Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Music, music, music pt. 4

So I told you all the preceding to tell you this:  I've lately been inspired to pick up the guitar and take a few baby steps towards using my voice again for something besides conversation.  The inspiration came from a visit we made a month or so ago to a local performance venue that was unknown to us, The Onley Place.  Of course, there's a story there:

We had always wondered why, down here in the brass buckle of the Bible belt, our elderly cross-the-creek neighbors were so welcoming to us frankly as a gay couple.  They welcomed us warmly from the very beginning and made no bones about the fact that they "got it" regarding Steve's and my relationship, and that they were fine with it.  It turns out that for a good 20 years they were members of a large group of square dancers that met just for the fun of it on Saturday nights. Their caller and his male partner, both raised just a few miles from here, ran that enterprise.  Everyone loved these men and the good times they created with their dance parties.  As time went on, though, the dancing started going into decline.  Dancers aged and fell victim to aches and pains that made movement no longer enjoyable, to the point where now, they get together to socialize but they no longer dance.

One of these two guys, the caller, inherited the family farm, deep in the country a bit to the north of where we live.  For the past several years the two of them have been restoring the buildings on it, and part of the restoration was the conversion of the barn into a performance space, called the Onley Place after the family that worked that land for so long.  Our neighbors took us with them to the most recent show to see if we would like it and also expressly to introduce us to the two entrepreneurs, knowing we had not met any other gay people here and very much wanted to. 

We had a wonderful time.  Every three months, these two men put on a sort of dinner-theater/Prairie Home Companion-style entertainment in which they feature local performers who represent a diverse collection of musical styles, everything from cabaret (a duo who have been regulars on the Raleigh scene for 17 years--who knew???) to jazz, to American standards, to country.  The catered food is plain and pretty much what you get here:  fried chicken, pork barbecue, hush puppies, coleslaw, potato salad--but very good for what it is.  For all of $20 per person, you and a couple hundred other happy people from miles around get to enjoy a nice meal and a good, old-fashioned variety show, complete with corny skits and musical entertainment that is all good, at least, and sometimes really top-notch.  (They featured a local 17-year-old saxophonist when we were there who is on his way to college and then, there's no doubt, to a stellar career in music.)

It was that experience that set my imagination going.  It's exactly the kind of venue and audience that I would be very comfortable working in and for, and I realized that if I was ever going to get back up on a stage, this was the ideal situation.  I decided to start working towards and audition.

My guitar work is, as expected, terribly rusty, having been unpracticed for at least 10 years.  I have no callus on my fingers, so merely pressing the strings to make a musical sound is painful.  The picks and strums I practiced so hard on for years are part of my muscle memory and are still there, but sloppy.  The voice is still there and surprisingly undamaged by lack of use.  I need a lot of work, but could with time get myself back to my previous level.


Next time:   A surprising discovery--the final installment.


nan said...

LOVED this post. Not only do you have some decent neighbors introducing you to another gay couple, but you are thinking about playing and singing again? Marvelous. You are keeping us going here with the installments!

Ralph said...

Stay tuned for the denouemoent, Nan. Didn't really mean to string this thing out so long, but a recent wrinkle has caused some examination...