Monday, January 16, 2012

Sharon Hartmann's Holiday Party

Chere Force told me about Sharon Hartmann's Holiday Party. Chere let me know that there would be plenty of talented musicians and a prime sketch opportunity. I had never met Sharon but Chere said she was someone I had to meet. I crashed the party. The house was in Winter Park near an I-4 overpass. I parked on a quiet side street then hiked to find the house since it was impossible to see house numbers in the dark. Most of the small homes in the neighborhood had small porches. I half expected to see musicians on porch rocking chairs when I arrived. The night air had a chill. Sharon's home had an imposing flat facade. For some reason it resembled a dentists office to me. Maybe I had the number wrong.

I rang the doorbell and then tried the door knob. It was open. Sharon shouted down the hallway, "Come on in!" A dozen or so people were gathered in the kitchen. I introduced myself to Sharon but I got her name wrong, calling her "Shanon." I'm such an idiot with names. She asked if I was Irish. I explained that my name was German but my mom was Irish. Though the math is probably more complicated, I consider myself half Irish. I tried a pita chip, dipping in some humus. Whoa! It was hot! I rushed around and quickly poured a sangria. Joe Waller was talking about a young musician he met who could learn how to play any instrument with strings just by picking it up and experimenting. "He could play a banjo and make it sound like an acoustic classical guitar performance." Joe makes Cheer Wine in his home state of North Carolina. A collage aged girl told him that she and her classmate would hoard Cheer Wine when they found it. One boy confessed he had a picture of Cheer Wine as his desktop on his computer. Joe said it is being sold in Publix now so I have to get me some!

Jubal's Kin arrived with a crowd. A woman joked with Gailanne Amundsen that it must be cold since Gailanne wasn't bare foot. There was a feeling of a tight knit family gathering. Folks hugged and caught up. I felt a bit like an outsider but I sensed that once all these talented musicians unpacked their instruments, there would indeed be, "a joyful noise." In the kitchen, I spoke to Brian Smalley for a while. Brian explained that Orlando is a town whose music is built off the glitter and flash of the tourist trade. For that reason grassroots home spun folk music is rare. If you head up north, people love the honest sounds of acoustic musicians. Most music played downtown at night is about raw volume.

Joe Waller lead the way upstairs to a large family room that had banjos, fiddles and guitars hanging on the walls. The place was like a museum. Chairs were arranged in a circle and slowly musicians made their way upstairs. Two huge bass's were carried up the narrow stairway. Wednesday Tunes made his way up the stairs in his moccasins and red socks. He was the elder statesman among the musicians and he was treated with reverent respect as he was helped into a leather recliner. His white mustache was waxed and curled like Dali's. His bow was raised to his fiddle and the music began. There was no sheet music, everyone found the beat and melody and just joined in. Much of the music had ancient Scottish and Irish roots. This music was handed down through the generations. The music was exhilerating, raw, homespun with ancient cultural traditions. It is music that binds people together. It was a joy to sketch as everyone joined in. Mark Brannan played a Bodhran which is an Irish drum made by a good friend that lives in Galway Ireland.

The music continued and I started a second sketch. A group splintered off and started playing outside on a patio. From where I stood I could hear both groups playing. A photographer with a flash wandered everywhere. The light would blind me an when I recovered I'd continue sketching. Terry was going to join me but she ate or drank something downtown that made her sic. A co-worker had to drive her home. She would have enjoyed the music and probably could have joined in. When I was done sketching, I had a great conversation with photographer Jean Guenther Brannen. She didn't use a flash and she caught some great shots. We talked about how different yet similar our mediums were. It is always fun to compare notes with another observer of life. I hope I can catch more of these impromptu musical gatherings. The sketch opportunities are limitless, and the music exhilarating.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: