand new grand nephew, our very smart and funny grandnieces, and one more (or, never know, could be two) still baking in the oven.
It was our first time meeting Owen, so we came bearing gifts, with a brand new outfit featuring a pair of pants with a dump truck on the bottom…because that’s where the dump truck would naturally go, am I right?
Also, because Uncle Eddie is the reigning king of giving gifts to the kids in the family, we came bearing the best gift ever… a mustachifier. It was immediately put to use.
I’m proud of them, not just for making a beautiful baby, but for working hard to make their dreams come true. Soon they’ll be opening up Astoria’s newest brewery, Reach Break. My nephew makes a killer stout. In fact, if you’ve been to 7 Devils in Coos Bay you may have tried the Fig Stout that he did in a collaboration with that brewery shortly after Don Williams reviewed it in a column for A News Cafe. I’m also really fond of the Citrus Mykiss, with hints of lemon, pepper and rosehip. They just made the list of Top 10 anticipated breweries opening soon in Oregon, I have it on good authority that by the time you read this, they
will have opened.
About that nephew, the one who makes beautiful babies and beer. While we were visiting, he told me that when he’s hanging out with Owen, he likes to curate the music that his little man’s mind is exposed to. To guide his musical journey with a little thought. I was immediately impressed, but even more so when he told me what kind of music he’s exposing the little fella’s ears to. Turns out, two kinds of music: Classical and Bluegrass.
You might think those two genres of music go together like green beans on ice cream, but I happen to know the relationship between Bluegrass and Classical is more like peanut butter and jelly. And I’m kind of an expert on these things. My little musical soul started doing back flips and cartwheels when he mentioned those two words in the same sentence, because a playlist immediately started forming in my head.
Classical music has been my day job for the past 15 years. During that time I’ve become intimately familiar with a lot of classical music and the people who make it. But my night time job for almost as long as the mistress of ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre has graciously allowed me to become familiar with hundreds of musicians who are successfully making a living recording and performing – for the most part – not classical music.
But musicians gotta start somewhere, right? And not everyone starts with a garage band (well, for a lot of people that’s where it starts…and ends). I have found that a really large number of successful artists started out with classical music.
That’s pretty much my story. When I was 10 we got a piano. My parents sent me to Mrs. Janes for lessons. I loved music, and wanted to immediately be taught boogie woogie and jazz. Mrs. Janes had other ideas about teaching me music, and started me off with Chopin, then moving on to Beethoven and Rachmaninov. Eventually, in a move to stop me from dropping out of class, Mrs. Janes also acquiesced and introduced me to Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme and a boogie woogie piece that I won 8th place for in a recital.
But enough about me and my lame piano skills. I share the music; I don’t play it.
What I’m getting at – and what got me so excited to put together a playlist that I call Bluegrassical for Owen – is that almost all of the popular Bluegrass musicians of today have a strong background in classical music, and in many cases, pay homage to the masters during stage performances by weaving in a piece or two from the classical repertoire.
Some have gone even further. Multi-instrumentalist Bela Fleck has written a classical concerto for the banjo, and has recorded classical music with mandolinist Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers). Likewise, Edgar Meyer has written music equally in bluegrass and classical genres for his main instrument, the double bass. Fiddle sensation Mark O’Connor has written numerous lengthy classical works, but he and Fleck, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and others have recorded albums that combine their Appalachian style with the rock & roll of the 1700’s, and the result is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
I can’t think of a better way to honor my new grand nephew and his parents than sharing this Spotify Bluegrassical playlist with them (and with you) that lovingly combines some of my favorite classical works with my favorite bluegrass pieces, with some heavy emphasis on the mandolin, ukelele and lute. I hope you’ll give it a listen by clicking on the play arrow below, and feel free to share anything you think might be missing from the list.