Sunday Jam Sessions & A Tear-Jerker

A great benefit of getting along well with your work exchange hosts is becoming part of their lives and socializing with their friends. I’ve enjoyed nice conversations over dinner, played legos with a brilliant and charming 10-year-old boy, and even sat in on a ukulele/guitar jam session.

One of my hosts, Larry, is a budding uke player (as am I), and he told me about an active uke scene in Bellingen. Every Sunday at a house up the street musicians bring whatever instrument they like and sit on the porch playing and singing songs, telling stories, having tea, and just enjoying one another’s company. Larry suggested that we check it out last Sunday and I was definitely down!

While hanging out on the porch I was reminded of a passage from Daniel J. Levitin’s book “This Is Your Brain On Music“:

A couple of generations ago, before television, many families would sit around and play music together for entertainment. Nowadays there is a great emphasis on technique and skill, and whether a musician is “good enough” to play for others. Music making has become a somewhat reserved activity in our culture, and the rest of us listen.

I really enjoyed the vibe of the people sitting on that porch. I get around pretty well on a guitar but I only know about five chords on a uke and I always forget the names of the ones I do know. Even so, everyone was very encouraging and inclusive.

Ready for the tear-jerker part?

The little house up the street is owned by Jenny and her late husband Chris. Chris was an avid musician with an impressive instrument collection, a home recording studio, and was apparently at one point an editor for Rolling Stone magazine. The musical couple loved having friends over on Sunday afternoons for casual jam sessions on the porch. Sadly, about five years ago Chris developed cancer. He received treatment but eventually it was determined that his cancer was terminal and, not wanting to spend his last days in a hospital, he chose to return home. As the story was told to me, Chris passed away in the arms of his wife, on that porch, with friends nearby and the sounds of music in the air. Jenny, who is on the right in the video above, continues the Sunday afternoon tradition in Chris’s honor.

Today is my last full day in Fernmount. I’ll miss this little shire. There are wonderful and interesting people in the world; you just have to get out there and meet them.

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6 thoughts on “Sunday Jam Sessions & A Tear-Jerker

  1. Judy says:

    Seems a bit strange send you a note on tomorrow…time zones are a bit sketchy! What a wonderful experience…sharing music is like sharing a meal..it connects people on a basic level. I am happy that you are getting to expand your ukulele skills. Happy wandering!

  2. Uncle Bob says:

    Keep doing what you’re doing Scott. At a time it seems the whole world in in some kind of turmoil the front porch is the perfect stage to say, “People still live a good and happy life” I think, when the time comes, that would be a good place to say good by to loved ones as Chris did.
    I hope your trip continues and one day maybe we can have a glass of iced tea and you can share some of it.
    Uncle Bob

  3. David says:

    Ah music. A few Christmas’s ago Judy gave the Levitin book to Graham, Matt, and me, in hopes that we would each read it and then discuss it from our different perspectives of music. I don’t know if the guys read it, but I did, and found it amazingly interesting. But all of the music, and all of the psychology in that book doesn’t play as well as sitting on the porch. And of all the amazing playing opportunities that I have had over my lifetime, some of the most comfortable and fulfilling were playing at Clifton’s pizza with Rob Pickett and (the late) Jim Rosen (of da Mudcats) when it was about nothing but the joy and friendship of playing. I envy the opportunity you had on the porch, and even more, laud the fact that you allowed yourself to participate. No matter how bad it sounds, it always sounds better when there’s more than one. Life is not singular, and you seem to be becoming a hugely participatory person of late. One of the main reasons that I keep the VHS tape of Judy and my wedding (other than the obvious) is because there is a VERY YOUNG you, playing my arched-top Gretsch during the ceremony, and it’s amazing. It is sooooo about time that you are doing this for yourself. I love what Bobby said about Chris, and I love you my amazing nephew. Be safe, have fun, don’t forget Harley shirts, participate, give as much of you away as you can, and “party on, dude”. Peace, Unc

  4. klheavrin says:

    Wow, sounds like you had an amazing couple of weeks there. Hope your next stop is as good as this one was!

  5. Mom says:

    How glorious when a spontaneous, fun experiment is also rewarding in ways other than ‘of the moment’! This gig was just a lark for you, with unknown neighbors, in a nearly unknown country….but look what all you gained from it. Talk about broadening your horizons….. you are!!!! Miss you, and happy you are having so many new experiences.

  6. mike says:

    Awesome experience!! Glad you brought the uke!

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