Eckhart Tolle and bluegrass

Cindy ArpFeature

When I was 4-years-old, I sang in the local high school’s fund-raising talent show. In my tiny blue pleated skirt, Mickey Mouse Club T-shirt and Mickey Mouse ears, I shouted (sang) “Zippity-do-dah,” a number from the since-shelved, incredibly-prejudiced Disney movie, “Song of the South.” I won first place. And I’ve been a live performance, concert attender ever since. I’ve attended rock concerts, the symphony, the ballet and for years attended the Belle Chere music festival in Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve loved them all.

Last Sunday some friends took Dan and me to hear Town Mountain, an Americana influenced bluegrass band. The concert took place at the Bijou, a small, 1909 revitalized theater. The place was packed with fans who knew the music so well that after a chord or two the crowd would start shouting and clapping. (Find out more and hear some music here)

I had never heard this band, and possibly due to the high volume used in live concert settings, or a bad soundboard operator, or maybe my rather old ears, while I could hear the tune and the instruments, most of the words blurred into the sound. No matter, watching talented musicians play and interact on stage was an experience unto itself. It was fun to see the drummer’s wide smile when he played through numbers he really liked. The mandolin player was never still, his feet gliding across the floor, his love of music so evident that he inadvertently commanded the stage.

The long, tall fiddle player didn’t seem as lively as the rest of the band until he and the mandolin player began swapping leads, dropping to pianissimo and then climbing to a crescendo, literally lighting up the stage. The lead guitarist was obviously a seasoned performer, comfortable on the stage. He signaled the end of long sets by lifting up his guitar’s neck, gave small signals to the new drummer to signify the end of an ad lib moment, and frequently angled his guitar towards the hired-specifically-for-the-gig slide guitar player so the man could see the guitar’s frets in order to follow the band better.

Before the performance began, we acquainted ourselves with three folks in the row in front of us – dedicated concert goers who had driven in from Harlan, Kentucky. As the concert heated up, one of the folks made his way to the end of the row and began to dance. He wasn’t self-conscious; he wasn’t performing any set of steps or for anybody. He was moving as he felt the music, filled with the moment. He was experiencing, as Eckhart Tolle says, “the power of now.”

When the concert was over, we quietly made our way back to the car, and I felt my usual sadness that the performance had stopped, the band was gone and we were, as we must, gently falling back to earth. We had been led through an emotional and physical experience, and for a time we had been part of a tight group of men who communicated with each other and whose audience communicated to them, sending them energy and approval.

I will continue to attend concerts as long as I can; all types of concerts, concerts filled with all sorts of skills and talents or even concerts given with earnestness if not talent, all of it important. The concerts will give me experiences that have no words, ideas I’ve never considered, and the happiness that comes from knowing such things exist in our world.

Did I hear the word concert? Why yes, count me in, please. Count me in every time.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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