Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones reminded us that “Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.”
Last weekend was a time for music, at least in Clinton County. It was in our bones.
On Saturday, Brenda and I visited the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival at the Roberts Convention Centre for an evening of bluegrass music. Joe Mullins puts on a wonderful bluegrass show that brings in thousands of people. A welcome byproduct of this event is all the people attending give a booster shot to the local economy every March and November.
The Music Festival this year was a who’s who of bluegrass music. Larry Stephenson was there, and Paul Williams, an extraordinary tenor, performed as well. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver closed the show with their usual flair.
Brenda and I have discovered over the years that sometimes the best music is found after the big tour buses leave the arena. Some of the most enjoyable music is played late at night. Like the tunes in the honky-tonks on South Broadway in Nashville, when the cigarette smoke is thick and the whiskey is flowing, the informal jamming began.
When we lived in Nashville, we visited the famous taverns such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge near the Grand Ole Opry. There was a clipping from The New Yorker stuck on a mirror in a bathroom that described George Jones’ voice: “In its most notable and glorious movement, his voice bent and twanged like the sound an old saw makes when you give it a shake. He found vowels in words where no one had ever seen them before.”
We have never heard George Jones at a bluegrass festival, of course, but we have heard some good music, and often from the most unlikely sources.
Joe Mullins likes to keep most of the jam sessions near the performing area of the centre, but once in a while, along the way, we hear music coming from the rooms above the lobby.
We were sitting in the lobby chatting when we first heard an older gentleman singing from a terrace on the fourth floor of the hotel.
“All my life I’ve been so poor I don’t know what to do,
“I go from sun up to sun down my work is never through,
“The children don’t go out to play like they used to before,
“And the chickens are too scared to lay cause the wolf is at the door.”
It wasn’t long before the singing family from West Virginia descended downstairs to the lobby, and we were entertained thoroughly for an hour or two, as the late-night music spilled over into Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, Brenda and I walked through the front doors of the glorious Murphy Theatre, along with 700 people from all over Clinton County. We gathered together to listen to the Unified Christians Men’s Chorus as they honored our veterans with a collection of more than 20 patriotic songs.
On a day often monopolized by the National Football League, neighbors from Blanchester, Sabina, New Vienna, Port William, Clarksville, Martinsville, and Wilmington joined together to remember and honor our veterans with an afternoon of familiar patriotic songs and music that stirred the emotions and inspired the soul.
The military organizations have one thing in common – music.
We have long known music can have a mystifying yet powerful bond with the emotions. Under the right circumstances, it can help bring people to terms with sorrow and loss — feelings which every generation has known.
We watched as the Color Guard from the Wilmington American Legion Post #49 presented the colors. We saw their faces. They didn’t speak. No words were necessary.
To cap off a memorable afternoon, Bruce McCoy recited the song, Ragged Old Flag, completely from memory. Then the Men’s Chorus ended the concert singing God Bless America bringing the crowd to their feet one final time.
And no one took a knee.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.