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.