Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo



Today my fiddling friend Norm Boggs and I did our usual monthly living history summer presentation at The Duke Homestead Historic site in Durham North Carolina.  It was a perfect day, the sun was shining, it wasn't too hot, there was a nice breeze, we were in the shade, there were lots of visitors, all was well with the world.  We were situated in the front yard of the homestead which is on a hill which overlooks acres of woods, pasture, and a tobacco plot.  From our vantagepoint we could see young boys and girls dressed in period (1850's) dress at play around the grounds.  The boys were playing with hoops and sticks and the girls were spontaneously dancing country dance steps to the fiddle-banjo music Norm and I were playing.  The scene was unbelievably bucolic and beautiful.


Norm and I were situated next to a picket fence.  We heard what sounded to be a family of three generations of Brits, with a couple, a daughter, and perhaps a grandfather rubbernecking over the fence.  Norm and I invited them in and we proceded to have one of the best encounters we have ever had with the public.  These people asked all the right questions, were intrigued with the history of the music, the historical context, the instruments, the method of play, and the ties to the British Isles.  They seemed most intrigued by the fact that banjos and minstrel music were all the rage in Victorian England.  They left with a couple of our CD's and big smiles.


Well, it turns out they weren't quite all from great Britain.  After they finally moved on, the wife turned back, approached me, and confided "You know I probably shouldn't tell you this, but my husband is Joshua Rifkin."  Well, no I didn't have any idea.  He acted just like anybody else and I'm sure he doesn't need to be reminded that he's Joshua Rifkin.  But what a wonderful experience sharing this music with someone who understands it's impotance and can appreciate it on a variety of levels.  Especially someone like Joshua Rifkin, the pre-eminent interpreter of ragtime and the man who single-handedly inspired a generation of kids to take up the piano.  Did you know he also played in bands with David Grisman, John Sebastian, Jim Queskin, and Maria Muldaur?


But I digress.  At any rate at the end of the day, Norm and I agreed that this is why we do this.  Maybe it will happen again soon.  Who knows?  May everyone have a day like this.


--Rob Morrison                              



Views: 46

Comment by Bell Banjos on September 11, 2011 at 7:23am
Comment by Ian Bell on September 11, 2011 at 8:21am
That sounds so fine! My favorite has always been holding court by the fire in the (sadly dry) barroom of the Halfway House Inn at Black Creek Village (on the outskirts of Toronto) during one of their fall events with the door open and the leaves turning on the trees outside.


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