Maidencreek music festival makes the music accessible to all

By Dave Kline, Reading Eagle, Berks Country, Mountain Folklore, 7/8/2015

 

What a wonderful time of year this is for the fair and festival scene in and around Berks County. No sooner did I finish performing for nine days at the 66th annual Kutztown Folk Festival than I was off to Branson, Mo., to participate in several diplomatic meet-and-greet sessions with political and entertainment industry leaders out there.

 

A group of us back here are working diligently to form a sort of sister-city, entertainment cooperative with Branson. In the coming months, I plan to visit Nashville, Tenn., and Austin, Texas, to carry on the same work. Berks County is a wonderful place to visit with a culture brimming with quality musicians and entertainers.

 

As soon as I return from Branson, I will participate in the annual Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival on Sunday at Maiers Grove, on Grove Road in Blandon. The Maidencreek festival is a unique teaching festival where musicians who play (or wish to play) fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and other acoustic instruments gather to share, learn and perform.

 

Unlike other local or regional events, except maybe the excellent job Butch Imhoff does with his-learn-how-to-play-guitar tent at the Kutztown Folk Festival, the emphasis is on hands-on learning in the person-to-person style, which is how these tunes traditionally have been shared. I will be performing a concert at about 11 a.m., and later in the afternoon I'll be teaching a class on yodeling.

Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival co-organizer Paula Taylor's illustration for the 2015 T-shirt

There is something profoundly satisfying and peaceful about participating in such an enterprise. It gives you a chance to unplug from the matrix for a few hours and be with people you can look in the eye. Instead of sending a winking emoticon symbol and a like command, you simply can look at the person you're jamming with and offer thanks and praise, and he can do the same.

 

The annual event is produced by Paula Taylor and Mike Andrews of Meadowood Music, along with some friends.

 

"In 2009 Paula and I joined forces with three friends to start the festival," Mike said. "Together with Tom and Betty Druckenmiller and Norm Williams, we created a teaching festival with the flavor of the Augusta Heritage Center in Berks County. Augusta, sponsored by the Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, is a summerlong festival that teaches an array of folk arts and crafts.

 

"Our one-day festival offers more than 20 workshops on playing traditional Appalachian country music, all levels from beginning to advanced, plus master sessions with a nationally recognized musician," he said. "This year we have two: Jesse Milnes on fiddle, and Joe Newberry on banjo. Many will recognize Joe's name from 'Prairie Home Companion,' where he is a regular."

 

Each year the festival serves up a new and whimsical logo that incorporates Paula's love of music and animals with her artistic and illustrative skills.

 

"The first festival T-shirt mascot was the cat and the fiddle, an idea which came directly from the words of the children's nursery rhyme 'Hey Diddle Diddle,' " Paula said. "Once the cat and fiddle shirt went to print, I recalled John Tenniel's artwork in Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland,' and Beatrix Potter's artwork in 'Peter Rabbit,' and decided that the whimsy of those wonderful stories needed to be part of the festival. Since then, a whole band of Victorian-clothed, music-playing creatures have come out of my pen: a goat with a guitar, a rabbit with a banjo, a mouse with a mountain dulcimer, a duck with a mandolin and for 2015, a dog with a hammered dulcimer."

 

The Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival invites folks who have never touched an instrument to try one out in a low-pressure situation with lots of support. There will be an instrument petting zoo. Even those who are already good players should come, learn and get even better. Attend daytime miniconcerts or the full evening concert by all of the workshop teachers. The goal is to have everyone experience the joy of making music with others. Oldtime music is an especially good vehicle to achieve that goal because it is simple enough that, in one day, a person can start from zero and go home playing a tune or two.

 

It is for all ages. Parents are encouraged to bring children, who can attend everything for free, except for the master class sessions. Adults who bring children, but who do not want to participate in workshops, pay a $2 fee. For a complete schedule, pricing for the different levels of participation or to register in advance and save a few dollars off of the gate admission, visit mcotmf.org. Registration on the website is easy with a credit card. It is safe and secure.

 

For anyone who prefers to do things in person with cash or a check, visit Meadowood Music, 8521 Allentown Pike, Blandon. Hours are Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone is 610-916-1285.

 

Dave Kline is president of WEEU Radio, producer and host of the "Mountain Folk" show (9-10 a.m. Sundays), and Reading Eagle Company's executive director of circulation, promotions and Pretzel City Productions. Contact him at dkline@readingeagle.com